The California Fires: How I Want To Help
Grief can be so shattering, so humbling, so all-consuming. It can reflect something deeply personal, or the shared mourning of a community or a nation. And for as many people as there are on this earth, there are as many ways of processing loss.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot of grief for the victims of the California fires. I can’t imagine the trauma of having to escape your home through walls of flame, of watching the town you love burn through the back window. The “lucky” ones are starting over. From scratch. Home, belongings, everything lost. Too many are moving forwards without loved ones. It breaks my heart to even think about.
I don’t have the means to donate large sums of money to the relief funds. I don’t have the physical health to travel down there in person to help (though I’d probably just get in the way anyways.) But I can offer those who have lost their homes something else, that may just help in some tiny but special way: let me make you a housewarming gift.
I want to gift you a little relic of hope and healing, something literally born from the ashes of your old home to carry with you into a new life. It’s my hope that a small handmade gift created with as much love and care as I can put into it will serve as a helpful tool or symbol. Perhaps even just a reminder of humanity and that some stranger, far away, really deeply cares about helping you in her own little way.
I’ve been experimenting with ash glazes on ceramics lately and have learned that I can make just about any ashes turn into a beautiful glaze with a lot of character with enough experimenting. Shades vary from browns to greens to grays to whites to sometimes even blue. It’s labor-intensive but also fascinating to scoop up the ashes from a special place and transform them through the alchemy of both heat and chemistry into an artifact of a moment or a place. I’m picturing a series of work dispersed to new homes as the chaos settles; a series of mugs, perhaps, or maybe small teacups, or bowls…? I don’t know the details of how this series will take shape yet, I only know the why: because I want to help.
If you’re one of the survivors of the California fires this year and this sounds like it might be helpful in working through the trauma, I want to hear from you. I’ll need you to go and gather a ziplock bag of the ashes from your location of choice and mail them to me, then I’ll start my testing. It may take several months to get the kinks worked out, but I’m hopeful that sometime in the early new year I’ll be able to send you your new memento. Please, send me an email at email@example.com and tell me your story. Tell me what you loved and what you lost. Let me take your ashes and your words and make you something filled with my love and attention to detail. Let me help you honor your experience.
I’m going to start with spaces for 15 gifts, but will amass a waiting list and work through as much of it as I am able. Again, I don’t know exactly what your form your gifts will take - I will know more as I talk with each of you. Please share this with any friends or family impacted by the fires. Thank you.
For others who want to help:
The best thing you can do right now is to donate directly to an aids organization. This is a fantastic list of options compiled by a local news station. This list by the NY Times also has some great suggestions. If you want to help specifically with this project, you can support me at patreon.com/thewondersmith . I’ll be covering the costs of materials, packaging, and shipping partly with the donations from my patrons and partly out of my own pocket.
This picture: is a handcrafted cup I made for my event Ember, held in the remnants of the Pioneer Creek Fire. I designed a ceremony around change using embers as a metaphor, then shared it with a group of strangers. You can find pictures from this free event at thewondersmith.com/events