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Saturday September 12th 2015 was an unusually warm and windy day.  Thousands of pine needles were twirling their way to the ground.  An eerie haze filled our normally crisp blue sky.


Cassidy and I were happily helping stain the trim for the brand new studio at Scott Parady’s Cobb Mountain Art and Ecology Center.

We were gathered at the lunch table, the phones began to ring, first my husband Steve, then Scott’s brother Jeff.  “Where’s the fire?” Steve asked.  None of us had noticed the smoke. “Look outside the front door.” And there it was, a plume of gray smoke coming up over the tree lined ridge against the hazy sky. “I think you should come home” he said as he was driving up from Middletown.

I didn’t really have to tell myself to stay calm.  I knew I had to. As we walked back to the studio to get the car I started planning what to grab from our house, which was a couple miles closer to the fire than Scott’s place.

We had about 30 minutes to pack.  The smoke was growing thicker and we could see flames swallowing the homes below ours.  Planes and helicopters were passing at eye level dropping loads of fire retardant just below our house.   As I walked through the house I said goodbye to special pieces in my ceramic collection that I didn’t have time to pack or room for in our cars.  Friends like Christa Assad, Linda Christianson, Andrew Martin, Doug Casebeer, Wayne Branum and my brand new mug from Simon Levin that I’d only gotten to sip coffee from once.

There were no firemen or sherifs telling us to evacuate. It was just neighbors knocking on doors to make sure everyone got out safely.

When we were allowed to return home after two weeks of being evacuated, the house was filled with the smells of rotting food and sour smelling smoke that reminded me of burning trash.  From every room in our home, I could hear our neighbor across the street sifting through her ashes and salvaging what she could of her amazing collection of turn of the century artifacts.  I am very thankful that our home survived, but I am still grieving the loss of our amazing Boggs State Forest and so many of our friends’ homes.

It’s been six months since we left that day.  Seven months since my last posting here.  I still don’t feel caught up.  Life on Cobb Mountain has changed forever, but our home survived and our yard is still beautiful.  76,000 acres burned in the Valley Fire, but life goes on.  The forest is beginning to regrow and the very first families who are rebuilding are beginning to move into their new homes, but most will not be rebuilding.

There are too many details and emotions to share here, but I needed to write something about this experience.  I needed to explain that I hit this speedbump and that I still haven’t quite regained my footing.

It’s March now and I’ve already completed 3 woodfirings this year!  Two firings of the Train at Scott’s and the Anagama at University of Kansas in Lawrence.

I am at the 50th anniversary NCECA Conference in Kansas City, steeping in ceramic history and creativity right now and looking forward to unloading the KU kiln this Saturday.

I shall return to CA Sunday with six weeks left to prepare for Calistoga Art Center’s Small Plate Ceramic Fundraiser and will begin working on building my inventory for the Napa Valley Open Studio tour in September.

Thanks for stopping by and checking up on me.  Sorry to have been away so long.

~ jules ~







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