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

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

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

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