In August 2016 my house burned through and I would like to share with you some of my experience. It has been a transforming experience, like it or not, and one that has provided much to learn from and be a part of the process with. As the Marines say so well: “Adapt and Overcome”, and this is part of it.
We had wiped down an outdoor bar with boiled linseed oil for a Friday night event at the winery and there was much chaos in the moments before the event during setup and the rags with the oil on them got placed in my hamper. They spontaneously combusted early the next morning. My son Ember got up early and saw the smoke and flames to which he yelled “Fire!” And we got out, which began the process of loss, fright, bewilderment, togetherness, displacement, asking for help, receiving, adapting, and overcoming as best we could with what was in front of us during those moments.
And it was amazing to feel the support of community, so many people showed up in so many ways that it was hard not to feel blessed. And I began to feel differently about stuff, the firemen referred to “stuff” in general as “fuel load” meaning if a fire starts all that stuff is fuel to make a hotter fire which burns faster and is harder to get contained, hence more structural damage. For instance a house with less “stuff” has less fuel load and is easier to contain. Here’s a picture of some of our stuff that we were sorting through after the fire to see what was worth keeping:
Aside from that, once I became more ok with going inside as we were hauling out the debris and touring with engineers and architects, I realized that there was much in the form of art created by the fire. A metamorphosis from the process of damage had transformed things in a new and different light. Light needed to be added to see the beauty so I went through the house with a flashlight and my camera on my phone and took the images that I want to now share with you. First to give you orientation, here is the back entrance of the house where the fire started, this picture was taken while we were removing debris:
Here is a close up of the texture that occurred on the siding there in that photo, it is redwood siding and the char adds an incredible texture, the kind that actually started a movement in Japan where they sell a charred siding product that is actually pre-burned!
As we go up to the office we see some interesting things happened. The printer is my favorite, it is almost an ode to technology now gone!
And melted on our conference table was one of the Solar Tube light diffusers which melted and dropped like a wet pancake and now reminds me of a sci-fi animal foe from a Star Trek episode!
On that same table was a plastic pack of colored pens that melted into an unusual form:
As we enter the house the kitchen cabinet fronts had been melted but when we removed the debris from inside we could see ghost like formations that occurred from having items blocking the heat which created a reverse image, the white being behind the item and once removed left its imprint on the image on the back of the cabinet:
The original built in cabinets that were still there from 1916 held up the best in the fire having been built of old Douglas Fir and protected their contents the most, here’s an image from that:
The refrigerator provided some of the most haunting images with these lava like images from the melted plastic:
But as I was photographing this I was surprised to find this heart in the melted mass:
In the former dining room there became some wallpaper that was behind layers of paint which melted, and when light was put on the fallen debris that gathered on top of one of the original built in Dining cabinets an interesting color arose:
And within this area you can see one of my favorite pieces that I had to get a close up on and play with the lighting to not have the color effect. It was the head of an Indian Deity that was sitting on top of the cabinet as part of an altar and it was still there unmelted or burned with it’s head peering out of the debris as if in defiance of what happened saying “I will not let this destroy me!” (and this has been my mantra inside since):
In the bedrooms the heat was around 500 degrees but no open flame, so what happened was soot and heat on the walls created formations. In my daughter’s room she had some items on top of an antique dresser and these left what looks to me like almost a lotus flower shape:
And one of my favorites is the heart that we painted on her wall having all the soot but still visible in an interesting way:
In my next blog I will cover the “Immaculate Harvest” which occurred the next day so stay tuned!