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

Stretching The Boundaries

My art, like my books, tended towards the political. I focused on the external world and topics that affected us as human beings, issues like global warming, climate change, pro-choice, separation of church and state. I tended to create both my words and my art realistically, with little emotion or personal interference.

I felt this gave it the rawness I wanted to inspire a reaction in the readers and the viewers, because if it didn’t inspire a reaction then nothing would change. We would rot away in our complacency happily unaware of civilization collapsing around us under the weight of greed, corruption, and religious fanaticism.

While I was working on the third book in the series, When The Last Ocean Dies, a novel that explored the changes and growth that took place in war, in traumatic situations, and as a result of visionary experiences, I began to explore the concept of patterns both within us and in the external world. I started to understand what I always assumed was habitual behavior was actually a falling into something that was already there.

The many wars, the plagues, the times of great creativity and the times of intellectual exploration were more than behaviors of specific individuals. They were part of waves that followed timelines. These periods of time ebbed and flowed, changed shape, died back and then grew once more.

I saw if I charted events on a timeline, patterns began to emerge. When I applied that same timeline to humans and spiritual growth, yet another pattern emerged, often alongside an existing one. The patterns grew from each other and into the next pattern.

The separations weren’t as clear as the continuity that gave form to the new ones. But I began to see shapes and forms in a different light. They were more than lines and squares and rectangles. They were pieces of a larger whole that connected.

After a conversation with an abstract painter, I decided to explore those patterns in my art. It was very different than anything I’ve done. It was a new way of looking at the familiar and finding the shapes, the designs, the patterns of color and form that I saw. I created the idea of something instead of the actual thing. I created the shape of something to give it form. The more I did this, the more the patterns began to emerge.

This is an exploration that is in the beginning stages for me. It’s part of my promise to stretch my boundaries in the coming year, to examine different approaches to the familiar. I suspect this will be a continuing exploration in both my writing and in my art.

I know there are many new ways of looking at things to gather from such explorations, and in time they will make themselves known just as the patterns made themselves known. Some examples of my new way of looking at the world are now up in an online gallery at Fine Art America. You can view it here.

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

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

The Demons Will Have Their Say

Today as I plotted out a design, I found myself thinking about my fellow creatives. It often happens when I’m intently focused on something. There’s a gate that opens and in walk the demons to have their say. It’s not anything like letting my guard down. It’s more like leaving the door ajar knowing they’re out there.

Today the demons told me those I allowed to get the closest to me, those who managed the difficult, mined trek to my heart all shared one thing with me and with each other. We have more than a passing acquaintance with demons. It’s a more artistic way of saying we’re more than a little bit crazy.

But as one of my more possessed fellow creatives told me, we’re friends because our demons play well together. At first I thought he meant us, the me and him, together, outside himself. But then I understood he meant our individual demons, the ones inside us. We come with our own population.

We can’t tame them, he told me, because then we couldn’t create. The demons also must remain semi-feral or they become a detriment instead of a benefit. He was absolutely right. The moments when you’re deep into your art is very much a fugue state. It’s just you and the demons having their say.

There were times in my life when I was so focused on writing or drawing that I didn’t hear anything around me. People, music, phones, the everyday activity of life. None of it was there anymore. But what was inside me wanting to come out was startling and demanding in its clarity. It shouted above everything else. It took over.

I suspect such states are why creatives are often labeled bipolar, schizophrenic, or any other convenient excuses to explain why society forces creative people to split in two in order to live and to create.

I’m not saying these labels were inaccurate for some. I knew at least two, maybe three creatives whose need to create was driven by really dark forces inside themselves. It was either let them out on the canvas or get devoured by them a piece at a time until there was nothing left to sustain that resembled a whole person.

The thing about art is that it’s about as close to truth you can get. What you see on that canvas, on that wall, in that music, in those words, that’s a truth most people never experience. They don’t know what it’s like to come out of that fugue state and see yourself nakedly exposed. It’s bound to make anyone a little bit crazy.

"The demons backed down at the honesty that came from him, because it meant they could no longer torment him with the truth." from When The Last Ocean Dies

Kate Taylor's 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

The World Of Ideas

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt

One of the most interesting responses from those who read my latest book, “When the Last Ocean Dies,” came from a man in northern California. You write books for thinkers. Of all the nice things people wrote to me over the last couple years, this one intrigued me for several reasons. First, because he understood the pleasure that came from the exchange of ideas.

And second because I wrote about the alienation of thinkers in my novel. The character Aquia lives in the world of musicians where language is based on sounds instead of words. And yet, he also lives in the world of the mind, a place that grows increasingly more lonely. The more complex his ideas become, the more alienated he begins to feel.

“Being different is a challenge because the more ideas you have, the more dreams you dare to voice, the deeper you dig inside yourself for truth, the more you distance yourself from most people. Your world grows smaller with each realization, with each insight. Every bit of awareness sets you apart from yet another circle. After a while, you start to ask yourself why does it matter that we have a sky if only you can see it?”

quote from When The Last Ocean Dies

Sometime in the last few decades we became a culture more enamored with things than ideas, and the world of the mind, the world of those who thought and shared those thoughts with others grew even smaller. It was a character defect to think too much. It was a waste of valuable time to talk about intangible things like ideas.

But a culture unable to address the complex issues of its inner civilization begins to stagnate from the inside. It begins to rot away and sink into the easy comfort of light conversation and meaningless gossip. Or it becomes a raging inferno of personal opinion ready to spew and overwhelm. In between there’s the safe dialogue bridge to cross into the acceptable ways to exchange ideas realm.

For example, you can talk about sports, you can discuss the history of sports, but if you talk about wanting to examine the need for sports, the herd begins to back away. And if you want to speculate on the metaphysical meaning of the word sports, you will be left talking to the wall.

That is how a culture of things over ideas grows. That is how the media meant to inform and challenge became a shrieking hysteric that spewed rumors, conspiracy theories, and gossip. It’s what sells, they told us. It’s hard to disagree when the consumer lapped up their crap and headed to the mall to accumulate even more things they didn’t need.

The discussion of ideas leads to a greater sense of awareness, a deeper understanding of self and others. This exchange of thoughts, of different views on diverse subjects creates not only an awareness but a tolerance, an acceptance, an understanding of others. And that is the problem.

The thinkers are impossible to control. They don’t fit inside society’s neat little compartments. Many times they make their own. They are also impossible to herd into one ideology, are unable to follow leaders, see no reason to believe in limited spirituality, and are unwilling to accept there’s only one way of looking at the many different truths.

Maybe that is the reason billions of dollars were spent over decades for the sole purpose of demonizing intellect. The thinkers were beginning to see through the bullshit. That was the threat that had to be stopped. But anytime a society, a culture, a group presses too far on one end, the other end begins to rise higher.

The anti-intellectualism movement will have its backlash moment because everything evens out eventually. Those who read my books seem convinced the mind will once again gain value, that things will lose their importance and the world of thinkers will change us and the world for the better. And because they understand my ideas, I am inclined to believe them.

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

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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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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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