DEATH OF A PLANET

I created this series of paintings as a warning about the danger facing our planet. Or rather, the planet and ourselves because we can’t detach ourselves from nature. We are the earth and the earth needs us. The damage we do affects everything and unless we wake up and put an end to out of control corporate greed. And it would serve us well to remember we need the earth far more than the earth needs us.


DEATH OF THE PLANET II
11×14
acrylic on canvas panel


The destruction of our planet means our destruction as well. It’s time to pay attention, to make noise, to use what we have to draw attention to this disaster shaped by greed and willful ignorance of science. Wildfires that destroy entire forests are normal now. Droughts are normal now. Skies filled with smoke and other pollutants is normal now. That’s why I painted this dark warning of a burning forest. The flames and the smoke and the charred trees are abstract expressions because I want people to feel what it’s like to lose an entire forest. I want people to wake up.

This painting is available for purchase on a print on paper, a print on canvas, or you can also purchase the original painting.

Kate Taylor’s Art

Death of A Planet III watercolor and ink on paper

A lit match is surrounded by clocks set to different doomsday times. Greed. Warm. Hot. Dead. I painted it in watercolor because I wanted to show the effects of the rising oceans due to climate change. There are vague figures fainting painted into the image that represent the voices that tried to warn but weren’t heard.

This painting is available for purchase on a print on paper, a print on canvas, or you can also purchase the original painting.

Kate Taylor’s Art

watercolor and ink on paper, environment, nature, global warming, climate change, political art, rising oceans, blue, doomsday clocks, lit match, black, abstract nature

I cut out pieces of a misprinted version of my novel “When The Last River Dies” and used it to create the mountains and rivers in the background. I also used bits of paper towel that were used to clean brushes. I used watercolors to show the rising sea levels, and acrylic paint for the flames that are caused by drought and global warming. I wanted to show how ordinary things we discard are part of the damage we are doing to our planet. We can’t keep living as though a life of disposable goods will not cost us dearly in the end.

11×14

mixed media on paper

I cut out pieces of a misprinted version of my novel “When The Last River Dies” and used it to create the mountains and rivers in the background. I also used bits of paper towel that were used to clean brushes. I used watercolors to show the rising sea levels, and acrylic paint for the flames that are caused by drought and global warming. I wanted to show how ordinary things we discard are part of the damage we are doing to our planet. We can’t keep living as though a life of disposable goods will not cost us dearly in the end.

Keywords

mixed media on paper, environment, nature, global warming, climate change, political art, rising oceans, paper from recycled novel, disposable, flames, black, abstract nature

This painting is available for purchase on a print on paper, a print on canvas, or you can also purchase the original painting.

Kate Taylor’s Art

I wanted stark hills stripped of all growth and dead trees with only their charred trunks left standing to show the results of our neglect and abuse of the planet. Our precious forests are burning away in wildfires that have become seasonal instead of rare. The oceans are rising and flooding is destroying habitats that once provided food for species other than ourselves.

DEATH OF THE PLANET V

11×14

watercolor and acrylic on paper

I wanted stark hills stripped of all growth and dead trees with only their charred trunks left standing to show the results of our neglect and abuse of the planet. Our precious forests are burning away in wildfires that have become seasonal instead of rare. The oceans are rising and flooding is destroying habitats that once provided food for species other than ourselves.

watercolor and acrylic on paper, environment, nature, global warming, climate change, political art, charred tree trunks, blue sky, bare hills, flames, black, abstract nature

This painting is available for purchase on a print on paper, a print on canvas, or you can also purchase the original painting.

Kate Taylor’s Art

Rising sea levels will devastate everything from coastal forests to farm lands. I used watercolors over the acrylic trees to depict them drowning and dying from the flooding caused by global warming and climate change. This is not some dire future warning. It is the present and if we don’t act now, future generations will never know what it was like to sit in the silence of a thickly forested hillside overlooking the ocean. We can’t let greed and indifference define the future. It is my hope that art will reach those who can’t see or hear the warnings any other way.

