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Viewing Blog: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw | Visual Art, Most Recent at Top
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..Making books has been a life-long dream of mine, a dream that is finally coming true! I hope you enjoy my stories and pictures...
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1. March Only “LUNA & ME” Book + Print Sale to support Julia Butterfly Hill

In following Julia Butterfly Hill via social media the past couple years, I’ve watched her continually give of her time and energy helping individuals and non-profits with their efforts to do good work in the world. Presently, Julia is challenged with health issues from Lyme Disease. We ALL need support of one kind or another at times, don’t we?

I was trying to think of a way to support Julia – whose story, courage, and generosity inspired me to write and illustrate Luna & Me (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt). While I don’t normally sell my kids books, I thought a special sale of signed Luna & Me books might help her with medical bills. (She graciously and humbly accepted.) And, what a great way to share the story of Julia “Butterfly” and Luna with even more of our youth. :) She is a wonderful example for our kids and how they can make a difference!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER a Signed Copy of “LUNA & ME” and/or “Tree House” Art Print

LON13745_mediumI will personally sign all books and prints. There is an option for Julia to sign, too. I hope you and your children enjoy my book, Luna  & Me: The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest. :) Please share!

Thank you,


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2. Comment on The Magic Turtle. by Laura Huliska Beith

What a dream… I love that you and your family “just do it” ! Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventures!

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3. Comment on The Magic Turtle. by Hugh

what a beautiful description of your trip . I could feel the joy you had while reading and looking at your pictures. That last song song you mentioned reminded me of when we use to sing it occasionally in the ashram many years ago..many blessings to you Jenny and your family . Take care!

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4. Comment on The Magic Turtle. by Jenn

This is so awesome. We went on our first road trip with our girls this summer for just over a week and it really had me wanting more. Would love to do this someday! I would love to see more pics of the trailer too :)
So awesome!

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5. The Magic Turtle.


Sometimes you just have to go for it. Maybe it’s not exactly how you have dreamed it up in your head, but if you jump – if you “begin anywhere” – you can go on from there.

For several years, Patrick, Tulsi and I have been *talking* about getting a dreamy VW pop-top, OR a fun-n-funky gypsy wagon, a vintage trailer OR even a school bus, and hitting the open road. Have you thought of, or done, the same?  When this little trailer came up for sale this Spring in Santa Fe, we jumped on it. (Plus, Tulsi had a very similar looking one glued to her “vision board” so it was bound to be.) We had been planning to return to the Redwoods in Northern CA to do fundraising events with Luna & Me, and when our plans expanded into a book tour, we decided to take the camper, aka the Magic Turtle. Tulsi and I decorated it to feel like home with flower-embroidered curtains, a felted mobile, dried marigold strands, and a photo collage/”Beloved board” of our family and friends. In July, we set off on our maiden voyage for 5 weeks and traveled over 4,500 miles across 10 gorgeous states: New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.


What a magical country we live in!

There is so much I love about traveling. Spontaneity, and how one experience can lead you to another completely unplanned moment. I especially crave the open road – through vast landscapes with enormous skies, along windy rivers that change color at every bend, and through old towns that whisper stories as you pass by. It nurtures my creative spirit. I love the feeling of freedom and calmness – no rushing – space to think and breathe. And even though we moved around a lot, being outside nearly all day every day grounded us. If it was hot and we passed by a river, we stopped, played with rocks, splashed, made tea, and dunked in frigid waters while screaming in pure delight, heart racing, laughing, and feeling 1000% alive.


We camped nearly every night in our Magic Turtle – on empty ocean beaches with driftwood playgrounds and sea stack Giants, down mysterious National Forest dirt roads, sweet state parks, high mountain meadows, even our friends’ backyard. Our camper was cozy (6’3″x6’3″x13′) and ideal for road travel since we could pull it with our little Suburu Outback, and we could stop anywhere – the base of a golden and crimson arch in Moab or a small town park/playground – cook a meal easily and run off to explore. Oh, it was really dreamy. I couldn’t stop smiling.


IMG_7560 - Version 2

A few of the MANY highlights …

– On our first night out, we pulled into a meadow on a stunning high mountain pass in New Mexico when a wild rain + thunderstorm burst from the skies seconds after we got into the Turtle. We were dry, cozy, had a lovely, “home-cooked” meal by candlelight, and slept all night to sweet rain music (my favorite!).

