THE END OF THE YEAR: Still Standing

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. Thank you to all of you who wrote, because of the silence, to ask if anything was wrong.

There were some scary things going on this holiday season. It’s been impossible to share them, for many reasons. The main reason is, to do so would violate the privacy of someone I love more than my life. It’s not really my story; I was a bystander who got caught in the backlash of the tornado.

After the worst of the storm had passed, and things looked more like normal (and I am very, very grateful for normal), I wondered why I wasn’t bouncing back as quickly as I usually do. I felt violated, stripped of my reason-to-be, and off-balance about the role art plays in my life.

Two things have put me back on the path.

One is a children’s book I’ve been reading this week. It’s the finale to Susan Cooper’s marvelous series THE DARK IS RISING, about the battle between good and evil in the world. called “Silver on the Tree”. I found “Silver on the Tree” at a thrift shop last week, snatched it up and read it.

Near the end, the heroes venture through a beautiful kingdom, a land of makers and craftspeople, singers and story-tellers, in search of a magic sword to help them in their quest. The king of that land, the maker of the Crystal Sword, sits alone in his castle, immobilized these many long years and silent.

And right there, on page 161, is this amazing passage:

(The enemies of the Light,) they showed the maker of the sword his own uncertainty and fear. Fear of having done the wrong thing–fear that having done this one great thing, he would never again be able to accomplish anything of great worth. Fear of age, of insufficiency, of unmet promise. All such endless Fears, that are the doom of people given the gift of making, and lie always somewhere in their minds. And gradually he was put into despair…..Despair holds him prisoner, despair, the most terrible creation of all.”

I saw myself.

To be open to the world, to be open to your creativity, also means we are exceptionally vulnerable to the dark forces of the world.

When we are open to the chaos of possibility, we are also vulnerable to the chaos of evil.

Even as we delight in the small fierce flame of creation, in ourselves and in others, we are in danger of someone carelessly, deliberately, cruelly, snuffing it out for the sheer enjoyment of tormenting us.

It’s frightening to realize the world has such people in it. They’re surprisingly hard to see, too. In fact, they may be the most charming person you’ve ever met.

Your only clue may be how awful you feel about yourself after dealing with them. How inadequate you feel, how selfish you see yourself, how useless your talents are to the world.

And because you yourself have let in that despair, only you can see it, and only you can tell it to leave.

There’s no logic to it, except this:
You can accept there is evil in the world, and give in to it.
Or you can say there is also good in the world–and embrace it.

I have to choose the latter.

I have to believe in what I do, and in who I am.

The other thing that’s a miracle today, is a little piece of paper I found while cleaning piles and piles of my crap for a party we’re having tonight.

It’s typical of my little notes to myself: Written on a torn sheet of paper, some little thought–the title of a book, an idea, an insight–in an futile attempt to shed some of the mind-slurry that is my brain into something that might help me organize. Or at least remember!

In the middle of a list of books is a quote:

Writing is a meditation for you.”

I have no idea where it came from, or who said it. It sounds like something my friend Quinn MacDonald would say. Heck, maybe I said it! But surely I would have remembered….??

What matters is this: It’s true.

I need to write to process what happens to me. My lack of writing has delayed my healing.

I’ve been writing, privately, the last few days, after this long drought. And slowly, my heart is making sense of the last two months’ events. And some peace is restored in my soul.

So I find myself at the end of the year. It’s been a hard, hard winter already, and many more dark, cold nights ahead.

But now I know this for sure:

When winter comes, can spring be far behind?

And I am so very grateful for these two tiny, wonderful miracles in my life today–a torn piece of paper, and a well-worn old book.

And I’m grateful for my marriage, my children, my family, and friends, and dogs who sleep on your feet at night, and cats who try to sleep on your head.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

34 thoughts on “THE END OF THE YEAR: Still Standing”

    1. Dear Luann,

      Thank you for writing. I was wondering about you. I’m really amazed at the unseen forces at work in the universe, at collective consciousness, because this message came at a very appropriate moment today. It’s a message I desperately needed to read. I’ve never written to you before but have immensely enjoyed your art, words, humour over the past two years. They’re a major source of inspiration, and I often share your messages with good friends of mine.

