After the Fire: Mute, Emptiness, Sophia & the Old Burned Oak Tree
with photographer Jorge Vismara
After the Woolsey Fire destroyed our family home, which my mom and dad handbuilt 48 years prior, the first thing I wanted to do was to make art out of the experience as an attempt to try to cope with this extreme personal loss. Photographer Jorge Vismara helped me document some of the emotions.
I worked first with my Mute mask and archetype to try to embody the scale of the loss in terms of all the creatures that had lost their homes and had no way to express the devestation. All of us survivors would seem at a loss to comprehend what had happened, let alone to try to articulate the loss. No words.
A massive burned out oak tree with charred animal bones tucked in it's broken branches and it's core in ashes represented so much that had been lost. It was located near our home in an area that I spent a lot of time as a child, enjoying nature in. I hugged that old tree, held it, and danced out my sorrow in its blackened arms. What once had given so much life was reduced to a skeleton frame that would soon return to the earth.
The biggest definable feeling I had was emptiness. We first took the Emptiness mask to an area where I used to hike, which looked in that new present like a moonscape. Emptiness moved like a ghost across the once sage and sumac covered hills.
Next we took Emptiness to my families old homesite and the archetype floated around the remnants of our home like a strange wind, moving and dancing amidst the rubble. Smelling the acrid remains, hearing my feet crunch over the broken glass that used to be our windows and the fire cracked stonework that used to be our walkways, I felt confounded and confused, ungrocking of the unfathomable new reality.
Lastly, I brought in Sopohia, the wise woman archetype. She poked amidst the remains, discovering old bits and pieces of things that used to have meaning. My stepfather's chair, our old salad bowl, melted metal and glass Christmas ornaments, the formerly most comfortable bed in the world, my grandmother's tea pot and cups, my mother's filing cabinet. Memories flooded me of walking through the old rooms and simultaneously seeing what used to be and what was, both at the same time. I wondered what could be learned now. How were my unconsious actions in the past in the world partly reponsible for what had happened. What could I do to help make a different future?
It's been a year and my family has still not resettled. Our core is still shaken. But we have rallied together in ways we never did before and we are much closer now. "Things" don't hold the same value. Life and its constructs seem more fragile than ever. These are some of the silverlinings.