Peggy Alaniz Reviews Travis Ortiz’s Variously, Not Then

Motivated by fear, what might have been. The mind creeps, creating language that lives in its own zone of experience. Shifting parameters afford access and change. Temporal variations and parallel modes of materiality.  A meditation on what is to come progresses along with determination towards change.

Variously, Not Then, Travis Ortiz

When afraid, the mind tends to wander in thought; it creates its own language called worry.  Together, fear and worry imprison the mind in a place from where there seems to be no escape.  Yet with the proper guidance, the mind and spirit can be freed from the trap of fear through reflection.  Meditation, to be present in the moment, provides the necessary tools in order to change. To release fear through surrender is like exhaling the breath from the body.  Variously, Not Then, a contemplative piece of literature by Travis Ortiz, invigorates the reader’s mind and spirit in a similar way.  The book contains insights into the worries and fears that a person may encounter on a daily basis, something which the reader may reflect upon for guidance in his or her own life.

Always noticed in the breath, that which is not inexpressive.

Frequently in the text, Ortiz makes references to returning to the breath as an act of cleansing the mind or spirit. It is as if Ortiz is reminding the reader to breathe, to let go of the anxiety which his words may have built up, to contemplate the message he has written. This allows the text to speak, so the reader may hear what the words say.  When he mentions the word “breath,” Ortiz asks the reader to return to his or her center, release the fear that weighs the spirit down.   The word “breath” acts like a trigger for the reader, inviting him or her into the text to be mindful of the present moment, to breathe, live and enjoy life.  A person should experience life, its beauty, as a living piece of art.

The use in forcing the breath and approaching cyclical time theories which leads to an interpenetration in the best of taste, tone on tone so to speak. 

Ortiz, an author as well as graphic designer, intends for Variously, Not Then to be a graphic piece of art as well as a literary work.  The book’s design subtly draws the reader’s attention to the beauty of each expressed thought.  Blank spaces upon the page reflect a pause in the mind and body for the words.  Ortiz adds depth to the contemplative nature of his book by expressing the printed words in an innovative matter. His visual art allows a natural energy of joy to flow, freeing the mind to function in its highest state of freedom; therefore, allowing the reader to be attentive. Water markings, in the form of various shades of lightness and darkness in text, function to imprint his ideas upon the reader’s subconscious minds. Ortiz plants the seeds of contemplation in the mind, which will later bear fruit. He uses the water markings to form their own separate narrative on the page, complementing the darker text. Larger, bolder text allows Ortiz to shout typographically, gaining the reader’s attention and stressing the importance of the ideas that he expresses.  The blank space on the page between words once again reminds the reader to return to their center.

One keeps going back in an attempt to realize there is more than one narrative running through here on the breath of excitation. 

Ortiz wants the reader to digest the material, to create his or her own personal meaning to the text, to read and re-read in order to experience the text from different viewpoints.  The book contains no formal introduction so the reader cannot develop any preconceptions of the text.  Ortiz does not want to taint his audience’s experience with his personal viewpoints. His carefully chosen words serve as a contemplative guide.  By being deliberately vague he allows the readers to interject their own memories upon the page.

A single voice emerges reminding one of the fact of breath. 

Another interesting characteristic of the book would be its title.  When broken down, the title of the book contains contemplation unto itself, a simple reflection that Ortiz wants to convey to his audience while they read his work.

Variously- In several different ways

Not- Nothing

Then-immediately or soon after

The title brings up images of a reflective state of existence.  Meditation tames the mind.  At the same time, meditation is a tool that allows surrender to happen. When the contemplative state of mind is released it brings peace, and balance to life. Ortiz wanders through so many concepts, such as language, art, politics, history, what is beyond life, in order for the reader to meditate upon them, gaining a sense of peace within. Variously, Not Then provides the reader with a tool to take a deeper look into their own life. The words create a search into the soul, challenging the reader to be mindful of life in this world.

-Peggy A. Alaniz

Peggy A. Alaniz is a low-residency student at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She resides in the small rural village of Jonesville, MI; however, come summer she will be living and attending school in Boulder full time.  She holds a BA in History from Hillsdale College and a Level I & II Attunement in the art of Reiki. Peggy also holds the rank of Sho Dan in Sanchin Ryu Karate, which she volunteers to teach at a local community school .

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