This Thing Called Community

The other day someone asked me when I knew I was an artist. I didn’t even hesitate because that day had nothing to do with art. It had to do with something far deeper and hungrier in me, the need for community. And I sought it for most my life.

It started in my late teens when I spent about three months in a commune. It was a period of time when I struggled with a lot of things. I needed to get away from my father’s violent temper and his drunken rages. I mostly stayed with Kristina in a cheap motel room where the only window overlooked an alley where the working girls entertained clients who couldn’t afford to pay for a room.

We both worked in a coffee shop owned by an Armenian immigrant, who gave us jobs during our high school years and paid us under the table. He was the closest thing to a stable family for both of us then. He knew what my father looked like and he always hid me when he saw him coming. We always felt safe at work. Other than Dimitri’s coffee shop, neither of us really had a home other than the beds of temporary boyfriends.

That changed when we became involved in the Peace Rat collective. We helped young, scared men apply for conscientious objector status, the first joint writing project Kristina and I did together. When their applications were denied, we helped them get to Canada. During the height of the Vietnam war the fervor to go after pacifists like ourselves was at insanity levels. Several of us were evicted from our apartments, and found it nearly impossible to rent another because we were considered anarchists. So when we heard of a communal living situation in the foothills, we went for it.

It took three months for me to know as much as I loved the community and the people in it, I was basically a loner and living among so many people was not something I could do. I went back to work for Dimitri and rented a cheap hole in the wall studio apartment in a seedy part of town. But I stayed in touch with the folks from the commune, and I still communicate with some of them.

My experience there taught me the value of being around those who saw the world through the same filters. We were not the same people, but we shared similar visions. We wanted peace. We wanted equality for all humans. We wanted love and kindness to guide us along whatever path we walked. We wanted a sense of belongingness, a community where it didn’t matter if we were understood as long as we were accepted.

Over the years, through the pursuit of all those pieces of paper that pronounced me educated, I experienced that same sense of community in many different ways and with different people. I was a member of a peyote church for about a year. I went to what were then called happenings, love fests, music festivals. I moved on to barter fairs, rainbow gatherings, and Dead shows. I was part of a community that grew and changed according to my need to take part in it, whether it was a small introspective group harvesting peyote for a ceremony or a gathering of several thousand naked dancing hippies. It was all community and it all fed me.

As I grew older I began to narrow my search to one that was more permanent and less transitory. I wanted permanence. Understanding of who I was inside became important. Introspection in others became important. I became impatient and finally discouraged by the shallow and the selfish because I knew the good that was out there. I had followed it for decades and knew the hold it had on me. I didn’t want to explain anymore why the inner world mattered as much if not more than the outer world. I didn’t want to explain anymore. I was tired of trying to fit into that square peg with my round life.

And then I noticed something start to happen. Some of my circle of what I thought was my community started to fall away. It wasn’t any one thing most of the time. It was simply that one day I realized I had what I wanted all along. I didn’t recognize it at first because of the layers of clay, ink, paint, and dye that covered it. But eventually most of the people I felt the most connected to, most of the people that were the constant in the communities I was part of were artists. It was that way since i was 14 and it is that way now. I had completed the circle. The realization was like suddenly realizing I had ten digits when I thought I only had nine. I felt whole for the first time in my life.

It’s been a few years now since that day but once it became clear there was no going back. My community are people who spend a lot of time alone giving life to what lives inside them. They’ve explored the light, the dark, the good, the bad and everything in between. When you’ve gone through that it doesn’t need to be explained. It’s in the very air you breathe together. It’s in those quiet moments when you understand what it means to see behind your eyes. It is the baring of souls through art. It is drawing the depths into the foreground so others can, if not understand, to at least accept. It is belongingness. It is community.

Kate Taylor’s Art

Sorting Through The Remnants

The first year is for grieving, and the second seems to be settling in as a time of contemplation, of remembering and sorting. In the time since Kristina’s death I’ve read as much as I could handle about the type of personality changes that occurred when her tumor spread to her brain. Much of what happened to her mentally followed the set pattern for prefrontal tumors, but some of it was rare and uniquely her, as she was, as her life was.

