Stories about the life of Kathleen Alden Smick

Kathleen February 2007      Gatekeeper to Redwoods Big Sur      Kathleen Ren Faire Ojai 2002      more photos....

A place for the friends and fans of Kathleen to share stories about her life and celebrate her spirit.  To add your own stories about Kathleen to this page, please email them to, with the word "stories" in the title.    See also Memorial thoughts by her friends, and of course her jewelry art.

"One year Halloween landed on the same day Kathleen was scheduled for a blood test.  She put on her biggest blackest Renaissance cape, hood up, plus fake fangs, and went to the chemo clinic.  As she stepped off the elevator, she announced, with prefect Transylvanian accent, 'I'm here for my blood draw.'  She stayed in character throughout the appointment. She was quite a good actress, with no ego about it." -- Kelley Harris, Santa Barbara, California, 10/19/07

"Kathy and I were best friends, living across the street from one another.  During our 2and and 3rd grade years we terrorized (or so we thought) the neighborhood by dressing in Halloween costumes year round.  We spent all of our free time (which in those days was considerable) running around yelling like Banshee's.  It was our intention to scare everyone, and to bring Halloween (our most favorite holiday) to life every day.  It was our own weird little world and I don't think either of us ever really left it.  Hey Kathy....Bwooohaaaaa!   I know she's smiling!" -- Peggy Frye,  Washington, 10/19/07

"Kathleen had an amazing improvisational playfulness.  Out of the blue, I could start a line or character direction, and she would finish it.  She virtually never missed a beat.  Any subject, any form of play.  Even goofy made up songs about cats or whatever. I'd make up a line or two. She'd make up a few more.  Amazing.  It may have had something to do with her healthy mind and perspective.  She assumed people meant the best and was therefore open to play.  She wasn't constantly on guard for hidden meanings and criticisms.  She made it very relaxing to be around.  I could talk and play without needing to worry about my choice of words.  A wonderful feeling.  A wonderful gift." -- - Kelley Harris, Santa Barbara, California, 10/19/07

"We're coming up on Halloween and nothing beats Halloween like the best Haunted House you've ever been in. Kathy, Brian and myself shared a house in Fairplay, Colorado that is supposedly haunted.  Well, I think it is too. People have seen things, and mischievous mishaps have gone on while we lived there. One Halloween, we transformed that house into a very scary place. I was Rubella; Brian, the Count, Aileen came out of the "red" room grabbing people with a hook and a rocking chair mysteriously rocked with no one in it. Kathy lay in her bed, while people walked through her room. She had a ghost rise from her body and float across the room as she lifted herself up and sat up. People screamed, children cried for their mommies and daddies and we had soooo much fun. Kathy was a creative genius when it came to putting this project together with strings and pullies and fabrics. It was like a set out of a movie.
More fun memories will, Debbie" -- Deborah Welsh,  Sausalito, California, 10/20/07

"When I first met her, 25 years ago, she was living on the Eastern  Slope in Colorado, wearing big-ass leather boots, a fringed  skirt,  cowboy blouse and living in some kind of teepee-thingy.  I  remember it like it was yesterday.  I had just finished Tom  Robbins' "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues," and was struck at how seamlessly Kathy would  have fit in somewhere in the book.  The  wardrobe and locations  changed, but not Kathy."  ~ Eric Warp, Sacramento, California, 10/20/07

"... some photos - one is Kathleen at a Halloween party, two is Kathleen jumping off the roof of a play house (quite young - 6th grade??  Jr. High? I can't remember) and three is Kathleen and I taken by my son Chris on our camping trip.  I've also attached some memories of that trip."