DEATH OF THE PLANET VI

11×14

watercolor and acrylic on paper

Rising sea levels will devastate everything from coastal forests to farm lands. I used watercolors over the acrylic trees to depict them drowning and dying from the flooding caused by global warming and climate change. This is not some dire future warning. It is the present and if we don’t act now, future generations will never know what it was like to sit in the silence of a thickly forested hillside overlooking the ocean. We can’t let greed and indifference define the future. It is my hope that art will reach those who can’t see or hear the warnings any other way.

watercolor and acrylic on paper, environment, nature, global warming, climate change, political art, rising sea levels, blue, green, water, black, abstract nature

This painting is available for purchase on a print on paper, a print on canvas, or you can also purchase the original painting.

Kate Taylor’s Art

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 Natural World Of Self

I always considered myself part of nature. Not as religion or dogma, but as an inseparable part of my larger self.That’s why I used the entity called Nature to show how the characters and events were connected to each other. I made it the basis of the Monastery of the Trees’ teachings, where the monks were taught nature was a living entity no different than anyone or anything else.

The monastery’s move away from an omnipotent god didn’t leave an empty space behind. It filled itself with a truth they lived by each day; the belief that humanity and nature were not separate entities.”

from When The Last Tree Dies

The Monastery of the Trees was not so much a spiritual presence in the books as it was a conscience that tried to repair the damage caused by people to the planet. But they understood the natural world existed with or without humanity. They knew it was foolish to try and separate themselves from nature or to think humanity could abuse it and not inflict damage on themselves in the process.

In all three books, nature featured as prominently as the characters. I portrayed them all as one entity that grew stronger together. That’s why the artists who painted nature in human form were able to convey such emotion. They painted the agony of nature’s destruction because they felt it inside themselves.Their works of art warned if humanity didn’t repair the connection with nature and each other, then neither humanity nor the planet would survive.

I also wanted to convey the tenuous existence in the dystopian landscape created by endless droughts, raging firestorms, and decades of rampant greed. Nature does not need humanity. Humanity needs nature. My characters understood this, and they survived by their ability to adapt to change, because nature constantly changed and adapted.

Nature is not sterile. It is ever changing. It is fertile and resilient. It changes with the seasons. It adapts with new information, new experiences.

from When The Last River Dies

I also wanted to show how hopelessness, poverty, and desperation did more than destroy the earth. It left the discards of society open to manipulation by the Preacher Billy’s of the world.

I wanted people to understand our behavior, our actions, our way of life affected not only us, but our neighbors, our villages, other villages, and the planet. We are not separate, only separated. Until we understand our connection, until we come together and make it whole again, nothing will ever change.

The valley changed. The river changed. And the people changed. But not right away. And not enough. We still have human caused disasters. We still lose far too many lives in futile wars. But some of us are starting to understand we are not nature’s masters, but her caretakers. That is why in the villages around us, in the foothills of Anahita, and deep in the farthest canyons, you will see many who live with one foot in the future, because they know the cost of not doing so is too great.”

from When The Last Ocean Dies

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine logic

The River Daughter

For many years those who saw Arman Peace’s dramatic depictions of nature as a sensuous woman, wondered about the model in his paintings. When Aquia came through the tunnels, they learned she was his aunt, Coventina, the spiritual leader of Anahita, and the lover of Arman Peace.

The villages of River Valley are ruled by rotating volunteer councils, but Anahita is the only one headed by a spiritual leader. Her name is Coventina. She is descended from the first River Daughter, and she is revered for her wisdom. Few remember a time without her, but she has only ruled since the death of her husband several decades ago.” A soft smile touched Aquia’s lips, as though a secret hid behind them in wait. “The whispers say her touch can heal the most wounded soul. And they also say that same touch can burn through the skin and destroy the unwary fool.

from When The Last River Dies

Coventina visits one of Arman Peace’s paintings of her. It was painted to commemorate the day they conceived Dante. But she continues to seed the trail of half-truths about her love for Arman Peace, one which is the yearly festival devoted to the celebration of love. The residents of River Valley believe it kept alive the memory of the man she loved with all the passion and heartbreak of good myth. Coventina has her reasons for allowing them to continue to do so.