– the postcard Tulsi mailed to Oso the 2nd day away


– We spent 5 special days at the Mendocino Woodlands State Park at a Sufi camp. Patrick taught Ayurveda/chai classes and led a Hindu ceremony while Tulsi, Narayan and I played at the ‘kids’ camp’. Every morning, the entire camp gathered for dances of universal peace and then the kids ran through a circular tunnel made of their elders’ joined hands, and off we went to explore. We discovered a red-legged frog in a creek and “stumbled upon” a nest of featherless baby hummingbirds camouflaged under a spiderweb atop green furry moss, in the nook of a redwood tree!

– One of my favorite dances of universal peace was to this beautiful tune by Tom Chapin, which Blue now loves to fall asleep to. Such a pretty lullabye.

“This pretty planet spinning through space, You’re a garden, you’re a harbor, you’re a holy place,

Golden sun going down, Gentle blue giant spin us around,

All through the night, Safe til the morning light.”

Luna & Me came full circle when we returned to Humboldt County, CA where we journeyed 2 years earlier to visit Luna and research/camp in the redwood forest. This time, we did 3 wonderful and successful fundraising events with Sanctuary Forest, caretakers of The Luna Preserve. What a fun and dedicated group of people doing great work for the environment!

– I loved connecting with the kids at events and visiting amazing indie bookstores!


– reconnecting with old friends, meeting friends I had only known via blogs/fb before, and encountering a lot of really kind-hearted people

– reading A Wrinkle in Time aloud in the car, on the beach, by the light of the campfire… love, love, love!

– reading, reading, and more reading!

– camping on the Southern Oregon Coast! The beaches are public, and we had the most magical beach to ourselves. We rolled out of bed onto cool, soft sand and explored in our jammies with not a care in the world.


– fairy-like Ferry rides from island to island in the Puget Sound and learning that Orca whales breathe in unison while traveling together!

– long hike with 2 kids to wild hot springs in Idaho

– witnessing a young bat swimming in a lake and flapping its way to shore where it rested and dried (and we admired)

– simply being together in nature








Maybe we’re just lucky, but we have two of the best travelers, Ever. Tulsi is such a free-spirited, ‘wild child’, and she flourished on this trip. She made us laugh non-stop, and made new friends easily even though she says she’s shy. She met new, and sometimes scary/challenging opportunities, with courage and wonder, and from these, she grew stronger, wiser, more confident, and more compassionate. I love watching her grow. And Narayan Blue radiates so much love and light from his brilliant blue eyes and joyous smile. It was awesome to watch him investigate every rock, pine cone, beach, and salty, worn piece driftwood. His favorite word for the trip was “MAMA!” which melted my heart. He learned to crawl forward during our travels and was a social butterfly making everyone he met, smile. Isn’t it a joy watching our children bring joy to others (friends and strangers alike) just by being themselves?

We learned a few things from this “trial excursion” with our camper:  we could easily go for longer (we seem to have little needs but being in nature), no agenda would be fun, we appreciated the simplicity of having little ‘stuff” with us, the camper was grounding for the kids and made camping/road-tripping easy, and we couldn’t get enough of the ocean (lakes, creeks, rivers, too!). We are ready for more. With homeschooling again this year, we are already planning field-trips with the Turtle!

Here’s another favorite song (from the Shaker tradition) that seems to sum up the way our little family lives, whether on the road or on our homestead. Such a gift.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.


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6. Luna and Me’s Birthday!

photo 2

I am perpetually late sending off birthday cards. Blogging is no different. It’s nearly June, and not only do I have a six-month old son who oozes sweetness, I have a new book that got its wings a couple weeks ago – Luna and Me: The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest, based on Julia Butterfly Hill’s tree-sit in an ancient Redwood tree. Contrary to most kids guesstimate that it takes me one week or one month to make a book, Luna and Me took me longer to write and illustrate than Butterfly’s 738-day tree-sit. Ha. An epic journey for sure, but I loved it all.


We celebrated with a fun launch party Taos-style with a packed house of friends who braved the hail and COLD (yes, in May!) and were rewarded with Patrick’s spicy, hot chai, ginger owl cookies, and a book. :) The best part was when my friends’ son perfectly timed his desire to climb the carved “trunk” when I read, “To exercise, Butterfly climbed to the very top of Luna every day. With sticky sappy feet, she crawled like a spider up and down Luna’s trunk.” Hee!


