family time

SO happy to have Bill back, no land can be bland when he’s around.

What Will Jesus Say

Above, Bill reading a shocking science paper from Bill Hartmann, with a stuffed Cthulhu behind him and a Morgus The Magnificent mug next to him.

B My Cutie

Sir and I, working on the video for the Flower Kit, coming out in ten days.

cast flower and sir

Evan and Liam Mar 21 2015

The boys, walking home with me from Cafe Provencal. I figure as long as we walk the mile there and back, I can have profiteroles for dessert.

kirk day

As it is William Shatner’s 84th birthday today, and St. Louis is running a fried chicken bracket, Bill felt we should celebrate with a trip to Sweetie Pie’s Soul Food, down in the Grove neighborhood.

Sir growing a new head for Bill

Sir is growing Bill a spare head, and our star magnolia has also decided to go with the idea of Spring and bloom.

star magnolia

Tomorrow, I’m off to Boston to meet up with Bri; Bill and others arrive on Wednesday, and the fun begins anew…

Trophy Guy sent me a photo of an installation he set up in NYC – I think I’ll have a chance to meet up with him at the end of my Boston trip, get some photos down under the Longfellow. Hoping! I’m so interested.

He says, “This week I’m in NYC and just set up the “Central Park Trophy Room” under the Inscope Arch next to the Central Park Zoo. Please encourage others to contribute to it!”

NYC trophy wall

the land of bland

Day 3 in the Heartland: I am pacing my enclosure, mad to go outside. I am hampered in my adjustment by having been ruined by living like a wolf for six weeks, showering, sleeping, and working in the lively peace of my garden, a place bustling with excitement, sparking with overlays of thrills past and future.

katelandphoto by Kyle Cassidy

Technically, there is nothing stopping me from going outside, except that there’s actually nothing out there. The light is thin, the air is grey, cold, dampish. There is yellow grass, more plastic fences. No street life, nobody walking anywhere unless they have a dog. There is no gardening yet; the ground is cold and hard.

I fix things that are not working; replace light bulbs, bed sheets, clean the refrigerator that will be sticky again soon. I fold the towels in the bath closet, stuffed in randomly by boys. I bead, and read, and answer my correspondence, I watch Endeavor Morse and I drink the red wine that Bill left for me, with love. He loves me so much I can feel it wherever I am. I watch the cardinals outside the windows.

I take pictures of the cats, I show the cats pictures of other cats. Here is Simon. Those are his long white whiskers in the hair of the doll in the garden; I save them as he finishes with them.

simon morning

I could zombie around the cold, empty streets and look at the beige and silver minivans and the gigantic SUVs with their impossible numbers of stick-figure children in their stick-figure families, or marvel at the often wheedling or threatening church marquees (about one per block here, with a particularly nasty one on the corner of Essex and Kirkwood that is always saying things about certain people, you know, naming names: “Jack, God sees what you are doing”, or “John, no one is fooled by your behavior.”

I ask Evan if he remembers some more, for me to write down, and he says, “If you need fresh material, just walk down and look at it, whatever it says, it’s sure to be obnoxious.” and he’s right. I could.

Or I could go count the plastic geese dressed in rotating seasonal and holiday outfits on porches (wtf?) or the so-wrong black lawn jockey statues on the lawns of the white people (wtff?) or visit the empty park, the empty pool. I could stop and talk to the teenagers hanging around Magic Market, bored, smoking, who would look at me and see only a grown-up, behaving oddly.

long yellow things

I could go to the grocery store, and see what kind of crazed signs they have, check for misplaced apostrophes. Plum’s!

I could drive to a different building, and go inside it instead. I could drive across the city on blank grey highways with blank grey walls rising along them, walls so high you can’t see over them, just greyness, nothingness, ribbons to somewhere from somewhere. I hate those tall grey walls, blocking not only noise but our sense of connection to place and to people.