      I needed to come out of hiding to say, Thank you. Thank you for honestly expressing your experience and process. Normally, when I begin to shrivel and dim my light, I can see nothing but darkness before me. For the past three days, when I consciously chose to spend time with someone who cuts and caresses with the same hand, who is both perfectly cruel and utterly charming, I was vulnerable and unwise and naive. And yet, as I’ve been hearing a lot lately, Everything is perfect and purposeful. This person’s presence in my lift IS a present, a true gift. And to know that I wasn’t alone in my suffering… Well, it goes without saying that we all share the same emotions. And it was heart-warming to see you mention one of my all-time favourite children’s books and series (Dark is Rising). These words are still haunting me because they describe my current situation:

      “It’s frightening to realize the world has such people in it. They’re surprisingly hard to see, too. In fact, they may be the most charming person you’ve ever met.

      “Your only clue may be how awful you feel about yourself after dealing with them. How inadequate you feel, how selfish you see yourself, how useless your talents are to the world.

      “And because you yourself have let in that despair, only you can see it, and only you can tell it to leave.”

      Yes, it is absolutely my responsibility to make myself feel good and worthy now, after feeling like the most worthless, uninteresting, talentless person for several days. I will not continue to let despair eat at my heart. You have my gratitude for reminding me of this truth.

      Blessings, love, and light to you!


      1. I am so, so glad you were supported by this post. And I’m so grateful you took the time to let me know. I will try very, very hard to remember your words the next time things get dark. Thank you!


  1. There are messages all around us waiting for us to be ready to receive them. I am glad that your heart has opened and unfolded enough to let in the light of those wise words. Whatever you are going through, know that it is the cracks that make you stronger because they mean that you are growing and changing and while that is scary it is true. I wish you peace and purpose in the coming year, Miss Luann. Your writing has always been a bright spark in my life, a source of inspiration and contemplation, even if I have never told you. I am so glad that you are coming back to it. Enjoy the day!


  2. I really missed your writing. I have become addicted to it. I am glad you are OK. I am sorry for the darkness that overwhelmed you. It is true that after the darkness, the light can’t be too far behind. Can it?
    Keep writing, keep processing and know that in your writing you help us process as well.
    Be well………..


  3. Take Time to Enjoy the Little Things. Glad to see you back, I, too, have missed your ever-so-optimistic writings…….and keep smiling, it suits you well. And all of us who know you, miss the smiles.
    Happy New Year……………..


  4. My last few months feels the same as what you have written.I too stood up just yesterday and I decided I will be true to me and hold my head high and know that I have done the right thing.It is those closest to you that can hurt you the most, however, having said that I am aware that it doesnt have to be that way and I am able to still love someone and be true to me as well.Hard lesson? Yes.One I will will possibly encounter again? Yes.One I have learnt from and will learn more from? Yes. It is all part of the human experience and I am so so glad I am me.
    Love and Hugs to you and here is to hoping that 2012 will be an adventure but not as bumpy as 2011.


  5. Luann,
    “First light brings a new day, new hope, new wisdom, and a chance to start fresh again” – PAL (me)
    Hugs and love,


  6. “And because you yourself have let in that despair, only you can see it, and only you can tell it to leave.

    There’s no logic to it, except this:
    You can accept there is evil in the world, and give in to it.
    Or you can say there is also good in the world–and embrace it.

    I have to choose the latter.

    I have to believe in what I do, and in who I am.”

    Yes. So true. And one must repeat this over and over and over. You are not alone in this struggle, Luann. I extend my compassion, understanding, and acceptance to you.


  7. I too am ready to leave this year behind. It’s been a tough one–more centred on friends and less a direct hit on me or my family, but enough already!! The turning of the year, arbitrary though it might be, gives us a good focal point to shed ourselves of past darkness and look towards the light–both the metaphorical light and that of the now slowly returning daylight. Onwards and upwards!!


  8. An “attack of the bad black thingie” seems to happen several times in a lifetime. When we overcome it, we come back stronger. I identify with what you describe. Something of a similar ilk happened to me a couple of years ago. I felt sideswiped and disabled for awhile. It took a lot of positive thinking and action to get back to being me. Art supplies and our written words are our weapons of choice, and it is up to us to heal ourselves by using them well. It is something that we must do for ourselves, no one else can do it for you. Another healing thing; go our and do something really nice for someone else. Send out the good karma, release the positive chi. Happy 2012!


  9. Luann-wow!
    and to your responders-wow!
    Luann, The timing of your writings seem to touch the hearts of many. Many of us do not have the gift of putting our thoughts into words, you have that gift and your willing to put yourself out there and be heard.
    I to had missed your writings, as I check on you every few days….and if you havent written, I go back to some of your older posts to get what I need.
    May 2012 be calm.


  10. Peace to you Luann…. Cats sleeping on your head, dogs at your feet, family at each side…. remember the love that surrounds you is unfailing. I find this kind of love to be the ultimate healer. God Bless and take care!