Kathy Halloween Party     Kathy off the roof     Kathy Camping with Peggy

"Kathy, my son Chris (who was in 2nd or 3rd grade - he's now 33) and I went on a camping trip through Utah and northern Arizona.  This was a memorable trip for all three of us.  We went to Zion and Bryce and the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  My favorite memories are:
The three of us sitting on the bank of a river by our camp in Zion having a contest to see who could spit watermelon seeds the furthest.  We were laughing and giggling, choking on watermelon and making ourselves total messes.  In the end we figured Kathy won.  While at Zion we decided to go on a 4 hour horseback tour of the park.  My son was so excited to ride a horse on his own.  It had been many years since I'd been on a horse myself.  Kathy's mom always called her and I "Mutt and Jeff" because Kathy was so much taller than I (I'm only 5'1").  My son was put on a nice mellow horse that had obviously seen better days.  I was put on this HUGE monster, I had to climb a fence to get on it.  My feet barely reached the stirrups...Kathy however, was put on this tiny, tiny short little thing.  While crossing a river Kathy's feet were dragging in the water.....
We always took a popsicle break each afternoon.  Each of us trying a different flavor/color to see which colored the tongue best.
We drove for hours in northern Arizona looking for a particular campground.  It was dark and we decided we'd just pull off on a forest road and make camp for the night and start again in the morning.  After a cold dinner we settled down in our tent and started to tell scary stories.  I started and then Kathy would continue, then Chris.  The story ended up being about three campers who got lost in the woods, during the night one left to "take care of business" and never came back...and all the terrible scary things that happened.  In the morning we woke up, stepped outside our tent and discovered we were only about 200 feet from the north rim of the Grand Canyon.   A few unwary steps in the dark could have made our story real.  We ended up staying at our "scary spot" for the remainder of our time at the canyon just making day trips about.  It was a magnificent camping area, no one else, it was like having the canyon all to ourselves." 
     -- Peggy Frye,  Washington, 10/23/07

"Spaceville -
 Living across the street from Kathy was wonderful.  Her yard was a great place to play.  It was surrounded by a fence covered with ivy.  In the front was a smaller fenced off area with a sand box, a play house (just like a log cabin!) and a picnic table.  The picnic table was "Spaceville".  Kathy, her brother Randy and I spent most of our money to buy modelling clay.  The clay came in a box with a stick of blue, pink, yellow and white.  All you needed to make every color imaginable.  We created this little world on the table inhabited by "space bugs".  Imagine a small lump of brown clay about the size of two kidney beans with a face, little legs and brightly colored flowers on it's side (it was the 60's!).  We each had families of space bugs, they each had homes complete with furniture and everything a respectable space bug could want.  There were grocery stores complete with food, roads, schools, everything.  Spaceville was a very complete community.
We spent hours and hours immersed in the Spaceville world.  There were family problems, wars, evil space bugs, hero space bugs and anything in between.  The only problem with Spaceville was that the picnic table on which it existed was located in southern California.  Sometimes the temperatures were so high that all our clay creations melted.  Spaceville's sun would go nova.  We had to scrape the clay off the table and work it together producing a wonderful gray which then became the foundation and roads for the next version of our world.
Kathy was the best of the three of us in creating spacebugs.  I'm sure her little bugs were the humble beginnings of her artful jewelry that is so beautiful and impressive.
The memories of my time with Kathy in Spaceville are very dear to me.  Kathy and I talked about it quite a bit.  We both thought that we learned a valuable lesson from our creations.  When your sun goes nova and your world melts around you, scrape it up and make it a foundation to build upon."

     -- Peggy Frye,  Washington, 10/23/07

"...trip to Sacremento to do a craft show together...
I will never forget how she insisted on driving in her vehicle.  How we unloaded my little truck and reloaded her SUV and took off.  Even though she was dealing with side effects of her cancer treatments, she managed to drive the whole way there and back!  We had a wonderful time getting to know one another and sharing or 'jewelers' knowledge'.  She was a very talented artist - a great spirit - and I, for one, will miss her."  -- Cindy Mulhollen, Ventura, California, 10/23/07

"I remember when I first met Kathy, at the annual Santa Barbara Fiesta:
Heyoka had described his apprentice as a serious, hard-working artist... so was I expecting a woman who looked about 30, dressed beautifully, and who greeted me warmly and happily?  I was also extremely impressed by Kathy's display and jewelry at that show: I loved the unique combination of elegant fabric and picture frames to show off her gorgeous work.  She was right to show her jewelry in frames, because it was art that deserved to be hung on walls and in museums.  She was happy to share of all her "trade secrets" and converse with me, an upstart young apprentice eager to learn about the jewelry show business, and I'll never forget her kindness and help that she so willingly gave, that allowed me to start my own business.

