Alta Live: Artist and Naturalist Robin Lee Carlson

In her new book, The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, the author charts the renewal of wildlife after wildfires through a five-year case study.

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The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, Robin Lee Carlson’s new book, is the product of five years of close observation of Cold Canyon near California’s Lake Berryessa. When the canyon burned during the 2015 Wragg Fire, it had been 30 years since the reserve had last seen a fire, a period comparable to natural wildfire cycles. “That fire in 2015 felt like an opportunity to see these habitats respond in a way that they had evolved to do,” Carlson told Alta Live. Her observations sparked an appreciation for wildfires, even those caused by humans. “Fire is very important. Fire can be very destructive, but it’s also an absolutely critical part of these ecosystems,” Carlson said. “Even if we’re seeing less healthy fire patterns, it doesn’t mean that the impacts of the fires are always all bad.”

Many of Carlson’s ink and watercolor illustrations that are included in her book document the aftermath of fire, from the animals that outlasted the flames to the wildflowers that populate burn areas. “When I am drawing something, it forces me to stop and be much more present in that moment and in that place than I would be any other way,” Carlson said. “It helps me to record on that page a whole lot more of the emotion and the feeling I have when I’m there, too, so that I can remember what it was like to be there later.”

Check out these links to some of the topics Carlson and Beth Spotswood brought up.

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