A rather whirly few weeks

I’m on the way out of NYC this evening, pointed at DC for the annual planetary science meeting. I both can and cannot believe how much Italian food I have been able to eat.

Scene at Emilios

Above, at Emilio’s Ballato, SoHo.

I’m going downcoast to spend the week with Bill, to see friends, and to spend my own days working. It’s time to get serious about working drafts.


If I do it right, I will be able to lay a very introductory, basic magic book down in a space that hasn’t existed before; a way to begin the beginning in harmony with the structures of creation, and the ideas of the Built World. This is powerful stuff, and I am proceeding with respect.

If I do it right, it will fund the project into the future.

This was an amazing trip for seeing friends. Half of everyone seems to pass through here; if I can’t catch people here, or in Boston, or at gatherings, or on travel, or in Tucson, then those people are just hard to catch, and they must catch me.

Carter in Seaglass Kate and Ryan Times Square by Carter Pope and Kellner

bleeker street   Russell Fox And Zebra Hotness web

For anyone following along with the life of that world-in-worlds that Contemporary Geometric Beadwork has become (and which is now running seamlessly along with the Love Letters project, so secretly, there are four books in process in my world), I have schedule updates.

I’ll be in Boston for all of January, teaching this and that. Some classes will be at MIT (you know I like it there) and some not. Click for the schedule.

Robot at CSAIL, MIT, Gehry Building. photo by Kate Mckinnon

Amusingly half of my classroom assignments put me right back in the Gehry building, which is something I like very much as well. I keep drawing the Lockheed Aerospace classroom, and it feels like a right sort of a place to let the work soar, and build collaborations.

As does NYC.

Astonishingly, I seem to have a place here already made; I cannot explain it but I rejoice in it. I feel very connected to the city, to the work, to Boston, and to the opportunities that are all around me.

calatrava broke my heart Man On Stairs At Slipper Room whole bird IMG_3917 IMG_3925  IMG_3936

Logan -> Lambert

I’m slipping a weekend of love and family into what was supposed to be a solid month of writing. I’d love to be writing, I suppose (all things being equal) but it would be difficult to move forward productively without simple human contact, laughing with Evan, kissing Bill, squeezling a cat. I need grounding after all the intensity, or I’ll just keep sparking into the air, whipping around like a live wire.

I feel like Laurie Anderson. Which would take too long to explain. I’ll let her do it.
(It’s a shipwreck! It’s a job! I’m a virus!)

diving into genius

You know, it’s interesting, peeking into all of the deep, beautiful disciplines that people use to examine and describe the structure and processes of the universe, or the built world, or the fabric of society. Last night I was fooling around with a manifold idea, fooling and fold being the key words there.

There are special kinds of geometric forms used to describe possible structural arrangements of spacetime in string theory, and we have been moving naturally toward them in our beadwork.

Calibi Yau manifolds

Why string theory? I don’t know. As I just realized that if my RNA stick or string was infinitely expandable, I could build an entire universe, I am sort of naturally wandering toward the people who work in that end of physics. Those are my people.

But I’m not really interested in spending my life doing their work. I find discovery exhausting, because I am incapable of turning away from an idea until I grasp it. Were I to go into a field like that, I would begin to suffer badly, as no one lifetime could manage the work.

When I look into deep fields, I’m only looking for signposts to help me find the right people, the ones who can see. So I’m not looking for just any architect. Or just any chaos theorist. Or just any painter.


I’m only looking for the ones who’ve seen the face of God, so to speak, and not gone mad. It isn’t information I want, I just start there, because the information, and the quality of it, is what sometimes leads me to my people. Admittedly half as often I just run into them on the street.

The ideas, the beads, the math… not much of it is really real to me. It’s just the structure I move through. Sometimes I say a lot of things in a row that sound silly, but eventually, you know, I wrangle them all down to 1.

