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by Luann Udell on 10/14/2017 5:01:35 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.



All you need is a good emergency to put everything in perspective.


My husband woke me this morning with words I hope you never need to hear:


“Luann, you have to get up. There’s a major wildfire in Santa Rosa, and we may have to evacuate.”


I’m strangely calm, even as I write this. (Six hours later and it looks like the fire, though it’s already burned thousands of homes and buildings, and 30,000 acres, may bypass our neighborhood. Maybe.)


On the east coast, a sky like this means a bad storm. On the west coast, it means a wildfire.


It’s not because I’m brave, or don’t think it could happen to me. We’ve had our share of terrifying phone calls. Some come in the dark of night. Some come in the bright noonday sun, and yet feel just as horrifying. The one where a hospital calls to tell you there was a car crash... The one from a loved one, telling you they can’t go on....and you are a thousand miles away.


Why is it that this fire does not rock my soul to its core?


Because evacuation means you’ll have time to get away. You can’t outrun a hurricane, you have no notice with an earthquake. But with luck, we’ll have 30 minutes to get out, and a place to go when we do.


We’re the lucky ones. No knock at the door in the night, with a police officer informing us we have three minutes. Three minutes. Three minutes to pack up your life, and GO. I know of at least one fellow artist on the open studio tour who has lost their home, and their studio. But they are also safe.


No, we’re watching the fire’s progress online, receiving tweets and Facebook posts with emergency updates. We have time to act.


That means the only thing we’ll lose is the house we live in, my studio, my art, our possessions.


It means we ourselves will be okay, and so will all the critters in our care.


I scrambled awake, and dragged out our cat carriers. Packed up medications, passwords, snagging our “carry case” with important vital documents. I try to keep the car full of gas, so no worries there. I pack a bag with a change of clothes, pet food, a jacket. My wedding ring and one or two pieces of my handmade jewelry.


My current favorite horse, and my wedding ring.​


We’re ready to go. Now all we can do is wait.


There is a simplicity that settles in times like these. There is no way you can take much of anything, no matter how big your car is. It’s impossible to assign “value” to anything in sight. Most people say they mourn lost photographs. Others take precious family heirlooms. Not me. I know it can all be replaced.


I know from selling almost ¾ of our possessions, and leaving our beautiful house in New Hampshire to come west, that most of it will be forgotten, frighteningly quick. Only the photos of what we had bring sadness, and so I try not to look at them anymore.


In the end, all we have is love. The love for those people we cherish. The animal companions who give us unconditional love, and yet depend on us for their well-being and safety. These are the only “possessions” that cannot be replaced.


And so my preparations for the single biggest income-producing art event are shuffled aside, my desire to clean the house, or even my studio, set on a shelf. Oh, I may go down to my studio to WORK today. I can’t think of anything more calming, and satisfying, than to make the work of my heart.


I can’t help thinking how lucky we are.


If we were to lose “everything” (and of course, by now you know there are various definitions for that word), we would have had three beautiful, amazing, wondrous years here in California.


Last night, we took an evening drive through the very neighborhoods that are now burned right to the ground. We were looking for deer, something we simply enjoy, and find restful and restorative.


As we drove by the multi-million dollar homes, beautifully landscaped, up and down the steep, heavily-wooded hills, gazing first to the next valley beyond on the left, and the city lights of Santa Rosa on the right, my husband said, “I love riding my bike up here! So beautiful, and such an interesting ride...” As I gazed at the extremely narrow, winding roads, the steep driveways, the lack of sidewalks, I thought to myself, “But not much fun in an emergency, I bet.” So sadly true.


I’m thinking as artists, we carry our possessions, our wealth, inside us. We carry the eye that sees what so many don’t—the unexpected beauty that’s often overlooked. We carry the skill to capture it, and share it with the world.


We carry the desire to come back to our practice, again and again, no matter how “successful” we are. We keep on making the work of our heart. We never put down the brush, the clay, the carving tool, the sewing needle. We never stop wanting to make stuff.


Today, I’m not worried about where my next sale will come from. I’m not worried about how many people read my article today.


