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Academic & Professional Books  Ecology  Ecosystem & Landscape Ecology

The Cold Canyon Fire Journals Green Shoots and Silver Linings in the Ashes

By: Robin Lee Carlson(Author)
288 pages, 100+ colour & b/w illustrations
Publisher: Heyday Books
The Cold Canyon Fire Journals
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  • The Cold Canyon Fire Journals ISBN: 9781597145848 Paperback Sep 2022 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
Price: £21.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Braiding together illustration, observation, and reportage, artist and naturalist Robin Lee Carlson offers a watershed work that will forever change how people live with wildfire in the American West.

When the nature reserve at Cold Canyon went up in flames – a casualty of California's raging fire seasons – Robin Lee Carlson embarked on a five-year journey to learn the legacy of the burn. Spurred by scientific curiosity, Carlson's deep digs into the natural history of this fire-swept ecosystem unearth mind-bending revelations about nature's wild wisdom. Her transformative story of fire as a force for renewal underscores what scientists are urgently working to understand: that in California's wildfire ecologies, fire functions as an elemental power that does not destroy the diverse habitats of California, but regenerates them. Richly illustrated in pen, ink, and watercolour, this snapshot of Cold Canyon's wildlife emerging from the ashes introduces the reader to the wonder of ecological kinship and its cycles in our wild lands. Carlson's artistic and scientific journey ultimately leads her (and us) to a new understanding of how we must live in relationship to fire and to the land. With fire suppression and climate change undermining the essential regenerative work of fire in our ecosystem, Carlson's story is an urgent one – one that shows us how cultivating intimacy with our natural world teaches us what we need to do to sustain it.



Chapter One Fire in the Canyon: The Wragg Fire and What Came Next

Chapter Two First Responders: Life Comes Rushing to the Flames

Chapter Three Emerald and Sepia: New Leaves on Burned Slopes

Chapter Four An Explosion of Color: Wildflowers Seize the Day

Chapter Five Flower-Followers: Pollinators

Chapter Six The Relativity of Time: Oak and Pine in Life and Death

Chapter Seven Cornerstones: Lichens in Rapidly Changing Ecosystems

Chapter Eight Blazing a Trail: Mammals of All Kinds

Chapter Nine The Fire Cycle in the Anthropocene: Cold Canyon Burns Again

Chapter Ten Bring Fire with You: A New Old Paradigm

Conclusion: The Newt's Way


Note 1 Stebbins Cold Canyon: A UC Natural Reserve

Note 2 Ecoreportage: Drawing a Changing Landscape

Note 3 Names of Species Discussed in the Text



About the Author

Customer Reviews


Robin Lee Carlson is a natural science writer and illustrator. After studying evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz and the University of Chicago, she spent many years working on stream habitat restoration projects in California. She is most interested in how landscapes and ecological communities change over time, especially ecosystem dynamics after disruption. Her artwork is grounded in observing and documenting the world around her as it unfolds. Visit her website at

By: Robin Lee Carlson(Author)
288 pages, 100+ colour & b/w illustrations
Publisher: Heyday Books
Media reviews

"The Cold Canyon Fire Journals: Green Shoots and Silver Linings in the Ashes is a captivating and matchless invitation to see inside Carlson's intimate engagement, through her incisive writing and charming artistry, with a landscape recovering from fire. The relationship and lessons Carlson derives intertwine with her knowledge of global climate crisis and fire cycles – we are all better for being invited into this journey of recovery and reformation."
– Dr. Beronda L. Montgomery, author of Lessons from Plants

"Through exquisite detail rendered in prose and illustration, The Cold Canyon Fire Journals deliver the reader to a beloved canyon through fire and regrowth. Trained as a biologist, Robin Lee Carlson offers a reminder that life – especially, crucially, non-human life – continues amid and after destruction. The Cold Canyon Fire Journals is a celebration of a beauty that is larger than our comprehension. So many moments in this book linger in my imagination: the dust on a newt's back after a long, dry journey; the shadow of a water strider in the creek. Such a beautiful world has burned and will burn again, Carlson tells us. But these pages offer a new way to relate to fire, kindling a respect for the natural world on its own terms. This is a book to cherish, to share, and to hold close when the skies once again darken with smoke."
– Kendra Atleework, author of Miracle Country: A Memoir of a Family and a Landscape, winner of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award

