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

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

Learning To Grieve

Grieving is an art, a demented performance piece demanding parts of yourself for that special touch of realism. I thought by now I might have developed some expertise as I’m reaching the point where I’ve outlived a great deal of those who wished me ill, and am unfortunately starting to accumulate losses of those who now take a piece of me with each death.

For some of the losses, there were others I loved as much. There were others who loved me. There were others who understood me. Many are still with me, still let me grieve in my own steady way of approaching all things emotional. They lack for nothing in their desire to help me through this time that turned out to be more painful than I ever imagined it would be. But there’s a large piece missing that Tina filled.

I knew Tina’s death would hit me hard. I anticipated the grief. I prepared for it the best I could. But what I didn’t prepare for was the realization that Tina was the only person I never had to explain anything to, because she was there for all of it since we were fourteen years old. In fifty-six years, no more than a month went by without some kind of contact between us. She knew everything about me. Absolutely everything. I never had to explain because she knew it all.

Now I find myself having to explain all those things that never needed an explanation, and by doing so it has forced me to look at them all over again with different eyes.

I saw how the smallest of things can impact a life, things that seemed so insignificant at the time were actually the seeds of life changing events. I grew into those smallest of seeds. I took them into myself and became me, decades later, but still me.

I saw how things that consumed me for days, weeks, years, actually meant little in the larger pattern of my life. I don’t want to say it was all a waste. I learned things, important things that made me who I am today.

I learned to love, to dance, to sing under a full moon with those who knew why I needed to do so. I learned what it meant to love so passionately the body’s skin and bones were barriers to overcome.

I learned to talk to others without fear, without the crippling shyness of my youth. I’m still not very good at it, but I’m getting better.

I learned to cry in front of others without shame. I learned to let others see, hear, and know what I really felt.

I learned if I eliminated toxic people from my life it left more room for the good ones.

I learned to see my ability to love, my compassion, my desire for a kinder world as strengths to speak of with pride instead of seeing them as weaknesses that required an apology.

I learned to care more to make up for those who care less.

I learned to say this is me, and not apologize.

All of this I learned. And now I learn one more lesson I thought I already knew. I am learning to grieve, because until Tina died I didn’t really understand what it meant. Now I do and my next lesson will take a great deal of time. I will have to learn how to live with it. But I will get there.

My personal website

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art

Ursine Logic

When a loved one goes missing there are few resources to help you find them.

In the weeks before Tina died, she became obsessed with what she called “closing the circle.” During our high school years she read about a ritual that enclosed loved ones in a protective circle. I remember how she got me to go along with her idea that not only did I need protecting from the horrors of life, but so did my small group of high school friends. None of you are strong enough to fight on your own, she told me, and she was right.

I was bewildered by all of it then because even now I can’t remember how we ended up as a group that she thought needed protecting. Individually yes, but a group? I didn’t think of us that way, but we were, because we were all odd kids. We were artists, actors, musicians, poets. That made us stand out in a high school that was made up of the lower end of the working class and going through a period of violence, race riots, and the constant turmoil of the mid to late 1960’s.

There was no protection from that. Nor from the rampant use of hard drugs like heroin and pills. Poverty burns out the soul and sometimes survival meant blotting out the feelings enough to make it to the next day. There was no help for those who struggled with just living.

By the time I was a senior in high school I knew three people who overdosed on heroin. I knew at least half a dozen girls who dropped out because they were pregnant. I knew two who died from botched do-it-yourself abortions. I knew several who committed suicide. By the time we were seniors, many of us spent at least one night in jail, or the underage equivalent, Juvie, because they didn’t know what else to do with us. Those were the social services available.

A lot of us were poor. A lot of us came from dysfunctional families. A lot of us would never finish high school. We contributed far too many of our graduating class to Vietnam where they died. For those of us who were strong, who could fight back, who had resources to help us, we got out. But that out was often a small step forward, and one shift of the wind could send us backward, deeper into the hole we tried to crawl out from.

Our little group found strength and solace in creativity. We drew and painted our pain. We sang our despair. We wrote poems about things we wanted but never believed we could have, like love, stability, a roof over our heads, a family that didn’t abuse us, abandon us, or put conditions on their love for us. We weren’t typical teenagers. We were in too much emotional pain to ever be typical.