We met when we were both fourteen years old, behind a wall of headdresses worn by showgirls in Vegas shows. Her mother was what they then called the wardrobe mistress. She kept all the little pieces of sparkly material and shiny things whole. I remember how her fingers sometimes bled from hours of stitching beads onto tiny pieces of fabric. I also remember her kindness, her love for her daughter, and her acceptance of me, a strange little white girl from a family who mostly spoke something other than English.

I remember that night so clearly. The dancers entered the stage in a mist that cast a muted light on their nearly naked bodies. It allowed every toned muscle, every shadow, every curve to stand out. They wore tiny pieces of flesh covered gauze on their mandatory covered parts, and a powdery glitter on their bodies that danced with them as they moved. It was magical and both Kristina and I watched enchanted as they danced to the haunting notes of a single flute.

This is how our friendship of fifty-six years began. Over the years we became the vaults of each other’s darkest nightmares. I listened to her fears that one day her father would kill her mother. She saw my bruises, the welts, the broken fingers I showed no on else. We became good at hiding each other, of waiting in the shadows until it was safe to come out.

We were with each other during our first high school crushes, and then through all those that came after. I was with her the night her father killed her mother. She was with me the night my father cracked two of my ribs when he kicked me in a blind rage because I wouldn’t give him money.

We learned love broke our hearts over and over again, but we still continued to believe in it. We fell in love with each other, with others, with those who loved us back and with those who didn’t love us back. We both got married in college to men who were not like other men, men we knew would never hit us, abuse us, or abandon us. We were determined to break the pattern, to fight back, to say no, to not live our mother’s lives.

When it came time for graduate school, we ended up on opposite coasts, but not a month went by without a letter, a card, a phone call, and in later years, emails, texts, messages, long full pages of thoughts we worked out on each other. We used our ability to shape thoughts into words for a business that was uniquely suited to who we were as ourselves and to each other. We worked as freelance artists in both print and digital. And we wrote 500 word essays for blogs, news sites, individual writers. The buyer would fill them in with their own words, their own expanded ideas.

We worked hard for little money. It was mostly boring. One of us would start the essay, the other would add to it. We emailed each other the pages back and forth until they were done, ready to sell, boringly complete and precise. Vanilla writing for vanilla people. Even now it is impossible to tell who wrote what sentence. We both did is the only correct answer. It was how our minds worked with each other.

As we got older birthdays became milestones instead of celebrations, and the one that stood out for both of us was the 70th. We called it the year of no fucks left to give, the year we would finally experience complete and total freedom from the expectations of anyone and anything. We plotted and planned, thought of contacting our old peace rat collective from high school, and all the artists from then whose friendships kept us alive during those awkward years. But shortly after her 68th birthday, Kristina was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She dealt with it the way she did everything. She researched it. She studied it. She interviewed those who had it. She visited the dying when she learned it was terminal. But she thought she had time. We both thought she had time. We continued to plan. We continued to hope. And then it spread to her brain and everything turned upside down, inside out, and changed everything forever.

Her memory seemed burned away, forgotten, and replaced with nothing but confusion. Except for one small piece, a period of time when we first met, our high school and undergraduate years. Those years were clear as the present, as real to her as me and Stefano and everyone else in our lives. Except for the holes in her memory of specific times and places, she seemed the same Kristina, as long as we lived with her during that period of time.

But she wasn’t the same Kristina. She didn’t just remember those years. She moved into them. They became her present, her current life, her only memories. In retrospect I can understand how it was more than the tumor. It was also something else that happened as we aged. We remembered the past again. Things that were forgotten are suddenly remembered.

For me it was difficult beyond words. It was a painful time of my life, one I’ve done my best to bury. But because the woman who carried my life inside her, the best friend who knew everything about me went to live there, I had no choice but to follow her.

But I was a bystander and she was a participant. She imagined events were happening that long ago passed into faded memories. She tried to set me up with my high school crush, like she once did all those years ago, only he was long gone. But her brain couldn’t grasp that. She simply did not understand me when I tried to explain. The extent of it didn’t become clear until Stefano and I went through her laptop.

She used voice to text software to contact our past, to give it shape in a world that no longer existed. She wrote to people who didn’t exist, and she wrote to those who did, but not as she remembered them existing. She professed love to those who damaged her ability to love, and she apologized to those who hurt her. Her world was upside down and I was merely a member of the cast, a silent one too numb to do much but shut down everything I felt so it wouldn’t hurt so much when I lost her. But it still hurt. And it still does.

