tsatsas(Upper Valley of NH/VT, March 2011)  

In late February, studio-cabin-fever set in, and I made an improvised test-pilgrimage around Lebanon, NH positioning cast-earth tsa-tsas as I went along.  (Tsa-tsas are miniature versions of Buddhist stupas, or markers of sacred space.  In Bhutan, they are usually produced in batches of 108, to mark an important occasion or intention, and then carefully placed around temples and natural landscapes as offerings.) I liked what happened, and have decided to carry on, setting out 36 tsatsas in Lebanon, 36 in White River Junction, and 36 in Hanover for the first set of 108 - since those are the towns I currently spend a lot of my time in. My tsa-tsa walks are an echo of the Tibetan kora, a community practice of circumambulating a town, temple, or sacred feature of the natural landscape, simultaneously affirming and renewing the blessings of the place & the walker.

The connection between the tsa-tsas and the Rider Diptychs (the paintings I've been working on)is the idea of sacred-ordinary spaces: those evoked in the paintings, and those in the towns.  My art practice has often invoked community collaboration as a very direct way of creating sacred space. As a newcomer to the Upper Valley, I see the tsa-tsas as a way to become more involved in local communities, while inviting people to participate in a gift economy.

If you've found one of these tsa-tsa I invite you to keep it, pass it along to someone else, re-position it somewhere of significance to you, or just leave it be. I'd love to hear from you, and will post comments & photos below, on this page. You can contact me at mustaphaputtgen[at]gmail.com.

Hoorah! Julie.



If you've found a tsa-tsa & want to add your response to this page, please email mustaphaputtgen[at]gmail.com. Thanks!


Hello Julie,

I am writing to tell you that when I went to drop off my mail at the drive up box in Lebanon I found one of your Tsa-tsas.

I must admit that 2011 has been a very difficult year for myself and my family. Today especially so, when I received notice that our Insurance carrier was dropping our homeowners insurance as our home needs work. Finding the Tsa-tsas put a smile on my face today! I want to thank you for taking on this venture. I think it is absolutely wonderful. I love that your efforts are making smiles:-)

I visited your web site and found it very interesting. This came at a time that my daughter is studying Buddism in Jr. High and has been very interested in learning more.

Thank you again and enjoy your day!





Hello Julie!

Just passing on I found (and took) one of your Tsa-Tsas! It's funny because I was on a walk with my son (our first walk of the year) and kind of in a hurry so I wasn't enjoying the walk like I normally would. I was cold, I was worried my son would have a melt-down, wondering about the stupid day-to-day things... Then I thought I saw *something* left in the Advance Transit booth, but I was in a rush and didn't go back to check it out. I figured it was a bit of garbage, something like that... But if it was something else and it was "meant to be," it'd be there when I got back.

Then I got to thinking about how, years ago, I was visiting the coast of Maine and because the tide was low, I was able to walk out to this little island that normally you can't get to. It was a tiny, tiny island, maybe the size of the Lebanon Green with only a couple little trees, lots of driftwood and polished stones, just a very natural, peaceful place. While I was just walking along the driftwood looking for sea glass, I stumbled on some sort of marker and, when I went to check it out, I found all sorts of little goodies. Sea glass, shells, a letter, something that was handmade that I can't even describe... Kind of a cairn with seashells and stones. The letter explained that this was a stop on a secret spots scavenger hunt set up by this group of people from across the country. You were supposed to come and take something, leave something, or write a letter then pass on to these folks you've found the spot and what you took and what you left.

I remember at the time thinking it was one of the coolest things I'd heard of and I remembered how special that was for me. To be on a little island that, honestly, I couldn't get to now if I had to, discovering this secret little treasure trove of things left by people as far off as the UK. I deeply, deeply regretted I didn't go to the website and learn more about it, since I've seen nothing like it since.

Then, I look over at the West Lebanon Public Library window and I saw another one of what I thought I saw at the booth... Your Tsa-tsa! I took it without a second thought and read the tag and thought all about what it could be. In all honesty, I almost didn't go to the website because I thought it was probably a gimmick for a store or something, and if it was, it'd have crushed me. LoL! But I'm glad I did, and even happier to see it's a project like the one I saw on that island on the coast of Maine so I won't have any regrets about not learning more about what I found.