I’m not even worried about what I might lose today: The work of decades, the collections of a lifetime.


Today I am glad to be alive, to be with someone I love, who loves me. With a table full of cats asking gently, “Are you SURE it’s not dinnertime yet??” and dogs who faithfully challenge every passing bicycle and pedestrian, sure they are “helping” to keep us safe.


And tomorrow?


Whatever tomorrow brings, I will be there to enjoy the gifts that come with it. And then share it, with you. Because that’s my job.


Now you’ll have to excuse me. One of the cats (Noddy!) just discovered the bag of cat food I’ve packed up, and she’s sure it’s all for her. 




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Topics: advice for artists | FineArtViews | inspiration | Luann Udell 

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Mark Brockman
Luann, I hope your house is spared and you are all safe. I know my art means a great deal to me, but if something should happen to it, gets destroyed, I can make more. Be safe.

Katherine Brown
Dear Luann,
My heart and thoughts are with you!
Take care, stay safe, keep strong and good luck,
Katie (Canada)

Donna Nyzio
There are no words, just thoughts for you of a bright and safe tomorrow.

Great perspective! Stay safe and keep making art.

Sherida Wysocki
Beautifully written! Although none of us want to be visited by Disaster, it is part of life. And it makes you pause (hopefully) and consider what is truly important and meaningful. Ourselves, our partners, our family, our pets...most everything else can be replaced. I have had the opportunity to purge my belongings on three different occasions. Each time I kept less, and each time I felt like a heavy weight had been lifted.

I pray that you, your family (pets included!),and friends are safe, that your home and studio are intact, and that you continue writing thoughtful and inspiring blogs.

Catherine Bast
Luann - Our prayers are for the safety of you and "all" your family.
Please keep us up to date as you are able to.
Love your work and always look forward to your blog postings.
Warm Regards
Cathy (Canada)

Catherine Vanel
Just a few words in my poor english, to send you my sympathy in this awfull moment.I have lost my farm in a fire, and I know how traumatic it is.
The TV in France show us the terrific views on this wildfire,and I am sure that, like me, many people here send you all their wishes and best thoughts.

Suzie Monte
Luann,thank you for writing!!!

I used to live in LA, and did what you did but in the opposite direction, moving back east. I just wanted to say that your posts have been hugely helpful to me, often in an uncannily timely way.

Good luck to you Luann, and may God continue to protect you, your loved ones, and your fur babies.

Sharon Coffman
Luann, I related so much to what you observed with impending disaster to your home. I hope your home and precious content is spared. We just went through Hurricane Irma and I photographed the contents of our home, tried to decide what to take if we evacuated (we didn't). Losses were minimal, but the experience sure makes you think about what is truly valuable. Stay safe!

Thank you for sharing that wonderful perspective! I am in the Bay Area and it's surreal having smoke and ash here. That's a pretty small annoyance compared to what you are dealing with. I so appreciate your words and a reminder of what's really important!

Jean Lewis
Thanks for sharing your story. Best wishes and God's blessings to you.

andre satie
Luann, you are my favorite blogger, and this one takes the prize. My daughter is in Bodega right now, waiting to know if she still has a house in Windsor, my son is on his hilltop in Healdsburg, waiting to see if he has to evacuate his home and studio. My heart is in my mouth much of the time just now, and you are a salve to my fears, and voice of Love in this wild time. Thanks.

Your thoughts and words Touched my heart. I live in the East Bay and can't believe what has happened just north of us. My prayers are with you and all who have been effected by this event.

nnhi@@Ann Wall
no words .... immense flood of feelings for you ,. and all ... safe ...

I am so sorry for what you have had to go through. My heart is breaking for all affected by these fires.
In 2006 I had to evacuate from our mountain home in So Ca from the Day Fire that burned from July, 4 until October. It was a frightening experience, packing up our 2 cars with what we thought most important and our cat, and driving through the winding mountain roads in thick smoke, seeing flames all around. Fortunately our home was spared, unlike all those who have lost everything in today's fires.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Be well, be safe!

