Stretching The Boundaries

My art, like my books, tended towards the political. I focused on the external world and topics that affected us as human beings, issues like global warming, climate change, pro-choice, separation of church and state. I tended to create both my words and my art realistically, with little emotion or personal interference.

I felt this gave it the rawness I wanted to inspire a reaction in the readers and the viewers, because if it didn’t inspire a reaction then nothing would change. We would rot away in our complacency happily unaware of civilization collapsing around us under the weight of greed, corruption, and religious fanaticism.

While I was working on the third book in the series, When The Last Ocean Dies, a novel that explored the changes and growth that took place in war, in traumatic situations, and as a result of visionary experiences, I began to explore the concept of patterns both within us and in the external world. I started to understand what I always assumed was habitual behavior was actually a falling into something that was already there.

The many wars, the plagues, the times of great creativity and the times of intellectual exploration were more than behaviors of specific individuals. They were part of waves that followed timelines. These periods of time ebbed and flowed, changed shape, died back and then grew once more.

I saw if I charted events on a timeline, patterns began to emerge. When I applied that same timeline to humans and spiritual growth, yet another pattern emerged, often alongside an existing one. The patterns grew from each other and into the next pattern.

The separations weren’t as clear as the continuity that gave form to the new ones. But I began to see shapes and forms in a different light. They were more than lines and squares and rectangles. They were pieces of a larger whole that connected.

After a conversation with an abstract painter, I decided to explore those patterns in my art. It was very different than anything I’ve done. It was a new way of looking at the familiar and finding the shapes, the designs, the patterns of color and form that I saw. I created the idea of something instead of the actual thing. I created the shape of something to give it form. The more I did this, the more the patterns began to emerge.

This is an exploration that is in the beginning stages for me. It’s part of my promise to stretch my boundaries in the coming year, to examine different approaches to the familiar. I suspect this will be a continuing exploration in both my writing and in my art.

I know there are many new ways of looking at things to gather from such explorations, and in time they will make themselves known just as the patterns made themselves known. Some examples of my new way of looking at the world are now up in an online gallery at Fine Art America. You can view it here.

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

Several times, when discussing the books from the Last Planet Chronicles people asked if I was a buddhist, taoist, druid, pagan, witch, tree hugger, or anything else that might explain why I believed everything was connected to itself. The answer is yes to all and no to all. I came by my beliefs in the purest way possible; I experienced them.

Three experiences shaped me more than others. The first was nature. We became friends early because I was a kid who loved outside. It was a place of peace, of silence, of blissful solitude. From a very early age I went outside to sit alone, quietly and happily entertained by my thoughts that were free to roam without the influence of others.

My love of the outdoors only grew stronger with the passing years. I walked, hiked, climbed, and slept under open skies when I wasn’t working or in school. I grew gardens. I swam in rivers, lakes, and oceans. I sat in the contemplative silence of riverbanks, lakesides, mountain overlooks, decks, and porches. I was always connected to nature. I didn’t become this way. I was always this way.

My second experience that shaped my perceptions was music. I grew up around music. I attended endless rehearsals. I went to recitals. I went to concerts. I went to performances. I learned early how to lose myself in music, how to hear and feel it so completely there was no separation between me and the sounds that filled me like the blood in my veins, the air in my lungs, and the beats of my heart. I was one with the music and it was one with me.

The third experience that shaped my perception of how we were all connected was the most powerful. Love. I learned if you did it right, if you opened your heart and stripped it bare to another, the separation between you disappeared. The skin became an artificial and meaningless barrier, because the interaction of love took place in a world I couldn’t see but only sense. I couldn’t put my hand on love and say that was it. I learned if I could separate myself from what I felt, then it wasn’t love.

I hope this explanation answers how I came to believe what I believe, and if not, all three books try to explain the power of those connections. If we fail to understand how we are connected to nature, to the earth, to the water, to the trees, to the very soil itself, and especially to each other, the planet is doomed. Only by reclaiming and strengthening that connection will we finally understand the damage we do to the planet is damage we do to ourselves. Only then can we finally move forward as one people and one planet.

“We revere nature, but we don’t worship it. That makes gods unnecessary.” from When The Last Ocean Dies

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

Embracing the Darkness

People who know me were surprised that my books were so dark. But those who know me really really well were not surprised. They knew I not only spent a good part of my life learning to dance with my demons, they also knew some of the events in my life that took me to places much darker than the world depicted in my books.