As you get older, my young novice, you will understand how little separation exists between those you loved and the time that passed. It becomes all one thread that weaves our hearts to one another. You can cut it. You can burn it. You can bury it. But there is no way to destroy every single thread, and all it takes is one to hold the memory inside you forever. Just one solitary thread.”

from When The Last River Dies

In the third and final book Coventina, during her final days, reveals her reasons for keeping the truth hidden. She hands the secret to her grandchild, Calistina, the new River Daughter, to hold as she held it for all those years.

Coventina’s gaze drifted to the tall peaks visible through the small window cut into the stone wall of her cottage. “Human follies are perpetual. Societies grow and fall, and then they grow again only to fall again. Right now, we are climbing back up, digging our knuckles into the dirt. This is the time to decide the future, to make the decisions necessary to move forward.” She turned her focus back to Calistina. “Your generation will make those decisions, not mine. And you will have to continually defeat those who resist change, those who won’t cede power until the fires consume them. You will have to lead from strength and inspire from hope.”

from When The Last Ocean Dies

Kate Taylor’s Books and Arts Ursine Logic

The Philosopher Artist

The character of Arman Peace never appeared in any of the three novels, but he was a presence in all of them. Everything we know about him came from other people’s memories. That’s how we learned he was the one who shaped Yewen and Lilyani. That’s how we learned he was the one who changed the life of Anahita’s spiritual leader, and whose blood will run through its veins forever.

Arman Peace’s dramatic and tragic works of art that depicted nature’s destruction at the hands of humanity won him fame, but it was his philosophy that drew students to his classroom. They valued his classes not only for the art training, but for the life changing insights they gained from listening to him speak. He taught them to understand they were not separate from nature, that everything was connected to itself.

He told me healing only came after we learned to make what we remembered and how we remembered inseparable. Only then would our memories remain pure and untouched by forces outside ourselves.”

from When The Last Ocean Dies

But unlike the other students, Yewen did not choose Arman Peace as a teacher. He was not an artist, nor did he have much interest in art. Arman Peace sought him out as his student, not to learn about art, but to learn about the inner world of the artist, to understand how creativity grew in some but not in others. He wanted him to understand the artist was inseparable from the art.

Arman Peace knew this was a way in to the understanding already rooted inside Yewen. He saw in Yewen a pure connection to nature, a depth of understanding that he was connected to every other living thing.

Part of it came from his training as a monk from the Monastery of the Trees where he learned without the forests, the planet could not survive. But Arman Peace believed Yewen was destined for more than an objective receptacle of facts about the need for forests. He saw him as the powerful protector the forests needed to preserve them for the future. Arman Peace knew from their first meeting that was Yewen’s true path, because an understanding of the connection was already in place.

If the forest burned that was fine because we lived in the city. If there were no more fish in the lake, that was fine because we preferred meat. We became insular and insulated, immovable forces caught in the amber of our own ignorance.

from When The Last Ocean Dies

As Yewen began his search for Arman Peace, the man, he started to understand how clearly his path was seeded by the mystical artist. Arman Peace knew he couldn’t teach him how to speak to his inner world enough to create art that came from inside him. That was a path Yewen needed to walk on his own to gain the insight needed to bring forth what lived inside him.

But what Arman Peace taught him and the other students was the important lesson they came to learn. The ills of the world were caused when humanity split itself off from nature, when humanity began to treat nature as a separate part of themselves, as a commodity, as a force determined to wage war against them. He made them understand only when they reclaimed that connection would the planet finally begin to heal. He knew in Yewen they finally found their needed voice.

