I’ve been away, but I’ve also been thinking.

Here’s my post for Fine Art Views, that appeared on November 17, 2016.

The Newlywed Game

by Luann Udell on 11/17/2016 10:04:07 AM

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

 Yes, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

 Four years ago, we came to California after an exhausting year in New Hampshire. Both our adult children had been in extreme danger. Our mantra, when people asked, was, “Nobody died!”  And we meant it with all our heart.

Still, nobody wants to get that phone call at midnight, and two of them had definitely taken a toll. A friend suggested we take a vacation, just my partner and I. “We’re fine!” we insisted. The suggestion got stronger. And we listened.

 My husband was a long-distance employee of a West Coast company. Long story short, his job was disappearing soon. We decided to fly to Washington to see what could be salvaged there, and then drive down the Pacific Coast, then fly back from San Francisco.

 Turns out the job was a lost cause. So we started a thousand-mile journey subdued, anxious, not knowing what was going to happen next nor what we should do.

 The restorative power of the ocean, the wild landscape, the light, the winding roads, soon healed our souls. Unusual for us, we had nary a bicker nor a cross word. (We were nicknamed “the Bickersons” early on in our nearly-forty-year relationship, and we try to live up to it every day.)

And on that trip, we fell so deeply in love with Northern California, six months later, we decided to move there.

 We put our home up for sale, and sold or donated almost 75% of our possessions (we had a full attic, a mudroom, a basement, a garage, and a two-story barn, and we I had filled them all.) We filled a shipping container with the rest (which went into storage), packed a car with everything we needed for a two-week trip (including our two big dogs) and started our last New Hampshire-to-California drive across country.

 Jon was losing his job any minute. We had no place to live. We had no agenda or plan, just to stop and see friends and family members along the way. We were leaving behind a life of 27 years, good friends, good times, good memories.

 It was exciting, and daunting at the same time. It was hard for some of our friends to cope. What were we doing?? Were we crazy??  How could we leave all this behind? And for what?? Earthquakes, sky-high housing prices, you name it, California was full of it.

 We told a friend’s mother, who was widowed, our “plan”. And she said the words that beautifully framed our biggest, latest life adventure:

 With a deep, happy sigh, she said, “Just like newlyweds….!!

 Those simple, wistful, yet powerful words set the tone for us, for our journey, and for the years ahead.

 How many times in life do we deliberately take a leap into the unknown? For most people (especially me!) we don’t. The older we get, the harder those choices become. Better to rely on the tried-and-true. Play it safe. Don’t rock the boat. Hunker down, and weather out the storm.

 And yet…..

 All ships are safe in harbor. But that’s not what ships are for.

 Coincidentally, we are also on another California trip, heading south to explore new places, fresh vistas. Simply a vacation, but again, with no agenda, no schedule. All we ask is for it to be another metaphor for the work that lies ahead.

 After the disappointing end to a scurrilous year, wondering what will survive of all the gains we’ve made in this country, we are all taking another leap into the great unknown. There is strange new territory ahead, one that looks formless and raunchy, full of hate bubbling over into hateful actions. Countless people are fearful because their gender, their skin color, their religion, is simply the wrong kind now.

 And yet…..

 Our role as artists is even more important than ever.

It may not feel like it. When times are hard, when people are afraid, they often hunker down. And art is not usually the kind of purchase they make when they don’t know what fresh hell is coming.

 Now it is even more important to create the work of our hearts.

 It’s even more important to help others see the true beauty of this world.

 It’s up to us to share our vision of what is light-filled, color-full, thought-provoking, and soul-deepening.

 When the towers fell in 9/11, I went to my studio in despair, sure the world had changed forever into a dark and dreary place.

 But instead, I found inspiration from the very cave that inspired me to pursue my own creative journey. The cave of Lascaux also dates to a time of great upheaval and frightening change. Those people saw their entire way of life in flux.

 Their choice, their powerful choice, was to send a message, a message we cannot ‘read’ as it was not addressed to us. They filled the cave walls with hauntingly beautiful images of running horses, leaping deer, agile aurochs—images that still create profound echoes in our modern hearts.

 Today, you and I start a new journey, too.