Frank Ordaz
Luann, thank you for expressing your heart and soul on the Santa Rosa Fire. 4 of my dear friends have lost homes and one this morning is being forced to evacuate. The horror is not yet over. In time, lives will be put back in place and for those of us who wait and pray on the sidelines your words resonate. Blessings

Wow... thanks for sharing. A great perspective, eloquently expressed about such a devastating circumstance. (sending support and prayers to everyone affected). It Also helps as a wake up to those of us artists that may not have everything "neatly" stored... To prepare the essentials of life in a way that given that 30 minutes... or heaven forbid the 3 minutes some have the most important papers,ID's, bank or credit cards, medicines, cell phone, chargers, portable hard drive, Water...if pets, their food/meds... All the best , thank you.

nancy lynch
Luann - Beautifully written and uplifting during such a horrible time. I live in Lake Tahoe and a few years back was faced with the same decisions. What to take and what to leave. I, too, looked at my studio and paintings and thought, are they the most important and decided they are still in my head and heart and I can have them again. We were spared, but art lives in you - not only on the canvas. Good luck in the future and may you and your family stay safe out of harms way.

Eddie Goral
Beautifully written and dripping with TRUTH.

Casey Cheuvront
We're all pulling for you - and for the rest of California. Be safe.

Mary Jane
You have that peace that passes all understanding.
Perfect perspective.
The kettle is always on in NH.

Liz Wall
This is so inspirational and rings so true. Everyone has these moments but not everyone can articulate the light in dark times.

Marsha McDonald
Luann, your article is very insightful. The words minister to me - thank you! I am devastated at the fires in California. A news reporter said just recently that 95 percent of all fires are attributed to either lightening, or people actually setting them - whether by accident or intent. That's hard to believe because so many suffer. You have a positive and calming attitude, I admire you for that. Wishing you the best, and prayers for you and your family. Be safe! `

Kathy O'Connell
Three years ago, my friend Janet and I lost our shared studio and all contents when the building we were in was totally destroyed by fire. It was a traumatic loss to us and yet, in a way, liberating. We got to begin again. Loss of possessions is nothing compared to the well-being of those we love. May you and all your neighbors be safe. You are all in our prayers.

Therese Van Wiele
Luann I feel just as you feel. I also live in Sonoma county and have had to pack what's "important" into my car and leave. It's amazing how much of my stuff isn't really very important after all. Only life is important. With life there lies the opportunity to create again. Everything else can be replaced or kept as memories.

Jim Springett
Hi Luann and family,

WE are praying that you and your family are safe and hope the fire stays away from your home and that the firefighters stay strong safe save the day for many. We pray this all in the name of our Lord Jesus, his promise"the meek shall inherit the earth and all in it." Our trip out to North dakota we put on hold Marge's healing is slow but she is improving and is cancer free--NO CANCER!!! WE thank all for your well wishes and prayers. I am going to the studio now to paint an egreat flying a foot above the water, what great skill the egret has no fear at all. The key is peace and confidence knowing you can do it through fire or storm. Peace be yours today and everyday. Jim Springett wildlife painter

Janelle Johnson
From the moment I first read one of the articles that you wrote about moving and downsizing, to the latest about the firestorm, I have followed you faithfully. So many events in your life have paralleled my own. Your words have been a comfort to me and words of wisdom that I cherish! Take care and keep the words flowing!

Martha Soriano
I loved your article! Wonderful reminder of what is important!
We had to evacuate a few weeks ago! I wasn't home, which was so scary! All I could think of was my dogs! I had forgotten about everything else, including my art and studio! Thankfully the fire didn't reach us. Prayers for your safety!

michele chapin
So beautifully felt and written,,,it's all stuff we're borrowing...yet processing the emotions of love life loss and disaster are intense....I always go and dedicate a stone to each intense situation and carve....yet as artists we can't stop expressing our take of reality ....truth and love always float to the top...I have a small box of little files I'd grab....and even those are replaceable.....I lost everything at 32...but my cat zipped in my jacket.....and became a stone sculptor after that...we are the writers of our books....and each page is an amazing journey,,,,,can't wait to see what you create from what you're experiencing...BRING IT!