  11. Dear Luann ~
    It seems that our paths cross when they are meant to, and I wanted to say thank you despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that you would be unaware of our intersections.
    Last summer I found you and your amazing art, and as soon as I read the meaning of your horse necklace, I knew it was meant to be with me. The courage to be the artist I should be was a message that went straight to my heart. I too have been through an extended period of true challenge. Realizing that I could not “solve” everything, and that being a rock was slowly consuming me, I have spent the two years examining who I want to be. From way back in childhood I have always answered the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up” with “an artist”. Although I work in the design profession, I had not let the artist within get out much. Wearing your necklace has made me conscious of that part of me, and that consciousness has led to some exciting developments. I finally registered for that silversmithing class I had threatened to take for years, I held my first photography show, and I have given myself the time to sit down and write. It is amazing how a little, unexpected push from a good soul can overcome so many stronger forces keeping you from your calling. Thank you.
    And then today our paths crossed again. Cleaning off my desk I found your card and decided to check out your website, and found my way to your blog. Again, the timing was perfect. I was moved to tears by your entry. As struggles around me threaten to derail my progress, I found your insights on fear and what it means to be someone who is open timely and powerful. I truly believe in the inherent good of this world, but it is easy to be overwhelmed by others darkness. To be reminded that art and creativity is an avenue to healing and peace, is so needed. Thank you so much for sharing the underbelly of life that we all visit, but rarely can express so eloquently.
    Peace ~


    1. Alison, I’m so glad you took the time to write about this. It’s those odd intersections and overlaps in life that make me wonder if I hear actual rustle of angel wings in the background….


  12. Luann, I just happened onto this wonderful message. Thank-you!!! I needed to hear all of this….again. As long as i am still here, i need to be reminded. thank-you, thank-you thank-you!!!!! Talk about perfect timing……….amazing! looking forward to reading and seeing more from you. All of my little notes and pieces of paper don’t seem so outrageous anymore. I bet i have a goldmine of knowledge laying around my house!lol
    Blessings to you!


  13. If you ever – ever – doubt what you do, refer back to what I’m about to say.

    Your art and your blog have had a tremendous positive impact on me. You’ve changed me, for the better, as an artist and a person.

    Your posts about your own artist’s statement and about writing one made me think long and hard about why I do what I do. I have always been an artist, unrelentingly spending more of my time on art than anyone around me deemed appropriate. My teachers in school were angered that I would draw in class, my mom was irritated that I’d draw instead of cleaning my room, ex boyfriends felt like they were left in the dust when I’d go off on a tangent and disappear while working on art. I’ve never doubted or denied my ability or need to draw, but I’ve doubted myself, over and over in my life. Self esteem has always been difficult for me and drawing was the one thing that made me feel I had value. But even that does not get to the heart of why I do it.

    I’m moved nearly to tears by the combination of your work and what you say about it. What I’ve learned about myself and my art in the last year has been quite moving as well, and though the journey isn’t complete (is it ever?) I feel that I’ve travelled a million miles.

    I happened upon your blog and your work when I was searching on ways to make my craft show booth better, and what I found here lead me down a road of self discovery and incredible insight.

    Thank you.


  14. Great post, Luann. For years I have had to deal with a family member who is extremely moody, greedy, self-centered, unpredictable, rude…I could go on and on, but you get the point. One day she could be the sweetest person you ever wanted to meet; the next day she’d turn into a monster. When she would get angry at me, for no apparent reason, I would be miserable. Then one day, after tiptoeing around her moodiness for far too long, she said the wrong thing and I decided then and there that I had had enough. I wrote her a very long letter detailing exactly how she had made me feel over the years, leaving out nothing. I edited it several times until it was perfectly worded. I kept it and read it for several days, but I didn’t send it to her…I shredded it. I knew it would do no good to send her the letter or even to tell her what was in the letter because she would never admit any of it. But just writing it allowed me to get it out of my system. Then when I shredded it, I felt like I had erased her out of my life. It was like a breath of fresh air. All the negative was put on that paper and the paper destroyed. I replaced it with thoughts of everything that is good in my life. And I am blessed with lots of good people and good things. I realized that this relative is so miserable with her life that she was trying to make herself feel better by bringing other people down. Today I rarely think about her.

    You are so correct about the power or writing. Treat the paper like a person and tell it exactly how you feel. Sometimes, when you reread your writing, you will discover that it isn’t so bad after all.

    Thank you, Luann, for helping so many people by sharing your thoughts and baring your soul through your artwork.


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