Thanks, Kathy!" 

     ~ Kelly Morgen, fellow apprentice",  California, 10/24/07

"Phil and I were visiting Kathleen and Kelley in Santa Barbara.  We were with Kathleen in the local health food store stocking up on 5 or 6 bags of groceries for a little picnic lunch at the beach when Kathleen declared, "Look at all these people. There're all rich."   "How can you tell?", I ask.  "Because they're here and not working," she answers.  "But Kathleen we're here."   To which she replied,  "Well, I'm a kept woman and you're rich."   I think people were probably staring at us as we laughed.  Ever since that time, though my 1040 may not reflect it, I have felt richer.  Jo Merkle"  Athens, Ohio,  10/25/07

Kathy sailing on her 50th.

Kathy Sailing on her 50th.

  photo by Deborah Welsh, Sausalito, California, sent 10/25/07

"When your birthday is in November, and you live in the Colorado Rocky Mountains at 9,300 feet, having a beach party can be tricky. I am not sure, but I believe it was Kathy’s 30th birthday, and she decided that a beach party was just the ticket.

We sent out invitations—bring your own: swim suit, sunscreen, flip flops, beach towels, beach blanket and sand. We set up the pool in the living room with shells, sand, Frisbees, sand shovels, buckets, and other assorted beach equipment.

The party was a blast, and we drank Orion’s Belts, listened to that Old time rock ‘n’ roll (not so old then), covered ourselves in sunscreen and did our best to let the wood burning stove give us that summertime glow. The hot tub held 6-8 comfortably and we piled 12 bodies in the Cannibal Kettle that night. Ah, the gentle snow piled on top of our heads, the glasses froze to the bench and we talked till dawn. What a birthday to remember."  -- Aileen Grayce,  Pine, Colorado, 10/25/07

"Kathleen loved biking.
She biked as a kid, 'purposefully trying to get lost in the neighborhoods', so she could 'have an adventure.'  She said she 'felt free' on her bike, 'like flying.'  She spent four months touring northern Europe, in the 1980's, solo.  She led bike tours in Vermont.  She played bike polo in Colorado.  She commuted from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria. (~10 miles each way)  During her chemo years, she often rode up to four times per week. She rode up old San Marcos Road. (3 mi @ 7%). She rode up Gibraltor Road to Flores Flats. (5 miles of up)  She rode Ferren Road's steep face. She enjoyed rides in the Santa Barbara foothills, and fast 10 milers to the beach and back.  Night rides.  Rides up Toro canyon.  Rides around Gobernador Canyon.  She did the bike and run legs of the Santa Barbara Triathlon sprint course, a week after finishing radiation. When she was extra tired, she'd roll along and chat along side her running boyfriend.  Bike vs. bike, she had a vicious attack.  She had a way of being in the right gear, and surprising her unsuspecting biking partner.  She frequently faked him out by starting hard, then if he started catching up, she'd sit down until he relaxed, then she'd attack again."  -- M. Kelley Harris, the unsuspecting biking partner, Santa Barbara, California, 10/25/07

"Kathleen had eclectic interests.
Renaissance faires.  She watched the original Star Wars over 20 times.  She loved swords and sorcery, Star Trek, science fiction,  the Science Channel (Myth Busters, How It Is Made.  Cosmos.),  medieval magic stories, NASA adventures,  Lord of the Rings,  Princess Bride, Zoro, Zena,  New age music,  AC/DC to ZZ Top,  Horses,  Formula 1 racing, etc. etc."  -- M. Kelley Harris, the awed boyfriend, Santa Barbara, California, 10/25/07

