Companion Visions

Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with readers were about the Spinywort. I often get asked if I was describing Peyote. It’s a difficult question because the visions it created in the characters and its effects were drawn from many sources, some experiential, others from descriptions both personal and academic. I would say I described the effects of a multilayered wort that drew from the door blown open by Peyote, the skies opened up through LSD, and the spirit healed with Psilocybin.

I grew up in the desert. I came of age during the Carlos Castaneda and the Peyote Cult years. It was also the time of Alan Watts and Timothy Leary. One of the convenient categories to compartmentalize the emerging interest in knowing thyself was the Human Potential Movement. I drew heavily from that time.

Another influence I used to build my characters and describe their visions came from Carl Jung, especially his book Psychology and Alchemy. I drew on his perceptions of spirituality, the human psyche and religion, but especially mysticism. I wanted to include many versions of the same truths.

They believe their purpose is to pry open the cracks of awareness. They don’t proselytize or seek to convert. They merely offer access to the SpinyWort flower and provide help through the process of ingesting it. But they believe you own your vision, and so they resist any explanation or reading of symbols. They feed you, shelter you, and send you home when it’s time.

from When The Last Ocean Dies

Another influence that led to the writing of this book came from a fascinating conversation I had with probably one of the purest scientists I’ve ever met. He always claimed, in spite of his scientific purity, that he was a spiritual person. When I asked him how he reconciled those two sides he responded there was nothing to reconcile because it was all memory. Spirituality was knowledge that lived inside him and all he needed to do was to go within when needed.

Their ancestors, the ancient Magusans, saw visions that convinced them a vast inner world existed inside us, and we carried around many lifetimes of knowledge we didn’t know we possessed. They suspected, based on their studies, that the secret of human consciousness lies buried somewhere in all that knowledge.

from When The Last Ocean Dies

In the end it doesn’t matter how you get there; hallucinogenic drugs, plants, mushrooms, meditation, chocolate, what matters is that before you can love another, before you can love the planet and its people, you must first learn to love yourself. That means you have to do what has been said many ways over the centuries, you must learn to Know Thyself.

There are two sides to the upright beast. One walks with his skin inside. The other walks with his skin outside. But the flower of truth marks the path, and the flower of the SpinyWort shapes the truth.

from When The Last Ocean Dies

Books and Art by Kate Taylor 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