I bend my head and my hands to my work, the broken-up one now in a neat little black removable cast, mentally focusing on the boys, grown so tall now. I make them food, loving them laughing downstairs; they are happy enough inside the house, happy enough in the blandness, playing games, being silly. I am soaking them in. Liam leaves for college at the end of summer, maybe to Chicago, the room that has been his since he was a little baby will become a quiet place, probably slowly filling up with Bill’s papers and magazines and journals.

Happily, Evan will play chess with me (he beat me fiercely tonight, I was very impressed) and Bill comes home tomorrow night, full of science, and Monday, I’m off to Boston, one of the least bland places I’ve ever been; I will fall headlong into a whirl, missing my sons, the math on all of this of course never once even coming close to meeting in the middle, but somehow, at a more vaporous level, all is maybe as it must be.

Look at this mysterious and excellent sign on the seat in the theater where I saw Mr. Turner (the Loft, in Tucson).

What can it mean?

It was very Jenny Holzer, next to my bag stuffed with Things.


on the move

The pipes having been finished up, I am once again on the move. Now, St. Louis, soon, Boston. It’s the same as ever to be in the Midwest in March ahead of Spring; in a few weeks, it will be beautiful, leaves and flowers are this close, but for now it’s still dull, and currently grey and cold.

I saw the movie Turner before I left Tucson (which is bursting with hot springtime) and it was incredible, I was much marked by it.

Timothy Spall did an astonishing job; the animalistic grunts and growls were perfect, but so also were the beautiful manners. Considering how deeply the interruptions of life affected him, how much he wanted to work, the depiction of the totality of his character was sensitive, kind, nuanced.

One of the things the film conveyed was how true to life the magnificence of his scapes were. He didn’t paint idealized beauty, instead, he went and found the real thing. Seascapes, landscapes, humanscapes….he went out and found the hugeness of the world.

Watching, I felt enraged (the tedious interruptions, I also wanted to kick the stool across the room) and empowered (to hell with blowhards and soul-crushers) and even more in love with the people with vision and will.

So many people seem to lack that pulsing, living drive to make work. They probably just need to be in a different place, doing a different thing, and they would suddenly come alive. Or so I charitably believe, based on my own experiences of being in vibrant, alive places with good light and good air and dull, stodgy, pale places with thin light and thick air. I pulse in the former, go dull in the latter. It’s not a mystery. And it’s tedious to pretend that it is.

A huge takeaway from the film (and from life) for me is that people who do not burn with life force and productivity should not proselytize to people who do about how they might better spend their time, or how they might adapt to a trickle of life, instead of a rushing stream.

I got lucky in my life partner.

surprises of all sorts

So the Tucson house (which I was available to come home to and take care of, having been swatted out of the sky last Thursday) is suddenly a plumbing job site at a thousand dollars a day. All of the old galvanized pipes from the 50’s that remain here at the Ranch must be replaced on an urgent basis; I knew it was coming one of these days, but it doesn’t mean that I was prepared for it. Can one ever be prepared for total disruption? Only perhaps by never fearing it, and having good strategies to handle financial emergencies.

One-story desert ranch houses tend to run the services around in crawl spaces, either below the house in a two-foot space (so revolting, so full of snakes and bugs, so absurd) or between the ceilings and the roof; we don’t generally have basements in Arizona (thank God).

Ceiling piping works until it doesn’t; I’m not a big fan of services being in places that ruin your life when they fail. Because it isn’t if with plumbing, it’s when, and everyone knows that. We should build smarter, with some eye to the future.

Smart place to run water pipes, right, over this ceiling? Facepalm, 1950s people. What were you thinking/not thinking? I just can’t stand to watch people doing dumb things on endless repeat. Which is how I get involved in everything I ever get involved in. I look at things, and say, how long has it been since you thought about why you are doing that, and what your options are? Most systems are improvable.

Personally, I like running services behind baseboards that unscrew for access, or around the exterior of a space, boxed in like an envelope house, with a veranda/greenhouse that encircles it on three sides, or a knee-high service wall that acts as a planter on top for a seasonal food garden. Encirclements keep houses warmer and cooler, provide flooding redirects, make great sense, and are cheap to add.

