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

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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? A forest with a tree that perhaps you’d climb up in and live in to save its magic and beauty and life?