Diane Eason
thank you so much for this beautiful article on loss of stuff and whats important.

Claudia Rose
Thank you for the lovely article, Luann. I can feel your gratitude and appreciation for what truly matters in life. You captured the artist's soul beautifully. Blessings to you and your family.

Patricia Stafford
Wow. Sending thoughts and prayers ...

Gerri Bradford
Luann; May the Universe have your/family back. Stay safe.


Luann Udell
First, THANK YOU, all of you, who commented on this post with words of wisdom and good wishes. I wrote this in a blur that morning, and then wondered if I'd said anything that made sense, had value, or was even related to art. I'm glad you read it through! :^)

Second, those of you who have been through this (or something like), your words about how you got through will also inspire and comfort those who aren't on "the other side" of disaster yet.

Third, although I try to make a point of responding to each and every person who takes the time to comment, that will have to wait today! :^D But I want you to know I've read each one, and appreciate the support, the insights gleaned from your own experiences, and your thanks.

SO FAR, this Saturday a.m., we and our neighborhood are still safe. Again, information is scarce, limited to what people need to know. I was heartened, though, that the latest evacuation encouraged those people to "head toward Santa Rosa" (that neighborhood was east of us). Meaning where we are is at least safer than the alternative. Good to know!

Last, I envy those area artists who have already created artwork related to this experience, logos (the "rose" in the Santa Rosa logo transformed into clasping hands, for example), images, fund-raising efforts, etc.

I don't roll that way. I simply continue working on the series in progress. So I'm not "actively" working to inspire and comfort others.

But just like the first time this happened to me ( ), I find solace in making my little plastic horses. Their story always raises me up. And yes, I hope that continues to come through in my art.

Love and big big hugs to you all!

Nicholette Fetsch
Thank you, Luann.

We all need to read this every day.

May you and your family be safe.

Thinking of you.

Laura D Jones
Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. I'm happy to learn the fire has spared you and your home and art so far. An acquaintance and her artist husband live on St. Martin and were completely devastated emotionally at the total loss of their home and his art studio and work, and income - everyone responds differently and you seem to have a resolute spirit to carry you through. Keep an eye on those sneaky cats! We have three and they would be completely upset if we moved them out of our house but their little mischievous selves are pretty resilient, too. Prayers to keep you safe.

Linda Star Landon
Hi Luann, I sincerely hope your home is spared from the fire. I am the one you sometimes hear from that moved from Santa Rosa to Tucson. Today I sit here snug and safe in my little desert home. I know 3 people who have lost homes and several more who have evacuated and I don't know the status of their homes. I am so disturbed by all this that I cannot paint right now. Today I am preparing a painting to be shipped to Annapolis, MD, for the Women Artists of the West 47th National Exhibit. It is titled "Somewhere Between Sonoma and Napa", a vineyard scene of a place that may be reduced to ashes.

Diane anderson
Every once in awhile you read a story that stays with you. Yet know this isn't a story, it's all to real. You have a gift not only on canvas but of life's perspective.

Prayers and blessings upon California. ðð½ðð¹

Sherry Hardage
One of the most moving tributes to the joy of being an artist that I've ever read. Thank you for taking
the time during a very difficult situation to share your feelings about making art. We are on the other side of the continent watching hurricanes but with family in Alameda. Our hearts go out to you and your neighbors.

Susan L. Vignola

I am sorry you had to be awakened to the need to evacuate. On the other hand, I am thankful you had such forewarning to do so. Thank you also, in the midst of all that was going on around you, you took the time to write an article to share with us, your faithful readers. May you have friends, a house, and a studio to return to.

Best wishes,

Luann.....thank you for another inspiring article...praying for you ....your husband and pets safety ....blessings.......Baba'

Sandra J Shryack
Thank you for sharing your thoughts during a frightening time. So well stated as to what really matters. You have such a beautiful gift of writing. Hope you and your family will be safe and God Bless all those affected.

Geri deGruy
Sending up prayers! Let us know how you are.