So I joined Tina then in drawing a protective circle around us. And yes, it kept us alive and protected in high school, but it did nothing to heal the wounds in our souls. Nothing was strong enough for that. We were on our own. And the struggle to survive met the indifference and cruelty of life in America. Not all of us were able to push our way through the walls erected in our path simply because we grew up poor, sensitive, abused, and alone.

The times then were much different as far as getting help for things like addiction, mental illness, and depression. The groups that existed all emphasized getting strong enough to fight your demons, as if we were all blessed with hidden reserves of that magical strength.

Or to rely on Jesus who seemed to be pretty much an indifferent bystander to our fates. As one of my friends was fond of saying he gets off on seeing people suffer so he can then praise them for enduring their suffering. And it gave “society” an excuse to turn the other cheek. Let god help them. God helps those who help themselves. Ask your church for help.

There was no help for the creative souls who didn’t know how to function in a world where they had to speak instead of draw, or paint, or dance, or compose music. It was assumed we’d grow up and set aside our creativity in order to make it in the “real world.” It was like expecting us to go through life with one hand tied behind our backs.

Those of us who were strong enough to crawl away managed to live a life just above the poverty level to continue creating. Our jobs supported our arts. And no matter how hard we pushed, no matter how much we believed in ourselves, our talents, our needs to express ourselves in various socially unacceptable ways, we had to crawl along with the past wrapped around our ankles. Not all of us were strong enough.

Those of you who have been following this blog know how Tina and I reached out to our small little groups of weirdos over 50 years later. I did it to honor a promise I made to help her close the circle she drew around us. She insisted to the day she died that it was important for me to go back to that time, to look at it again, to see what I missed, to try and fix something I probably didn’t even know needed fixing.

And I did. And I ended up in a heart-wrenching dead end. One of our little group went missing in 1979. It is very likely he spent much of it homeless or addicted or institutionalized. It is also likely he just chose to disappear and none of these realities are true for him. Sometimes you have to walk away from everyone and everything to heal the trauma. I did and so I don’t find it unlikely that he did as well.

But the problem in this supposedly richest country in the world became apparent when I tried to find him. As late as 2013 I was able to help someone find a lost relative through a service that was offered by social security. You could put a note for a loved one in a sealed envelope with their name and social security number on the outside. If the person was getting any kind of benefits, they would forward it to the last known address. They no longer do that. It wasn’t “cost effective.”

Another resource was the Salvation Army. They rightly assumed anyone needing food, a bed for the night, emergency medical care would pass through one of their portals. So they have a form you can fill out and they will search for the person, offer them the chance to reconnect, and honor their request if they choose to stay missing. It was free. Now it costs 50 dollars to fill out the form and have them search their records.

If you try to find someone using the internet, you will find all kinds of places who want money to help you search. I’ve never used these sites but those who have, warned me the information is often outdated, wrong, or simply a scam to take money from desperate people. You can also hire a private detective.

So yes, in America if you’re poor and end up on the street, you better hope those who care about you have deep pockets, because there is little or no help if they try to find you to offer help, love, hope, a bed for the night. And if you need mental health services, there are even less options. You’re not worth the effort. If you are homeless, you are considered trash messing up the neighborhood. If you are addicted it’s your fault, your problem, your burden to deal with. We are a shameful, disgusting country to treat fellow human beings in such a way.

My missing friend is 70 years old. Imagine trying to survive alone when your body is achy, tired, unable to support you anymore. Imagine trying to survive when you’ve spent a lifetime trying to fight back the demons on your own. Imagine living without hugs, without love, without knowing there’s someone who cares whether you live or die. Imagine being so incredibly talented as an artist, so sweet a soul, so lost in the world and no one cares.

That’s why I will continue to look, to try and find resources I can afford to help me look. No one deserves to be cast out as forgotten trash. And none of us can call ourselves a human being if we turn away and pretend we can’t see the despair all around us.

I’ve heard so many say they suffer from helper burnout, that there’s only so much they can do. I know families who have given up looking for their loved ones because of the cost, the emotional draining, the feeling of helplessness. While it’s true some don’t want to be found, and it’s also true some families should never be reunited, it’s also true that nothing in this country makes it easy to at least try to find and help those who have been abandoned by society.

