The Cold Canyon Fire Journals

The Cold Canyon Fire Journals

Green Shoots and Silver Linings in the Ashes

Robin Lee Carlson


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


Robin Lee Carlson:

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