I feel blessed and grateful every time I think of the long list of people who helped me with research (!!), editing, feedback, listening to me talk about it (!), childcare (so I could paint), turning my paintings upside down for new perspective, sharing cool collage papers, and so on.


And as much as my mind is focused on new books, it was important to stop for a moment and celebrate. Julia is an amazing example of how everyone can make a difference. We all have gifts to offer! I hope Luna and Me inspires readers to be caretakers for our magical and beautiful world and to take long walks with the trees.


P.S. I had the honor of being interviewed recently by the AMAZING, thoughtful, and Busy Librarian, Matthew Winner, about Luna and Me on his “Let’s Get Busy” podcast. I wish I had M.W. for a librarian when I was little!!

P.S. #2 Check out my summer schedule in the Midwest, CA, OR, WA, WY and NM. Hope to see some of you at an event!

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7. Comment on Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process by coloredsock

thanks Laura! i can’t wait to give you a copy! and we LOVE “Little Red Hot”! your art is on fire! hee. spicy and sweet at the same time. thank you! it was just AWESOME spending time with you in KC! i feel really inspired by you and sharing all. thanks for being you! xoxo

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8. Comment on Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process by coloredsock

thanks Mama Rose B! :) i hope this book brings me back for a visit to stl WITH my babes! i hope you are well! xoxo!

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9. Comment on Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process by coloredsock

aw, thanks for your msg Suzen! and how awesome to hear your granddaughter loves the earth so! :) chai cheers to you! jenny

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10. Comment on Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process by Suzen

So glad you’re back! The book looks wonderful and I can’t wait to share it with my 9 year old granddaughter who is already an environmentalist! Meanwhile, as I wait, winter comes upon us and I sip my delicious Chai…

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11. Comment on Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process by laura beith

This is going to be AWESOME. I can’t WAIT to get a copy!!!!!!!!

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12. Comment on Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process by Heather Rose B.

Oh, so dream and inspiring, as always! Can’t wait!

Our love and giggles to you and your THREE!!! :)

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13. Luna and Me: Book preview and love of process

“Baby, you are my sunny afternoon,

you sprinkle magic in my heart.” – Tulsi, age 5

It’s 5:08 AM and has over a year since I last wrote in this space. Much can happen in a year, like a 4 year old (now 5) blowing my mind nearly every day with the ways she dances through her magical world, so free, her heart and mind wide open. I finished the children’s book that I went to the Redwoods to research last year, and it was dreamy, really, how Tulsi actively contributed in my process. She “played” out the story and quoted many lines from the manuscript. Sitting side by side, we elaborated and refined drawings from my initial dummy sketches while looking at photos from our trip. She freely offered countless ideas of details to add (or even hide) in the pictures. I treasured her unpredictable and untrained color sense while we both painted color studies of every illustration. And during long days of painting, she would climb up on her step stool next to me, gift encouraging “wow”s, thoughtful questions, keen observations only a child would notice, and even draw in wee details! It was such a treasure sharing this process with her.

The publishing world moves at a comparable rate to mine these days (ha), so even though I shipped off 20 illustrations mid-March, you’ll still have to wait until Fall 2015 to see it. I wanted to share a glimpse of LUNA & ME before I’m too engrossed in the next book(s). :) LUNA & ME, The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest is a picture book inspired by environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill’s two year tree sit in an ancient Redwood tree. Her story (and so many other environmentalists) inspire me to do what I can to care for our world using my own talents. One thing I love about this book is Julia’s example of acting from a place of love and compassion and then adding passion, dedication, faith, education, teamwork and endurance, to create change. And it is a magical, powerful story – one I am so happy my kids, and your’s, will know.

And recently, it has been awesome watching my incredible designer work her own sweet magic on the interior and cover design. So many people have supported this project, and I can’t wait to share it with you! – with Christy Ottaviano Books

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14. Check out our Chai Pilgrimage KICKSTARTER Book Campaign Aug 9 – Sept 18, 2013!

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15. NEW Chai Pilgrimage site launched!

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16. Comment on On Redwood Time. by coloredsock

thanks, Elizabeth! and then i came home and saw that this month on MWS is Wonder! how perfect…

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17. On Redwood Time.

