Companion Visions

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

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

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

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

from When The Last Ocean Dies

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

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

from When The Last Ocean Dies

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

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

from When The Last Ocean Dies

Books and Art by Kate Taylor Ursine Logic

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

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