And now it has been over for a while and I understand much more than I did. I know why she chose that period of time. It was where all the unresolved issues lived, because as we aged we developed the skills to at least smooth the edges of those issues that came after. But then we were clueless and so they festered inside us, interfered in everything from choice of lovers to career paths. Our pasts didn’t go anywhere. They just lay in wait.

So besides her loss, besides cleaning up a very large mess she left behind with her strange and bizarre letters to people in our pasts, besides learning to say to myself what I once said to her, I’ve been cleaning up my past. I’ve been confronting the worst of it.

I’ve been painting some it with the help of an art therapist. But most important of all, I’ve been healing from it. I can’t change the damage that was done to me physically, spiritually, psychologically, but I can find the point where I can live with it. In a strange sort of Kristina way, that was the best parting gift she could leave me and I thank her for it. I thank her for living. For loving. For helping me get to this point of delicious freedom where I have no fucks left to give, and all the best memories live in my heart.

Kate Taylor’s Art

Kate Taylor’s Art: Relationships

Relationships between human creatures are one of the most complex puzzles on earth. Not even those attracted to each other can explain exactly what pulled them in to each other’s orbit. Many times it was physical attraction, that powerful moment that strips away everything but sensation, emotion, and desire.

But when it tried to translate itself into love it rarely succeeded, because it tried to capture a moment that no longer existed. Much of my art focuses on that intense attraction between people because it’s fun to paint and I have a lifetime of material and memories to draw from.

Love is more complex. Often people think the physical attraction and mental attraction have to be equal, and so they set themselves up for disappointment. For me the mind has always been the spark that lit the fire. Without that mental connection, the physical one was practically meaningless and interchangeable. But the ones who touched my mind as skillfully as they touched my body are the memories who still remain. It is to them I dedicate these paintings.

Relationships have always fascinated me. On the surface they make no sense, but when you strip away the layers you see the pulls and attractions that define them. For me I have always fallen in love with the mind first. I have lusted after intelligence the way others lust after physical appearances. This painting is in watercolor to depict the fluidity and power of mental connections. I used ink to show the small points, the paths touched together, the moments of mutual inspiration that expand the connection between the limits of physical parameters. The two figures in this painting are stylized depictions of the perfect conversation away from the world. They hide in a surreal forest of privacy. I used the colors of passion and lust, hues of pink and purple with black ink to give the emotions shape and form.

Watercolor and ink on paper, intelligence, sex, passion, relationships, bonding, purple, pink, mental connections, black, patterns, conversations
“Meeting Of the Minds” 11×14 watercolor and ink

Relationships have always fascinated me. On the surface they make no sense, but when you strip away the layers you see the pulls and attractions that define them. For me I have always fallen in love with the mind first. I have lusted after intelligence the way others lust after physical appearances. This painting is in watercolor to depict the fluidity and power of mental connections. I used ink to show the small points, the paths touched together, the moments of mutual inspiration that expand the connection between the limits of physical parameters. The two figures in this painting are stylized depictions of the perfect conversation away from the world. They hide in a surreal forest of privacy. I used the colors of passion and lust, hues of pink and purple with black ink to give the emotions shape and form.

To purchase this painting or for prints on paper or canvas, visit my gallery at
Kate Taylor’s Art

Watercolor and ink on paper, intelligence, sex, passion, relationships, bonding, purple, pink, mental connections, black, patterns, conversations
Black, red, yellow, white, with a touch of metallic green symbolize the stages of love and lust. The reds and yellows are the spark, the flame, and the burning fire. Black is for the void you fall into where nothing exists but the emotions of love, the fiery explosion of passionate feelings. White symbolizes that pure moment between love and lust where both are equal and time stops. The green is for the pastures that are always over the next turn in the hill because we are equally lustful and loving and constantly in search of the dream that is both. I made the background black because I wanted to show how nothing exists except the emotions when the outside world no longer has any hold over you.


acrylic on stretched canvas, red, black, yellow, white, physical attraction, love, lust, abstract impressionism, abstract, dramatic, relationships
DANCE OF LOVE AND LUST
acrylic on stretched canvas
9×12

Black, red, yellow, white, with a touch of metallic green symbolize the stages of love and lust. The reds and yellows are the spark, the flame, and the burning fire. Black is for the void you fall into where nothing exists but the emotions of love, the fiery explosion of passionate feelings. White symbolizes that pure moment between love and lust where both are equal and time stops. The green is for the pastures that are always over the next turn in the hill because we are equally lustful and loving and constantly in search of the dream that is both. I made the background black because I wanted to show how nothing exists except the emotions when the outside world no longer has any hold over you.