Thank you for doing this and thank you for that nice memory that I had honestly let slide into the way back of my mind, behind the things that most people like me spend too long thinking about and not enough time keeping memories like those fresh. For somebody else, your project may have been passed over, but for me it was a vacation back to a warm, sunny, summer day on the coast of Maine, a secret discovery, and a nice memory on a cold day.

Have fun!




My name is Mercedes and I found one of your Tsa Tsas in White River today. The funny thing is that I just bought a book today called the Essence of Happiness by the Dalai Lama! I'm not really familiar with Buddhist practices at all so I thought it was funny that I happened to find these two things on the same day. My friends and I are doing a project/blog called Smile If You're Happy, which is partly why I bought the book. The basic idea is to try to find at least one thing to be happy about every day and to try and be more positive in general. I wrote about the book and the tsa tsa in the blog and I think it's a great idea! I like the fact that it's something being passed from person to person and place to place without using technology at all really, it seems very organic and personal. Anyway, I plan on putting it somewhere, I just have to find the right place. Here's the blog, feel free to share!
Thanks!  //Mercedes


Hey... Look what I found!

photo by Kim Souza


UPDATE: Thanks to some help from The Fabulous Miss Adora Lee in WRJ and friends at Valley Insight in Hanover (and to some real spring weather in the last few days), the tsa-tsas are out. It's wonderful to see the empty shelf in my studio where the tsa-tsas sat most of the winter & to get reports back from people who've found them. Hoorah!

photo by Adora Lee




Hi Julie,

I encountered one of your tsa-tsas today walking along north main street by the
dartmouth green. thank you for your gift. I was happy to leave it for another
to discover and have enjoyed browsing your website. are your paintings on
display locally?

In case you are interested there is a regular sitting practice at the Upper
Valley Zen Center
in White River Junction.




Hi Julie -

Found your tsa-tsa at our Shambhala Center early Sunday morning & brought it inside - it's in our entryway for now keeping us company. Thanks for spreading them around - Stephen

photo by Stephen Marcus



Hi Julie,
Just wanted to let you know I found a place to put the tsa tsa I found. It had kind of a long journey - I go to school at Umass and I took it with me. I put it in the library because this is a place that is filled with a lot of stress and heavy work loads and I thought it would be a nice little surprise for someone when they come here to study. I hope you don't mind that I moved it far away from the area, but I think I found the right place for it. I put this on my blog again if you want to take a look :)

May you be well! -Mercedes

photo by Mercedes Mehling



My name is Judy Kingsley and a while ago I was going for a walk by my house on South Main st. in wrj. I happend to look to my right to find this little sculpture. I looked around just to make sure this wasn't someone's and they had forgotten it along their travels and then I looked at the tag. "I'm yours to keep" I instantly smiled, It made me feel like I had a secret admirer!! The past 6 months, it seems like I have had nothing but bad luck and nothing good to look forward to! My daughter came to visit and I said "I'm passing this to you" She looked at it, and instantly went on the web site. Loving it so much she's going to place it in her town in Claremont, in hopes this tsa-tsa gets a long journey! This is such a clever idea, thank you for sharing this!! This is where I had found mine!!

photo by Judy Kingsley


Our friend George visited from Chicago! On our walk around Lebanon, we found proof that unfound tsatsas indeed dissolve in the rain. Hoorah for ephemeral things.

photo by Julie Puttgen


Tsatsa walk in Hanover with my lovely friend, Subha, and her little baby, Anjali. We found this spot for the one remaining tsatsa, with the thought that someone dropping off their parking ticket in this funny little red box (salute included) might also enjoy a vote of confidence from the universe.

photo by Subha Shrinivasan


Hi, I found one of your tsatsas in the faculty and staff locker room at the Dartmouth gym last week. It's sitting in front of me at my desk at work (at Dartmouth) right now. I hesitated to take it, because it seems selfish to keep it, but I took it anyway! When I went to your web page and saw a couple other people had said 2011 had been a rough year, it has been for me, too. So maybe it's OK for me to hold on to it, at least for now.

This is a very cool project! Thank you so much sharing your art with the Upper Valley!

--Nancy Fontaine



If you've found a tsa-tsa & want to add your response to this page, please email mustaphaputtgen[at]gmail.com. Thanks!