So. Anyway. Great ideas aside, one of the galvanized supply pipes up there burst the other day, as you might recall if you are a regular reader. There was a lot of feet of old pipe up there, rotting away, needing replacement. Thankfully I’ve got a great plumber, a guy who really understands old houses and doesn’t waste any time. A day of his time is like two or three days of another person. Carlos. I love you.

I didn’t plan on this. But it’s amazing that it’s happening. And it’s exciting – some things that haven’t worked for a while are working again. The outdoor shower has a beautiful new valve; I’ll probably never shower indoors again. The laundry room and the little bathroom down there have hot water to them for the first time in three years.

My kitchen sink has nice hot water flowing again.

tucson kitchen window

The plumbing is in for the outdoor sink, and why not; all new pipes were going in and it was just a bit of extra copper. We may as well sort them out as we like them as it’s an entirely new pipe job.

Slowly, bit by bit, things get done around here. Weeds gradually get eradicated, trees form canopies, old pipes get replaced… we’ve gone solar; we’re doing greywater on our sinks and shower. Gardens grow, soften, the lizards wake up already knowing my name. The curved-billed thrashers come dig their little holes around my feet.

Orangelina ate a worm from my hand yesterday, gently, as she does. It filled me with happiness.

first rain on the Miata

I didn’t plan for the timing of this either (freaking pipes!) but my car was in the shop this week for its annual checkup and tuneup. This time it got new clutch hydraulics. It wasn’t too expensive, though, as car repairs go. Nothing about my car is expensive, which is part of why I love it so hard.

My mechanics (the fabulous British Car Service) also love it (they even get excited about it, which is amazing if you know many mechanics) because it’s a gorgeous, original, well-cared-for example of the very first edition, 1990. And it’s actually (as you also may know if you are a regular reader) the exact car (the very one!) that would have been mine if I had ordered it new; I almost did, but just couldn’t swing it in my 20’s.

That the very same little vehicle found me 20 years later (and in perfect condition) is one of the delights of my life. I adore it, and I’ll keep it for as long as I possibly can.

I sing to it when I wash it, Roger Taylor-like.

I’ve been working like a fiend; not just to pay for the car and the pipes, but just because it’s springtime, almost summertime here, and I’m full of life. I’m doing things.

Sometimes the things I do aren’t really things I’m doing as much as they are like, hmm, course corrections … like you might turn your wheels in the direction of a skid, or lick up the edge of the meniscus quivering at the rim of a drink before it breaks, and spills.

Oooh!  Jay just said that he heard Bill McKinnon on NPR, talking about Enceladus I presume. So excellent. My husband is… magnificent. I can’t wait to see him as soon as all of this improvement is finished up. And I’m so grateful that I have him to split the plumbing bill with.  ; )

Off to the plumbing supply store I go, to get a faucet.
Good luck with your morning or your evening, your challenges, with falling in love at least once today…


So our son Liam has his first acceptance letter from one of the art schools that he applied to. He’s turning 19 this fall, leaving home, choosing a trajectory.

I can hardly believe I had anything to do with his creation; I look at him, tall, confident, vulnerable, kind, beautiful, gentle, funny as hell, and I wish sentimentally in retrospect that I’d been a doting parent, a stay-at-home nest mother. It’s like wishing I were a green chair.

Random Liam sketchesLiam McKinnon, portrait studies, 2013

I’m grateful to Bill for wanting an armful of children enough to gladly take on every role; all he asked of me was to bring the babies into the light of Terra, to host them in my very flesh and blood, to contribute my bizarre, powerful DNA to the creation of life. To carry them, lay down my life (as women do) to birth them, to feed and change them tenderly until they could stand on their own and reach the snacks, to love them in and out of time and space, to be jointly responsible for their survival.