To purchase this painting or for prints on paper or canvas, visit my gallery at
Kate Taylor’s Art



acrylic on stretched canvas, red, black, yellow, white, physical attraction, love, lust, abstract impressionism, abstract, dramatic, relationships
LOVE MEETS LUST #1
5x7
acrylic on canvas panel


This is one of a series of small paintings with a similar palette exploring the emotions of love meeting lust. The black background provides a dramatic stage for the yellow, red, white, and cream colors. I wanted to show the soft approach, the cream in the coffee that is most introductions. And then the fiery white hot passionate embrace that explodes with red, yellow and orange flames of energy before it eases its way into the softer hues of love drawn from the same palette.
LOVE MEETS LUST #1
5×7
acrylic on canvas panel


This is one of a series of small paintings with a similar palette exploring the emotions of love meeting lust. The black background provides a dramatic stage for the yellow, red, white, and cream colors. I wanted to show the soft approach, the cream in the coffee that is most introductions. And then the fiery white hot passionate embrace that explodes with red, yellow and orange flames of energy before it eases its way into the softer hues of love drawn from the same palette.

To purchase this painting or for prints on paper or canvas, visit my gallery at
Kate Taylor’s Art

acrylic on canvas panel, red, yellow, orange, white, cream, black, swirls, lust, love, sex, passion
LOVE MEETS LUST #2
5x7
acrylic on canvas panel

This is one of a series of small paintings with a similar palette exploring the emotions of love meeting lust. The black background provides a dramatic stage for the yellow, red, white, and cream colors. I wanted to show the soft approach, the cream in the coffee that is most introductions. And then the fiery white hot passionate embrace that explodes with red, yellow and orange flames of energy before it eases its way into the softer hues of love drawn from the same palette.
acrylic on canvas panel, red, yellow, orange, white, cream, black, swirls, lust, love, sex, passion
LOVE MEETS LUST #2
5×7
acrylic on canvas panel

This is one of a series of small paintings with a similar palette exploring the emotions of love meeting lust. The black background provides a dramatic stage for the yellow, red, white, and cream colors. I wanted to show the soft approach, the cream in the coffee that is most introductions. And then the fiery white hot passionate embrace that explodes with red, yellow and orange flames of energy before it eases its way into the softer hues of love drawn from the same palette.



To purchase this painting or for prints on paper or canvas, visit my gallery at
Kate Taylor’s Art

acrylic on canvas panel, red, yellow, orange, white, cream, black, swirls, lust, love, sex, passion
LOVE MEETS LUST #3
5x7
acrylic on canvas panel


This is one of a series of small paintings with a similar palette exploring the emotions of love meeting lust. The black background provides a dramatic stage for the yellow, red, white, and cream colors. I wanted to show the soft approach, the cream in the coffee that is most introductions. And then the fiery white hot passionate embrace that explodes with red, yellow and orange flames of energy before it eases its way into the softer hues of love drawn from the same palette.
acrylic on canvas panel, red, yellow, orange, white, cream, black, swirls, lust, love, sex, passion
LOVE MEETS LUST #3
5×7
acrylic on canvas panel


This is one of a series of small paintings with a similar palette exploring the emotions of love meeting lust. The black background provides a dramatic stage for the yellow, red, white, and cream colors. I wanted to show the soft approach, the cream in the coffee that is most introductions. And then the fiery white hot passionate embrace that explodes with red, yellow and orange flames of energy before it eases its way into the softer hues of love drawn from the same palette.