"Zena Swords
Very early in our relationship, Kathleen and I would often meet at a beach grill on Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria before heading off in different directions to our homes at the time.  Knowing that she was into swords and fencing, I made up two simple swords out of pvc pipe covered by foam pipe insulation, and duct tape, and brought them as a surprise.  Much to my glee, she loved them, and proceeded beat me senseless with her sword prowess.  Over the years, the swords sometimes travelled with us, for improptu battles.  The most dramatic was high on a rocky hill in Montana de Oro Park.  She frequently mentioned how touched she was by that sword gift.  It was a great feeling for me to know that she could look beyond the six dollars in materials, and see a chance to play fight epic battles."  -- M. Kelley Harris, partner in play, Santa Barbara, California, 10/25/07

"Speaking of sushi-- or not-- Kathy loved wasabi.  Specifically the  "wasabi rush."  Whenever we'd get together for sushi, we'd take a  giant wad of wasabi, scrape it over the top of our mouths,  and... get  the wasabi rush... a painful/blissful mixture of sweating, tears,  exhilaration and sinus clearing.  If you're ever in a funk, get a  big, gnarly chunk of wasabi, do the "wasabi rush," and think of  Kathy. Some religions have communion with the little crackers...  we're going for the wasabi."  ~ Eric Warp, Sacramento, California, 10/29/07

"Oh, yes, Kathy loved her sushi. She turned me on to sushi when we both were ski instructors in Breckenridge, CO. '84-'89. Ted and Kathy took me to my first sushi bar there. I was a little leary at first.  She told me they weren't holding back and that they were going to break me in with the real deal.  We didn't just have California rolls, nah, they ordered fried shrimp heads with the eyes still looking at me. There was eel, and she really loved the quail egg on top of the sushi roe eggs.   Well they hooked me and we were sushi buddies ever since. Whenever I came down to Santa Barbara we went out for sushi. It's definitely at the top of my favorites. Thanks, Kathy.  -10/29/07 Deborah Welsh, Sausalito, CA"

"I  remember a  faire in Santa Barbara that I helped her with.  I think it was the first faire that she set up her booth.  I was not able to work at the booth because of my work schedule, but I did go up the weekend before to provide an extra set of hands to help with setup.  I don't know that I was much help because I was not able to get a clear picture in my mind of what Kathy's vision was.  She and I finally decided that it wasn't important for me to "see" it in advance, but only to follow her lead in where the fabric panels were to go and how to get them there on some semi-permanent basis. The primary challenge as I remember it was a somewhat low oak limb that prohibited her from putting up the normal, square canvas-lashed-to-pole structure.  Brilliant artist that she was, she worked it into the design brilliantly. She created a wonderful magical environment that was envied by many of the other vendors.

    That flexibility and adaptability was, I think, one of her great lessons to me.  I remember sitting together in the back of Crazy Woman working on any number of bead projects or discussing how to work out a design problem on an outfit I was assembling.  She was often my critical eye when putting together different fabrics into a doublet or a bodice.  Where I would struggle with the proportions, Kathy would take a look and say "What about this.........." and choose a different width of the same trim I had tried, and that would pull everything together and the outfit would sing.  She understood those "aha" moments and I just loved seeing her put that into her jewelry.  She understood my excitement in playing with texture and color and how to trick the eye into filling in the blanks in design because that was what she did with her jewelry."    ~ Terri Baker, Ojai, California, 10/29/07

