It’s been an unusual year for me so far, with many changes. It’s strange, I know, that I haven’t written or spoken since January (or technically since June) but there have been circumstances. If you haven’t heard from me, rest assured, almost no one has.

Even now, it feels risky and personal to speak. I don’t want to. But I also don’t want to make a habit of silence; this time has closed my voice, drawn me inward.

photo Ryan Anas kate mckinnon lying in the MIT chapel

So much has happened. It all really started up, this new strand of my life, when in fall of 2014, four of us (and two cats) went to live in Boston for a half-year’s academic sabbatical at MIT. It was everything that I always thought it would be to live as a family in that alive, happening place, and to be surrounded by people walking, thinking and doing. It was especially sweet for me after 24 years of the family being based in St. Louis, a place that was only ever meant to be temporary. Even Bill never meant or wanted to stay. It just … happened.

At a personal level, my work was so sparked by the experience of being at MIT and in Boston that it leapt off of the table and whinnied. I was in a cosmic and happening place, I met new collaborators everywhere I went, and man, did I go everywhere. Each of us in the family reflected our surroundings, and it was lovely, lively.

After the five months of the fall semester, the time was up. I wanted to stay. We could have done it, but there were circumstances, as ever; Liam was finishing high school in summer of 2015, Evan would finish in summer of ’16. Bill and I said, “we can move when Evan fledges”. This didn’t get us back to living as a family in a happening place, but the future was something we could move toward as two human beings in the third phase of life.

We went back to our rhythm of two houses, intersecting lives, monthly visits. Evan turned 18. I got lonelier. I contemplated, as I had for 24, then 25 years, the ideas of acceptance, the practice of waiting for the Future. The Future, as it turns out, does not actually exist. I’ve had some time to think that over.

Liam, Evan and Bill McKinnon, Christmas 2012

We have only the moments of the present, strung together like jewels.

If I was waiting, I spent my time well, I think- I worked on my books, I kept my projects hopping, I went back to MIT three times, and I even taught at the January 2016 term, which was a dream come true. I found my own academic home there, I found that I could stay if I wanted to. I felt welcome, valuable, valued in a place that was one of the best in the world. I felt at home.

It really all seemed divine. The timing was perfect; the kids were grown, Bill was of retirement age (but still had lots of juice and a towering stack of chewy Pluto, Europa and other work that he could do anywhere). And so in January I asked him to get ready to move to Boston. Oddly, against all expectation, he refused to leave St. Louis, then or possibly ever.

Leaving my marriage was a really difficult thing to do, especially over something we actually agreed on. How surreal is that? Quite recently, in an equally strange circumstance, he accepted a visiting position at JPL in Pasadena. He can work on All Of The Things, he can teach at CalTech. It’s marvelous, but the timing is hard for us to understand. In a way, we felt (and still feel) played by the play, as if we were performing the process of a kind of separation we were incapable of making without a prop.

I haven’t known how speak of what happened to our marriage without seeming to place the responsibility on Bill for reneging on the deal to move; this isn’t right, because that’s not how I feel, it’s not real. What happened was mysterious, and my desire to be moving in the world was just as much in play as his refusal to move, as was the feel of water moving, inevitability. Just as when we met.

I am convinced, as is Bill, that we played/were played by the Fates. I don’t think about destiny, but I do believe in work, and I think and trust that we have work to do that we could not have done if we had remained bound in that system, in that place. For me, it has already started in a flow that cannot be stopped; ideas stream out of me, they move into a fertile bed of minds in physics, in engineering, in the world of art, we are a sussuration of bees; we are creating work individually and together that we hope will stand over time. Soon, maybe, the wind-fall I’ve been dreaming will stand in the Cambridge skyline. I think so.

I say to Bill, when we ache together over what is lost (and we do) our separation may be as holy as our union. With Bri by our side, stalwart elf, we brought the two boys into the world, we lived a deep luck and love, and we have our family forever in our hearts. My love has no end, it wraps through time in all directions, love begins and ends and never ends in a hot flow through my heart and mind, I feel as close to the center of the Universe as I can stand and survive. I meditate every morning, and when I do, I run film of every person that I love, and I fill those images with as much joy as they can hold, like filling cups until they flow over.

And yes, love is everything, but I’ve had to come to a real grip with the idea that loving someone unconditionally doesn’t mean that you spend the human time-string of your life waiting for them to take actions. The neutral mind, the path of acceptance, these are beautiful ideas, but in practice neutral behavior contributes little more to the Universe than the existence of a tree, or a field of flowers. In fact, the tree does it better. Much better.

Anyway: sometimes the only way a person who is stuck can even take an action is if another person calls game. I understand being a forcing function, but in this context I am surprised to be the spanner in the works.

