a whole new world

It’s a whole new world this January, at least in my reality.

I’m still stunned at the results of the election. As I enter 2017 with actually nothing (including health insurance, amazingly) and I watch the Republican Congress debate how best to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and eliminate basic reproductive care and rights for women, I think about what it means to be a woman, an independent human being, someone who works with their hands and their words for a living.

Kate on the Brooklyn Bridgea picture taken last year by Carter Emmart, when we walked
over the Brooklyn Bridge

As a married woman, for 35 years I heard words like “I’m sorry, you aren’t the primary/principal/person with a penis” whenever I tried to call about the internet bill, the bank account, or the mortgage on the house. There seemed to be no awareness in the databases of America that two people could actually be equal, each empowered to act. I find the situation no better as a recently divorced person; even holding my documents that prove that I own a quarter of a TIAA account gives me no more power to speak to TIAA about that account than when I was a married person who legally owned half of it. It’s amazing, but there it is. When they are ready to speak to me, they will. It might be January, it might be March. There is nothing I can do.

I find all of this very tedious; I cannot make headway in my own situation but must actually, truly wait for others to sort it out for me in their spare time. Should I be so fortunate as to survive the delays intact (I’d better not get hit in a crosswalk by an uninsured driver) I will NEVER marry again. It’s sad but true that no symbol of love is worth a woman losing the right to administer her own daily life. And it’s frankly shocking to see that in 2017 women are losing rights instead of gaining equality, to see a bully, a pig, a racist, a misogynist in charge of our country. It’s dangerous, it’s embarrassing.

This is all discouraging, but there isn’t any point in giving in. And, I should say (especially because I have had some very loving emails and a lot of concern for my well-being after divorce) that I am happy. And I am at peace, and I am full of love, and our kids (who are all 19 or older) are fine. I have love in my life (in all ways) and I simply refuse to acknowledge anything else. Administrative problems will work themselves out, and my resolution to run my own life will solve a large part of my future.

Kate and Kim in the Gehrywith Kim Van Antwerp, one of my beloved CGB co-authors, at MIT

If anything, I’m just more determined than ever to make every moment count. I’m not going to let my work, my life or my actions be driven by the agendas of others; in one way that is a very selfish thing to say, and I apologize, but in another it’s the only thing that makes sense. My children are grown, my parents passed away in the ’90s, and I’m not responsible for the care or feeding of anyone except two cats. So instead of worrying about what other people think I should do, or trying to turn their lives to match mine, or my own to match theirs, I’ve got the luxury at this point in my life of choosing to focus on only doing real work that helps all people. Making real things. Thinking about real problems. I just want to be real, do real work, to put everything I have forward.

What do I mean by real? It’s almost easier to give examples of what isn’t real. Stock trading, global currency manipulation. Racial supremacy. Nationalism, war, hate. None of those things have the slightest coherence, each of them is entirely, 100% made up. Not one thing there has the slightest reality. They may represent real things -stocks, for example, are a measure of corporate health, currency is a measure of a nation. Each are a way to gin up wealth or poverty, but neither are actually real, they are ideas that we’ve all (mysteriously, I think) agreed to fund. Currency is not coherent in the way that a tree is, or a friendship, or the measure of distance from Mars to Venus.

Great Party DoriotsDoriot’s house seems very real to me; this was a gathering last summer after I gave a talk on the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork project at the Mingei Museum.

One could say (and many do) that nothing is real; I subscribe to this idea only partly. The actual physical things in our world are very real to us. The water, the air, the food chain, the kisses of our children are intensely important, intensely real to us. Money, fear, the propaganda of war, these have no existential coherence.

Working on clean water, helping solve cancer, making fusion or wind power, making a seed bank on the Moon, or creating modular radar, understanding data storage in crystal structures, making books on beadwork, figuring out how to use a matter beam, or a surface that can morph, well, those are all real things I can focus on, so I will.

Sagdeev voting aloneRoald Sagdeev, a friend and fusion energy pioneer, voting his conscience in the
Soviet parliament before the fall of the Soviet Union (the vote was to condemn democracy, whatever that concept actually means.) Stand up to bullies!

Join me, won’t you? Turn away from what isn’t real, and just look at what is. This will be a very powerful response to what is happening. Keep an eye on your people, your friends, reach out to other people you admire. Women, get together. Strong women, find each other, and take hands, unite. We’ve simply got to stick together. There isn’t anything else.

with love, and deep in work,
your friend, Kate

26 thoughts on “a whole new world

  1. Kate,

    I’m rooting for you to work through the maze. Your energy seems boundless and you have lots to do. I’m with you.


    Sent from my iPad


    • Thanks, Phyllis! It’s always so hard for people, isn’t it? Medical situations also result in mountains of admin work and forms that I don’t know how ordinary people wade through. Like taxes. They make hard things harder, and easy things difficult.
      I appreciate your note, and hope you are in fine fettle and beading away.

