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

Stretching Boundaries

I read once that productivity for creatives increases in their 60’s and 70’s. Of course it does. You always get that extra energetic push when the clock is running out. But that’s only a small part of the story. By the time you reach that age you’ve built up a lot of material, and not only that, but a healthy dose of perspective that allows you to move from one project to the next without getting stuck in any. It’s a lot like being a toddler let loose in a room full of toys and no adult supervision, but with the added bonus of a whole lot more information.

But the most important thing creatives have is the ability to adapt. Most painters I know also draw, work with clay, stone, wood. Some write poetry. Others make music. It’s the same with many musicians. They can move from instrument to instrument, not necessarily with perfection, but that’s not the point. What most creatives excel at is the ability to adapt. Run out of one thing? Something else will work. Tired of working on this. There’s always that.

The mistake a lot of social engineers make is perpetuating the myth that only the strong survive. It’s those who are able to adapt who will survive. It’s those who can entertain more than one idea at a time. It’s those who look at a blank canvas, sheet of paper, computer screen and they see something that wasn’t put in their head by someone else.

I’ve spent most of my life around creatives, and in spite of the despair, the depression, the poverty and constant threat of rejection that causes many to turn to drugs and alcohol, they still remain, for the most part remarkably resilient. I am convinced it’s all that creative energy sparking everything to keep firing. Yes, the abuse will eventually take its toll, but it seems to take its time if there’s a multitude of projects to complete and the ability to adapt to the pull of each one.

Those of us who survived did so because we learned to adapt. It’s always been that way, hasn’t it? Those who adapt are the ones who survive.” 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

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

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

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.”


Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

Dancing With The Demons

One of my twitter followers asked me when I knew I was a writer. It’s not an unusual question. I also get asked when I knew I was an artist, when I knew I was different, when I knew I was never going to fit inside the world around me. The answer is the same to all the questions. It was the day I learned to dance with my demons.

I did not have a happy or easy childhood. Much of it was brutal and traumatic. Before I started school, it was just me, my grandmother, my mother, and my younger brother. My father was the only American in the family. He spoke only English. It was normal for us to not speak English when he wasn’t around, which was frequently. On the rare times he was home, he went into a rage when I no longer understood him when he talked to me. I forgot English because no one I was around spoke it except him.

I don’t remember who gave me my first notebook, but its purpose was to help me practice English so I would no longer have to suffer my father’s beatings when he was home. By then I was in school, and like most immigrant children, I picked up the language quickly. I didn’t need the notebook to practice.

I used it to draw pictures instead, the kind of pictures a depressed, isolated, child draws when hope is something so out of reach it becomes a fantasy. I have vague memories of what I drew, but not of the reactions of a teacher when she saw my notebook. I still remember the look on her face. She was clearly bothered by what I drew.

But it was a different time then. There wasn’t much she could do to help the kid that drew those pictures, but feel sorry for me. I remember hating her pity and feeling ashamed of it. I stopped drawing. But the urge to create was not something easily set aside.

I began to write stories in my notebooks. I was the main character. My father was always the monster. My mother and grandmother were always the first to end up his victims. I was always the one saved because I knew how to hide from him. I knew all the good hidey holes, all the secret places in the desert I could walk to and disappear inside the canyons. And while I was gone and safe, another bigger, stronger monster would tear my father to pieces and save us all. It was brutal stuff.

I filled up one notebook and immediately started another. I still remember how it felt to write those stories. During the time I wrote, the demons sat quietly and left me alone. I wasn’t depressed anymore. I didn’t think constantly of ways to kill myself.

And I wrote in English because it was far safer to record my thoughts that way than it was to draw pictures. My father was illiterate. He couldn’t read nor write. My words were private and all mine. Until the day I realized my mother was not illiterate and was secretly reading my notebooks.

I began to make up stuff then, stories that had nothing to do with me but were meant to punish her for reading my notebooks. Like most sensitive children in abusive situations, I learned early to watch for danger signs. I knew which drink was the one to send my father into a violent rage. I knew which behavior from me would disturb my mother.