Bill and Evan in the Pear Tent

I’ve struggled somewhat this year professionally as the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork work (which I expected to publish in spring) exploded into arenas that I am still working academically (mathematically, in engineering and in physics) to understand; I am nearly a year behind my publication schedule, yet this is as I always have been and probably always will be. This is my life, this is who I am, this is consistent. I have to be thorough, I need to do my work in the way I do my work.

I take deep breaths, I visualize the whole set of books (I am working on three at once, because I am mad) finished, sparkling, correct. I see them riding out, as they always do, bound and clean and beautiful and into hands, minds.

I’m regretful that I disappeared for so long, but I didn’t know (and I still don’t know) what to say. I’ve really felt (regarding my personal life) that I should wait to speak until the dust settled and until each of us in our family had a chance to breathe and process the changes. And so here we are, here I am.

Moving forward.

Kate and Bill at John Waters in Boston 2014

Bill and Bri in the early morning

442 Bill and Evan web

Bill and Kate at Ricardo Cat
Bill McKinnon with tiny fall leaves and the Aqua Building

So much love under the bridge, and more yet to come.

boys walking me to steamy train

Bri and Kate under the Longfellow Bridge photo by Kyle Cassidy

“I wish you joyous and mysterious eruptions
of profound gratification and gratitude.
I wish you fluid insights and revelations that lead
to cathartic integrations on a regular basis.
I wish you the ripening of lucky trends you’ve worked hard to earn,
resulting in the kind of healing that allows your generosity to flow.
I wish you captivating yet relaxing adventures
that enable you to weave together diverse threads of your experience,
inspiring you to feel at home in the world.”

Rob Breszny


37 thoughts on “further

  1. Blessings, love and peace…and a whole bunch of white light for healing, both you and Bill and the boys. The worst is feeling stuck ~ once you begin to move again, you’re home free. It’s just another process…have noticed your quietness ~ this too shall pass. Hugz

  2. I noticed a long time ago that “Lover” was not written on top of this page anymore, and that you didn’t write a word about Bill or your family since a long time… I am sorry that you’ve been dealing with such difficulties in your life and hope that there was/is a shoulder for you to cry on from time to time, or a beautiful place where you can let pain leave your body, even if you might consider crying as self-pity. At a bit of self-compassion is not bad to heal from soul-bruises. I wish you courage, luck and love, and the same for him too.

    • Ah, I took “lover” off when, I don’t remember! I wasn’t thinking of Bill when I did it, though. I imagine that I wanted to be taken More Seriously. There’s been a lot of love, and I feel for Bill deeply, because he never imagined we would part either. It’s a tender time to be sure but there is no bad feeling, just sad feeling.

      Thank you for your love.

  3. Wo. I don’t know whether to sigh, cry, or say “Oh my…” I’m long used to intuiting situations from a distance during silences that portend big changes. But I don’t always enjoy it when my intuitions are spot on. You have a strong heart and you love big. Big loves don’t disappear or dissipate – they change and can sometimes grow even bigger. In Hawaii, we have a blessing – “E Aloha Pau Ole” – May Your Love Be Everlasting. I think it will be.

    “Anyway: sometimes the only way a person who is stuck can even take an action is if another person calls game.” Often true, and then both people expand.

    Don’t worry about the book schedule… I’m willing to wait until they are the best they can be.

  4. Oh Kate…

    Just don’t lock any doors… metaphorically. You’ll find your way on this sometimes murky, sometimes brilliantly clear road.

    Hugs from one who’s been there, done that and never cared for the T-shirt.

    Much love


  5. My dear Kate, I offer my heartfelt sympathy having myself experienced relationships of love and loss, upheaval and turmoil, and then loving again. One reflects on what was and/or might have been and then moves on with life entering new chapters and always learning from previous experience. Because you and Bill have children you will always be family even if you are living separate lives. My best wishes go with you and all you endeavor!

  6. I find myself rather weepy at this news. Know that I love you dearest friend, and wish you nothing but the best.

  7. I also wondered at the silence and no mention of your family recently. Sending you love and hope; the journey twist and turns but there will be good things along the way for you. The books will be worth our wait; take care of yourself first.

  8. Dear Kate, another chapter of my life has just closed at age 68 and I can’t wait for the next one to start. Every chapter has been different, good, painful and amazingly wonderful, but never ever boring and my character evolves and strengthens with every story. That is my wish for you: that the page has turned to another great adventure and you are loving the plot and your character within it.

