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I never really thought I would have to evacuate our home for a forest fire. It always seemed like only a vague possibility.

When the fire occurred, it happened fast. It was a break-out. I drove down Tahoe Mountain to try to get a better view of the direction and progress of the fire. There I could see the fire was indeed moving quickly along Angora Ridge in the direction of our neighborhood. When I tried to return up Tahoe Mountain Road the sheriff denied my access. Ash and embers from the approaching fire (about one and a half miles away) was already falling where we were standing. This was one of the most desperate moments in my life, as I was not able to be with Joanne and to assist her in evacuating. She and the rest of our neighborhood evacuated via Fallen Leaf Road.

During those long moments of the evacuation and the reuniting with Joanne and our pets, I had plenty of time to reflect on the meaning of this somewhat surreal event. First, I was thankful that Joanne, our pets, and I were all safe. Second, I was thankful for the wonderful opportunities I'd had to spend over twenty years with my wife where we built a log home and raised four children in this special place in the forest. The experiences and memories we shared there were a very special gift. This, by itself, was worth it all.

At the end of the first day of the fire, it appeared that our neighborhood was lost to the fire. In the night sky, Angora Highlands (our neighborhood) was glowing red. We were resigned to the probable reality that both our home and my studio were gone. The feeling at that time was much like the sudden loss in the death of a loved one a huge emptiness. By morning we had resolved to plan to rebuild, and as time would permit, in a couple weeks I would return to Pietrasanta, Italy, to resume carving marble and rebuild a body of work.

On the second day of the fire, we learned, to our initial disbelief, that our home and studio had somehow survived the fire. The wind had changed direction as the fire entered our neighborhood, and most of the property was spared due to the heroic work of the firefighters. A week later, as we were permitted to return to our home, we discovered that that the fire had come to less than 100 feet from the studio and the house.

We felt very fortunate and blessed. We and our community, through the week of the fire, spent much time crying and sharing together. Many of our friends and neighbors did lose their homes, but we all survived without the loss of one life. We had built our community and raised our families together. Now we have all grown up in a new and deeper way, and we have found another reason to cherish the gift of life and now better understand the true meaning of family and friends. We are richer now than we were before the fire.

Our art in some way is also a self-portrait. I wonder now how my art will reflect the learnings of this event on my life? Only time will tell.


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