Ancient One
who makes all things new
may we receive with gentleness
and touch with hopefulness
and protect with fierceness
and love with tenderness;
and may we celebrate with gratefulness
and welcome with humbleness
and tend with gracefulness
all that you give
into our care.

Jan Richardson


We just returned from 8 days camping in the ancient Redwood Forest. I had never been in these forests before. How does one try to describe? I was, and still am, in awe. It was beyond the beyond.

I have walked and backpacked in different forests, and they all have their own spirit and energy. The Redwoods were very different. Many of these trees were over a thousand years old. Silence washed over us as we entered the sacred Redwoods — a silence filled with awe, gratitude, wonder…and then Tulsi sighed, “Wowwwww” ever so softly with her head tilted back as far as it could go. This forest also emptied me and gifted me new perspective. Have you seen that photo of the deep sea diver pictured before the most gigantic whale? There is no fear, only amazement and respect. And it feels mutual, or so it seems to me when I’ve looked at that photo. Walking among, sitting before, and lying under these 200 to 380 feet tall ancient trees was, for me, like living out this whale photo. A magical stillness and love.

When I visit with kids in schools, they always ask about inspiration — what inspires my books and what fills me. I always say “nature, travel, and personal experiences & relationships”. One of the books I wrote about in my last post is now contracted with my publisher (yippee!) and I’ll be diving into the finished illustrations this summer. I spent the second half of last year researching, writing, editing and drawing a dummy for this book. If you haven’t guessed by now — it takes place IN the Redwoods.

A good part of what inspired this book is my love for nature and the environment, and while I was able to do “enough” research through the internet, books and film initially, I needed more to bring the book to life. I needed, and longed for, a personal experience that would connect my heart to the story in a powerful way.

So, when I asked Patrick and Tulsi to go camping with me for a week in the name of research, they wholeheartedly and enthusiastically supported me!

We packed 4 huge duffel bags with all our camping gear, flew to CA, rented a minivan, and headed north. We spent several days exclusively in the forest discovering fairy houses and fairy RINGS, elf steps and Redwood goosepens(!). We found creatures in the meandering grooves of the Redwood trunks. There were orange ladybugs, electric red spiders, and hairy caterpillars. AND, we petted EVERY single banana slug that we came across. Just looking at photos on Google, how would I know the way banana slugs shyly hide their entire heads inside “hoodies”?

I read a book and wrote a lot. Tulsi and I also sat on the soft forest floor and painted, “to remember”.

We then camped a few nights ON the coast where the ocean meets wide beaches with crazy steep cliffs often hiding under sleepy fog blankets. Elk roamed freely and trails led us up to lush Redwood forests covered in moss, ferns, salmon berries and monkey flowers! I wanted to stay there. And the ocean — oh, the Ocean! After I let go of my fear of Tsunami’s, I slept like a baby. Imagine the 3 of us tucked into a cocoon made of two sleeping bags zipped together and the ocean lulling us to sleep. If this adventure sounds like a fairytale, it was. :)

I love dirt and sun on my face, dipping my feet in creeks, rivers, oceans and wet moss, and mostly getting out of our little world. I’ll share more photos on my Facebook page soon.

There was more, too, and I’ll share that story once my book is finished. I feel full to the moon with inspiration and magic that I pray will spill out as I paint. And again and again, I pray the prayer above.

And you? Have you been to the Redwoods? Do you have a favorite forest on this beautiful earth that fills your whole being?

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18. Taking chances.

above, Summer, 2012

It feels like it has taken me a long time to gain my momentum back with my art since Tulsi was born, but I’m thankful it’s back. I am only working part-time, but I realized about 9 months ago that the “lack” of time for my art could actually be a gift. And that has made a huge difference.

It gave me permission to let go of a lot of work that wasn’t important to me — freelance that was fun and paid well but didn’t fill my cup with energy and excitement — and also excess pro-bono projects. Can anyone relate? When I realized I could only do so much, I decided to choose one focus (for now). That was easy. Books! Books inspire me wildly and feel like a way I can really contribute to the world and to future generations. One of the most freeing things I heard last year was “a ‘no’ is a ‘yes!’ to something eles.” Yes! (In case you are wondering about the financial part of that decision, of course it makes it a challenge, but there is always a way. Just gotta get creative.)

Once I made that decision, I felt like the universe supported me. I was chosen for the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Book Award for Same, Same but Different (I’m still wowed.) And then the South Asian Book Award and Frostburg State U CLC Book Award. What honors!