    • Yes, that is how it is happening, and I love what you say. I’m 53. I’ve really tried to notice and appreciate all of the different chapters, phases, moments, intervals of my life and I cherish the one that is closing (and that was all about shepherding small ones into the world) and the ones that are opening now (my mind feels like a flower, opening to information).
      I just really love what you say. Thank you.

  9. So sorry to hear of your difficult challenges. Praying for you to have wisdom as you move through the process.

  10. No words will be the ones I want. So Sorry for this difficult time you have navigated with grace and courage. Much love …

    • Love to you, Sam, as always. You know, you have personally been a beacon to me during the entire time I describe, first for your beautiful work and participation, and then coming to understand your deep professional work ethic, and then as you opened my mind and my opportunities further in the academic world. I am quite certain that knowing you made me want to go onto campuses again, and to twine with like-minded spirits, with young minds. THANK YOU. You inspire me every day.

  11. Much love to you and your family. I’ve been in a similar situation for a long period of time. I wish you all the best as you get through life’s not so easy journey.

  12. God, Kate, this sucks. Sorry, but I just want to hop, give you a huge hug, and leave you to move forward, however long it will take. I feel the hurt, I haven’t any wise words other than to say, I’m sorry, really sorry, you’re hurting. I don’t know how you could write this so your sadness is just so..there. I’m sorry times, two. I wish I could make you feel better. So many people who love you, never worry about reaching out, you might be surprized who’s there. Braveheart, hold on. I love you.

  13. Dear Kate
    So sorry to hear your news. When one is expecting things to go on for ever it really hurts when they don’t! I have never said to you before, but your first CGB book was a new start and also a sad goodbye for me. Charles, my husband, died four years ago, jus before Christmas, and the gift he never got to give me was your first book. It was a life saver for me, so thank you Kate for giving me something to focus on at a very sad time. I don’t usually bare my breast in public, but I just wanted you to know how much you are appreciated and loved. Take heart, my friend, and motor on!

  14. Take joy from the fact neither of you are bitter, jealous, or resentful nor battling just sad that you are moving on in separate directions.
    Brenda, I too was touched in way when I received a cigar box of treats from Kate, the aroma as I opened the gift wrap took me back to happy days when my Grandfather was alive, I wrote and thanked her for the pleasure she unwittingly gave me – people touch others lives in ways we can never fully understand nor appreciate
    As for the books, one day it will drop through my door that will be a happy day, and an amazing surprise when it happens.

  15. I’ll hold you all in my thoughts and my heart. Life is so full of changes, endings and beginnings. It can hurt to go through the changes. But inevitable.

  16. Oh, my dear, dear Kate,
    I feel so deeply sad about that news. I’ve read this late in the evening yesterday, and was crying. It hurts me that you are hurting.
    I knew that something was wrong since November/December or so, just can’t tell you why, call it an intuition.
    Only wish I could do more than sending out all my love to you…
    Stay strong, and take all the time you need for the books, I am pretty sure that everybody here is willing to wait for you!

    Love and hugs,

    • Thank you for your kindness! Yes I am hurting (and so is Bill, he needs our love) but also I am joyful and working; it is an interesting time. There is a hummingbird at my flowers, I played an hour of tennis this morning, I am working right now… I am blessed with love and friends and love and work and love.
      Thank you again for your intuition and your collaboration and your ease in friendship, Irina.

  17. Hi Kate.
    Sad news for all of you….I hope that the hurt is short, and that you can all quickly move through to happiness again. Wishing you grace, and peace, and love….


  18. I can only think to quote my grandmother who I, I believe, was quoting Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true”, which is what I have seen you always doing in the time I’ve known you. My heart aches for you (and Bill, and Liam and Evan), but it also swells in pride knowing there are such brave women as you who are willing to share their lives so others might dare to be true to themselves. Love and hugs, S

  19. Wow. Powerful words. My heart ached for you. I have been caught in this sort of riptide in my own life many years ago. Not the same of course but I can understand the myriad of feelings that arise over time and space. I send you a giant hug and wishes for beautiful times ahead. When the books get done, they get done. Life happens!!
    Linda Wahl Tucson

  20. From a fellow bead artist in Phoenix:

    I have followed your work and your accounts of your family life for years, online. I am very sorry to read about what is occurring right now in your personal life. You write with such depth i truly can feel what you are going through at this time.
    It seems though that you have many dear friends and colleagues who care about your well-being – I hope their affection can hold you up through these tough times.
    Please know that while you were/are going through this sadness you continue to brighten and change lives through your creative process. Your work and your books have certainly changed my life for the best. I love your technique and encouragements that push me to explore new dimensions. Thank you for all you do in the arts. You are not “behind in your deadlines” as I see it but on the start and finish line simultaneously. All the best to what lies ahead for you.

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