"One day at school I was polishing a cab and it flew out of my hand and my finger hit the wheel and created a deep, dirty cut. Kathleen didn't hesitate for a moment in her decision to miss the rest of class in favor of taking me and spending the afternoon at the emergency ward. I had never experienced any thing like that knid of Love. I had always had to go to the emergency room by myself. She spent the whole afternoon loving me in that special way that  Kathleen can, you know that way she has of being  totally present with whoever  she is with and whatever she is doing. And when it came time for them to need an emergency contact she said I could put her name and info. That was the first time I had an emergency contact person in many, many years.  It is a day I will never forget. THANK YOU KATHLEEN, FOR YOUR PRESENCE, AND FOR LOVING ME !"  ~ Joy, Santa Barbara, California, 11/6/07

"For the first three days after Kathleen died I didn't see a single red-tailed hawk. (her main symbol)  That was an unusually long time for the rural area we live in.  I made up a medicine bundle to be cremated with Kathleen's body.  It contained some of her pre chemo hair, a four-leaf clover, owl feathers, and red-tailed hawk feathers, she'd found.  As I pulled the finishing tie on the bunde, I heard a hawk screach.  I smiled, and ran outside.  But I didn't see the hawk. Then 20 minutes later, driving down the hill, I heard a hawk again, and saw it hover above me for 10 seconds. I smiled back."  -- Kelley Harris, Santa Barbara, California, 11/7/07

"Miata Madness.
We both wanted to try a Mazda Miata sports car.  This summer we got one.  1990. (The first year it was made.)  Silver. In fantastic condition and at a very reasonable. price, with all the accessories.  Kathleen was in love with it.  In typical fashion, we 'fought' over who should drive it.  'You drive it today.'  'No you drive it today ...'   We laughed at the clicheness of getting a sports car, what we assumed was, 'mid-life', and joked  about having an affair, with each other.  She got great joy out of such a simple inexpensive thing. "  ~ Kelley Harris, Wishing we'd done it sooner, 11/16/07

"Saw a congress of crows today, playing with my dog.
 Happy birthday Kathy." ~ Susan Wasinger, Boulder, Colorado, 11/18/07 (Kathleen's birthday)

"Birthday In Big Sur.
Kathleen and I had spent her Nov 18th birthday in Big Sur the last four years.  I'd order her a big Black Forest cake, and she'd gradually eat it over three or four days until it completely melted and collapsed, and she laughed one last chocolate covered laugh.  We hiked.  She photographed 'roots & rocks', waterfalls, ferns, and clovers.  She loved the splashing waves at Rocky Point, and the opal-colored water water at Point Lobos.

We planned to go again this year, in the Miata.  So I did.  I Miata'd up the coast, at a speed she'd approve of, yelling out loud to her, and every hawk I saw.  For four days I hiked the same trails and ate at the same restaurants.  The morning of her birthday I had the two clearest dreams of her yet.  As I hiked her favorite trails, I was struck by how clearly my memory placed her right there.  I could almost see her. Almost hear her. Almost hold her hand.  Almost.  Hoping for more healing than hurting, I kept hiking those trails, remembering how alive and excited she was in that special place.  Like last year, Ventana was the spot for her birthday dinner.  One glass of wine on her side of the table.  Thankfulness and sadness on mine."  ~ Kelley Harris, still being hit by wave after wave of this reality, 11/21/07

"Two pebbles in a pool.
Kathy and I were coming to the end of a hike on one of her favorite trails in Montana's Bitteroot range.  We'd each carried two stones to clack together and warn the bears as we hiked.  I pointed out a small pool of water, worn into the rock, about 3 feet wide and about 100 feet down the cliff, and on the other side of the river.  I threw one of my stones, and much to the surprise of us both, it plopped right in.  Wow.  Without hesitation Kathy threw one of her stones, 100 feet down, across the river, into that same small pool.  Silence. We looked at each other.  'This is special.'  'No one will ever believe this.'  'No point in telling anyone...'   ~ Kelley Harris, 11/21/07

"More walk than talk.
Kathleen didn't call herself an artist.  She celebrated beauty and creativity in every part of her life.
She didn't talk much of women's power and independence.  She was busy building things, or off camping by herself around the Western US and Canada. Or biking by herself for four months in Europe. etc.
She didn't talk much of being a teacher.  She just kept learning and sharing what she learned.
She didn't call herself a shaman.  She just kept studying truth, nature, and spirit wherever it lead, and helping people when she could.
She didn't shower her partner with sugary words.  She just made him feel welcome in many little ways."