Bring back the option to send a note through Social Security. Set up a free national databank of homeless and those looking for them so every shelter can provide access to it. Do something about the damn homeless problem in this country. It’s a national shame, an embarrassment, a stain on our humanity.

Find ways to help people without humiliating them, and yes, forcing them to mouth the words of the helper’s religion is humiliation. Stop passing barbaric laws like the ones that forbid you to feed the homeless. What the hell is wrong with people to come up with such a cruel law? Shame on you!

Provide a minimal shelter for those living on the street. There are many options for tiny homes, tent villages, and space to stay and feel safe. This is not an expensive proposition beyond the reach of many communities.

We have an obligation to help our fellow human beings, no matter how we justify saying it’s not our problem. It IS our problem. It is OUR problem. It is the ultimate test of our humanity whether we care about other people the way we care about ourselves. Too many of us fail at that and we should suffer the shame of failing in such a way.

It is my sincere hope that none of you ever have to experience the despair of trying to find someone society has thrown away. It’s a heartbreaking, exhausting experience. I’ve done it a couple times now. We must be better than this. These are human beings who were once loved and cherished. And now they are alone, desperate, sick, ill, and they know few care what happens to them.

I care and I will continue to care. It’s my job as a human being. I hope most of you will make it yours. It’s the only way we can close the openings in that protective circle my friend drew so long ago so none of us fall out and get forgotten.

My personal website

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art

Tina moved on to her next adventure shortly before midnight on the night of the 6th. We’ve been friends since we were 14 years old.

it was not a good time

for a black girl

for a white girl

to walk together alone

on the street at night

men threw money at us

how much for you both

fuck you we shouted together

that’s all you get for your dirty money

fuck you and no more

and then we’d laugh

and run before

they ran down their lists

and checked off

whores, maids, the laundry ladies

are fucking each other

faded away from them

like screams of frustrated rage

ugly old boys

who shouted their lust

from their cars

we cut our fingers

mixed our blood together

we vowed to protect

each other forever

from men like them

from men like our fathers

we were the strength

our mothers lacked

we walked away together

and nothing they did

nothing they said

nothing they shouted

could change that

so they bellowed out their windows

fuck you you’re too ugly

we didn’t want you anyways

***************************

My personal website

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art

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.

My personal website

Ursine Logic’s Books and Art

This Arc Of Time

I was fourteen when I met Kristina. I lived with two dancers who retired from the ballet and moved to Las Vegas. I was their live in babysitter. They were young, in their mid-20’s, beautiful, in exquisite shape, and determined to make a living with bodies that were considered too old for the grueling regime of professional dancing. They instead, danced on the strip. Nude. Wearing only strategically placed pearls.

One night, one of their friends helped sneak me in to watch their show from the shadows as I was much too young to be anywhere near a casino. They turned me over to a girl I remembered from school. Her mother worked in the wardrobe room and we hid under a pile of giant ostrich head dresses taller than we were and watched enthralled. It was the most beautiful performance I ever saw. Yes, they were nude, but all the controversial bits were covered up so what was left were two exquisite human beings dancing as if they were the only two people left on earth. I always think of them when I dance alone like I’m the only person left on earth.

For the next year when I wasn’t in school or helping my dancers care for their young daughter, I spent it with Kristina helping repair costumes her mother brought home. Her brother lived with a dancer and we often met at her apartment in the same complex. It was tedious work, but enchanting to a young girl who never imagined work clothes as sequins, pearls, tiny bits of material all elegantly stitched into a costume. I was never the princess type, but I held magic in my hand with all those beautiful pieces of sparkly things. I saw everything differently then because you can’t hold magic in your hand and see the world the same.

I was a painfully shy kid. I still have trouble with that. I have accepted that it’s a lifetime thing. I learned if I tell people upfront that I have a “problem” with shyness, they will help me out by talking, asking me questions, or letting me sit quietly until I feel comfortable enough to join in. People are mostly kind. And they understand what it means to be shy. Kristina was the complete opposite. She was outgoing and everyone she met was a potential friend. When I met her my friends were all in books. She changed that when she became my first real friend. It turned into a lifetime bond.