Maybe future generations will look at the paintings and demand a world where the air is clean enough to bring back the birds, the butterflies, the flowers, and even the stars. They existed once, and somewhere they still exist. It is up to humanity to find the crack in the worlds so memory and the present can occupy the same place once more.”

from When The Last Ocean Dies

Kate Taylor’s Art and Books Ursine Logic

The Anti-Goddess

The character of Olivia is one I like to refer to as culturally complex, because how you perceive her depends on your cultural biases. She elicits strong emotions in some because she gave up her children to fight for peace. They loved her strength as a woman, as an independent voice who gave up everything to fight for her ideals. But they also wanted her to be a loving, nurturing mother figure. Some were angry she was not. How can you make her so indifferent to her own children?

Because Olivia doesn’t speak just for herself. Every day women around the world are separated from their children through incarceration, poverty, homelessness, and violence. Olivia represents those women. Her choices may seem cruel to those on the outside looking in, but many women face the same choices everyday and many choose the only selfless option, the one Olivia chose.

“She told him about the children’s camp outside the prison, the village of piecemeal huts where food was scarce, the water toxic, and disease rampant. She described how the children waited for their mothers to finish serving their sentences, because they had nowhere else to go, no one to care for them. He still saw the piercing glare of her black eyes, the demand that he see her choice through her eyes, not his own. I didn’t give you up. I saved your life.

from WHEN THE LAST OCEAN DIES

Characters, like people, are multidimensional. Olivia’s relationship with Sam is simple and uncomplicated, but it shows another side of PeaceTown’s pragmatic leader, and the reclusive artist. Through each other they explain the powerful hold of inspired purpose. Like all those passionately committed to their causes, neither Sam nor Olivia could be anyone other than who they are.

But they connect because they are both driven by separate paths to the same destination; Olivia in her fight for peace, and Sam in the use of his art to bring awareness to war’s destruction of nature. They understand this passion in each other and therefore they understand each other. When you strip away their outer identities, Sam and Olivia are the same. It’s what allows them to eventually develop a rich and satisfying friendship.

In many ways Olivia is the anti-goddess. Although she possesses the required strengths of power such as assertiveness, independence, and intelligence, she is not an icon for any one person or group. She is more like a military officer in charge of her own army, commanding respect but rarely love or affection. She is like the book that brought her fame, The Art of Peace, often described as a work everyone quoted but few read. That also describes Olivia.

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

Introspection

in·tro·spec·tion/ˌintrəˈspekSH(ə)n/noun

  1. the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.”quiet introspection can be extremely valuable.” definition provided by Oxford Languages

I’ve never been a city person. It’s always been me against the noise, the frenzy, the mass of humanity crowded into too small a space. Cities are not good for introspection. They require doing, constant response, and outward focused attention.

There was a time I needed that, thrived on it, depended on it. It was also the life of someone who spent it in the arts. I grew up attending my aunt and uncle’s piano concerts, and those of their friends who were cellists and classical guitarists. I attended countless recitals by their students. I went to museums, art galleries, stage performances. I wanted it live and personal or it didn’t interest me.

As my friends and family developed into their personal arts, I attended their dance performances, concerts, art openings, poetry, book readings, and they attended mine. For the great part of our lives that was how we defined entertainment. It was also the way creatives supported and continue to support each other.

I still go to art openings, although in this time of Covid most of them are online. I still listen to new poems, new songs, new dialogues. But they’re all virtual now. It’s the new reality and I try and adapt the best I can, but I miss the mingling, the walking through the galleries with others, the long conversations over coffee in the bookstores. I miss all that.

But those who create don’t stop creating because the times change. If anything, my friends are working on some of the most compelling and fascinating things now. I’m seeing sides of them emerge I suspect not even they knew were there. Some of it is the introspection that comes from age, but I know a great deal of it grew from the months of quarantine. We’re only now starting to see how it manifests externally.

Kristina has motivated me to write more authentically, to put in those ideas I think are too far out there to be understood. Make them think, she always told me, make them think. She still says that, but the they are not the same they as now. Nor am I. I’m different. There are days I barely recognize myself. And yet I’m still there. I’m still me.