     ~ Kelley Harris, a Kathleen observer, 11/21/07


    I was not aware until talking with you this weekend that one of Kathy's spirit animals was the crow.  I was aware of the hawks and owls, but the crows came as a surprise.
    During the time that Kathy was in the hospital I was dealing with a sick step-son and running around from doctor to doctor and a couple of visits to the ER.  I was hating that I couldn't return your phone calls or run up to SB.  All I could do was to send thoughts of love to you and Kathy.
    On that Wednesday night we came home from the emergency room just a bit after 11 PM.  We got Martin settled for the night and we were about ready to go to bed when we heard a disturbance in the oak grove beside the house. This area is full of birds during the day and it provided a bedtime perch for several flocks of crows in the neighborhood.  Hugo and I went outside and the crows were calling back and forth to each other.  Not just one or two or a random "dreaming" caaa.     
    The calls started at the far end of the flock and then moved toward the house.  ALL the crows were calling but this was not a distress cry and there was no birds flew away.  This was the same sort of crow talk that goes on when they are coming to roost at night.  I have always imagined that it is a sort of "Here we are, hurry up and come home.  It's time for sleep.  We're waiting for you, hurry up and get here quick" sort of dialog to make sure that all the flock members know where they are staying for the night.  Anyway, that is the only time I have heard anything like this is the middle of the night.
    The next day I got your call that Kathy had passed a short time after 11 on Wednesday night.  I didn't make any connection at the time, because I was not aware of her connection with crows. It was only this weekend talking with you in Kathy's studio that I was reminded of the incident.  I don't know if this was her way of letting me know she was gone and saying good-by or if it was the crows welcoming their Spirit sister.  I have always loved those birds anyway, but now they are extra special because they will remind me of my friend."
     ~ Terri Baker, Ojai, California, 11/26/07


We were talking this weekend about how incredibly inventive Kathy was. I am sure that this is one of the things that made her art so wonderful - she worked loosely with a basic design and knew what elements she wanted to include but also knowing that changes or adaptations of the design might be necessary based on the materials that she had to work with.
That inventiveness was there not just with her jewelry, but in how she tackled any task. I was always tickled at how things just seemed to come together when she was around.  When she was working to get the Oak View house ready for her mom to come live with her I remember  her inventiveness with the remodel.
I was thinking on the way home about how everything that Kathy was interested in and the things she loved-fairies, nature, rocks and bones, symbols, fantasy - combined with her technical training in drafting came together so perfectly in her art. But most importantly, Kelley, you gave her the gift of space, of time, of encouragement of love and admiration that enabled her to produce the beautiful things she did. Those other things were always there.  The catalyst in the mix was you.  Without you, none of those things would have been created.  Thank you for making my friend happy and for allowing her to follow her dream.
I copied a bit of the article that I read about that ability to work with what is available.  Leigh Melander who was one of Kathy's neighbors and the harp instructor introduced me to the word and then later this  piece appeared in her newsletter.
'....And in our own time the 'bricoleur' is still someone who works with his hands and uses devious means compared to those of a craftsman" (16), i.e., handyman or woman, gypsy, as opposed to specialist. A bricoleur is an ordinary person, like one of the citizens of the republic, not only in the French revolution, but also in a postmodern, postcybernetic revolution. A bricoleur does the best that she or he can do with what is at hand. If one cannot use the palace, a tennis court may do. The British term for this is "tinker," likely . "
From  Bricoleur in the Tennis Court: Pedogogy in Postmodern Context  by David L. Miller, Ph.D. from an article in The Imaginal Institute newsletter
The bold type of course is mine, not the author's."