 Your art can heal the world.

You can do thia by sharing what is in YOUR heart, so your work will speak to the hearts of others. The act of making art is restorative. Share that with others, so that they can be restored to themselves, too.

 Stand with those who are given no place in the world. Speak up for those whose voices are not heard. Make room for those who are different than you. Support those who cannot stand alone. Feed those who are hungry. Hold the hands of those who are afraid. Sing. Write. Dance. Paint.

 However you bring joy into the world, do it now.

 Let them know the true role of the shaman/artist in the world….

 Teacher. Healer. Creator.

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.

10 thoughts on “THE NEWLYWED GAME”

  1. Dear Luann, Your latest post is so poignant, brilliant, and provocative. I have been invited to submit work for a local group show of multi media artists and painters, that will open on January 20th. This all fell into my lap, the first of the week. Not knowing what I was creating,,,,I still said “I’m on board”,,,,and after reading your post, I immediately had a vision of what I would create. I’m a fiber/artist, mixed media lady,,,,and I pictured visual representations of hands,,,hearts,,,,and houses. I’ll have to concentrate on how I will put this all together, but it’ll probably be a totem of sorts. I’ll try and send you a visual of the finished piece…….ooooohhhhh, I’m so excited, I can’t wait to start. I have 2 other art works to finish before I start this one. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish I lived where you do,,,,,I’m on the “other” coast. Virginia Beach,,,,,cheers,,,Lynne Sward. PS It took me 4 years to “fit in” over 45 plus years ago,,,,,,,


  2. Luann, enjoyed your post. We made a similar journey from D.C. To northern California, it was like coming home, things just feel right here. Usually I pour my heart out when things upsetting, but I have not been able to paint anything. It’s like I’ve lost my voice… Any ideas what to do to break this spell? I feel a genuine fear for all of us who aren’t straight white men… Sometimes it’s almost overwhelming… Here’s to all of us artists doing our party too make the world a little brighter…


    1. Oh, Deb, welcome to the club!

      First…breathe. BREATHE!! Know that thousands–no, MILLIONS–of others are feeling the same way. It’s not up to me, or you, to “fix” this by ourselves, though it ‘feels’ like it.

      Second….explore. Read what others say. Look for ways to act. I personally liked what Ask Polly had to say in this article:

      (Third) Do something outside your comfort zone.A friend just invited me to walk with her in the upcoming Million Women’s March in Oakland CA. I said I didn’t do stuff like that, because crowds make me nervous. She said, “Me, too, but I’m doing it.” And right after that, I read another column (mind is blank on which one it was) that said, “We’re going to have to do stuff that makes us uncomfortable, even a little afraid. And that’s okay.”

      Fourth, find a handful of organizations that will be fighting the good fight in the months and years ahead. Send them $5, $10, $25 a month. ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center. And any other social justice group that you care about. Small, regular donations add up.

      Fifth, ask your friends and social networks to do the same. Spread the word that we have a voice, we are not helpless, we are not alone.

      Last….GO TO YOUR STUDIO! Think about WHY you make the art you do. There’s a powerful ‘why’ in there (I’m all about the ‘why’!) Think about how that works in the world. Then MAKE YOUR ART and share it with the world. Talk about your ‘why’. Tell your story.

      There’s prolly a lot of other things, too, but I hope some of these resonate with you. Let me know, okay?


      1. Hi Luann, thank you for listing these well thought out and very helpful things that we can do! All very positive and exactly what I needed to hear! The link to the article by Polly was so ON THE MARK!

        Slowly but surely I’m trying to set my intentions for what I want to do going forward…I’ve been trying to keep focused on the positive (what you put your focus on- magnifies) and know that this is all necessary for change. All the hate and bigotry needs to be exposed and transformed…It might be a real shit show – but who says change is easy?!!

        By the way, your studio is about 10 minutes away from here (I’m near SSU), talk about a small world!

        Thank you again – WE WILL get through this 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You are suggesting that an artist/maker is a shaman? Such an amazing thought – truly something I haven’t thought of before. That maybe I am a kind of shaman. You have just turned my world upside down!

    Enjoy exploring California – there is a lot to see.

    Liked by 1 person

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