Suddenly, I also felt nervous and worried since I didn’t have more books in the works yet. Of course, that was one question everyone asked me, too.

Transitions are tough. Standing in between worlds. Looking at a blank slate. No, not a comfortable feeling exactly. But necessary sometimes to grow, you know?

Luckily for me, these honors, and especially the amazing PEOPLE who offered them to me, and the other award-winners, filled my cup with encouragement. I am grateful. :)

So then what?

I admit, I still have a hard time calling myself an author and yet, I love to write and dream up stories. (Author Kristin Bair O’Keeffe interviewed me in the fall about my writing process.) In May, I was feeling stuck. Jane Yolen, the most prolific author of children’s literature, thankfully shifted something for me when I heard her say in an interview that she NEVER gets writer’s block because she works on several different things at the same time. Light bulb! So I looked through my notebooks and made new lists of ideas and themes of what felt really important to me and inspired me. After talking these ideas through with my editor last summer, she asked me to focus on bringing two (specific ones) to life.

Enter Patrick. My hubby is a rockin’ partner. We both work for ourselves and “trade off” working and being with Tulsi. He sent me off during the day, for a few days a week, during July and August — always with chai — to write in a friend’s cabin (above — so peaceful and a perfect retreat!) and then to OCHO, a wonderful local artist co-op. Patrick kept cheering me on even when I’d come home after 7 hours with very little progress to share. He listened to draft after draft after draft. He trusted I knew what I was doing when I scrapped a manuscript I had worked on for a month in order to follow a different, approach that meant drawing the entire story out in search of the text. The funny thing is, I remembered this is how I work best! This took another month though, or was it two? I then shared rough dummies and manuscripts with a few close friends (and Tulsi) which was really helpful.

I definitely questioned myself as an author during those few months until I realized I don’t have to call myself that. I can simply be a picture book maker. I like that. After all, the words and pictures and story have a way of dreaming up something more than I know how to do with words alone. Yes, it’s scary and daunting at first…trying to bring a book alive…and I stall, drag my feet, procrastinate, but when I finally work through the scary beginning, it’s awesome. And I love love love it!

Well, fast forward 6 months and travel and holidays and one round of edits with my editor…I am in my new studio every night, still plugging away and nearly finished with both book manuscripts and dummies! Although I can’t share much yet on either of these books, I can say that it’s amazing how the universe supports dreams (and sends obvious signs) after I give more effort, trust more, believe more, and take chances. :) Plus, I’m having so much fun and feeling excited! It is certainly a journey!

Yes, every book has its own birth story! In case you missed it, in November, I shared the back story of Same, Same but Different at the Taos Pecha Kucha night. (For me, this presentation was another moment of finding courage. Luckily I didn’t faint.)

What about you? Where are you on your own journey(s)? I’d love to hear about your process, too.

And one last thing, these really inspired me during the past 6 months of taking chances: What if Money Didn’t Matter and the film HAPPY. Hope they do the same for you.

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19. Same, Same but Different & the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award!

OH Wow! It has been an ongoing joke in our house that Tulsi says, “Mama, your books have no Caldecott Medals, but someday you’ll get a sticker!” I smile and give her sweet head a kiss. Well, I am beyond excited to share some news — The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation awarded me the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award and the New Author Honor for Same, Same but Different! Whoa. I’m all smiley and a bit teary realizing what an honor this is.

I want to sing out a thank you song to so many people who have helped this book come alive, who believed in me and cheered me on, (and who supported me while I worked on it, creatively and physically!): my husband Patrick and Tulsi, my amazing editor and book guru Christy Ottaviano and my art director Patrick Collins, my rockin’ agents Jo-Lynne Worley and Joanie Shoemaker, my Mom (who came to play with Baby T while I painted my heart out) and Dad (always my biggest fans), my sister Renee (!), Neeru Dhakal and my Sunshine School Family in Nepal, my book gal friends, and countless little friends across the oceans and at home who inspired this story. This is yours, too!

This is a description from the full press release:

Fifty years ago, Ezra’s book The Snowy Day, which featured an African American child, broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s book publishing when it was embraced by families across racial, economic and ethnic lines,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “Like Ezra, this year’s Book Award winners have, in their own way, celebrated the similarities—and differences—of people whose life experiences are dramatically varied.