I knew how to scare her, because I knew she struggled with her own demons. She drank vodka then to escape the miserable existence she found herself living. I can still smell it on her breath all these years later. Her life was far from the dream my father promised her when he brought us to America. It was a betrayal, a prison she couldn’t escape. He would come home and beat her, she would drink, and then pass out, leaving me alone with him.

I wrote a story about a little girl who was captured by a monster while her mother slept. I described horrible things the monster did to that little girl, things that meant little to me other than in the fantasy world of imagination. But when my mother read that story, I saw the horror on her face. She saw something in my words I never wrote. But her reaction made me feel strong, it made me feel powerful to know I held such an effective weapon in my hands. I was about 7 or 8 years old.

That was the moment I understood what it meant to dance with my demons. In the next few years I filled my notebooks with their voices, not mine. I gave all the ugliness, all the brutality of my life a voice to have its say. And slowly the thoughts of suicide lessened. Slowly I began to see myself differently, to see my place in the world differently. I learned to give all those thoughts, all that despair, all the moments of extreme depression to the demons and let them write my words.

It took me several years to turn back to art, and when I did I understood how it lived in me, what it wanted from me, and how to make it another voice for my demons. But it also disturbed me, because unlike words, what I drew, painted, sculpted was clearly the voice of the demons. It was like stepping into a crowded room naked, exposed, and vulnerable. It made everything inside me visible.

By the time I graduated from high school my friends were pretty much the same. We were artists, writers, musicians. We knew how to make the demons dance. We were kids who never fit inside the parameters of the ordinary world, because we weren’t ordinary and never would be.

That’s when I learned we also lived in a world that expected us to feed those demons with one hand tied behind our backs. There was little support for the compulsion to create that defined us. It was seen as a hobby, an amusement to practice in our free time when we had a day off. We were never expected to choose it as a career path. That was unrealistic. That was impossible.

That’s why so many creatives in this country often slip over into mental illness. When you deny someone the right to live as themselves, to work as they were meant to work, you slowly chip away at the social constructs that allowed them to live within the acceptable boundaries of society. You steal their soul and then expect them to be some absurd concept of normal. Not all are strong enough to survive this stripping away of their vital self.

I have always worked to support my art and writing. My aunt and uncle were classical musicians. They taught piano to practice their art. I still remember when my uncle came to America. We lived in San Francisco then, and I just started school. He would wait for me to come out of the building and then we would walk the streets to look for a place with a piano he could play. We stopped at coffee shops, book stores, music stores, even a church once, just so he could play for an hour or so.

I often think about those who heard him play. He was a child prodigy, an exceptionally talented pianist. I still remember the silence that filled whatever place we found that day, the awestruck silence of those who recognized a gifted moment just blessed their day.

I learned what it meant to not only need to express what lived inside, but also how the raw honesty of that expression affected others. I knew when he despaired over the separation from his wife and daughters because I heard it in his music. And so did everyone else. It was the first time I saw people cry when he played. He moved them to tears with his need to express the despair, the loneliness inside himself.

And afterwards when the demons were back at rest and we could calmly walk around and look for an ice cream cone instead of a piano, I learned there couldn’t be one without the other. And that’s the day I began to understand without the demons I really had little to say. They gave my art, my writing, my very existence the authenticity to create as myself.

My new novel about the pandemic WHEN THE LAST OCEAN DIES is now available on Amazon. It’s about solitude, artists, musicians, creativity, and the awesome life-changing power of love.

Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic

The Metamorphosis of Memory

There are many interesting things about getting older that I didn’t anticipate, some good, some strange, some oh holy hell why me. But the one that fascinates me most is the process of remembering the past. I call it a process because I’ve learned it evolves, it changes, it picks up hitchhikers, it weeps and it laughs. Memory is like that. It dances away from what is remembered to how it is remembered. I’ve learned that matters a lot.

In the last year, since I turned 70, I’ve noticed the bad things that happened to me begin to fall away to make room for the good things. I didn’t do this intentionally. It just happened, as if the inner workings of this bear beast of a human chose to have a happy end game. But I didn’t choose.

