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

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 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

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 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

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

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