These are the front steps of the ashes of my childhood home. The red front door would be right here. And as I pulled little pieces from the white dust like fragments of memories, tossing some aside and studying others, I had this thought—As good strong steel survives, how does the most delicate porcelain? I reached out to lift a perfect piece of pottery from its resting place, and it crumbled into powder. Other objects felt like small mental puzzles—“What were you, blackened thing, before this?” A toaster. Filing cabinet. Coin collection. Computer tower. Cast iron pans. Keepsake boxes. Among these, I found the ancient steel head of my great-grandfather’s hammer, as if it were waiting for me in time. I will put it to a new handle, and it will strike home again.
Nathan Collins spent his youth living close to nature in the small communities of Magalia and Paradise, California, tucked away in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. He attended college in nearby Chico, studied 19th-century American literature, and wrote a graduate thesis on Henry David Thoreau’s life and works. Inspired by his studies in transcendentalism, and informed by Thoreau’s own creative process as a naturalist and poet, he developed a style of meditative writing that joined his two favorite forms—the prose poem and the field journal. The massively destructive Camp Fire resulted in the complete erasure of his home, the landscape, the landmarks, and all the memories associated with them, which led him to write the piece featured in this issue of Weatherbeaten.