That’s the part that amazes me and takes me again to scouring the internet tubes for brain stories. It’s hard to let the scholar go when it’s so ingrained in me to research my ideas before embracing them as my own. But I’m learning to let that go and just fly with them, because it turns out nature is a fantastic research library. I’ve learned a lot about myself sitting with the trees, breathing in the saltwater that brings that scent of ocean into my house. I don’t have to show my work because I am my work.

Here is one way this all seems to evolve, using me as the example. I’ve written often about trying to come to peace with my childhood . Basically, I didn’t have one. My father gambled for a living. He wasn’t very good at it. He was also not very good at being a human being. War leaves many victims behind and he was one of its most defective. He left a lot on the casino tables, but not his rage at the world and especially at women. That, he brought home to share with the family. My mother rarely spoke. I remember her as the silent ghost he used to take his rage out on before he came for us.

When he told me I reminded him of his mother, that was not a good thing. It was a condemnation, a chance for him to make up for the damage she inflicted on him. I understand that now. But then I understood only that he was dangerous

I was terrified of him when he was drunk because his violence had no limits. He left a lot of ugly bruises from his rages, a few of them that I carried into the future. He told me I was ugly. I wasn’t. He told me I better study because no man would ever marry me. He was wrong.

I was the classic runaway. On paper. In the real world where I lived I was a shy, awkward high school kid who worked full-time jobs in restaurants, took care of other people’s children, even sold an underground newspaper on street corners. I knew college was my only way out of that hell so I studied even when I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open.

I didn’t have time or the social skills for friends. I can count my high school friends on one hand. For a long time they became part of the memory of then, the bad times, the invisible people who were there but not there. But as I grew more into myself, their faces became more visible. And then an amazing thing started to happen. They began to show themselves as significant influences on my life, even though their time in it was so brief as to seem not worth noting. In the stew of bad memories they rose to the top as the good foam, the tasty, lovely bits you remember in your heart because they made a difference.

There were five in particular I owe my life to. Of course, they undoubtedly have no idea why, but I do. I picked the memories apart and found them. Of course, they were all artists. They lived in the good part of my life, the one with music, dancers, singers, painters, sculptors, writers, and performers. My father was the outlier in this world, the only American in a crowd of exquisitely talented refugees. He was also the only one who was uneducated, who didn’t play an instrument, who didn’t read books, who never went beyond the third grade and was basically illiterate. But in my memory, the rest of my family took the place of him. As I grew older that world became larger than the one he forced me to live in. Memory changed the script for the better.

But those five people, they weren’t part of my family. They weren’t people I worked with. They were my high school friends. They were also mostly gay because I could be friends with them and not have to deal with the whole concept of relationships, boyfriend-girlfriend, commitment and all those other phobias. And two of them were black during a time when just hanging out with me was dangerous for them. I learned a lot about courage from them.

But of that tiny group of friends, one in particular stands out because I saw myself in him, in his lovely shyness, his sweet nature, and his strange home life. Of course, I see that now with the gift of memory metamorphosis. Then, my memories of him were simple. I remember his house and how he made a fort out of his bed with hanging curtains. I recognized a hiding place when I saw it.

I met him at the worst time in my life when my father was the most violent. When he nearly knocked one of my teeth out with a belt buckle I began my career as a runaway. One of the places I ran away to was his house. It didn’t last long, mostly because my father had found out about him so to protect him I ran away from him too. I couldn’t take the chance of him being hurt by that monster. He was too good a human being. When he called me he would use different names but I always knew it was him. And then I got scared for him and was afraid to answer the phone. Try and I might I just can’t remember how we parted. I did see him again a couple years and it was the last time, but he’s always held a place in my heart.

In later years I thought about him. I wanted him to know what it was like to have someone care about me as a person, to hold me and make me feel safe. I got to sit in his lap crammed in the car with everyone else and enjoy the teasing that I had a boyfriend. I had a sweet crush on him, my first experience with those kind of feelings. It’s a good memory.

