SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Wallace J. Nichols is turning to the sound of the ocean after losing his home to a wildfire burning in Northern California.
He’s a marine biologist, so water has always been an integral part of his life. Nichols said it's his therapy, his oxygen, and something he turns to when life gets hard.
The environmentalist is grieving the loss of his beloved home that he built for his two daughters. He constructed the house alongside a creek that runs into the ocean, and giant redwood trees that tower over the property.
“Every part of it was built with care and love. Our rule was don’t do it if you can’t do it right” Nichols said.
He said every detail of the house was intentional, from his grandmother’s piano to the rugs that lay on the floor. Each piece of wood was carefully crafted to be sturdy and strong just as he raised his two girls.
“Everything had meaning, every fork, knife spoon,” he said.
Over 20 years, the home survived floods and earthquakes, Thanksgiving feasts, messy pumpkin carvings, and cheerful birthday celebrations.
“There was always good food and music, and sometimes wine and fire in the fireplace. That’s just the way we lived. That’s the way we raised the kids,” Nichols said.
Now, all that’s left of their home is ash and rubble. Only the fireplace is left standing among the redwoods. Nichols said the most beautiful lightning storm he’s ever seen led to his house going up in flames.
“When I saw it, it was like a fire blender came through here. I couldn’t make sense of the destruction,” Nichols explained.
He hoped to pass this home down to his oldest daughter, Grayce. Instead, it burned to ashes the day after she left for college.
Nichols said telling Grayce was the hardest part.
He’s devastated that his daughter won’t have her childhood home to come back to. However, he gathered his strength and wrote a letter to her painting the loss as a beautiful tragedy.
Now that only debris remains, the environmentalist is passionate about saving something he holds so close to him – water.
He plans to clean up the ash before it drains into the creek.
“That’s my job right now for the next year, to restore the land – keep it safe," Nichols said.
Just as water can be smooth as glass or violent and story, Nichols said his pain comes in waves. For now, he's finding peace near the ocean.