It’s the me who writes books on an island in a house that has more windows than walls. It’s the me who is surrounded by the natural world and with silence that is enhanced by the songs of birds and the wind through the trees. It’s the me who realized I needed this environment to write the books I wanted to write, not the books other people wanted me to write.

I moved to an island seven years ago because I reached the point in my life where I needed to go within in order to proceed forward on the path I needed to take. I wanted to stop the external noise that interrupted the places my mind wanted to go. I wanted to write something that wasn’t about politics but was still political. I wanted my words to have less objectivity and more subjectivity. I wanted to be the change I sought in the world.

I also moved here to achieve the blissful state of contentment I sought. Many people seek happiness, but I sought contentment because unlike happiness, it was stable, calming, a part of me that was not dependent on external realities.

But the most carefully crafted plans of bears and dreamers often take odd turns. As I sought the middle ground in myself I realized it was a place I never lived. I never even got close to it. During one of the last present time conversations I had with Kristina before her mind narrowed to a small period of time, she reminded me of all the things we’ve done together over the years, all the edge clinging, the chance taking, the risks we didn’t know were so risky then. You never did ordinary, not in your art, your words, or your lovers.

Kristina can no longer type, but she can still talk and use the speak to text on her phone. Her emails are just as long, if not so well punctuated. I woke this morning to this list of questions from her.

Do you see your high school self differently now? Have you been able to sort through the good memories and let the bad ones sink to the bottom? Do you see how once you love yourself it becomes easy to love others? Do you feel that in your heart? Do you feel differently now about your high school friends? Do you understand how a small piece of something can seed a larger whole?

At first I thought the tumor was allowing her to move beyond the limited memory that has condensed her life to the years between 1965 to 1975. But then I realized those were also the questions we asked ourselves then. We just never received a satisfying answer.

Kristina is still in her tumor defined world. The time frame of her memory hasn’t changed. She just sees it all differently now. And because I committed myself to going along to wherever her memory takes her, I’ve had to look at those years differently as well. I’m nowhere near done. There are days when I feel I’m just getting started.

After I finish this book, I have an art project that’s been festering. Actually, I have several. And more books. I have time and a whole library of research material not at my fingertips, but living inside them. I intend to spend at least the next year setting them free.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin

My personal website

Kate Taylor’s Art and Books

Pandemic Fiction As Truth

"These were the testaments they left behind, the harvests from  the beauty and despair they drew from their depths. They gave the monsters and demons equal say, and the result of such courage was an overlying stark beauty of emotional honesty." 

WHEN THE LAST OCEAN DIES (coming in October)

I was almost finished with the final book in my series when the pandemic hit. In one of those strange twists, I was reading BIRDSONG, the novel by Sebastian Faulks, during editing breaks. I started out reading it as a novel about the first World War that focused on the psychological trauma of war. Fiction is much better at describing such trauma than the sterilized "professional" accounts. 

It was one in a long list of books I read as I tried to understand what happened to the mind when confronted with previously unimaginable horrors. IF THIS IS A MAN by Primo Levi set me on this path when I first read it several years ago. It gave me insight into a part of the human psyche that was indestructible. But I already knew such indestructibility came with a price. I saw first hand how human beings far too often chewed off one or more of their limbs to survive. I wanted more.

And I got more when the times I was reading in changed. Like most narrowly focused readers, if it wasn't for the pandemic hitting when it did, I might have finished BIRDSONG with yet more understanding of war trauma, but completely missed the significance of another event in the book, the 1918 influenza. 

From the perspective of a modern reader who lived with the global reality of world travel for most of my life, I suddenly saw something in what I read that I didn't see on the first reading. The returning soldiers who helped spread the virus all over the world. In the global world that is part of our reality now, it was easy to see this, so I saw it clearly. But the book focused more on the psychological damage of war, the brain damage, the disabled who lost arms and legs in battle, and the permanent lung destruction that also came home with the soldiers.