I tended to err on the side of kindness with my characters because I wanted models for good. We have enough models for bad. I spent over six intense years dealing with the dark evil that festered inside humanity. But the evil we dealt with on a daily basis was counteracted by those who went out of their way to be better, kinder human beings to neutralize the evil. That’s why I focused so much on the healing power of love in my books. I know its strength because for every horrendous evil we encountered, we also witnessed astonishing good.

I am an optimist who prefers to look at the positive things in life. I see solutions instead of problems. But I also understand everything seeks balance with something else, so I don’t shut out the evil. I don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I take away its cover and shine the light on it. I consider that my responsibility as a human being. It’s my job as a writer who creates dystopian universes, to expose evil so it doesn’t hide in the shadows.

The dystopian universe I created is not all that imaginary. Global Warming is a threat I wanted those reading my book to take seriously, so I showed them what a world looked like when it wasn’t. There’s a lot of the now in my books that can lead to the events I depicted if we continue to look away.

We still have time to wake up. The glaciers are disappearing in our time and they are gone in my book’s time. We still have butterflies but we’re killing off the bees. Greed is not an imaginary problem but one of the most destructive forces in existence. It takes and takes and gives nothing back. If allowed to continue like an unsupervised toddler that grabs everything in its path, the world I created becomes a lot more real.

My optimism reveals itself most clearly in the characters I created. They believe in love. They believe in music, art, and in the majesty of nature. Their search for self is not for riches but to become better human beings. They understand, as I hope to make others understand, that who and what we are is rarely shaped with our own hands.

We are shaped by events, people, lovers, desires, and dreams. My characters were puzzles to themselves, but they saw the pieces. They knew who cut and shaped them, and who tried to make them fit inside a place that was all wrong. I wanted people to understand that before we healed the planet, we had to heal ourselves. It’s all part of the same string of beads.

And to heal ourselves we must understand how we became ill, how things became more important than people, how hate became more prevalent than love, how spirituality became a multibillion dollar manipulation of human consciousness.

All that required more than a surface swim in our own pools. I knew once those waters were stirred, the demons would want their say. No matter how much we try to block them from our lives, their voices penetrate our consciousness. They always want their say, no matter how much we try to pretend they don’t exist. We can turn away from the darkness, but that won’t make it light.

My books recognized the demons. They laid out the damage done by indifference, by misplaced blame, by feeling too powerless to change anything. I showed how the demons lived in a dystopian world created by those who were too unaware, too weak, too afraid to change themselves, much less step in and stop the damage to the planet. But I also showed many ways out. I showed how change began with us. I showed a better world began inside ourselves.

If that is dark, then maybe a little darkness is needed to make the necessary changes to heal ourselves and the planet, because it works together or not at all. No matter if we call it being one with everything, or say that god is everywhere, or believe we are are all stardust, it all ends at the same path, the one that leads to self-awareness, because without it, we are just empty buckets waiting to be filled with someone else’s agenda.

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

The Last Planet Chronicles

Today my three dystopian novels When The Last Tree Dies, When The Last River Dies, and When The Last Ocean Dies officially became a trilogy under the name The Last Planet Chronicles.

I have several venues where I announce such things, and as always the best part are the responses I get back. They range from one word congratulations to very long and fascinating explanations of meanings they gleaned from my books. Their questions always make me really appreciate my small but extremely interesting following. It’s one reason why writers write, to get the chance to brush minds with such people.

Often the questions I get recently hint at a past many of us obviously shared. They write about the marketplace in my dystopian universe, a barter faire in the dusty hills, and exotic bazaars far from home. What they share is the same place in the universal mind. The location doesn’t matter when the experience is what’s remembered. They share what they remember and it takes me there as well, so my dystopian marketplace is a two-way ride.

There’s a sense of community that comes from shared adventures, no matter when and where they took place. Many of us already know what it’s like to barter with something other than money in several languages. If we woke up to a dystopian universe in the morning, by breakfast we would expect market stalls set up and waiting. That’s why so many are able to see the marketplace so clearly. They’ve been there, and that’s why I enjoy them so much. They understand.

Sometimes I like to ask those I’ve already exchanged a few messages with, and who really seem to understand why I wrote my books, how they would describe them. I’ve learned people have very definite opinions on what they’re about. I’ve gained some new insights into my own words by reading theirs, because often they see things I was too close to see. Readers are great clarifiers.

My favorite response is still You write books for smart people. That’s because when I started to plot out the first book several years ago, the best advice I received from my long time friend and adviser, Kristina, was don’t skimp on your intelligence.