To purchase this painting or for prints on paper or canvas, visit my gallery at
Kate Taylor’s Art


acrylic on canvas panel, red, yellow, orange, white, cream, black, swirls, lust, love, sex, passion
This is one of a series of small paintings with a similar palette exploring the emotions of love meeting lust. The black background provides a dramatic stage for the yellow, red, white, and cream colors. I wanted to show the soft approach, the cream in the coffee that is most introductions. And then the fiery white hot passionate embrace that explodes with red, yellow and orange flames of energy before it eases its way into the softer hues of love drawn from the same palette.
acrylic on canvas panel, red, yellow, orange, white, cream, black, swirls, lust, love, sex, passion
LOVE MEETS LUST #4
5×7
acrylic on canvas panel


This is one of a series of small paintings with a similar palette exploring the emotions of love meeting lust. The black background provides a dramatic stage for the yellow, red, white, and cream colors. I wanted to show the soft approach, the cream in the coffee that is most introductions. And then the fiery white hot passionate embrace that explodes with red, yellow and orange flames of energy before it eases its way into the softer hues of love drawn from the same palette.



To purchase this painting or for prints on paper or canvas, visit my gallery at
Kate Taylor’s Art


acrylic on canvas panel, red, yellow, orange, white, cream, black, swirls, lust, love, sex, passion

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

Keeper Of The Trees

Yewen, a monk from the Monastery of the Trees, is also the Keeper of the Tale, as his story is the one that follows a constant thread through all three books. He also changes the most from the first book to the last, as he transitions from Yewen the monk, to Yewen the man.

When we first met him he held the position of not only Scholar Monk, but also Keeper of the Trees. It was his responsibility to not only store knowledge to help future generations save the last of the forests, he also was required to share his knowledge with ten other monks. At no time was he allowed to include his opinion, state a preference, or deviate from the accepted teachings.

“He paused so he could draw it precisely from his memory; monks of his standing were not allowed to improvise when they spoke of material gleaned from written texts. “The more we separate ourselves from nature, the more we distance ourselves from our own growth,” he recited.

from “When The Last Tree Dies

His life began to change when he was taken prisoner by Dada Roach and left in a damp, dark dungeon to die. When he was near death he began to feel a connection with all those who suffered in the dungeon before him. He started to talk to spirits, and he imagined conversations with friends that went far deeper than any words they shared.

When Artemis’ music reached down from the great hall, it pulled Yewen back from the death he was convinced occurred. After his rescue from Dada Roach’s prison he realized he couldn’t go back to the life of Yewen the monk. He couldn’t return to a life of sterile objective facts. By the time he met Aquia in the second book, he already made the decision to not return to the monastery.

“Before I teach anyone else, I need to understand what I’m teaching. What good is it to describe a tree if you’ve never experienced one up close? That’s what I did. I described things without ever experiencing them. I need to live what I know so I can make it mine, so I can personalize it. Only then will I pass on something worth saving.”

from “When The Last River Dies

In the third book Yewen shapes the pieces of himself that will become Yewen the man. When Aquia gifted him with a flute and taught him how to play, he began to understand another neglected world lived inside himself. Through the visions and spiritual encounters, he starts on a path to greater understanding of not only himself, but of others as well.

“I never made something that came from me before, something that needed pieces of me to exist.” Even though he was schooled by Arman Peace, and he spent much of his life around artists and musicians, it was always as an observer, as a learner but never a participant. To create something, to draw an emotion from inside himself and then transform it into something non-verbal to share with others was to Yewen, before now, a form of magic. And now he was one of the magicians.

from “When The Last Ocean Dies”

Kate Taylor Books and Art Ursine Logic

Learning To Grieve

Grieving is an art, a demented performance piece demanding parts of yourself for that special touch of realism. I thought by now I might have developed some expertise as I’m reaching the point where I’ve outlived a great deal of those who wished me ill, and am unfortunately starting to accumulate losses of those who now take a piece of me with each death.

For some of the losses, there were others I loved as much. There were others who loved me. There were others who understood me. Many are still with me, still let me grieve in my own steady way of approaching all things emotional. They lack for nothing in their desire to help me through this time that turned out to be more painful than I ever imagined it would be. But there’s a large piece missing that Tina filled.

I knew Tina’s death would hit me hard. I anticipated the grief. I prepared for it the best I could. But what I didn’t prepare for was the realization that Tina was the only person I never had to explain anything to, because she was there for all of it since we were fourteen years old. In fifty-six years, no more than a month went by without some kind of contact between us. She knew everything about me. Absolutely everything. I never had to explain because she knew it all.

Now I find myself having to explain all those things that never needed an explanation, and by doing so it has forced me to look at them all over again with different eyes.