Signposts from other fields are tremendously helpful. Last night, when I was struggling along with the idea of an infinitely expanding coding string, and I was studying how my little wizard sticks (the beadworked DNA bands with RNA-style edges) could start any one of the complex forms in my books:

Final NYC Poster web

then this bit made a lot more sense to me than it ever had before (paraphrased from a textbook on string theory):

In algebraic geometry and theoretical physics, mirror symmetry is a relationship between geometric objects. The term refers to a comparison of two objects that may look very different geometrically but are nevertheless equivalent in certain ways of counting, or dimensional expressions of string theory.

So from that I can understand that it is reasonable for me to make the statement that I can make a universe from an infinitely expanding string, or certainly at a minimum that I can begin (and code) every single shape on the poster, and an infinite number of other shapes, from a single strand of information. The information can be in almost any physically compatible form; it doesn’t even have to be made of beads to start beadwork from it. It can be a neutral field, even, like a piece of felt, or a circle of beads sewn onto a skirt.

In a way, the more complex my checks and balances, the more sure I am of my simple calculations. I feel a shred of the excitement that Gaudi might have had as he was hanging his weights on upside-down chains and seeing, in his mind, the catenary arches rising on the other side.

We do not actually have to count to describe anything, as far as I can tell, unless we choose to do so for purposes of human precision.


This is a photo I took at Casa Mila, in Barcelona. It hangs in an area under some beautiful catenary arches, and explains the weight calculations for the cathedral. The calculations would have been improbable to accomplish using mathematics (computers at the time were still very primitive) so Gaudi sidestepped math, and used intuitive structural geometry to solve it.

So I am looking into high end physics and mathematics and deconstruction and construction and modelling and genetics, but not because I fancy becoming or impersonating such a scientist. The only thing sillier than the latter would be the former. It’s not my work, I do something else.

I’m only looking for confirmations, really – for overlapping markers and for very clever people. And I find those markers (and the people leaving them) in every single time and place I look. I often wonder if perhaps other means and methods of calculation could be simplified by substituting more elemental basic forms for more sophisticated models. And although it’s not really my business, I keep coming up against the idea that perhaps everything really can be answered with some simple arrangements and rearrangements of points on a line.

Who knew?

a curve in the sea

I’ve only been a few places in the world that have torn me into this many even, beautiful, terrible, curled pieces. The spiral of land is much like the spirals we’ve been moving toward, and I feel disoriented when I see a photograph of where I am from above. I’m not sure why.


I’m quietly sitting in front of the windows, looking out onto the sea and making practical headway on the new ideas that I had while we were working in the Cambridge library, ideas about yet more new ways to separate sections of beadwork cleanly.

One of them is for cloning any form of leaping winged or zig-zag shape by simply sketching onto a form with one round of beads the desired configuration, and then making its living component in place, to size, and letting it dance off cleanly, leaving only the sketch (or more precisely the idea) behind. This is good work, and changes everything for some small subset of humans, but is essentially unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

What I’m really still hanging up on is that I find it difficult to believe that even six months ago none of us could think of one way to clone that form easily, and now it’s obvious to even the casual observer that there are at least six good ways to do it with no coding errors or use of advanced techniques, no Exploding Round.

ptown from the air

But it is the same with every solving. And I am not annoyed in the slightest that all of my previous innovations have been rendered moot (or even foolish) by the new tactics. It was all good work, each timestep, and each thing was better than what we had when we started. Wait, that’s a lie. I’m incredibly annoyed. Why couldn’t I see the structure?

My body is rearranging itself again, and I wish I could measure how. Whatever is going on here, it won’t be much longer now, that’s all I know, but I have no idea what is coming. An idea? A structure? A solution to a problem? A human being? An event? Even positive events can be unsettling, if enough of them happen very fast.

And again, although no one ever engages with me with this, I want to know why, if something is so easy to see, it can remain cloaked in plain view.

There is an answer here beyond the obvious.

hello October


Hello, October, you slipped in without me noticing.

harvard yard fall 2015

Harvard Yard is very leafy. It is swirling; the tiny leaves float in the air.