I have a number of friends who have been threatened by fire during this awful season on the West Coast,..we live in Oregon. The Brookings area was once home, and the Columbia Gorge is home to my kids...and on and on. I'll add you to my mental list of lucky survivors for I'm sure you will come through this with the best possible outcome. Your serene attitude is admirable and I feel you'll cope, no matter what. Best wishes. Honor

Lori Woodward
Luann, I've been scheckkng your Facebook profile to see how close the fire is to you. Thanks you for writing these thoughts. It really is true about emergencies. I hope you, family and let's stay safe.

Lori Woodward
Too bad we can't edit our comments. I'm plunking on my iPad, and it came out all wrong. That's you, family, and pets. And checking, not schekking. Lol.

Brenda Dianne Cinkovich
I have been joining many others in prayer for each of you in the path of the many fires that are burning. Prayers continue. I am so glad you have peace.

Joanne Benson
Hopefully you and your loved ones will remain safe and not have to evacuate. Prayers for you and all those who are living through this ordeal.

Lorie Callahan
Wow. You have brought tears to my eyes.
God bless you and all your loved ones.

Nana Carrillo
Thanks for letting us know your experience with this devastating event. So glad you and your family are safe. Your words beautifully define that force at the heart of being an artist...which is to create, regardless of our loss, our station, our means! We know that the spark is inside us and can be carried with us wherever life leads! I grew up in Northern California, and as I see the news videos I remember my many bike rides around Sonoma County, the sights, sounds, smells. I am sad to see the devastation that people are experiencing. I know the soul of the region will re-emerge eventually and produce its natural, elegant beauty. My heart is there with you all. Take good care! Thanks for your blog!

Judith SandersWood
Luann... Pat sent me this post. As a native of S. CA and a resident of Coeur d'Alene ID, I know the fear of losing everything. We as you know had horrible fires all around us this summer. Luckily nothing first hand, however living at the edge of a forest we take that chance that something could happen. We are blessed to enjoy the wildlife on our property and so it's a gamble we are willing to take. Recently my husband and I were in the Portland area, and the Columbia Gorge fire was heartbreaking. I hope you stay safe and thank you for your letter. God Bless.

Luann Udell
OK, here goes:
For those of you who have gone through something similar, and feel synchronicity, validation, reaffirmation, thank you to Susan, Sharon, Diane, Nacy, Kathy, Therese, Jim, Janelle, Martha, and Michelle, for reminding me that whatever I'm writing/processing, someone else has been there/is going through it, too. Michelle, I really liked your sentence that all our possessions are things we have borrowed, and ALL our possessions are transient.

To all who sent good wishes, thank you to Mark, Katherine B, Donna Suzie, Kaethe, Jean, Kathleen, Catherine V (from France!!) and Catherine B (Canada!), Gerri, Eddie, Ann, and Frank, you may have held the fire back, your good thoughts were so strong. :^)

For Ruth, Sherida, Liz, Marsha, Diane, Claudie, and Mary Jane, I am humbled by your praise--thank you!

For Kirk, who said this should be a reminder to store things neatly and be prepared...Yeah, but that's my HUSBAND'S doing, not mine! :^D But that's what good partners do, support each other and fill in the gaps. Superglue comes to mind....

Did I miss anybody? Lemme know! :^)
And now for the next batch of readers who responded (which is ALWAYS a gift to a writer!!)

Luann Udell
I had another round of thank you's and such for the next batch of commentors, but it failed to post and disappeared. Hope to retrieve it soon!

Luann Udell
I'll just rewrite it in smaller batches and keep my fingers crossed...

For those who loved the article and felt supported, Nicholette, Diane, Rosita, Susan V, Baba (is that my bead guy Baba???), Sandra, Lorie, and Nana, I'm so glad, thank you!!!!

Luann Udell
Geri, Brenda, Joanne B, thank you for your good wishes! Things are looking so much brighter today, someone heard you. :^)

Lori, I was so moved when our editor Angela Agusto told me you'd checked in to ask about me--so kind! And OMG YES on the editing comments thing!! :^D

Frances Ashley
Well said! And words all of us need to hear, fire at our back door or not! Thanks for bringing perspective front and center, again, for someone who needs reminding now and then!!!.

