Paradise Found

Reaction To The Camp Fire

Ahlswede Collection
4 min readNov 17, 2018


There’s nothing up there,

I said during a critical conversation with a friend of twenty years about another friend of twenty years who had just moved from Chico to Paradise, a low-income town of 30,000. 80 years ago Gertrude Stein said, “there is no there there,” about her own Northern California hometown of Oakland. Paradise, California is a twenty mile trek up the Skyway from Chico, a beautiful drive with a deep, sublime canyon to the north and a landscape to the south that looks like Eugene in the spring and the Serengeti in the Summer. I’m told that the volcanic rock spread sparsely throughout the grasses rolled down from a Mt. Lassen eruption long ago. Or was it Mt. Shasta? I never researched the truth.

Why would anyone live there?

I asked during that same conversation. My attitude went on to create some division between old friends. How do you react when someone tells you that the town and home you live in shouldn’t exist? The fact is that my feelings had more to do with the lack of Ubers after a Saturday night bar crawl than a care for the quality of every day life. Hindsight is full of humility.

The hard question now is, was I right for the wrong reasons? Should Paradise exist? The Fire has given its answer.

All is not lost, the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield,

John Milton writes in Paradise Lost. Should we hate The Fire or listen to it? If we listen, is it submission? Would listening be the conquering of our collective will, or the beginning of a 21st century Manifest Destiny — an enlightening path forward? Do we listen to The Fire?

My father’s home was one of 6,000 eviscerated. I was the only one there when it came. That friend of twenty years with whom I had…



Ahlswede Collection

Living Directors / Self Pour / Talking Black Art stream wherever you listen to podcasts