The Book Award was created to acknowledge and encourage budding children’s book authors and illustrators who impart Ezra Jack Keats’ values—the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family and the multicultural nature of our world.”

I have been a fan of Ezra Jack Keats since I was young and dreaming of making children’s books! I really admire him as an illustrator and a person, and I am inspired by his books and mixed-media experimentations. Plus, we are both Polish! Hee. :) Thanks everyone for ALL your encouragement over the years and for letting me share this FUN news! I am playing “hard” to bring some new books to you.

And a big congrats to Meg Medina for winning the New Authors Medal! Patrick, Tulsi and I are looking forward to the ceremony on April 12 in Mississippi!



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20. The Mother’s Wisdom Deck

Last year at this time, I was standing at a journey’s beginning, taking deep breath after deep breath, and contending with doubts, “Can I do this? Can I uphold the integrity of the oracle so beautifully brought to life by the authors? I can think of several other mama artists who could do this better. Is it even possible in just 4 months while being a mama?” I knew I wanted to. I had been asking the universe for a project that would inspire me in a deeper way. I’d also been calling out for guidance and support on my path of mothering. But fears can be kinda loud.

I was staring at 52 blank rectangles, an empty map of what would be The Mother’s Wisdom Deck. I paged through drafts of Niki and Elizabeth’s card passages and came to Turtle – Grounding. The passage concludes with Turtle advising: “a time-honored way of coming back to earth: lie facedown with arms extended above your head. Make sure your forehead, knees, and hands are touching the ground. This is a full bow, a prostration to the powers above. In this supplication, you lower yourself before infinite Mystery and, in turn, come closer to your basic nature.”

Almost exactly ten years ago, after driving all night, I stepped outside of my car into a frigid, New Mexico mountain landscape, just five minutes walk from our home now. The sun was still on its ascent on the other side of the Sangres. Patrick led me down a snow-covered road lined with vertical blue, white, red, green and golden prayer flags. At the end was a white, wedding cake shaped shrine. Yes, it was my first visit to a Buddhist Stupa — what my daughter lovingly now calls, “Buddha’s house”. Two golden dear sat still and awake on either side of a peaceful Buddha. Goosebumps rose up on my already freezing body — the kind of chill when you are so overtaken with beauty and a sense of “wow”. I watched Patrick kneel on the freshly shoveled flagstone and a ghost-like breath rise out of his mouth. He lay on his stomach, facedown with his hands in prayer, reaching over his head. Aside from photographs in distant lands, I had never seen anyone do this before. My response surprised me. Feeling so much gratitude for that place I was right then and there, and the friend I was with, I dipped into my first full body prostration. I really wanted to throw myself down to the ground, but I am timid. I remember at first wondering, is this ok? I’m not Buddhist. And I distinctly remember the calm and grace I felt lying on the frozen stone before “infinite Mystery”. I didn’t want to get up. I went empty and prayed, and the sun spilled over the mountains.

Remembering that winter morning, I knew the only way I could trust that I could paint these cards –and begin this journey– was to get out of my head, out of my ego, and into my heart. To focus on “why” this project is so important to us: honoring motherhood as a spiritual practice. I lay in my studio in full prostration on a child-like rug of yellow and pink flowers. I felt anchored and prayed for intuition, endurance, clarity, and wisdom. Or maybe I pleaded. :) Either way, I feel like guidance presented herself.

I realize until now, I haven’t shared much of this pilgrimage here. It was a test of endurance. I learned to hone my intuition, reach out to my community, and surrender. When I was painting, Tulsi often reminded me of what was most important asking, “Mama, first tea party, th

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21. Hattiesburg on my mind.

This morning Tulsi whispered in my ear, “Pssssst, let’s go for a ride on a butterfly.”

“Let’s,” I replied. In case you didn’t already know, you know now who keeps me in check. And busy.

There is much I want to share from the past couple months! Where to begin?

I’ll start with Hattiesburg, Mississippi…I was very fortunate to attend the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival (WOW, AMAZING!!!) where I received the Ezra Jack Keat’s New Illustrator’s Award and faced my biggest fear of speaking in public — one planned speech and one surprise-to-me-speech (gulp) in front of authors I admire ten-fold and hundreds of librarians. I think I did ok, but most importantly, I survived.


- drooled over Ezra Jack Keat’s original art. OMG!!!! I learned SO much in that hour of staring UP-close!