Other than all of that little has been required of me; I am a free human being. I’ve had the joy of having children without having to give up my independent life. I’ve had the joy of marriage without having to give up my fierceness, or temper my wolf-like nature. I’ve been able to indulge in longing with the knowledge that the lover I long for is always just over the horizon. Bill… He’s like a star, I’m like a planetary system.

And he’s the one with the 2D talent; in addition to the many other impressive genetic contributions of his father, Liam got a skill for rendering in the blood from him and has been drawing since he could hold a pencil.

Cartoon by Liam McKinnon, May 2010 "A School Morning"

I’ve really  envied his talent as a portrait artist. I’ve always wished that I had the facility to capture a likeness with pen and paper. I’m working both backward and forward to it, sketching every day, also working on top of photographs. There is something about doing each that is really good for my head.

This was yesterday’s work, from a photo taken in Boston by Ryan Anas. It’s gorgeous, but all of the crucial lines in the face and figure came from the original. I’m not sure if I will come forward enough to be able to make this with just my hands, and blank paper, but I aim to try.

kate mckinnon 2014
Kate McKinnon, illustration on top of a photo by Ryan Anas, Boston, 2014.

I’m short on language to describe digital and hand work (pencil, paint, etc.) on top of photos, I think we all are. It’s not really one thing or another; so many words are required to explain, to clarify what is created, what is altered from life. It’s simpler if the artist doing the altering also snapped the photo, but still not clear-cut.

“Mixed media” is an option, but not a good one. There needs to be a single word or two to describe the work that manages to communicate that it may not have been created from blank space. Suggestions?

And I have curiosity/mixed feelings about some of the techniques used to create from blank space. I know artists who project a photograph onto their canvas on the wall, and take their lines, their proportion, their dimension from the projection. What is that?

Liam is, in my mind, the real thing. He creates the piece in his head, and then transfers it, complete, to the paper. He can start at any point; no roughing in of general lines is required. With warriors, he often starts at the tip of their sword, or boot.

I think this Dali study started with a waxed end of his mustache.
The process of creation fascinates me.

liam dali framed

Liam McKinnon, Dali, 2014

timelines missed and caught

I missed an airplane last night.

I meant to be waking up in the arms of my lover, making victory pancakes for the boys (Liam’s art school offers are starting to come in now and they are going to be good) and congratulating the three St. Louis cats for finding their centers and making a home together, but the aircraft I planned to be on left the gate 11 minutes early.

And that was that.

I saw it all happen in slow motion. I left Tucson at 6 pm; but the Phoenix airport was tragic; we were held on the runway in Tucson, held off of the runway in Phoenix, held outside our gate.  Sky Harbour was jammed up, and the ground crew on the B side was in what appeared to be active revolt.

moon over Phoenix

And so we sat outside the gates, a metal tube full of people slowly, helplessly missing their connecting flights, and we watched the full moon reveal herself, huge and orange above the Phoenix mountains.

People sat, mostly quietly, as things went south. Time passed in 15 minute chunks; sometimes the captain came on to tell us in a tired voice that no one was on the ground to park our plane, he was as sorry as we were, as he would not be getting home tonight either.

Eventually, after nearly an hour on the ground, we were gated.

I knew I only had a six minute window to score, and I was off like a shot when I got out of that plane, moving all of the way from East Jesus to the lower A gates. It was a distance of about a half mile, or a hundred miles, something like that. The moving sidewalks were all working, I skated down the endless corridor, skidded up to A5, skkkrrrtttt, I made it with 30 seconds to spare, YESSS, but my gate was a completely empty zone, like a movie set.

Not even a gate agent to be found; I expected a tumbleweed to blow past me.

I couldn’t believe it. Technically, I was in.

Physically, however, I was 100% out. The plane was outside the huge picture windows, pushing back.

I checked the time on the gate computer; yes they were leaving 11 minutes early, and I saw my boarding pass (exit row window) sitting alone on the podium, shimmering, white, a calling card I could not use. I turned around and stared at the cockpit, unbelieving, panting, watching the timeline I thought I was on subtly curling away from me.

