Your Slow Coast Home.

Aug 21, 2020

UPDATE: I'm pleased to let patrons know first that this letter will be adapted into a children's book called Dear Wild Child, co-authored by Grayce and me, published by Cameron + Company and illustrated by the talented Drew Beckmeyer — I'll let you know as soon as a publication date is announced.

Outside Magazine: We Lost Our Home to a Wildfire

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols's house burned to the ground in California's CZU Lightning Complex fire. He wrote his daughter a letter breaking the news.

Reading this letter with Grayce for NPR's Kate Wolffe on KQED was very hard.

ABC News: Father writes touching letter, letting daughter know childhood home burned down in CZU Complex Fire

"You are strong, thanks to this home. You carry the memories of our canyon. You are made of Mill Creek water, the fruit from our trees, Swanton berries, and Pacific salmon. You are my wild child."

MV Times: ‘I thought I’d find something’

Brother of Islander Johnny Hoy loses home in devastating California wildfire.

Spectrum News: Environmentalist Grieves the Loss of His Beloved Home

Wallace J. Nichols is turning to the sound of the ocean after losing his home to a wildfire burning in Northern California.
What You Need To Know:
~ Wallace J. Nichols is a marine biologist, water has always been an integral part of his life
~ The environmentalist is grieving the loss of his beloved home that he built for his two daughters
~ He hoped to pass this home down to his oldest daughter
~ Nichols wrote a letter to his daughter to tell her about the devastating news


Dr. Wallace J Nichols lost his family home in the CZU Lightening Complex Fire. He evacuated just hours before the fire tore through the canyon and took his and his neighbors homes.

Here's one of the many wonderful responses to the letter from the CEO of our community foundation:

Hi Wallace, 
I read your letter to your daughter this morning from my cottage in Live Oak, coffee in hand, and smoke in lungs.  It brought so many tears. Tears for the Bonny Doon teacher teaching at the fairgrounds after losing her home. Tears for the farmworkers with nowhere to go. Tears for the families fighting the fires on their own. Tears for the guy  with cancer and asthma camping in his car. But mostly…tears for what this place has given us. You gave voice to how it becomes us. You gave voice to the gratitude in our hearts. You gave voice to the hope we have in its enduring gifts. You gave voice to love. In your love for your daughter and your home, you sent a bunch of love this morning. I appreciate it very much. I appreciate you linking to our fire fund, too.
Funds have already bought gas cars, meals, motel stays and more.   
Thank you, 
Susan True, CEO, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County

My Dearest Wallace Grayce,

We built your home around you when you were still inside your mother.

We built it stronger and more sturdy than it needed to be. I thought a lot about every piece of wood and stone. Every knob and switch. We filled it with our books, musical instruments, seashells, feathers, and interesting animal bones. I imagined you looking down after a bath through the railing upstairs.

People who visited always asked about the overbuilt stoutness and soulfulness of our home. I always said that I built this house around my baby girl to protect and raise her, and her sister, to be strong and healthy. I hoped that it would instill a sense for natural quality, authenticity and design.

Your house in the redwoods, by the creek and ocean, lasted nearly 19 years. 

It survived — fires, droughts, floods, and earthquakes. 

It also thrived — great parties, our friends’ weddings, holiday gatherings, and many sleepovers.

It held thousands of visitors, beautiful music, salmon dinners, and rich deep conversations. You were there for it all.

I had hoped that it would be all yours some day, to share with your friends, and I was working hard to keep it.

The day after you left for college, it burned to the ground in a wildfire caused by lightning in the most beautiful storm I have ever seen. I believe it served it’s original purpose fully and completely.

All that remains standing is the chimney and fireplace that warmed us as we slept — it was built tall of stone to last for millennia.

You are strong, thanks to this home. You carry the memories of our canyon. You are made of Mill Creek water, the fruit from our trees, Swanton berries and Pacific salmon. You are my wild child.

I am so proud of you. I wish I could have protected our home from the fires. But I couldn’t and I didn’t.

But please carry the sweet memories with you wherever you go.

I love you, peanut. 

Stay safe, study hard, and come home often for hugs. Please.



[Interview with Felix Cortez of KSBW and video of the fire area.]

Photo with Julia (Boo) Nichols the day we hiked in to see if our home survived the wildfire.

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