Body of the Land | Fire in California | 2018
"I got to know the landscape as I do my own body. The body of the land, dramatically changed yet still the same."
The dogs started barking before we could hear the car engine. We stood in the dust outside barefoot and half naked. A man got out of the car in combat boots and a machete in his belt. "Never know when you might come across a rattler." He was our neighbor and had come up to our spot to ask us if we knew anything about a fire that had started a few hours ago. It was under 20 acres and over 10 miles away.
We woke to an orange sky. No one was coming to tell us to leave. No one was coming to help the trees and the animals. The firefighters were busy staving flames off nearby towns and cities.
It was a week before the fire crept through "our" land. After the strongest of the fire had passed, we went to see what was left. We moved countless burned and fallen trees from the road. Some of them were still hot and smoldering. Sparks and wind joined in a twirling dance and stands of trees exploded before our eyes. Giant black holes stared at us from the ground. Flames rose out some as the fire continued to feast on the roots.
I watched the forest change day by day for months. I got to know the landscape as I do my own body. The body of the land, day by day. Dramatically changed, yet still the same. I had been with her for so long and suddenly it was hard to recognize her. The camera gave me the courage to be curious and explore the body of my home that was at once so foreign and so familiar.
Documenting my shock and grief, the complex emotion of hope quietly emerged from the horror of so much destruction. Nude contours were exposed that had always been concealed beneath a lush canopy. Smokey skies shrouded everything like a winter duvet, eerie and beautiful. I kicked my feet along the strangely buoyant ground and inches of thick ash rose to mix in the gray slits of sun. Dried yellow, black and white domineered. Strips of burgeoning green were here and there and everyday emerging more. Foxes traipsed by, tremblingly weak. I wondered which trees would live.