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

Stretching Boundaries

I read once that productivity for creatives increases in their 60’s and 70’s. Of course it does. You always get that extra energetic push when the clock is running out. But that’s only a small part of the story. By the time you reach that age you’ve built up a lot of material, and not only that, but a healthy dose of perspective that allows you to move from one project to the next without getting stuck in any. It’s a lot like being a toddler let loose in a room full of toys and no adult supervision, but with the added bonus of a whole lot more information.

But the most important thing creatives have is the ability to adapt. Most painters I know also draw, work with clay, stone, wood. Some write poetry. Others make music. It’s the same with many musicians. They can move from instrument to instrument, not necessarily with perfection, but that’s not the point. What most creatives excel at is the ability to adapt. Run out of one thing? Something else will work. Tired of working on this. There’s always that.

The mistake a lot of social engineers make is perpetuating the myth that only the strong survive. It’s those who are able to adapt who will survive. It’s those who can entertain more than one idea at a time. It’s those who look at a blank canvas, sheet of paper, computer screen and they see something that wasn’t put in their head by someone else.

I’ve spent most of my life around creatives, and in spite of the despair, the depression, the poverty and constant threat of rejection that causes many to turn to drugs and alcohol, they still remain, for the most part remarkably resilient. I am convinced it’s all that creative energy sparking everything to keep firing. Yes, the abuse will eventually take its toll, but it seems to take its time if there’s a multitude of projects to complete and the ability to adapt to the pull of each one.

Those of us who survived did so because we learned to adapt. It’s always been that way, hasn’t it? Those who adapt are the ones who survive.” from When The Last Ocean Dies

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

The Healing Power of Music and Love

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

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

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

from When The Last River Dies

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

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

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

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

from When The Last River Dies

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

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

from When The Last Ocean Dies


Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

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

Blood On The Canvas

The character who draws the most questions is Artemis. I get asked if I based him on someone I knew, and while writing about real people is never a good idea, this is a yes and no answer.

Artemis is the type of man I was often drawn to in my younger days. Moody, highly creative, immensely talented, and possessed of an intelligence far beyond that of the herd. Like Artemis, many were social misfits who never really fit in anywhere. Their only salvation was their art, their music, their ability to write about the traumas in their souls.

So yes, there are some points of truth in my creation of the character. Artemis is not anyone in particular. He is not one man I knew, but many. But he is also my most archetypal character. He is the moody, dark prince haunted by demons from horrific events in his past. He is the withdrawn, alienated child who found a voice through music, art, and literature. He is every man who drew me to him by living with his shadows exposed.

And that’s what I suspect drew readers to him, especially the creatives.They knew his demons personally. They played music with them. They painted them. They wrote them. And they knew deep down inside every one of them were all self-portraits. That was their blood on the canvas, their tears that fell with the notes, their agony on the page.

But for those who knew what it was like to support an art, the duality of self became second nature. There was the artist, and then there was the person who was someone else to support that art. They lived this double self and they saw this duality in Artemis.

But the creatives also understood the double bind he caught himself in with his art. He could not leave himself out of it. He could not set aside what he felt when his fingers touched those strings. On the surface he was the talented harpist who drew his listeners to him so completely, he was like a hungry spider stocking his web. But what was also revealed was the inner world that caused his blood to mingle with the music. It exposed him, as their art exposed them. They knew what it was like to be stripped bare of all protective covers.

The blood he spilled of himself and others made him the man who brought his audiences to tears with his music. Creatives understood without the demons, without the darkness of the past, without the inner trauma, anything that came from them and from Artemis would be one dimensional. So they bled as Artemis bled and by doing so they shined a light on themselves for others to see. His honesty became his only real protection against the demons, just as their art served the same purpose for them.

Artemis looked at her with something between a warning and indifference, and she sensed he no longer was Artemis the harpist, but someone different, someone more feral, more lethal. He reminded her of the panther in a painting she rescued from a burned out building. He seemed even more lean, hard and wiry, more wild than tamed. His long black hair pulled back from his face and tied in a tail gave him the look of a mythical creature.”

from WHEN THE LAST OCEAN DIES

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

Today’s Ear Worm

All Along the Watchtower

WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN

There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief

There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief

Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth

None of them along the line know what any of it is worth

No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke

There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke

But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate

So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view

While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too

Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl

Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl

Copyright

© 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music

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Ursine Logic’s Books and Art