Processing Paradise

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Camp Fire Paradise California

Recently Ryan and I had a break in-between projects down here in La La Land. We decided to make use of the time by taking a two week trip up north to visit family. The first week we stayed with Ryan’s parents in their beautiful new home in Chico, CA.

They purchased the house a few months after the Paradise Camp Fire burned down their home of 25 years in November of 2018. His parents are still getting used to the quirks and differences of the new house, but we are looking forward to making new memories with them there.

Touring Paradise

While we were based in Chico, we took a tour of our burned out hometown. We wanted to see how things are progressing almost a year after the Camp Fire. We visited the site of Ryan’s parents old home, our old neighborhood, and my parents lot as well. I think it’s part of our grieving process. These pictures are what it looked like right after the Camp Fire moved through Paradise.

We had been living down in L.A. for almost 5 months when Paradise caught fire. And in the aftermath we experienced something along the lines of “survivors guilt” – that we had missed it by that much. That we weren’t up there going thru the ordeal with the rest of our friends and family.

We were aware of how much had been lost. We lost things as well. But, we weren’t up there to experience it first hand. And, it felt weird.

Burned out trailer in the Camp Fire Paradise California

So, we found ourselves driving the once familiar streets of Paradise. Only now, it’s so easy to lose our bearings because familiar landmarks –buildings, signs, even specific trees — are gone. In their place are large, flat, dirt lots; burnt out cinder block shells; and huge piles of cement rubble and twisted, rusted metal.

And, we have truly begun to process that loss. It’s a loss nowhere as great as that of our friends and family. They had to escape thru flames only to have no home to which they could return. But still, it’s a loss none the less.


Things are slowly starting to move forward in Paradise. There is certainly a long, difficult road ahead, but there are many who are determined to do the work to heal, and see it thru.

While we were driving on one of the roads, I was constantly struck by how very little was spared by the flames. Then, I looked out and saw, in a burnt out grove of trees and brush, a pine tree. A pine tree that had all its branches burned.

I won’t forget the image of those stark limbs stretched out, completely blackened and completely bare.


And yet, the tree had begun new branches. Sprouting straight out from it’s trunk. Vividly green and coursing with life. The branches were short and kind of awkward looking. The tree is taking on a new, odd sort of shape – almost like a furry telephone pole. But that tree is persevering. It won’t stop growing. It’s determined to hang on, to survive, to start a new life. And from the looks of it, it’s going to thrive.

Keep going Paradise. You’re on your way.



  1. Hi, you two… I saw this posted on Judy Clemens’ Facebook page.. didn’t now it was YOU until I opened it, so I’m doubly glad to have done so. Thanks for creating this “snapshot” of our town. Well done…still heartbreaking (we still live here; ours is one of the 1,200 or so homes that survived), but you are right — we are on our way.

    1. It’s still pretty unbelievable that everything is gone. I’m so glad that your home survived. My parent’s and Susan’s parents both lost their houses. But my brother’s house survived. Paradise has a long road ahead of them for sure. It’s good to see things moving forward.

    2. Ginny! Hi! I’m so glad you found our website (thanks to Judy for sharing)!
      I’m glad your home survived, but I also feel for you – it’s a different road than those who lost houses, but difficult none the less. My heart is with you as you are rebuilding the community you lost and are learning a new normal among chaos. There is hope and hope keeps us afloat. 🙂

  2. I’m glad you were able to come up to see the improvement. We find things to smile about, but still shake our head a lot. I don’t cry as much, but I still feel an intense sadness. However, I do feel like we will end up with a bright and beautiful town to call home. Next time, please call me. I would love a good Susan hug!!!

  3. Love your pictures! I totally get what you are saying about having almost survivor guilt. It is a tough thing to go through without actually going through it. Glad you guys got some family time!

  4. While fire’s role in climax forest maintenance, renewal and restoration is more scientifically understood, it doesn’t lessen the pain & disruption felt by humans – the most settled & fixed species upon the land, besides the trees themselves, of course.

    The intensity of the heat released is so vividly captured in your excellent photos that it fairly screams “run for your lives”! Yes, even we powerful & intelligent human beings must flee with all the other creatures before the terrible power of Mother Nature scorching the Earth around us. Truly humbling, at a time when our technologies can make us feel like Demi Gods and our obvious impact on Global Climate Change triggers massive procrastinating denial instead of urgent emergency actions.

    The 21st century is now coming toe-to-toe with Homo Sapiens and starting to stare us down in no uncertain terms. Either we continue as before and experience the amplified consequences or we take a step back and re-examine our modern lifestyles to see where sustainability & resilience need to be improved. The entire Community of Life on Earth is watching to see how badly we will act or how wise we will become in our stewardship.

    We shall see…

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