It’s advice I’ve lived most of my life, and it drew the most fascinating human beings into my world, people whose ideas soared higher than most. I always loved thinkers, people who put their thoughts out there for dissection and discussion. It’s a high all in itself to engage in such conversations. And that’s who my books are mostly for, those who are not afraid to step outside their beliefs to expand what they know.

I did that with my third book, When The Last Ocean Dies. I’ve never been one to give much attention to what some refer to as spiritual matters. My spirit was always nurtured by alone time out in nature. No church, no religion, no spiritual belief can match the purity of that experience.

But I did want to understand, because I wanted to write about it, so I drew on other experiences that opened my eyes to different existences. I approached these experiences very much like Yewen and Aquia, but in a much different place in time. I came of age during the human potential movement. It was almost expected you look within for answers to life’s great mysteries.

But like Yewen and Aquia, and also many of my acquaintances, it was very much like stumbling along a path you knew held some great mystery at its end. You were afraid, nervous, unsure of yourself, but the compulsion to find out was stronger than anything else, so you kept looking, you kept digging, you kept learning, and you kept growing.

There really is no end to the search for self, just as there is no end to the search for awareness. It’s a continual process. The hardest part is opening the door. The rest all happens as a result of that one action. I hope my books keep opening those doors.

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

The Joy Of Solitude

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone
…” from Alone by Edgar Allan Poe

Today I received a text asking me how I was enjoying my time off now that my book was finished. I never know how to explain it’s not a job. It’s who I am. It’s like asking me how I was enjoying not being part of myself. But It’s one of those things that unless you live in the same kind of skin, you’ll never understand. I just tell them I’m having fun.

In between writing other stuff, I’ve been filling my digital sketchbook with future paintings. It’s my latest obsession. I want to turn the digital and other resource heavy art into more organic elements. But a return to a purer form loses its intent if I replace one with another that takes the same amount of resources, only from another source. So I will be exploring “painting” with existing resources, maybe fabric scraps pressed flat, dirt, ground up leaves. It’s just one of many projects on my want to do list.

But no matter what art I do, I always have to write. For me it is more than putting words on paper. It’s how I process myself and the world around me. I write it. I always have. During the hardest times in my life I wrote it away for a few hours. I could create any world, any reality, any person I wanted. It’s what allowed me to live in the other world, the one outside my imagination, the one I didn’t understand and that didn’t understand me. I knew I could write a better one. I could make it kinder, more tolerant, less judgmental, more loving, and best of all I could write myself completely understood. I wouldn’t feel like the weird kid on the block. I wouldn’t stand out. I was comfortably me. The other world simply could not compete.

My comfort with solitude allowed to live only part time in the other world. My ability to write away my pain, my despair, my bouts of depression allowed me to survive. My art exposed too much of me, but my words kept their secrets. That’s why I must write. It’s not a choice. It’s who I am. It’s who I have always been. So in between the art, I write.

When I was writing all three books, I made word sketches of each character in my novels. It allowed me to get to know them, to make them consistent from one book to another, and it still allowed them to change without losing their basic character.

This last week I expanded those sketches to share with those reading my books. I’ve lived with them for a long time now, longer than some of my relationships or friendships. They were at times more real than anyone in the flesh world. So I’m introducing you to them as my friends, the people I’ve held dearest to my heart for several years. They can be found in this blog in several posts, along with my daily art.

These different projects allow me to do art and words every day. When I do this, when I make the time for just me to make that happen, I grow more centered, more content, more in tune with myself. It’s hell on my social life, but that’s nothing different. I’ve always been my own social life. It cuts way down on the bullshit.

My new novel When The Last Ocean Dies

Kate Taylor’s Art and Books Ursine Logic

The Healing Power of Music and Love

Aquia was the character that fit my personal archetypes the most. He was the dedicated professional musician I’ve been around most of my life. I grew up with the endless practice, the constant rehearsals, the recitals, the performances. My adult friends followed the same path through music and the arts. They prepared, they practiced, they created, they performed, and then they started all over again.

It was often a lonely existence, and I used Aquia to show the diverse sides of that kind of solitude. Like all professional musicians, Aquia needed time alone to create, to practice, to perfect his craft. He only emerged from this solitary state to play with others who experienced the same solitude in the same way. When all the different instruments played together, it was the music that spoke a language they all understood. It connected them to each other as powerfully as the most passionate of lovers. But to get there, to arrive at that moment required many hours of loneliness, with little time left over for relationships with anyone else.