- am treasuring this book, a gift from my new friends in Hattiesburg. Deborah Pope also read a heartfelt letter from her father, Martin Pope, who was best friends with Ezra since they were kids. You can read Marin’s words here.

- toured the outrageous de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection (whoa–an impressive treasure!). the highlight was a 50ft + (?) long fabric collage mural by Esphyr Slobodkina!! I would love to create a huge mural someday and when I do, I’ll look to this for inspiration!

- was hosted by some lovely, lovely people (!!), and soaked up inspiration, wisdom and stories from extraordinary children’s book authors!

- scratched hashmarks of some 30-something times I was ‘hit’ by surprise from tidal waves of goosebumps during the talks. So much of Jane Yolen’s talk is still playing in my head. I’ve also got Jane’s  “The Alphabetics of Story” on my mind.

- geeked out with librarians :) and loved spending time with the other award winners!  Meg, Micha, and Nicola and I shared about art, writing, inspirations and motherhood.

- was beyond excited to meet Anita Silvey and hear her lecture on the history of the American Picture Book. I am hooked on her Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac!

Can you tell I had a wonderful time?! It was awesome having Patrick and Tulsi with me, too, and this photo reflects how grateful and energized, inspired and dreamy I felt (and still feel). Weeeeee!


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22. Seed by seed.

Is it really June? Spring whizzed by and with all the travel, we found ourselves lost in the dust of garden dirt-devils and sneaky rabbits. We are usually eating out of our garden this time of the year but instead are still trying to prepare beds for transplanting starts from the greenhouse. The saving grace: we’ve been eating fresh greens and broccoli from our greenhouse for months and are gradually learning how to grow all year long. I’m making fresh pesto now, too. It always amazes me though how every garden year is different — always a curve ball, a surprise — that humbles, amuses, and seasons us. Last month, I transplanted 70 BEAUTIFUL zinnias and they ALL died. Um, what?? I gradually acclimated them to the cold and sun, so what happened? Yes, a portion were lost in a spotty frost but the rest? Was it because onions grew in that bed last year? A mystery. C’est la vie.

Well, we did start more zinnias, and slowly, slowly, seed by seed, we are planting our garden. I love that Tulsi loves planting, too. She is always asking for seeds or saving her watermelon seeds and planting them here and there. :) A local farmer taught me how to sprout my winter squash seeds in damp, rolled up paper towels in a glass jar (so we know the seeds are viable). Then plant them. It worked great! And another friend lined us out on electrifying our chicken yard (that we just tripled) so bears won’t bust through and destruct. Fingers crossed. Sometimes on the homestead, it is a dance of two steps forward, two steps back. So today I’m giving thanks for feeling a little more ‘caught up’.

I’m also excited about taking a workshop in August on fermentation at the Lama Foundation with Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation, and others, fermenting, making herbal medicines, gathering wild foods, root cellaring and food drying, composting, cheese making, etc.

AND, for my birthday, Patrick gave me a “worm farm“! I’m one lucky woman. Tulsi and I can’t wait for the 2000 squiggly, wriggly worms to arrive tomorrow! (I’m such a garden nerd.)

How is your garden growing this year? Any lessons learned?

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23. Magic monsoons and a mystical fairy.

Hello again! While I haven’t had energy to write in this space after long play+farm+work days, I did take some photos and wanted to share a glimpse of the magic that has filled our summer. For starters, this barefoot garden fairy in jammies during a golden rainbow sunset. And I have to point out the shade covering with the red roof — someday, this is going to be my studio and I’ll be creating art with this lush, green view out my window. Baby steps.

After a lonnng drought, this year we were blessed (and surprised) by monsoon after monsoon which nourished our spirits (and skin!) and transformed our garden and landscape. I never tire of the Tibetan-like mountains growing in our backyard.

It’s funny how every year we get equally — if not more — giddy over our first fruits! We learned less is more, for us, with tomatoes in the greenhouse. Two plants are perfect for us. I also discovered why my cucumber plant was gigantic and covered in flowers but had only 2 fruits. Pollinators were not finding their way into our greenhouse…so I opened another window screen AND I buzzed around, painting each female flower with a male’s ‘paintbrush’. (I didn’t know the females all come with a teeny tiny fruit, like an egg, waiting to be fertilized!) By the way, have you seen this???! Still, other mysteries were left unsolved.