What he never knew was that he saved my life one night when I showed up at his house. I had reached the limit of living on this planet. I was exhausted. I had bruises all over my body. I made him turn the lights off in the unlikely chance he tried to remove my clothes because I didn’t want to explain what was underneath. There’s so many stairs you can fall down. I wanted to kill myself. I wanted the hurting to stop. I came to his house to say goodbye. Instead he held me, let me hang out in his fort, and saved my life. He came to visit me shortly after I got married and then he moved away. For the longest time I saved the cartoons he drew for me. And then the box they were in got lost. I remembered how sad I was about that.

The only one who wasn’t gay was my first experience of being loved by someone I didn’t have a clue how to love back. He was two years older, an immigrant child like me, but he came from France. I thought that was wonderfully exotic. And he thought it was exotic that most of my family was born in the same city but different countries. He would introduce me to his friends as the girl who was from that place where the boundaries always changed.

Without even sharing so much as an innocent kiss, we made plans to move to France. I applied to the Sorbonne and was accepted, much to my shock. All I had to do was get another job to pay for the tuition and living expenses. I did and began saving my pennies. And the plans began to take shape. I had a future that would take me away from the brutality of my father. I would get to be an artist, to write poetry, to live among those who didn’t think I was too ugly to love.

And then he was drafted. I begged him to run away. We were part of an antiwar group that helped conscientious objectors with letter writing, witnessing, making up shit to get them rejected, and when all that failed, arranging for our network to hide them in Canada. It would have been so easy. But he was an optimist. We were both poor broke kids. He saw a chance to pay for school, buy a house for us, and make a life together. He was killed in Vietnam within weeks of being sent there. I burned the flag they gave me from his coffin. I was done with love, even though I never really loved him. But I needed him. That was better than love. Memory works that way.

And I ran away for good. This time I was 17 so the police couldn’t bring me back, especially since I had a full-time job and was capable of supporting myself. I stayed away for many years and made contact again only after my father finally died.

I met a man at work when I was 18. He was a lot like me, a loner, the oldest child in a family with dysfunctional parents. I told him the first time we talked that I had no interest in marriage, I didn’t want children, and I was an Atheist. Turned out he didn’t want the same things. So I took him to a party where we were the only white people because it mattered to me that he accept two of my closest friends.

Within five minutes he was explaining the significance of her astrological sign to my friend’s wife. He left with my friend’s BBQ sauce recipe, an honor reserved for those he liked. “He’s a good man,” my friend whispered to me on the way out the door. “You deserve good. Take it.”

I thought okay this one has potential. So I took him to meet the family, starting with my grandmother who didn’t speak English and moving on to the others who spoke with accents. The only ones who didn’t have accents were my cousins. We grew up in America. I explained to him the role of immigrant children as translators, that we were the ones who answered the doors and the phones, and that’s why it was easy for me to go from one language to another. I’d done it most of my life.

I put that in practice, that moving from one language to another when we moved in together and began what has become a 50 year plus friendship. We talked a lot during the pandemic. He learned things about me. I learned things about him. We talked about how memory changes as we grow older. We talked about those we loved, the relationships with others we never denied each other. We have always believed in love and there are no limits if you truly believe. You love or you don’t. We loved and still do and always will. It’s who we are.

In the last year I’ve done something that I suspect other old people do when the memories change from bad to good. I’ve gone back and tried to find those who saved my life just with their presence. I’ve connected with two so far. It’s been affirming, necessary, good for all involved. They needed to be thanked. Still waiting to hear back from my high school crush, but if he doesn’t that’s okay. I love him differently now than I did then. It’s the love of gratitude, of appreciation, of knowing love doesn’t need an object or a presence, but merely the feeling in the heart that stays with you for life. One of my life lessons was learning once you love someone, that feeling never dies. Love is like the sun. It doesn’t die because night falls. It just changes and becomes easier, a softer and more gentle part of self. He’s one of my sweet, gentle memories.

And yes, part of my wanting to contact these people, was first of all to say thank you. But also to make sure they were okay, to reassure myself and especially them, that when you save someone’s life they will always be there to save yours because memory works that way.

My personal website:
Ursine Logic’s Books and Art