  2. Thanks for posting dear Kate.
    Miss you and look forward to another time together in this new year.

  3. Oh, Kate, the needless complexities that hinder forward movement. It’s been 20 years since I left my first marriage and it wasn’t pretty at all – the past is just that, the past, but I remember feeling pretty powerless that I didn’t have my own credit cards or payment histories on the utilities, stuff like that. Still, I was lucky, I had family and skills and confidence that I could manage. I had a generous daddy who made a disbursement to all of his children and paid my relatively small outstanding debts. Within 8 weeks of the day I left rural California, I had a professional job at Seattle University, red boots, blue high heels, a place to live in a city with a symphony and an opera company and pizza delivered right to your door, and a sense of freedom that exalted me.

    I said I’d NEVER re-marry, and I did, and I don’t regret it for a minute. The bills come in my name, I am the only one with a credit card that I pay off regularly, and I run my own business. I’ve learned to think change is the only way to go – we can go kicking and screaming, or laughing and dancing.

    You have so much potential, Miss Rocket. I’m rooting for you and looking forward to the books.

    Because I’m nerdy, I like to hit the links at the bottom of your blog posts – they lead back into a time before I read your blog regularly. I don’t know the algorithms of how they associate different posts, but the one I read today was https://katemckinnon.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/forgetting-who-i-am/
    and it was right after the first beading book came out.

    It ended like this:

    I find that I actually know almost nothing about my own head at this point. I’ve been single-focused for so long (and that focus must continue indefinitely, it seems) that I find I do not know what is under the crust; like some sort of delight that is baked under a burned shell, when I emerge into the Arizona springsummer, who will I be?
    Hopefully, no one.
    I want the chance to start over, smaller, kinder, less sure of myself.

  4. Thank you for posting an update, Kate…I’ve been thinking of you and wondering how you are doing through such tumultuous times. You certainly have had a lot on your plate professionally and personally this past year! Thankfully, you are a strong woman and will successfully manage whatever may befall you. Positive thoughts and wishes are being sent your way!

    • Yes, I have a lot on my dish (as Riccardo would say) for sure. But I do like it that way. It’s always amazing and enhancing, how one situation informs the others.

  5. Dear Kate,

    I am so glad to read this update as I, too, have been thinking about you and wondering how you were doing.

    And I resonate with what you have shared here so very much! Over the years, I have observed (through your blog and Facebook) how you have lived your life, your attitudes, how you’ve lived on your own terms and it has all been and remains an inspiration to me. I haven’t beaded much since that spectacular bead summit all those years ago but I haven’t gotten deeper into metalsmithing and art. I read in Letters to a Young Poet about how artists are (and I’m paraphrasing) guardians of the human spirit and that sentiment has touched every cell of my being. I think artists of every ilk serve as the reconnectors of humans to their humanity. So, I hope to morph my making into how I make my way in the world. A scary but exhilarating contemplation in these times but fuck it. It’s what I must do. It’s what I want to do. It is what makes my heart sing. Learning what I have from you has certainly influenced my choices and I thank you for being you!


    • Thank you, Ellen! I love what you say about how knowledge moves through each of us.

      It’s a tough time to be facing down the silliest parts of the patriarchy (not being authorized to discuss my own mortgage account, for example) while also battling the stickiest parts of it (the politics of marriage, country and society).

  6. Kate!! We have so much to talk about…And in many ways, are so much on the same page! I love your writing..your trademarked blending of magic and the quotidian, the politics of personal AND public life, and your unshakable commitment to emotional integrity. Can’t wait to read more! Best love..Peri

  7. So glad to read you again. I am all the way with you. I hope 2017 is good and kind to you. Bonne Annee! Josette

  8. I’m with you, being very real and doing very real things, even though my powers are somewhat limited :-)

  9. So much love and admiration heading your way. Numerically, we are in a 1 year. Invention, Exploration, Creative Activity, New Ventures, Progressive Plans, Feats of Daring. You got this.

  10. Kate, think of you often, always with deep admiration and love. Dearest, your hand is firmly in mine.

    • And oh, how I admire your own choices, Sarah. I think of you and Bill raising your grandson, and I think of you with so much love. Tight hugs to you and your family.

  11. Hang in there Kate. Life is to short to regret the past. Life lessons learned. The future holds sunshine and beauty, if one just relaxes and let it come.
    For the next four years I plan on beading sunshine and beauty. And pray that in 2020 our country is back in competent hands.
    Looking forward to the new books.
    Take care sweetie.