       ~ Terri Baker, Ojai, California, 11/26/07

Eep the Owl

"We heard a couple of owls making extra noise, close to the house, and went out to investigate.  A young fledgling was on the ground making a 'eep' sound, as the mom looked on from a tree.  The fledgling took off in a different direction and smashed into a grove of eucalyptus trees, and landed about five feet off the ground, but upside down, and appeared to be stuck in the branches. With flashlights in hand, we investigated.  Kathleen gently untangled the yound owl and carried it to her studio.  She spent many hours with it, making sure it was OK, giving it some water, and generally studying the owl as both doctor and artist.  They eventually parted company, but kept in touch over the years ahead, as Eep raised the next generations."

     ~ Kelley Harris, 11/21/07

"I was thinking today about the only time that I can ever remember Kathy ever being really mad at me (at least that I knew of).  We were in fourth and fifth grades.  I had just found out that we were moving away from Glendale.  I was crushed.  I told Kathy at school that we were moving, actually we were eating lunch in the cafeteria.  She was sitting across from me at the table.  She spent the entire lunch in silence flipping little cubes of red jello at me in her anger.  Whenever I see jello I think of that.  It's funny now... at the time I was devastated.  Last time I saw Kathy we laughed over the incident quite a bit."  ~ Peggy Frye,  Washington, 12/11/07


"As I slowly go through Kathleen's remaining papers and things, I occasionally find little notes and writings.  They are all quite precious to me, as extra insights into her thoughts.  Today I found a candle holder with an inscription that read,

'DEATH is nothing at all. I have only slipped into the next room.  I am I, and you are you.  Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.  Call me by my old familar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used.  Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.  Life means all that it ever meant.  It is the same as it ever was;  there is unbroken continuity.  Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?  I am waiting for you, somewhere very near, just round the corner.  All is well.'

I don't know if she got this candle holder when her dad died, or when her mom died, or more recently.  But I'll interpret the fact that she chose to have it out reflects her recent thoughts."  ~ Kelley Harris, 12/16/07

Man Walk

"It was the production of Romeo and Juliet.  Susan had the role of the nurse, and Michael was hired as the fight choreographer.  Of course all of his fencing students were recruited as assistant instructors and extra swordsmen.  I don't recall if Kathy volunteered to dress as a man, or if she was assigned it, but she jumped right in with great enthusiasm.

I don't remember all the details of the field research of the "man walk" study, but it did involve several trips to the arcade area watching guys we didn't know walk around and then trips back to the shop to practice in front of the mirror there.  We had to separate the common movements from the individual styles and then figure out how to make it work on a female frame. There is a distinct difference in how men and women walk, not only gender specific, but also a difference based on age.  The bio-mechanical reasons have to do with differences in knee and hip joint structure and the difference in the location of our center of gravity.  Guys have a different hip movement and more shoulder movement than women.

And then there was the development of "THE SWAGGER!" This was probably the funniest part of all. It was really hysterical to watch this part of the process and I wish I could remember the exact conversations.   All sorts of, at the time, serious debate about whether or not men walk the way they walk because of placement of genitalia and do guys focus on their pelvic region when walking and then we would dissolve into gales of laughter at the absurdity of  the conversation.  Kathy settled on a nice balance of tension and looseness with a walk that had a little more focus on hip action than normal.  A bit more deliberate, a tad bit slower, and full of "ATTITUDE" ! ! !  The finish of her swagger was a one hip slightly forward stance, with chin thrust. After she decided on that action, the challenge during rehearsal was to not break character and crack up.

I was playing a woman whose husband got wounded in the opening brawl and I had to pick up his sword and continue to fight with Kathy as my opponent.  We had great fun with developing the choreography and working on her walk and swagger and applying her makeup.  Kathy was fabulous, of course and if I remember correctly, the reviewer commented that the women in the cast who were playing men were indistinguishable from the real guys.

I just wish you could get inside my head for this one, though.  The giggles that we had and the silliness that this whole undertaking evoked were much more fun for me to view on that "mind video" that we all have
than the way I have written it."