I saw how the smallest of things can impact a life, things that seemed so insignificant at the time were actually the seeds of life changing events. I grew into those smallest of seeds. I took them into myself and became me, decades later, but still me.

I saw how things that consumed me for days, weeks, years, actually meant little in the larger pattern of my life. I don’t want to say it was all a waste. I learned things, important things that made me who I am today.

I learned to love, to dance, to sing under a full moon with those who knew why I needed to do so. I learned what it meant to love so passionately the body’s skin and bones were barriers to overcome.

I learned to talk to others without fear, without the crippling shyness of my youth. I’m still not very good at it, but I’m getting better.

I learned to cry in front of others without shame. I learned to let others see, hear, and know what I really felt.

I learned if I eliminated toxic people from my life it left more room for the good ones.

I learned to see my ability to love, my compassion, my desire for a kinder world as strengths to speak of with pride instead of seeing them as weaknesses that required an apology.

I learned to care more to make up for those who care less.

I learned to say this is me, and not apologize.

All of this I learned. And now I learn one more lesson I thought I already knew. I am learning to grieve, because until Tina died I didn’t really understand what it meant. Now I do and my next lesson will take a great deal of time. I will have to learn how to live with it. But I will get there.

My personal website

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art

Ursine Logic

Tina moved on to her next adventure shortly before midnight on the night of the 6th. We’ve been friends since we were 14 years old.

it was not a good time

for a black girl

for a white girl

to walk together alone

on the street at night

men threw money at us

how much for you both

fuck you we shouted together

that’s all you get for your dirty money

fuck you and no more

and then we’d laugh

and run before

they ran down their lists

and checked off

whores, maids, the laundry ladies

are fucking each other

faded away from them

like screams of frustrated rage

ugly old boys

who shouted their lust

from their cars

we cut our fingers

mixed our blood together

we vowed to protect

each other forever

from men like them

from men like our fathers

we were the strength

our mothers lacked

we walked away together

and nothing they did

nothing they said

nothing they shouted

could change that

so they bellowed out their windows

fuck you you’re too ugly

we didn’t want you anyways

***************************

My personal website

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art

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

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Kate Taylor’s Art and Books

Stuck In Another Time

I’ll admit to experiencing a great deal of bewilderment over what is happening to Kristina’s brain right now. I know for the last few weeks she has focused solely on a period of time between age 14 and about mid 1975 or so. I always considered those the crap years of both our lives and I couldn’t understand why she wanted to relive them, complete with the cast of characters, half characters,weirdos, and oh my gawd, not high school too!

Today I received a fairly detailed explanation from her partner. Whatever else the tumor is doing, it will not let her memories or thoughts progress beyond 1975. Anything after that has ceased to exist. Her partner explained, along with links to various thickly written articles, that forms of this occur in elderly dementia/alzheimers patients quite often. The present no longer exists, but they remember entire swatches of time in great detail.

The most moving example of one way this works was the elderly dancer who didn’t recognize anyone anymore. The present no longer existed for her. She lived inside a world no one could enter. Until they played a piece of music. Suddenly she began to move her arms to it, to dance as she danced it on stage many years ago. The old woman disappeared and the young ballerina took over.

I suspect this is what is happening to Kristina. It is why she focuses so much on how we helped each other hide from our fathers, why she remembers people I barely knew in high school, but can’t remember the name of her partner of twenty years. Those were the years we were active in many political and social organizations. Only when I understood this did I also understand she is living in those times with me as if it were the present. Me and those barely remembered people are the most real thing in her life right now.

My heart breaks for this amazing woman with a mind that could entertain any subject, any topic, and who could research the most obscure reference and come up with its origins. Her mind was truly a wondrous thing to experience. To have it trapped so cruelly in those times makes it all the more horrible.

And yet, in my sadness there are many things that made me laugh with a type of oh my god she didn’t oh yes she did type laughter. One of those came when I went to look for an old email in the account we shared for our political blog. I noticed she had logged in and sent some emails. Considering the state of her brain, I thought it best to see who she wrote to and what she said in case she reverted back to some of our more…ahem…radical days.

She wrote to everyone I knew since junior high school, using contact information that remarkable brain was still able to glean from the internet. Research was her job for thirty years. It’s hardwired in her. She’s good at it. Too good.

