A few months ago, a tiny set of deer antlers on a wall in a meditation drew artist and writer Elle Luna to her boat at 46 Issaquah. That same meditation acquainted her with her guardian angel, Tom, whom she subsequently met in real life. They just got engaged. Her neighbors may know that because of the white rose petals he scattered along the pier to invite their participation in this momentous event.
Elle grew up in Dallas, lived in Chicago as an adult and transferred to San Francisco while working for the design company IDEO. She’s a designer of brands, experiences and advertising by trade. She worked with a team to design the first Uber iPhone app.
She lived in Muir Beach for two years. When her rental there was sold, she lived in a van for a while before moving to South 40 dock, into a WWII landing craft called The Little Boat. She’s lived in the floating homes community 2 ½ years.
Wherever she lived, Elle kept a small, sealed box of painting supplies with her—a reminder of her love of painting as a teen. Like so many of us, she’d traded this Must—her calling—for her Should—what she should do to earn a living and follow society’s expectations. But Should never quite settled in for her.
In 2014, she experienced a recurring dream. A white room, concrete floors, tall walls, warehouse windows. At a friend’s suggestion, she searched for the room in the material world. Surprisingly, she found it. In San Francisco. Despite a long line of applicants at the open house, the apartment felt like hers. Indeed, she was selected. When she moved in, having quit her job with just 3 months worth of living expenses, she panicked. Waking up on her mattress surrounded by white warehouse walls, she thought, “Now what?” A clear voice said: “Time to paint!”
An explosion of creative activity ensued, followed by an invitation to mount a solo exhibition of her work, where she sold enough paintings to extend her Must time. New clients grew from that, and she’s now 5 years into Must.
During that time, Elle started to facilitate the #100DayProject on Instagram. For 100 days, people report on what they’re doing to complete their project. Its purpose is to help creatives, herself included, build accountability into their days—when no one is waiting for that poem, that painting. That was 5 years ago. Now, people in over 72 countries participate. Though Elle has stepped back from leadership, there’s a group on the docks that started this April. You can join them at #LifeAfloat2019.
Elle’s Should and Must life journey is documented in her beautifully illustrated first book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion.
Her most recent book, co-authored with Susie Herrick, Your Story is Your Power: Free Your Feminine Voice, was published in response to the 2016 presidential election. She and her co-author wanted a way to help counter the effects of locker room talk, the boys will be boys mentality, and how these messages are engrained in women and girls and affects our power.
On June 22, Elle is hosting a fundraiser to help girls in rural India be able to go to school. Instead of being sold into child marriage by their families, for about $500, that amount of money will school, feed and provide them with medical care for a year. It will even buy them a bike so they can pedal into the village for class every day. Ultimately, their families will get more money too, with an educated daughter. Her goal is to raise $60,000. She’s looking for articles for the auction. If you can offer unique experiences such as a boat ride, a private vineyard tour, or floating home showing, or a product, painting or other artistic creation, let Elle know by May 12.
So what’s next in your Must life, I asked, as we sat on her back deck watching the geese fly. She’s a 1-1 creative consultant and focusing on animation. You’ll see a floral mural appear on the outside of her boat, and it’ll incorporate white rose petals, somehow. As I exit, I see the tiny deer antlers mounted on the wall by the door. They hold Elle’s jacket, and Tom’s.