Recently, during one of our long email exchanges that writers often get into with each other, I realized she was the only person who knew me in all the transitional phases of my life. She was my support, my ear, the one person who understood why I cried so hard when my dancers got a job in Europe and I couldn’t go with them. I remember how she hugged me and told me it was going to be okay, that she would help me survive going back home. Neither of us believed it, but we said the words anyway, her to me, and me to her. Her father was just as violent and mean and drunk as mine, and her mother, like mine, put up with the abuse because she “loved” him.

None of the people who became part of my life after I left Las Vegas know what I went through just as none of her friends know what she went through. We knew. We understood. And over the years as we grew into our new lives, we kept in touch, but rarely mentioned those days. They were the past, buried, dead, gone, forgotten. The scars became fainter. People quit asking how we got them. We no longer had to lie.

But the wounds were still there. When we both turned 70 this year, the quality of our emails changed. We began to poke around in what we thought was forgotten. For both of us, the realization that ripping the bandage off old wounds hurt like hell came as a shock.

I suspect we’re going to have a lot more to say to each other about this in the next months. It’s way past time. In a strange way we both are looking forward to it, much as one looks forward to finally cleaning out that dark closet with all the clothes that no longer fit, the pieces of broken things that are saved for the memories and not because there’s anything left to repair. It’s time.

In her last letter we told each other how we healed some of the worst of the wounds. Unlike Kristina, I was never able to verbalize my feelings or talk about what happened to me. I was forty before I was able to say I love you easily. I’ve always put everything in my journals, into my poetry and my art. I tried traditional talking therapy and it went nowhere, mostly because the words just wouldn’t shape themselves into anything that described that time.

But life often gives you what you need to move forward if you let it. For me that was finding a way to heal that didn’t involve talking. I learned to heal the physical trauma through the body, to change where and how I stored the bad stuff. I learned that I kept my arms crossed to protect myself. The months of relearning to walk, sit, and talk without needing to protect myself opened the door to the rest.

I learned that I was afraid to look at someone because I associated eye contact with pain. Look at me! Look at me! He always wanted me to make eye contact before he hit me. He wanted to see my fear. I learned to look at people’s noses when I talked. It helped but it’s still difficult. Some things never go away. I’m like a wild animal that way if someone tries to make eye contact with me. But it’s getting better.

One of the other things Kristina and I shared was the simple joy of being outside in the desert, climbing rocks to get high up a canyon where we could look out and see nothing but desert for miles. Las Vegas was a small place then, just the strip, downtown, and a few houses on the west end where we lived. In between there was desert, great big open expanses of it. And that blissful silence. We would sit for hours in that silence. We drew strength from it. And for most of our lives, we looked for it. Neither one of us are loud or noisy. We are the peace we sought.

We both live in quiet, small, isolated places. She lives in a small cabin in the mountains up a dirt road no one drives up by accident. I live on a small island with a few hundred people and a ferry that stops running for the night at 8:30. I have few neighbors, and they are several acres distant in the trees, along the water where I can’t see them. Kristina has taught herself to paint because most of her neighbors are artists and they convinced her to try. She learned she’s quite good. Many of my island neighbors are artists, writers, musicians, people who require lots of quiet time alone. We know we are there but we don’t need to see each other to feel supported, loved, welcome.

In many ways, mine and Kristina’s lives have followed a similar arc. We began as abused children who made a blood oath to protect each other. Two 14 year old girls who didn’t know much but had already experienced too much. We went through the hell of high school together with our meager handful of friends, none whom we knew how to get close to the way we were close to each other. We were part of the antiwar movement and got spit on together by people who also threw garbage at us and called us commies. We both lost people we cared deeply for in Vietnam. It only motivated us to fight for peace harder. We still do.

And now as we age, the arc takes us on yet another similar path, one where the good memories seem to magically rise to the surface to push the bad memories aside. We’ve both contacted the good people, the kind people from those days because we both feel it’s important they know that kindness matters, that the world needs more of it, and especially to remind them it’s still there in them. If enough of us let kindness rise to the top and push the bad stuff away, maybe just maybe we can still make that bit of difference we always swore we would make to change the world. Maybe we can heal not only each other but also all the other wounded children who never stopped hurting. It’s worth a try.

