Loma Rica man lost all of his work in the Cascade Fire, but not his desire to create
Special to The Union
Artist Alan Hanley lost all of his work in the Cascade Fire in October. But he hasn’t lost his desire to create.
Hanley, 83, who has lived on Lone Tree Way in Loma Rica since the 1970s, said even though he lost his home, painting room, workshop and woodworking tools, that all pales in comparison to the loss of life that others suffered.
“There’s some beautiful colors in the ashes where my home was, and I’m going to keep working on drawings until I get the color and shading right,” Hanley said.
“I see beauty in a lot of areas, and I have to keep working.”
Hanley last week visited his property – which has some salvageable stone planters and retaining walls that he built – after a clean-up crew checked to make sure it was safe.
“Some of my work survived and some didn’t, and that’s the way it goes,” Hanley said. “My girlfriend and a friend got together and were going to try and find all the work I’ve created and get it back to me, but I couldn’t do that because they were gifts from my spirit to theirs.”
He and his girlfriend, Donna Rasul, escaped the fire and helped a neighbor on the way out.
“We looked out the back porch and saw the fire jump from one ridge to the next and by the time we got out, it had come up the hill to us,” Hanley said. “We drove down the road and picked up a neighbor and there was white stuff going by that looked like snow, but it was ashes.”
Armed with a big smile and hearty laugh, Hanley, like many other residents, is going through a range of emotions surrounding the loss and has yet to decide if he will rebuild.
“I recognize that I have some bad days of depression and some days I see some humor and beauty in it – some days you cover up the pain with some idiotic humor,” Hanley said. “I had a mortgage, so I’m waiting for that to play out and still working with the insurance company.”
Yuba County Environmental Health Department Director Clark Pickell said Hanley’s property is one of about 147 homes and about 69 outbuildings that the department is tasked with inspecting to ensure the properties are safe to begin the cleanup process.
“He’s the epitome of what many residents are feeling and his whole style of dealing with the loss – sometimes he wants to rebuild and sometimes he wants to leave,” Pickell said. “When he wants to leave, people keep bringing him tools so he can get back to creating art.”
Hanley, who was born and raised in Plumas County, is living in Yuba City and creating art and dealing with paperwork at a place in Marysville that a friend provided for him.
“I have to make things. I have to keep creating beautiful things,” Hanley said. “I saved a bronze metal sculpture that’s now a puddle of metal with a bunch of other stuff in it, and it’s beautiful.”
He learned woodworking from his father before joining the Navy two times, and worked in sawmills, construction and for railroad companies before becoming an art educator at Yuba College and in the Yuba City Unified School District.
“I create art to feed my inner light – it’s selfish, but you can’t buy it at a store and no one can give it to you,” Hanley said.
Chris Kaufman is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.
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