In August, Tulsi and I took a homesteading workshop at the Lama Foundation. I loved gathering with so many others geeking out over worms and compost, live bacteria, poop, and strange smells. We made kimchi and our own sourdough starter with Sandor Katz. It was great energy going into the harvest and preserving season!

I was especially proud of my cabbages! Which I then turned into quarts and quarts of sauerkraut that fill a shelf in our fridge. And just last week, we harvested our first 4 GORGEOUS (and decadent) winter squashes! They are almost too beautiful to eat. (Almost.) About 2/3 of our onions are now braided and hanging to cure, under my red studio roof. And aren’t these the happiest, most colorful beets?! Many are now pickled and canned, others are waiting to bake, and about twice as many are still maturing.

I think this season (our 6th) has been our best yet! Why? We were more relaxed (and experienced) and didn’t stress over weeds. We didn’t grow massive amounts of cut flowers, but our house was always full of bouquets. And we seemed to grow the right amount of everything. I think we have a TON of food for the winter (loads of squash and roots that we can store and don’t have to preserve NOW) and we didn’t waste any food. That might sound funny, but it happens! It can be tricky knowing how much to grow of what. And although I am not a Queen Preserver like some friends of mine (they are AMAZING), I have preserved a LOT already and a sweet variety. I learn more each year! (Of course, I need to figure out how to finish on canning days by bedtime so Tulsi and Patrick don’t have to migrate to the tent. Ha.) I’ll try to post a final tally later this Fall of what I preserved, and please, please share what you have preserved! Sometimes I don’t know ‘what’ to preserve!

I love this last picture. It is a seed pod dangling from a Cleome/Rocky Mtn Bee Plant. One of our favorite ‘to-do’s’ this time of year is collecting seeds. We have thousands, millions, billions of seeds stored in jars to plant and to share. It reminds me of the infinite possibilities in life, if we give our attention and love to our intentions.

We have a few weeks of exciting travel coming soon — Colorado, Chicago, Madison, St. Louis, and Maryland! I’ll share on the flipside. I’m also blogging (most) Fridays at motheringwithsoul.com if you haven’t wandered over yet. I hope you are enjoying garden goodies, too, and enjoying your Fall! It’s my favorite time of year.

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24. How Same, Same but Different came to life.

This is my My Pecha Kucha Presentation in Taos, November, 2012. Hope you feel inspired! :)

Jenny Kostecki-Shaw – Pecha Kucha Night Taos Volume 8 from pechakuchataos on Vimeo.

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25. With sprinkles on top.

Happy New Year! I feel like I am standing in front of swinging double dutch jump ropes, trying to get the timing right (and the nerve) to jump back into blogging. I’ve been away for most of the past year except for my Facebook page and Mothering With Soul. It has been quite a full year!

Of course there was plenty of fun on the homestead…And our flock of hens survived their first molt and (after looking like walking pieces of plucked meat, sorry), they now look gorgeous with fluffy, perfect plummage. Tulsi’s humor (and attitude) also blossomed this year.

And we took several adventures to Colorado, Mississippi, New Orleans, Chicago, Madison, St. Louis, Omaha, and Maryland. It was a few whirlwind trips but great to fly away from the homestead and have new experiences! We have more of the same planned for 2013. :) It’s a sweet balance. And ideal (for us).

A huge highlight was marching (and dancing) with good friends in the famous 2nd Line parade in New Orleans for 4 hours! In the past, the 2nd line of a funeral procession celebrated the loved one’s life with music, dance, color and Joy. It is still a celebration of life, only now it is a weekly parade open to everyone. Such positive vibes and groovin’. I will never forget it! The costumes were awesome! Live music is one of my very favorite things in the world! We drank it up in New Orleans.

Our excursions were sprinkled with magic, too. Twirling on the beach, jelly fish!, magic shows, puppets, backpacking in enchanted forests, and every bit was enhanced by the nonstop imagination of a 3 yr old.

These are just a glimpse, but you can imagine how our travels filled my cup! AND, upon returning, I’m always even more appreciative of the place we live — in these sacred mountains near the Taos Native Indians — sprinkled with magic, everywhere you turn.

I collaged this image of Saraswati on New Years Eve when my family was asleep. (ha) Saraswati is the goddess of music, arts, learning. Wishing you a new year full of magic and learning!

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