Our isolation doesn’t appeal to those who seek a more diverse settlement than one of mostly musicians. We often seem deliberately cloistered to others, but we need to be in order to perfect our craft. Not many understand it takes hours of practice a day, continual practice. We are not the best of companions.

from When The Last River Dies

As a special protege of the Mystics, Aquia was often separated from the other children. He was also set apart from the others by his intelligence and his ability to speak about ideas beyond the understanding of his classmates. The only place Aquia experienced a sense of community was with the other RiverHome musicians. He was most at home among them. He felt they understood him. They were his family and he was theirs. But unlike many of his fellow musicians, something else drove Aquia.

Aquia wanted to understand the inner world of himself. His training with the Mystics, and the hours he spent alone showed him pieces like separate parts of a composition, that he wanted to bring together. Music taught him to see the patterns, and he approached his desire to learn the truth of his parentage the same way. But his path was shaped by his heart; it defined his place in the pattern.

Aquia believed love was the solution to all the world’s ills. It resonated because it fit into the pattern shaped the same way a piece of music resonated with his senses. Music was not an intellectual process for him. It was an emotional one that developed his ability to give and receive unconditional love. This ability was as much a part of him as his musical talent.

Reynard struggled to describe the strange hope he felt in Aquia’s presence. The perfect world he described were the ramblings of a madman. Love was not a legitimate basis for laws. It was an emotional pit that chewed up humanity and then dared it to come back for more. It was the weak point, the threadbare piece of fabric civilization clung to in desperation, knowing it would eventually tear itself to shreds. And yet, Aquia gave it all such a patina of truth, that Reynard felt wrong for doubting him.”

from When The Last River Dies

Aquia’s friendship with Yewen helped him give shape to his sense of connection to a larger whole when he played music, because Yewen understood how everything was connected to itself. The notes that echoed through the canyon were carried on the breath of those who came before. The more Aquia understood his connection to everything in nature, the clearer his own path became.

Aquia smiled softly. “Perhaps you are right. But it is more than what I see. For me, music is also physical. I not only hear it, I also feel it. When I play, I feel the vibration against my skin, inside my veins, and in the rhythm of my heart. There is no inner or outer world in such moments. It is one feeling, one emotion, one continual sound that uses me to vibrate with the universe.”

from When The Last Ocean Dies


Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

Companion Visions

Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with readers were about the Spinywort. I often get asked if I was describing Peyote. It’s a difficult question because the visions it created in the characters and its effects were drawn from many sources, some experiential, others from descriptions both personal and academic. I would say I described the effects of a multilayered wort that drew from the door blown open by Peyote, the skies opened up through LSD, and the spirit healed with Psilocybin.

I grew up in the desert. I came of age during the Carlos Castaneda and the Peyote Cult years. It was also the time of Alan Watts and Timothy Leary. One of the convenient categories to compartmentalize the emerging interest in knowing thyself was the Human Potential Movement. I drew heavily from that time.

Another influence I used to build my characters and describe their visions came from Carl Jung, especially his book Psychology and Alchemy. I drew on his perceptions of spirituality, the human psyche and religion, but especially mysticism. I wanted to include many versions of the same truths.

They believe their purpose is to pry open the cracks of awareness. They don’t proselytize or seek to convert. They merely offer access to the SpinyWort flower and provide help through the process of ingesting it. But they believe you own your vision, and so they resist any explanation or reading of symbols. They feed you, shelter you, and send you home when it’s time.

from When The Last Ocean Dies

Another influence that led to the writing of this book came from a fascinating conversation I had with probably one of the purest scientists I’ve ever met. He always claimed, in spite of his scientific purity, that he was a spiritual person. When I asked him how he reconciled those two sides he responded there was nothing to reconcile because it was all memory. Spirituality was knowledge that lived inside him and all he needed to do was to go within when needed.

Their ancestors, the ancient Magusans, saw visions that convinced them a vast inner world existed inside us, and we carried around many lifetimes of knowledge we didn’t know we possessed. They suspected, based on their studies, that the secret of human consciousness lies buried somewhere in all that knowledge.

from When The Last Ocean Dies

In the end it doesn’t matter how you get there; hallucinogenic drugs, plants, mushrooms, meditation, chocolate, what matters is that before you can love another, before you can love the planet and its people, you must first learn to love yourself. That means you have to do what has been said many ways over the centuries, you must learn to Know Thyself.

There are two sides to the upright beast. One walks with his skin inside. The other walks with his skin outside. But the flower of truth marks the path, and the flower of the SpinyWort shapes the truth.

from When The Last Ocean Dies

Books and Art by Kate Taylor Ursine Logic