My personal website:
Ursine Logic’s Books and Art

Befriending The Demons Lurking In Our Pasts

“Solitude changed us. It made us confront who we were. As dark as it was outside, inside of us it was even darker. When there’s no one to talk to except the demons, you talk to the demons and they talk back to you.”

 from WHEN THE LAST OCEAN DIES

Reconnecting with my high school friend has been far more rewarding to both of us than I imagined. I almost hesitated before I sent those emails. I didn't want to bother people. I didn't want to interrupt their lives with bad memories. High school friends who try to contact you when they're old is almost a joke, a meme, something no one wants. But I've always been different. My beliefs always fell outside the safe circles. And the memory of one friend gave me the courage I needed. I'm so glad I did and so is she.

We were friends then because we were the fringe weirdos, writers who brought books to parties so we wouldn't have to talk to anyone. We were both so shy the other kids avoided us in case it was catching. We still have a hard time talking to people we don't know well, but we've become less shy about talking to ourselves. It's good practice in case the world ever goes back to something resembling normal.

What we also share is that neither of us attended nor will ever attend a high school reunion. The thought alone is enough to freeze our spines in the permanent upright terror position. It was not a pleasant memory for either of us, but especially for her. 

She was black, and when our high school began to have daily race riots, she quit and started attending an evening high school for dropouts, the same one I attended a few weeks later after I was confronted by a teacher, a counselor, and some dour guy in a suit to give up the names of those I "worked for" in the anti-war group.

I refused and they gave me the option of dropping out or be expelled. I walked out and never went back.  I was 1/8 of a credit from graduation with nearly a 4.0 gpa. I have never regretted that decision although I did cry when my high school class graduated without me. I recovered nicely from that when B.B. King turned out to be the commencement speaker at our school for dropouts and other socially unacceptable misfits. We gave each other a virtual high five over that memory.

We were each other's first close female friend. We knew secrets about each other that no one else knew. We kept them in our pockets, away from other people.  Even now, as we write back and forth about those times, the pain of the abuse we suffered still clings to a lot of the words. We play the remember game with each other. 

Remember when we wore long sleeve shirts in the summer to hide the bruises?Remember the police telling us to stop making our fathers angry and the abuse would stop? Remember how long it took for us to learn it was never our fault? Remember them spitting on me and calling you names when we tried to sit together in the movie theatre? Remember how we did it anyway? 

We didn't have boyfriends then. The only men we knew were brutal, violent, and terrifying. We had friends who were boys and in looking back they shared one thing in common, they were gentle spirits, and shy like us. They were as my friend said "good people." We ended up marrying that kind of man. 

We were friends for three years, working together in the same sleazy off the strip coffee shops enough days to collect tips and an under the table paycheck half what they paid servers and kitchen help of legal age. But it allowed us to rent a safe escape room in the part of town my father would never think to look for me, and her good church going mother wouldn't dare be seen in alone. We were 16 and kept it until we graduated. It was a secret we kept from everyone we knew. I think it was a test to make sure we were okay to trust, and we passed. During those years, we became each other's model of true friendship, a model that hasn't changed. It's our standard and it was hard earned so neither of us ever settled for less. 

In our last few letters we tried to figure out whose idea it was to get involved with the anti-war group that consumed two years of our lives and grew into a lifetime commitment to peace, but true to our friendship we finally agreed it happened simultaneously. We made some good friends from that group, people who believed in the power of one person to change the world. We have always strived to be that one person.

We lost touch when she was accepted at a university on the east coast and I stayed in the west. But our lives followed remarkably similar paths. A couple of BA's, graduate school, the poverty years, the illness that almost killed us, but ended up changing us forever instead. And love, so much love. We're still a couple of weirdo loners, but we learned to trust love.

"We both have so much love in our lives, from so many. It healed us, that love," she wrote in her last email. Yes, that love did heal us. And it will continue to heal us. As one of the characters in my book is fond of saying. "Love is all that can save us now." 

My personal website:
Ursine Logic's Books and Art