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 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

Writing During A Pandemic

People often ask me if I based the character of Dada Roach on trump. I didn’t. I began writing WHEN THE LAST TREE DIES in early Spring of 2016. He was still the joke candidate then, the buffoon few took seriously. No one saw the hands in the background who greased up the strings, the greedy bottom feeders who knew an ignorant, narcissistic baby-man was the perfect tool for all their schemes.

These same puppet masters knew he embraced the racism that was an ugly secret America tried to hide from the world, the sickness they pretended wasn’t as bad as it was, the ugliness they thought was easily covered up with a few nips and tucks here and there. They were experts on how to use it to stay in power. They spent decades dividing the country from itself, creating us and them realities that benefited the privileged and the wealthy. They loved his racism because they often shared it themselves.

But more than anything, they saw his corruption, his mind-boggling stupidity, his cruelty and inability to feel empathy were the perfect distractions to cover up a multitude of their own crimes. They crawled from their Wall Street sewers, their oil-drenched bunkers, their hate-spewing churches, their gated cesspools of exclusion and dragged their totally inept puppet into the office of the presidency.

It’s a mistake to think there was an ideology behind their manipulations, that some inner fervor drove their perverse actions, or some patriotic fever propelled their outright disdain and destruction of democratic principles. The manipulators were motivated by only one thing: greed.

It drove them as nothing else drove them. It covered up their insecurities, their lack of awareness, their minimal gentleman C educations, their ugly, empty souls. Among them were a greater percentage of child molesters, racists, misogynists, and sociopaths, because as long as they could make money off each other, they looked away from the things that turned a normal person’s stomach.

But the important thing to realize, and what I wrote about in my first book, was that none of what they did, none of the enabling of an incompetent, useless bag of flesh they let loose to inflict so much damage on the world, was new. They weren’t the first to install an incompetent puppet as their plaything. They weren’t the only ones who stole from the poor to give to the rich. All tyrants are funded by the greedy.

History is full of such despots and their enablers who seized the opportunity for their own gain. trump and Dada Roach are one and the same in the sense that all tyrants are the same. They are all insecure, psychotic, narcissistic despots who surround themselves with sycophantic butt lickers. Dada Roach is an ugly archetype based on all the ugliness that came before him. So is trump. So are his enablers. So are those who own people like that because all tyrants have hidden masters. It’s the ugly truth they deny to themselves until the moment they are publicly hanged as their masters leave town under the cover of their demise.

The tyrants and events that create them don’t change, but the world I began writing the first book in did change. The mindless obedience to grifting preachers who co-opted religion to make themselves rich was coming out in the open. The opulence of their lives sprawled across social media and exposed the mansions built by those who struggled to survive.

It revealed the congregations who reached into their pockets not for salvation, but to feed greedy, obscenely wealthy preachers who convinced them from their tax-free megachurches that buying them mansions and private jets was the one true path to wealth. Greed became the new god and the desperate developed a powerful hunger for it.

The ugly god in my novel was based on the one religious cult leaders use to keep the more gullible of their congregation in line. Like their god, mine was not a holy man who preached love, compassion, and peace. He was a soulless, ugly manifestation of the emptiness inside those who needed a symbol to manipulate the cultists. He was cruel, controlling, and terrifying.

Like my god, their god was only a tool to inflict hate and divide the country from itself. Their god had enemies, harsh wrongs, and conditional rights. Their god picked the pockets of the stupid and the gullible so the rich could become richer. There was very little difference between Preacher Billy and Dada Roach, just as there was very little difference between them and what passed for preachers in this country. They were all the same kind of grifter, whether it’s your soul they picked or your pocket.

Underlying this spiritual ugliness was a vile racism that needed only a quick prodding from professional haters to ooze out from under the rock where it lay since it lost the Civil War. But it was no surprise it did. After all, America was the only country that embraced the symbols of the defeated, the Confederate and Nazi flags. Other countries realized the danger of letting images of the conquered fester in sight of the losers. They put them in museums like the relics they were.

Underlying the damage done by the tyrants and religious cults, is the damage inflicted on our environment. We are killing ourselves and the planet with pollution, with dirty water, and poisoned food. The unwillingness to acknowledge climate change and global warming are common threads woven through all my books. Denying or ignoring them will not make the problems go away. It will only accelerate the damage done to us and the planet.

And it was only a matter of time before the neglect of these issues met up with a virus that didn’t care about politics, race, economic status, or party affiliation. It was the perfect storm of greed, hate, and indifference meeting in one self-inflicted catastrophic event.

But this time, something happened to change the predictable path. The tyrants no longer led. The people quarantined in their homes with time to think, to pay attention, to share ideas and dreams with each other all over the world. They discovered their power and it helped them confront the ineptitude, the indifference of their leaders.

This is also a process that began to take place in my second book, WHEN THE LAST RIVER DIES. I wrote about the tools of recovery, specifically the use of music and love to heal the deep wounds of the devastated world the survivors inhabited. I wrote how they shared their songs to gain a sense of self and place, to reserve a place inside the history of a world that no longer resembled the one they once knew.

