Love, Art, and Conservation in the Time of COVID

As I moved forward in the development of The Adventures of Pili project during 2020 I could not but start wondering if I should change my inner question to what for rather than to why. We have always heard that many creations are born from sickness, grief, pain, and challenges. I had no doubt that art is a process to express emotions. But me? I had always transformed my always present happiness into art! Or should I say until now?  Looking back into this year, what if I had gone through the stages of grief  by merging my love art with conservation?

The reason I sat down to share these personal reflections is in the hopes that it will help others in their voyage. From overseas, I saw my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease advance; from a distance, I saw her go through COVID; from afar, I have seen humanity respond to adversity in a myriad of ways. As I went up and down in my own personal journey of adaptation during this year, there was a constant: my love for sharing the wonders of nature, while instilling reactions not only to the cognitive corners of my audience, but to their very own hearts. 

By focusing on my ultimate mission to inspire children to aspire, I took away what many refer to as creative anxiety. I always carry a small notebook where I write down those flapping ideas before they flee. No thought, for as crazy as it may have been, has not been scribbled down. If a thought passes my neurons more than three times on my daily walks, or if it ends up being doodled trice in my watercolor journal, it is worth all my attention.  

During the pandemic, due to the absence of traveling, the natural world around us became a permanent source of inspiration for Little Explorer. Her curiosity and love for all beings became mine. Photo: Kike Calvo

People ask: How do you find story ideas for my children’s books? My answer is always the same: Life. My Journal is nothing else but an idea file. One idea leads to another, so every thought and intention is a treasure. I started to look at the world through the eyes of my daughter. 

One of those ideas was the conception of Pili’s Book Club. A selection of stories developed by the creative team at The Adventures of Pili. We started the Book Club during the 2020 pandemic, producing brilliant book stories to inspire kids around the world, foster global awareness and understanding, and showcase perspectives on cultural and natural diversity. This project will continue supporting the free distribution of books in remote communities but adds the creation of small free outdoor libraries to contribute to the book-sharing movement.

The first book of Pili´s Book Club will be released shortly. The Tale of a Flightless Mosquito was first written back in 1982. I was a smiley, curious, and energetic 10-year-old. I was in the fourth grade, class 4B to be precise. My favorite class project: to write a story. The story of a mosquito that could not fly became so popular among my classmates, that I even wrote a sequel in the following grade. For years I remembered this manuscript, thinking that one day, I would turn it into a storybook. It was during the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine that I decided to sit down and rewrite the story to inspire kids around the world. 

Many of the topics covered in the new collection Pili´s Book Club were triggered by daily conversations. Pili taking a close look at a frog. As a rule of thumb, we look at small creatives, we learn about them, we take notes in our journal and we let them go with no harm. Photo: Kike Calvo

Luis Soriano, a man better known as El Biblioburro (The Donkey-Library), has been carrying the love of reading to the most remote rural areas of Colombia since April 5, 1997, while riding donkeys Alfa and Beto. A few days after receiving enormous gratitude for our first batch of donated bilingual books, Luis decided to write the foreword of this first upcoming book. 

While reading the story of the mosquito, I couldn’t help but remember my own when I lost a leg in an accident with one of my donkeys,¨ said El Biblioburro. ¨What surprised me the most when I learned about the background of this story is that when Kike wrote the original manuscript, he was only 10 years old, the same age as many of the children I share the love of reading with. I can’t wait to see how these stories illuminate the lives of thousands of children, encouraging them to overcome the adversities that life will present them.¨

Luis Soriano, “The Biblioburro.” Photo: Kike Calvo

Serendipity is one of my favorite words. Finding unexpected joy where you thought there will be non due to the circumstances. So is it good luck when we find valuable things unintentionally, or is it our awareness and openness to the Universe that brings them along? 

Due to the pandemic, my traveling became interrupted. Frustrated at first, I looked around and decided to smile to life even many lemons were being sent our way. One day my daughter asked me what the moon was made of. In the blink of an eye, I started coming up with fun answers that shortly after became the inspiration to write a book called The Moon is Made of Dreams. Immediately I ask myself if there are serendipitous artists, or should we say, cognizance creators?

Several storybooks will follow, all born in these challenging times: The Untold Story of Destiny; The Richest Hummingbird of the Rainforest; Ms. M. Cold Nose; The Adventures of Pili in the River of Seven Colors…. In the same way, you focus your attention on where you want to go when riding any vehicle in motion, always avoiding looking at the steep drop-offs on the edge of the road, my humble suggestion is you do the same in your creative journey in the midst of adversity and challenges. 

If you have to choose between two paths in your art and conservation efforts, it is wise considering the path of the heart. As life unfolds in front of us, it seems, at times, to be the less traveled road these days for many. And in the end, you may just be following Robert Frost’s musing in his poem The Road Not Taken

As many people stay at home during the quarantine, wildlife sightings have become more common in many parts of the world A female wild bobcat (Felinae rufus or Lynx rufus) seen in a suburban residential area. Photo: Kike Calvo