Fire and Birth

In the summer of 2008, 10 days after the Basin Complex Fire was declared contained by Cal Fire, I spent a couple days at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center photographing the post-fire landscape. I then returned in April of 2009 to photograph the Spring re-birth of that same landscape. In January 2010 I displayed some of these images in a show at the San Francesco Zen Center’s City Center, titled: Regarding Fire and Birth: Images of the Post Basin Complex Fires and their effects on the Ventana Wilderness Landscape. In conjunction with this photography show I also organized an ecology lecture by Diane Renshaw on the fire ecology of the Ventana and a dharma talk by the Abbott of Zen Center Myogen Steve Stucky. I have created a book from these events. You can find more about this book in the Information section of this site.
After this show, I was part of a group show  AFTERMATH AND REGENERATION: Four photographers’ views of Tassajara and the surrounding wilderness after the Indians/Basin Complex Fire of 2008, with Judith Keenan, Shundo David Haye, Tova Green.
In my artist’s statement for this show, I continued to refine the role my photography plays in my life at this time.
Regarding Fire and Birth: Images of the Post Basin Complex Fires and their effects on the Ventana Wilderness Landscape

The impetus for this photography show is two fold. One is my own personal relationship with the arid, rugged, fire-formed chaparral ecosystem of the Ventana Wilderness, and the belief that one‘s early landscape forms the future person. Between the ages of 6, when I first hiked Mt. Tamalapais, and 28, when I help defend Tassajara from the Marble Cone Fire, I had lived in, hiked, backpacked, and studied this landscape. Thus, this landscape was, and still is, a powerful force in defining who I was and whom I have become.

The other source of inspiration for the exhibit is my past history of studying and practicing Zen. Zen is constantly looking at what is real, and the ever changing nature of all reality. This is especially true in terms of birth and death. When I visited these mountains after the Basin Complex Fires, what kept arising in my mind was the Genjo Koan, especially this passage:

“Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes past and future and is independent of past and future. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.”

Such inquiry becomes more central to me, also, as I age, and reflect on my own true nature.