I saw this sharing come to life during the quarantine. Music, stories, art, dance, creativity, love and a sense of belonging began as a wave shared from homes all around the planet. The world began to experience so much together that was the same instead of different. The divisions became more apparent, more absurd, more unwanted, more unnecessary. The world came together and shared one common experience. There is no going back from that place. Everything that happens now and in the future will grow from that one shared moment in time.

That’s why, as I write the third and final book in my trilogy, WHEN THE LAST OCEAN DIES, I am much more aware of the time in which I write my words. The first two books were things I saw, fears I had, dreams I wanted to believe. I thought often I was alone in those things, that the world I saw was not dying, that hate was not consuming humanity, that we weren’t destroying each other for corporate masters who saw us as nothing more than tools to enrich their bank accounts. But I was right. The words I wrote were much more true than I ever anticipated.

That’s why I pay much more attention to what I’m writing now. It’s not just a fictional account of fantasies in my head. It is a piece of what will become a history of these times. It may never be a huge piece of it, but individual threads are still vital pieces of the tapestry. I am one of those threads and what I have to say, what I see of the world now, what I experience is also the story of my characters.

I was halfway through the book when the pandemic hit. I was writing about the difficulty my characters faced in finally accepting the world they once knew was gone forever. I remember how I struggled to explain what they felt when they finally accepted there was no normal to return to, when they accepted there was no back to come home to. I have been rewriting that section because now I know exactly how they felt. And because I want history to know how I felt during this time, what compelled me to write what I did, what I saw, what we all lived through together.

One day we will come out on the other side. But eventually we will understand as my characters come to understand, the other side is just that, the other side. Those who can adapt will survive. Those who can’t will be like the statues coming down all over the world. They’ll be left alone in pieces no one can put together again, because the paradigm shifted and they were unable to change with it.

Kate Taylor’s Amazon Author Page

Why Nature Matters

Life moves at a slow pace where I live. There’s a lot of places to walk, to sit and contemplate, to be alone with just the sound of the waves against the shore. I’ve spent a great deal of my life living in such places. I sought them out. I made them part of the essentials I needed in order to live somewhere. I had to be within walking distance of a park, a lake, a river, an ocean. I needed trees, lots of trees, even if they were dry, shrubby water-starved sticks in the desert. They still spoke to me in their language. I still let them fill the empty spaces inside me.
Where I live now is the smallest, least populated place I’ve lived. I’ve noticed in the blissful years I’ve lived here that something is opening in me, a new introspection that comes partly with age, from that sense of having survived all the minor stuff that’s no longer worth wasting sleep over, and partly something else.
That something else is a closer relationship with nature. I’m retired. I have the kind of time I did as a child to just walk around, splash in the water, walk through a pile of freshly fallen leaves, and just sit and think about everything and nothing.
I often stand outside and gaze in wonder at the diversity of trees planted by my landlord. There’s everything from blue spruce to a giant sequoia. There’s fruit and nut trees. There’s trees with pretty leaves in the spring, summer, and fall, and stark, dramatic shapes in the winter. This is a land planted by a man who loves trees, and I am the recipient of the fruits he so lovingly planted.
But it’s the silence that makes my communication with these trees special. It allows me to hear them, to trace them inside me where they influence my thoughts, my emotions, my dreams. I wrote my novel in the shade of their summer and the beauty of their winter. They make me whole.
I’m going to repeat that. They make me whole. I repeat it because humanity lost that wholeness in the last few decades. Humanity lost its connection with nature and so it lost its wholeness. And an empty population is a miserable population.
That misery creates polarized times that demand sides must be taken in everything. It creates people who get up in the morning and choose which side to take that day. It demands a society where every person, idea, injury, slight, or petulant tantrum is examined for either allegiance or betrayal. It creates a society of us and them instead of we and one.
This is a sickness caused by losing the connection with nature. The frenzy and noise of even a few minutes in an urban environment is more than enough to break the purity of the connection. The degradation of this connection infects people by making things that were once cherished and valued, become cheap and meaningless. The simplicity of love, of friendship, of companionship becomes diminished because simplicity itself becomes diminished.
It creates a dependence on things instead of people. The constant storms, fires, and disasters caused by the abuse of our planet creates a fear of nature. It turns nature into something to conquer and exploit.
The sad thing is, when people do this, they further distance ourselves from the very thing they need to heal, the simple thing that is so complex, so hard to attain. They get lost in the noise to the point where they allow themselves to remain in a constant state of war and anxiety with not only each other, but also with their own selves. There is no contemplative silence to feed them.
So they strike out. They blame. They accuse. They find reasons for their misery that have nothing to do with them. They push everything outside themselves. They run from meaningful friendships, from loving relationships, from kindness, from altruism, from compassion. They embrace emptiness because there’s nothing left inside that feeds them. Everything takes from them. Everything makes the hole inside them deeper.
That is why, now, more than ever, we need those quiet places where we can just sit in the presence of majestic trees, and gaze upon awe-inspiring mountains, drink in amazingly blue, green, and turquoise water. We need to just sit and listen and let nature fill the emptiness. If we don’t, then we will destroy each other with our hunger.

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Ursine Logic’s Books and Art