Terri Baker, Ojai, California, 1/9/08

Liked Men

"Kathleen genuinely liked men and sympathized with their challenges.  Since I'd come of age during the official period of women's liberation, I'd felt significant guilt for being male in a world that wasn't always kind to women.  This was reinforced by some women I'd known who carried significant resentment of males.  But due to the randomness of neighborhood playmate options, and being extra spunky and outdoorsy, Kathleen had grown up playing with her brother and other boys, and later men.  She thought alot about the issues, throughout history.  Many of her favorite stories had an even distribution of good and bad women and men.  Somehow she landed on understanding and sympathy.  It took me awhile to really believe it, as she explained it to me in various ways over the years.  Ironically, she is the most liberated woman I've known.

Her  friend Terri added, 'One of the things that was so lovely about Kathleen was her ability to "get over it."  She had certainly had her experiences with bad behavior from men, but instead of slamming the whole gender she recognized it was an individual (or more accurately, individuals) behaving like a horse's hind end, learned from the experiences, developed greater skills at discernment and moved on...'"

     -- Kelley Harris, Lucky guy, Santa Barbara, California, 1/9/08

"I have been going through the boxes and putting things out, wearing clothes and jewelry and
feeling like I'm a Kathy groupie now. She's everywhere. It's amazing how she is more in my life
than ever before."
-- Deborah Welsh,  Sausalito, California, 3/20/2008

Memorial Tile dedication
(Jewelry School, Santa Barbara City College, Adult Ed, Wake Center)

"On a sunny Saturday Mar 22, 2008, 35 of Kathleen's jewelry-school friends gathered for a
dedication of memorial tiles for Kathleen.  (You can see the tiles on the photos page.)   It was a very sweet celebration of Kathleen's place in the jewelry school.  Her friends shared stories of their interactions with Kathleen over the years.  I learned more about her with each story.  I offered one story:

'I think Kathleen would be totally thrilled by this honor and celebration.  She would both glow with pride, and blush with modesty.  Kathy truly loved the jewelry program  here at the Wake Center.  She spoke of it very often.  She loved the facilities, the instruction,  and especially you jeweler friends that make-up a supportive artistic family.

I'll try to channel her lighter side for a moment.  I think she would find great irony and humor in dying of breast cancer and then being associated tiles, on a wall. "Tiles" were part of her colorful vocabulary.  She grew up playing sports with guys.  Whenever she heard, 'Balls to the wall!', she countered with, 'Tits to the tiles!'  It always made me blush.  But she said it with pride.  She lived her life that way.' "  -- Kelley Harris, Santa Barbara, California, 3/22/2008

Kathleen's Experience with Cancer and Lessons To Help Others

"Kathleen repeatedly expressed the wish that other people benefit from her experience with cancer in general, and inflammatory breast cancer in particular.  To honor her wish, I'm very willing to discuss Kathleen's cancer story.  I've started collecting parts of her story and information that may help others on a web page Cancer Notes. "  -- Kelley Harris, Santa Barbara, California, 3/30/2008

"Hi every one of Kathy dear friends.

Kathy has come to me allot and is sad and upset (not really the right words but I see a tear on her check). I guess there are some who think they could have done more to help Kathy.  These are Kathy’s word to the best I can get them:
I know that every thing was done as best it could and more!!!! I am so honored by all of you!!! I Love you all and want to be loved. I want everyone to let go of any guilt, shame or fear. Spirit was calling me; I stayed for as long as possible for the ones I loved. But I have work that I have chosen to do and this is the only place I can do it. I am still right next to you all. Every time you hear a frog or a hawk know I am there standing right next to you. I may even wispier in your ear. So don’t think for even a second that I am not here.

Sorry for being so harsh. But this is from Kathy!!

Love and Light

      -- Keith Hale, Santa Barbara, California, 4/21/08

See also Memorial thoughts by her friends, and of course her jewelry art.  And more photos....