Sending prayers/wishes for safety for you and those you love! And all of CA at this time, for that matter!!!


Luann Udell
For those who know Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, who have been through similar events, or who know what it's like, Sherry, Judith, Nana, thank you for sharing your stories and good thoughts.

For Linda, YES, not only do I remember your encouraging message months back, but I just emailed you a funny(ish) story about that. And apologies for confusing NM and AZ, I DO know the difference. :^P

Luann Udell
And last, for Laura, who mentioned friends who DID lose everything....

I want to stress that I am NOT the Buddha. I fret about things, and feel put-upon, and grieve, and have a hard time letting go.

In this case, I was able to let go of WORRYING about the possibility of leaving everything behind, and focusing on what we COULD do to be prepared.

For someone who has actually LOST EVERYTHING, I have tremendous sympathy. I did not intend to diminish what they (and some of you) experience.

My spouse and I go back and forth, one person feeling overwhelmed, and the other being the rock that supports. Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's Jon. I don't have superpowers (except when it comes to thrift shopping...?)

But this was an occasion where it was very clear to me what I could control, and what I could not. I felt it so clearly, I was able to write about it, and share, so that others could perhaps find their Buddha moment, too.

Because when I can rise above my own buzzy lizzard brain, I fly.

Luann Udell
Frances, you slipped in between responses! Thank you for your comment, and so glad you found a little lightness today. :^)

Ivan Gracic
Draga Luann,
By complicating in all the horrors that have affected you, and continually asking God to be with your family and all the people who are endangered by that fiery verse.
With the belief in God for your help, a lot of greetings from far away Serbia, Europe, from Ivan Gracic painter.

Andrea Edwards
Thank you Luann for such a warm and resonant post. It was filled with truth, love and much food for thought.

Kindest regards
Andrea Edwards Abstract Artist, Sydney, Australia

Marian Fortunati
So glad you are safe, Luann!

We have friends who live in Santa Rosa and have been evacuated since the fire started. Last I checked on Saturday they THOUGHT their home survived but still didn't know.

You are so right in your assessment of what is important.... But I still feel so bad for those whose homes have been lost. And the loss of life is unimaginable....

Be safe...

Nancy Reyna
Thank you, Luann! Your words beautifully express your experience. I'm in the recovery process from hurricane Irma in Miami, and went through a similar thought process: having to evacuate, deciding I could paint new paintings, setting up cat carriers for my many rescue cats, driving away not knowing what we would come back to.

We are blessed that everyone is well, and our homes are whole. My garden suffered the most and now I get to recreate it.

I haven't started painting again, but I'm thinking about doing something of the many "helpers" we've had around us. The way people pull together is a wonderful thing!

I hope you are still well, and they get the fires under control.

Love, Nancy

Carsen Maggio
This is beautiful in a sad way. I'm glad you're family is safe and happy.

Luann Udell
Ivan and Andrea, I'm not only grateful for your comments and good wishes, I am amazed that the power of the internet has connected us in these difficult times. There is so much that unites us, and I take joy in that.

Luann Udell
Marian, your comments are so synchronistic with how I'm feeling this a.m.! Yes, the loss of home and neighborhood is a heavy blow, from which some will never recover.

There are countless agencies united to restore services, housing, relief, and if anyone wants to contribute to those efforts, you can donate here:

At this point, dollars are needed more than food, clothing, and other goods.

But "Santa Rosa Strong" and "The Love in the Air is Thicker Than the Smoke" are our new rallying cries. In the midst of destruction there is hope, kindness, compassion, and support. We will get through this.

Luann Udell
Nancy, you are living proof of what is beautiful, what is the tiny gift in disaster. Not a gift any of us would choose (and I do not mean this to diminish what people in Florida, California, Texas, or Puerto Rico are suffering.) It's the beauty of the human spirit that bends, rises, and reaches out to help others, in any way they can.

I can't wait to hear what you and your studio will do to pay it forward. Good on you!


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