I clearly saw my blind spot then, and it became more prominent when the pandemic became personal instead of an historical event from the past.  Along with most of the world, I was suddenly quarantined. My life changed little as I already lived on a small island with few people, and I have always been pretty much a loner who prefers my own company.  Now I was facing an extended isolation with just one other person and a cat. I prepared for it by making a long list of books to read as I finished editing my book. I bought new goodies for my art box. I added supplies to my already adequate earthquake stash. I was ready.

What I wasn't ready for was history repeating itself. My reading of news accounts of the day and the politicizing of the virus began to merge into one miserable truth. As a species, we humans are damned stupid. The 1918 pandemic had the same anti-mask plague rats infecting each other in the name of freedom. The same people called it a lie, a plot, a hoax for the same reasons they did in 1918. The same excuses, the same manipulations, the same conspiracy gulping cultists rose up like flies seeking the same communal shit pile to wallow in together. All hail polio, smallpox, and Caesar!

But I was saved from utter despair when I began digging into my stack of books from the writers of that time. They left us some damned good insightful fiction into what it was like to live during a pandemic. As did the art of that time, the music, the fashion, and the ideas that were germinated during isolation and blossomed when the quarantine ended. 

Along with the fiction, I read post-pandemic criticisms of the hedonism, the outright disdain for social rules that no longer applied, the anguished cries of woe that portrayed the excesses of the 20's as the whole taste of the time. I also read the petty moralists of our time who squawked of the doom to come, the collapse of society, the debauchery, oh yes, the debauchery to come. What they really feared, every damn one of them was something that was seeping through the cracks of our isolation. 

As the quarantine grew from weeks to months,we became more honest. The isolation nibbled away at our social skills. It made us less reluctant to bite the words from tongues left alone too long. We began to share ourselves in weird and wonderful ways. But it wasn't so much the famous paintings we recreated with ourselves as the subjects and then posted online to share with the world from our phones, often with only our pets to play the parts of missing characters.  It was the need to share.

Many times as I viewed the contributions from all over the world, I broke down in tears. The zoom orchestras where everyone played from their living rooms. The demonstrations on how to make your own face mask. Videos for those learning to bake bread for the first time. The world was sharing the same experiences, at the same moment in time, from the same depths of our souls. The world of people, the world of human beings, the world of emotional, weeping, laughing contributors were leaving a record of their humanity.

The changes crept in so slowly that at first they went unnoticed. Little things like around month six I started to have phone conversations with friends that not only were longer than all the ones before, they were more satisfying. The artifice was eroding. The need to pretend to be someone else was wearing away. We began to speak truth to each other. We began to let others see who were really were underneath all the superficial social skills that once defined us.

Those I loved before, I loved even more because I knew them better now, and they began to know me. We began to grow into more appropriate human skins together. My friendships deepened. I grew more comfortable with telling people I loved them, something I've never been very good at. The pandemic gave me an opportunity to get better at it.

But I had to approach all this new reality realistically. I've never been someone who could distance myself from the emotions and traumas of others. It's probably why I needed so much time alone. Sponges needs wringing out time or they will drown willingly, happily, sacrificially in other people's drama pools. I'm working on something I've never been good at, the middle ground. I know it's there, but it's just not as satisfying anymore.

The important thing I was left with was the hope that what I saw happening to me was also happening to others, because honesty, both emotional and intellectual, is a vital thread we need to stitch together new truths, whether it's in our relationships or part of our shared visions for healing the planet.

And of course, after all this, I looked at the book I was editing and realized I needed to start over. My dystopian world was suddenly not a distant fantasy but a quickly evolving reality. I also felt, as a writer, I had an historical responsibility to describe a piece of the emotional truth happening all around me.

That's why I started my book over. I needed to put in the art, the music, the new awareness of self, the need to connect, the global village as a real thing, but most of all, the ability for human beings to get so comfortable in their own skins that saying I love you to a friend, a lover, or themselves, was as important as anything else. I wanted to be part of that mark on history. 



My personal website:
Ursine Logic's Books and Art