I cannot remember when I began writing 10 instead of 9 on my papers, but then I can’t honestly care about the difference between 9 and 10 anymore anyway. I had a shocking realization somewhere in the slide between those two months that there actually wasn’t any difference between any numbers, or arrangement of numbers, unless you need there to be. Everything bascially adds up to 1, which is just the other half of zero.

It’s not complicated, but I thought it was. What time I have wasted on things, thinking they mattered. I had fun, though, and I love solving things naturally, like the Uncarved Block.

Saturn Jupiter Luna Cambridge Boston

Have I ever told you how much I love Boston? I don’t understand why I shouldn’t just stay here frequently/forever.

Amazingly I can teach a four week session at MIT in January, every January. It’s easy; anyone with a good idea that might engage others can do it. There is a special session each year that the students (or anyone in the MIT community) can sign up for. It’s called IAP, and I am going to teach it, if possible, every year for the rest of my life. I start on January 4, 2016.

Why not, I say. I didn’t know that I could do this, or I would have started as soon as I could have organized my thoughts, reached the blackboards.

the view from Dogans window at MIT

Right now I am on the tip of the tip of the fern frondy edge of the Atlantic Seaboard; I am in a tiny beautiful little cabin on the water in Provincetown, Mass. It is owned by a beader named Rebecca who I have not yet met, but feel close to her here in her space. And it looks like this:

ptown sunset

provincetown sunrise

I’ve traveled to St. Louis and kissed Bill repeatedly and frequently and celebrated Evan’s 18th birthday (ah, how I long to spend every second of my life with that boy, and how wrong that would be).

Last week, we held my Seed Bead Summit at MIT (and assorted other exciting locations) and found a theoretical spatial whiz and a gentle visionary artist/engineer and an architect with as much energy as I have, and a math theorist who understands that everything adds up to 1, and is apparently trying to show people how it works in Pythagorean triples. Well, I haven’t met the last one yet, but it is inescapable; I know his name, and we have the same little idea.

Kate in the MIT Stata Center

above, the wrap-up on the last day; the lecture at the MIT Stata Center (the Frank Gehry building).  below, working in the beautiful Beech Room at the Cambridge Public Library. From left, Kim Van Antwerp, Carol Jones, Ingrid Wangsvik, Sharon Manewitz, Sam Norgard, Sheila Prosterman, and a snitch of Laura Shea.

Class in the Cambridge Library

below, Kim and I under one of the polished chrome surfaces of the Stata.

Kate and Kim in the Gehry

And I met Ray Magliozzi. Just because I like to tag along with people I like (like I am a stray dog that keeps following them around) I followed my friend to go get his car out of the garage and I met Ray. And he misses his brother something awful. I gave him a tight tight hug and told him I did too, and thanked him for all of the laughter and love.

Kate and Ray Magliozzi

I wouldn’t have met either Ray or the architect if we hadn’t at Miracle of Science – the pull of that golden Down East cider has logged another victory.

The things that are happening lately are feeding into an interesting little idea I have that every triangle seems to naturally find a series of infinitely changing fourth points to use for rotational balance or to find the correct alignment to work within or work around time and space. I can’t see the balance point, but it seems to be unfixed; there are so many possible ways for a triangle to touch things.

It feels like MY balance is sought by the center of my personal trianglulation (which I do with every thing, thought, motion or idea that I have or am) and not any edge, angle or point. And some people or buildings or places or moments allow me to balance on them, in them, and I can reach not only what I can reach but what they can reach, what they are, as well.

Somehow, that reach must work both ways, if they want it to.

Jack Wisdom and Kate McKinnon by Kyle Cassidy

Bill is something else; he is his own system, and when I am with him, our systems merge. It’s exhilarating, beautiful, elegant, and life-affirming. We flow in and out of each other, full system to system. He is my home, just like the desert, the sky, the cities. I see him again in DC, in early November, for the annual Planetary meeting. It’s the Pluto team’s victory lap, I want to be there to celebrate them.

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 10.22.31 AM

Right now, at this very minute (while I am on the curled tip of the Cape) he is walking on a glacier in Canada with a Japanese TV team. I am thinking of him, out of range of phones, finally getting to walk on and touch the living ice that he studies.