Some I have kept in contact with, but not like that. Not detailed like that. And there was one giant misfire. She wrote them and sent them as me. For the last weeks I’ve been joking about the horror of receiving an email that says hi we went to high school together. And now some of these poor unsuspecting people did. A couple of them weren’t even people I knew. They were people she knew.

I’ve avoided sending anything to the list she made up for me of people I must contact to help her close the circle. She convinced herself it was essential and when she wants to convince you, her language becomes the stuff of ancient orators. She can speak from the mountain tops and it’s hard to say no. So I played along, wrote the emails but didn’t send them, edited things in and out to amuse her, confessed things I would never confess. It was fun, cathartic even. I only succumbed once and sent a poetry book that she insisted I send. I did because it was a harmless gift and since people buy a lot of them I figured maybe they’d enjoy it too. Out of nowhere but still harmless. But for the rest of them I’ve been finding excuses, debating whether it’s fair to lie and say yes I sent them. I heard from them. They were delighted to hear from me. I don’t want to lie to her. It would feel wrong. I think she knows this so she did it for me.

When someone has known you since you were 14 years old, you have no secrets from each other. This was made very clear when I read some of the emails. Yes, she knows me all too well. But also, there’s a part of her brain that blurs the line when it comes to what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. It became what is yours is also mine. She took pieces of my emails to her that were answers to questions she asked me about my high school years and the years that came after…up to 1975. I gave her some very honest answers. She wrote back with her honest answers. And then behold, pieces of mine and pieces of hers all ended up in the same email from me.

I cringe a bit. And I laugh a bit. And I changed the login information on that account. I was briefly tempted to write the ones she sent these emails to and try to explain, but after thinking about it, they might be a bit concerned to receive yet another very personal and detailed email from someone they haven’t seen in 50 years or in a couple cases, don’t even know. Fortunately, she only wrote to those whose names she remembered, whose names she recognized. I am very grateful she never made it to the 90’s, and just the idea of it made me delete all those old contacts I never ever want to accidently ever send anything to. Ever.

And I forgive her because I know a year from now I’ll look back on this and wish more than anything she was still here to do it all over again.

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Ursine Logic’s Books and Art

Do Not Speak The Pain Lest You Wake It In Others

My friend I’ve known for 56 years is dying. We both knew there was no cure, but now that she’s stopped treatment, the reality is no longer so far off, something to deal with later. Now it is soon. We are down to a matter of months. I draw some comfort from her acceptance, her calmness, the Buddhist faith that has sustained her since she was 14. I can’t think of her without also seeing the peacefulness of her being that drew me to her as a place of safety, and which eases my sorrow now in the face of her death. It helps. I want it to help. I cling to it.

And then there’s the artist. Being us, rather than sit back we seized this as an opportunity to do one last collaboration together. We did this during the 60’s to bring an end to war. We did this in the 70’s to help women see their own power. We did this in the 80’s when greed took the place of compassion in America. We did this in the 90’s when I worked for the refugee network and cried myself to sleep at night over the horror that humanity inflicts on itself.

Every step of the way she has been there, with her hope, her optimism, her faith that humanity was better than it knew, and all it needed was someone to say hey look here, look at this good person you are. Reach out to this one, hug that one, have a conversation that lasts hours with as many people as you can. Talk to each other. Learn from each other. Heal each other.

We’ve walked this path together for 56 years, and now we are coming to the end of the trail. I express my frustration to her that time moves so damn fast now. There’s so much left to do and not enough time. So we define our priorities. We can’t heal the entire world, but one person. Damn. That one person. We can start them healing themselves. Isn’t that how it starts? Isn’t that what it takes?

She has always been the better artist. She can draw and paint anything. I’m a sketcher. I draw it on a pad, scan it, turn it into something else. We’re both writers. We’re both geeky. And we both spent the better part of our 70 years learning to live with the pain of our childhoods as something outside ourselves, something that really wasn’t part of us anymore. We got over it. We got a life. We left it all behind.

But that was before, when we held back because others might be offended, annoyed, misunderstand our intentions, read something there that wasn’t there. Excuses. We had them. I had more than most because she’s lived most of her life out in the open, and I’ve spent most of mine staying in character.

Dying changes that. Knowing you’re dying changes it even more. She has always wanted to change the world, and now she wants to give it one last go. I sent her a line drawing, she added color to it. I added words. She added more words. In between we talked about our efforts to close the circle for her.