"That place can be a relationship is well understood; that fire is, less so. Robin Lee Carlson puts Cold Canyon, a place she knows intimately, together with fire, an oft-vexing visitor, and the result is a delightfully illustrated reimagining of the fire-catalyzed changes sweeping over us."
– Dr. Stephen Pyne, author of Fire: A Brief History and The Pyrocene

"Through her fascinating stories and colorful illustrations, Robin beautifully and intimately chronicles a natural community's journey, from devastation to its spellbinding rebirth."
– Rob Badger and Nita Winter, conservation photographers and authors of Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change

"In a time when those who love the living world must hold together joy and pain, beauty and loss, Robin Lee Carlson allows fire to become a teacher that opens both the physical landscape and her 'imaginative sympathy. Cold Canyon offers an amazing handbook for place-based immersion, and a model of careful attention to the vibrancy of the everyday. Carlson's field notes and expressive illustrations deepen her 'visceral discoveries,' inviting readers to learn alongside her and create their own artistic inquiries. As a contemplation on ecological change, Cold Canyon reveals how a landscape forged in fire, over time and with loving attention, can deeply alter and revivify our perceptions."
– Gavin Van Horn, author of The Way of Coyote and co-editor with Robin Wall Kimmerer of Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations

"I love how Robin Lee Carlson's narrative weaves art and ecology into a very distinctive, comfortable flow. It connects the dots between all of life's harsh beauties and wonders in an honest and positive light."
– Paul Havemann, Reserve Manager, Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve

"Nature journaler and illustrator Robin Lee Carlson spent years field-sketching wildfire impacts, and in The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, she shows us that fire is not inherently bad but a process of change and renewal. Her detailed observations are important, and we can all learn from them as we seek to learn to live with fire in California."
– Laura Cunningham, author of A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California

"The Cold Canyon Fire Journals is a fresh, intimate, and rich exploration of the impact of fire in natural systems. As we follow Robin Carlson's adventures and exploration in a post-fire landscape, we are given the raw footage from her nature journals and the deeper insights they inspire. Robin shares case studies and reveals the survival strategies from many California species. We see the landscape through her eyes, tuned with the curiosity and insight of a scientist and the aesthetics and delight of an artist. In addition to giving us greater understanding of how species recover from fire, this book reveals how we might learn to look closely enough to read the stories that nature tells. Robin's nature journal pages are an inspiration to every aspiring student of nature. This book is an authentic love song to the wonder, resilience and beauty of nature and the power of observation and inquiry."
– John Muir Laws, author of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

"Robin was one of the first on the scene after the wildfire at Stebbins Cold Canyon. Her documentary of the recovery is the most engaging there is. Robin has an artist's aesthetic, a scientist's care for detail, and a documentarian's ability to tell the story of a landscape and a fire.The striking illustrations and thoughtful observation of Robin's book walk us through the transformation and rebirth of a landscape."
– Jeffrey Clary, Associate Director, UC Davis Natural Reserve System

"After a seemingly unending series of catastrophic fire seasons, Californians can't be blamed for being pessimistic about the future of their state and its globally treasured landscapes. In The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, Robin Carlson traces – in reverential prose and delightful illustration – the multiple rebirths of a cherished Coast Range watershed after the passage of wildfires in 2015 and 2020. Carlson invites the reader on her own journey of discovery and wonder, and finds 'beauty in things that seem broken.' For Californians the future brings both fear and hope. Carlson weaves both into her story of the big lessons a small place can teach us about where our world is going, and what we can do about it."
– Hugh Safford Chief scientist, Vibrant Planet; Research ecologist, University of California-Davis; US Forest Service, retired

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