Oddly, although he is deeply involved in the study of ice, he has never gone to a Terran glacier before. I guess he was just saving it for now.

Bill adorable

Hello, September

It’s been a while since I checked in.

This past weekend, my beloved Orangelina, a Desert Spiny lizard who lived in the back yard, went to the Great Lurk In The Sky. I thought that her passing deserved its own moment, its own post, and so it got one.

Orangelina is happy to see me

Goodbye, little orange muffin.

I miss her dearly. Being home this month is lucky for me; I was able to notice what was happening and had the chance to spend her last day with her. And what a last day it was, lying in the garden, surrounded by sounds and birds and protected from predators by someone who loved her. Who could ask for more?

It’s the sort of a last day I would want. Just hanging out, in the garden.

I’ve been to many lands since I last wrote. After the Pluto encounter, I went up to NYC to see Ryan Anas and Michael Pope, and not see Carter Emmart (who was in Singapore, but just recently seen at David Grinspoon and Jennifer Goldsmith’s wedding) and meet Peri Lyons.


Carter and I at Dave and Jen’s wedding, photo by Henry Throop

NYC train July

below the train, Brooklyn

Ryan and I had lunch at the Black Swan. The unfiltered Down East cider was like drinking sunshine. Amazingly, Graham Thompson (a friend from Tucson) has moved to NYC, and lives just down the street from the Swan; he stopped in to say hello and it was lovely to see him.

Ryan Black Swan Downeast Cider Williamsburg

below, Peri Lyons, raconteur, flaneur, seer


After NYC,  I went home to Tucson for a few weeks to get my new work together, and then to San Diego to give a talk. The talk went well, and the new work is propagating nicely around the world, I got a ride in Craig’s boss car, I got to meet Gwen Fisher.

Craig Miramons 1964 Galaxie 500

Craig Miramon’s ’64 Galaxie 500, San Diego

Kate and Jeannette Cook

Jeannette Cook and I at the Carnitas Snack Shack in South Park, photo by Doriot

below, garden party, Doriot’s house, Gwen Fisher, Joyce Rooks and Cort in the background

Great Party Doriots

After all of that, I flew off to St. Louis, and then the four of us (but no cats) went on to Chicago to deliver Liam to the Art Institute of Chicago as a new freshman. Wyatt was impressed.

Wyatt is adorable

I’ve been in love with Chicago since first sight; it’s such a cool city. I find it incredible that Liam gets to go to school at the Art Institute, that his dorm is right on State Street (across from the Chicago Theater) and right in the middle of things. What luck!

structures and backbones

I would have about died of happiness had anyone, at any point (even last week) dropped me off in Chicago with living expenses, studio space, and art supplies, and said, “Have a great time! Do good work!”

Chicago river

kate in chicago

And now, I’m home again, catching my breath, catching up on sleep, looking forward to a couple of weeks of deep thinking and deep work preparing for the Boston Seed Bead Summit, just four weeks away. Life feels both like it’s careening along at an insatiable clip, and also slow and dreamy; it’s a strange and beautiful time of creation and renewal for me.

I’m grateful for what I have, for whatever simplicity exists in my life.


Farewell, Orangelina

Orangelina Yes

My sweet lizard love Orangelina has gone to the great Lurk in the sky. She died of natural causes, at a ripe old age of something like 7, leaving generations of progeny behind to entertain and beguile us.

lizard family breakfast july 2015Orangelina, Euell, and Lurkmaster Flash, summer 2015

She spent her last day sitting on the grass mat between the Lurk and the pool, soaking up the sun, the moment. I was home with a sore back, and so happened to be around for the whole cycle, and spent that last time with her, making sure no one bothered her.

 It’s wonderful and dreadful to fall in love. And so hard to say goodbye.

Orangelina postperil

It was just fabulous knowing you, gorgeous. I loved every minute of you.
Fair worms and following ants.

Orangelina Queenly June 2014