  12. I was totally taken aback by your revelation of divorce. When I had a moment this morning, I scrolled through past blog posts to locate the beginning of the end and found it in a post I obviously missed from late September. I’m not sure why, of all the things you mention in this most recent post, the knowledge of your permanent (legal) separation from your husband hit me the hardest. My own almost 40 year attachment to the love of my life began without benefit of “legality” – for 19 years. It just never felt necessary that New York State recognize a union that we ourselves did. We went before a justice (a towering woman named Madonna, no lie) at City Hall in Albany, NY in 1996 primarily because he had been in a accident that rolled his Pathfinder and scared him to death over leaving me without any legal spousal rights should something actually happen to him. We never felt the need previously, and little has changed since. The ups and downs we’ve experienced throughout the years would have happened with or without that piece of paper. However, I have often over the years of reading your interactions with family been struck with a kind of euphoria over your ability to maintain a deep and abiding love in the face of such consistent long term separation. After reading your September post, I get it, but am still feeling a sense of .. I don’t know what. Disappointment maybe. Sadness no doubt. There is so much I have wished I could do but cannot due to familial obligation, not so much in my marriage but due to an elderly parent and a mentally ill younger sibling. Despite the headaches you’ve encountered in your new situation, I think I also feel a bit of jealously over a sort of new found freedom you now have – a freedom I may not see until I’m a widow and have outlived both my mother and my sibling (and I certainly do not wish for those things). By then I may not be able to enjoy freedom as I might now. I’m so sorry for this loss in your life, for what was no doubt a surprise when the significant deciding revelation occurred. I have no doubt you will dive fully into your life, as you always have, and even overcome the nonsense promulgated by those holding you and your identity/funds/credit personality, etc hostage. I wish you the very best in the “whole new world” in which you now find yourself, and fervently hope that the dangerous situation in which we all find ourselves politically is restrained by the people rising up to each and every ridiculous or alarming situation that arises. One can only hope.

    • What a lovely comment, Karan, and how nice to hear from you. I agree with everything you say, and never expected to end my marriage, but it was the right thing to do. I’m lucky that it’s a kind separation, an amicable divorce, because I can only IMAGINE what a heartbreak and difficulty it is for people who are hating each other through it all. I have a lot of deep and abiding love for Bill, so that part is good. : )

      Honestly, and this sounds silly, I feel more like I’ve gone into service, as if I had entered the priesthood. The things I want and don’t want, and the way I want to live… these are not the things that most people want and don’t want.

      I appreciate deeply your honesty with yourself (and me) about the quite reasonable jealousy you feel at the idea of freedom. That is a beautiful thing to say, because it’s true, and it is a real and a good sacrifice to care for others – but you should never be asked to pretend that it’s nothing, the time that you are giving.

      I was never much of family material, but I did my best, and gave Bill three children who are kind, thoughtful, beautiful people who also want nothing more than to do good things to help all people. So I think of that happily, and only wish the best for Bill in the future. I regret of course that he didn’t want to come with me, but really, errands like mine are really only for people who want to walk out into the world and leave themselves behind. People have to choose that path of their own accord, and few do.

      My dad passed away when my sons were very small, and I have no siblings. Before my mother walked into the desert and never came back (a tough little chapter in my life that was) she said to me, “When you are in your 50s and 60s, my love, you will see all of your peers struggling to care for their elderly parents. I’m finished with my time, and later, you’ll see that one of the gifts I am leaving you by leaving expediently is your freedom.”

      It was hard to hear, because like you it wasn’t what I wanted. Not that way. But here I am, and she is right. I see all of my contemporaries struggling to do the right things for their families, and I see that I am, in the deepest of ways, free to focus on the problems of all people instead of the problems of the few.

      My health insurance and other woes will probably be much more quickly resolved, because Bill stepped in and is helping; he is the only one who can.

  13. Based on so many past posts, I would have expected nothing less from the two of you than an amicable departure from the legality of marriage .. let’s not call it a conscious uncoupling, which still sounds a bit new agey and contrived to me. I’m certain it’s highly likely your lives will remain somewhat intertwined after so long together because you both still care what happens to the other, and because you have shared so much over the years, not only the birth and lives of your kids but also in the excitement of each others joys and accomplishments. That’s my belief, and I’m stickin’ with it. ;-)

  14. Hey Kate:

    You sound like you are in a good place. I read your travails of conversing (or trying to) with anyone. I have been the worker bee for years and my husband has had the same frustrations as you regarding the inability to speak to anyone regarding any of our accounts as I am the primary….except for the cell phones which somehow my son became the primary of my account.

    It is also shocking that the rights that I fought for so hard in the 60s are willingly being given back by women who do not understand how hard it was to get them…..or exactly what they are letting slip through their fingers.

    XO Cathi

    • Cathi, thank you! So lucky that I had a peaceful divorce and that Bill is willing to help. It would be nearly hopeless without him, I’d just have to wait and wait. Well, I still do. : ) But it’s easier now.

      And yes, totally shocking that rights that we have all fought for are suddenly under the feet of bullies. YET – we are going to pull together more strongly over this. When they defund Planned Parenthood, we will refund it, I suspect. For example.

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