The plane stopped moving, and the captain and I looked at each other. I was non-rev (flying on a crew pass) and I had no inherent right to fly. He didn’t have to wait for me, if his list of paying souls was complete and I was not at the gate. But there I was, and there he was, immutably severed from me; the door was closed and that is that in commercial aviation unless there is a Situation.

I looked at the plane contemplatively, running through the series of things that would change its trajectory, move it forward again, open the doors.

None of them seemed like good options. They all seemed destructive; a mechanical, a medical… I just stared at the plane, holding it in time and space. All players froze for an endless moment, me, standing tall, quivering like an outraged superhero, the captain and first officer, thinking their pilot thoughts, looking back at me, their cockpit full of glowing lights, competence, dials, levers. The ground crew, all standing, quietly, looking up at the window.

It was obvious that I was a creature that they had left roadside. Perhaps they regretted it; I sucked in starlight, shimmered, grew taller. You left me behind, I said to them, raising my hands, but I could disappear your airplane and leave you standing on the tarmac, holding your fucking clipboard. The first officer raised an eyebrow; time trickled forward, imperceptibly.

I had one of those beautiful, white-hot moments, where I could visualize the glass in front of me vaporizing, and the warm air of the night moving across my skin. I could see and hear the inside of the aircraft, feel the half-empty plane around me.

I was looking through the plane window, and I could see myself inside, standing at the cool, dim empty gate, tall, glorious, vibrating with fuck, the brightly lit roachy froth of the lower B gates behind me. The ends of my hair were still moving; the plane felt like a toy.

But there was nothing (or was it everything? who could know?) at stake, and so I stood down.

I let the heat flow out of me, I put my arms down, things began to move again, and the guys on the ground, in the orange jumpsuits, they looked up and me and smiled, sorry for me, but happy also that they were in the strange, beautiful moment. The first officer blew me a kiss; the captain shook his head, gently, I softened, and turned away, and the plane rolled toward the runway.

Opportunities were lost and won; I am in a different track now and I cannot know what was dodged, missed, caught, or glimpsed, but it was beautiful, and I walked back to the B gates, and hopped a flight back home to Tucson, and I was alive, and somehow intensely close to the people around me, and they felt it, and they were happy too, and we all shimmered onto the ground and floated down the escalator.

The man from Boston told us about the commuter rail, and the T, still not working, the huge piles of snow, the handsome French boy who had been across the exit aisle from me laughed into my eyes with his soft voice, adieu, sprite, and we all said goodbye as if we might see each other on Saturday, and people split off, to baggage claim, to the parking lot, to the long term shuttle, to their own lives and trains.

back to tucson

This morning, Miss Fish woke me up in Tucson to tell me to pay attention, she prodded me with a single claw, saying, get up. And a pipe in the ceiling had broken, just then, and I found it, and I shut the water off and called the plumber and he’s up there now and it is handled, instead of me getting a phone call from Jay saying that the house is flooded.

I was glad to have been home when it happened; glad that none of my Phoenix friends were home or awake to take me in, glad I didn’t stay and catch the redeye.

Everything goes somewhere, everything comes home. I feel so grateful for my consciousness, so in the thick of it all, so enraptured.


piece by Lilian Lijn

At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means

At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what’s true

love letters

It’s a sunny day in Tucson, and the sky is full of clouds, blue, and birds.

st augustines march 2015

My new book project(s) are coming along really nicely; a third volume of Contemporary Geometric Beadwork that I’m not promoting yet, but am working on, and a completely new project on love, sustainability, and process that can be seen at the Love Letters book blog.

There is a new entry up now, in fact. If you are interested in the project, follow the blog and you’ll get occasional updates. I’m not taking pre-orders yet (other than the dozen I took to open it) but when we are close to press time, this year or next, I’ll let you know.

Also, I realize that I forgot to show the photo of the new garden bed last time. Still all in progress of course. But getting very good.

the best thing ever outdoor bed at cooper st