She’s much better at this than me. I told her this and her response was so typical. No, she said. You’re good at this. They buried their hurt so deep that we represent the shovel they never want to see again. But I’m dying so I can keep waving it around until they at least get curious enough to kick over some dirt.

And damn is she good with that shovel. She had me writing to people I haven’t seen since high school. I couldn’t imagine anything more horrible than getting an email saying hi we went to high school together.

It wasn’t a good memory for me. It never will be. And except for a select few in the world, most people feel that way about high school. They don’t want to be reminded. When I balked, she wrote the words for me. No one else could do that, but then no one else has lived those words with me. Have you sent it yet? No. Why not? I don’t want to bother people. Her amazing laugh was her only response. I started laughing with her as I always do.

I am like most people. I prefer to move on, to fix the stuff in the present and trust that the things and the people associated with the past are able to do the same. But she has always been someone who has this fascinating ability to break things down into patterns. She sees the world that way, as interconnected pieces that sometimes fit together easily, and others so crammed into misshaped spaces they’ll never fit properly. She connected the patterns for me so that it made sense to hit the send button on those emails.

I only told her no once. He was an awful person. There was no friendship to save because there was never one where he gave back. He was selfish. He cared nothing about others. Women were pretty things he bought and then discarded when another one came up for sale. I felt dirty being his friend. I felt drained by him and I don’t ever want to do that to myself again. She was there for those times. She knew I was right. He never made it to the list.

In the last couple weeks the cancer has spread to her brain. That and the medication she takes for pain makes her less than lucid at times, and at others she is very clear, very adamant, very much in control. I’ve learned to go with whatever one she is that day. I allow her to do and say things that no one else would get away with. I allow her to do her dying her way.

But it was and continues to be difficult for me. I do it because I love her and because she was there for me at some of the most awful times in my life. I do it because she’s dying. It seems an odd reason but if you’ve ever experienced the imminent death of someone you deeply love, you’ve had the conversations that went far beyond any you had while you were both living. It’s those conversations that make me agree to whatever she wants.

I do it because she is an amazing woman, and she is doing her dying the way she has always done everything, with a hand left out to help others. Her house was always open to those who needed a place to paint, a quiet place to replenish, and especially a place to talk to someone who cared about them, often more than they cared about themselves. Over the years she has developed a remarkable gift of letting others look into themselves and see only beautiful things. This is how it works.

Me: I can’t possibly write to that person. They won’t even remember me. I don’t want to bother people. That’s always my default. I don’t want to bother people.

Her: But what if they’re happy to hear from you? What if they can see past all the bullshit of society? What if they followed similar paths? Isn’t that worth it?

Me: Spends the next few hours getting to know the things in me that will make them happy to hear from me. It’s an interesting exercise. But it doesn’t make it easier.

Her: Hours later. Have you seen the amazing human you are? Do you finally see what I see?

Me: Yes. But that doesn’t mean they ever will because they don’t know how I got from there to here. All they know is then.

Her: Even more reason to contact them. Everything grows.

But as has been the nature of our friendship, she also saw my perspective that sometimes reaching out to the past is the same as ripping a bandage off it just as it began to heal. This is what she wrote to me when I said I didn’t want to rip open their wounds.

I know they hurt. We all hurt. Is it possible to go back in time and just fix the little things, the misunderstandings, the words that were never said. What if that fixes the foundation so the rest can heal?

She has this way of saying things in ways that make sense. That made sense to me. Fix the tiny breaks in the foundation so the house can stand on its own. So I let her search for those in my past. I let her suggest what to say. A couple of times I let her write the words herself and send the email as me. I have that kind of trust in her, that kind of faith in her wisdom.

And so we spend her final days doing art together. We call the project Healing The Wounded Child. The image above is the first one. It is mostly mine. She wanted it that way. Creating now is hard for her. So I make the lines for her to add color to, same as I always have in everything. Now she does it with art. She’s had to let go of the meticulous, careful, exact artist and just color in and out of the lines. Maybe that is my gift to her on the way to her next destination, to just put it out there and let it be.

When I told her how sad I was and how I didn’t want her to die, she gave me that amazing laugh. Die? Miss me? People die when you forget them. You’ll never forget me so I’ll never die.

She’s absolutely right. About everything.

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Ursinelogic’s Books and Art