Rocket Science: Katherine McDonald
On quarantining in Montana, CreativeMornings, restorative space, and the beauty of small rituals.
Katherine is a New Zealand native, world traveler, and current COO and Head of Partnerships at CreativeMornings, the world’s largest face to face creative community.
You’ve been sequestered in Montana since March. Have you found a special outdoor space?
I’ve been so lucky to find two, actually! We’re within walking distance of a hill that is a Bozeman institution. It’s a well-known dog walking and running area that overlooks the town, and we’ve found there’s enough space to be physically distanced, too.
I go there every day, and it has been a real lifeline to get some fresh air, to see all the beautiful dogs and to take in the view. I’ve always found hills, mountains and lookouts to be soothing, perhaps for the perspective they give me. I feel very grateful that this trail is such an available and restorative space during some objectively challenging times.
Then, just two streets over, there’s an unexpected spot that I suspect not many locals would be interested in. On the other hand, the New Yorker in me says: “This is heaven.” It’s a simple, small grassy patch right next to a tiny creek with some overhanging trees. I’ll take a book down there, or just sit and watch the water flowing. I’m sure the locals are skeptical, given all of the remote and wild beauty that’s so available in Montana. But, it’s all I could dream of, really.
A recommended TV show for quarantine?
I have to be honest, I didn’t watch a lot of TV before quarantine so I suspect that nothing in this answer will be groundbreaking or even particularly interesting! But, Netflix has been a wonderful way to relax and I’ve embraced it completely. I’m finally catching up on some things that are certainly out of date, but also excellent.
One of those is the Great British Baking Show, which has provided deep comfort and calm to me. It’s such a delightful series of interactions between humans and apparently just what my soul needs.
The other show that has really struck me is Unorthodox. Back in New York, my first apartment was very close to where the show is set in Williamsburg. It’s taken me back to the diversity of New York in a way that, really, I’m missing.
What is your favorite wall decoration in your home?
We took a long time to hang things on our walls when we moved into our apartment. But, right before the quarantine, I suddenly had enough and went on a solo hanging spree.
The first thing to go up was a print gifted to us by my mother-in-law, who recently passed away. While it wasn’t up for a long time, it did bring a lot of comfort and joy for those few weeks. It’s an illustrated alphabet representing the most important things in life – as in “C” for Connect, “J” for Just Be, and “V” for Vote.
It is simple but beautiful, and not only was it a tribute to a very special person and the way she lived her life, it is a constant reminder of what’s important. Every time I’d walk past, a new concept or interpretation would strike me and make me smile or think.
There have been many great CreativeMornings sessions, is there one you have distinct memories of?
A couple of years ago, Keith Yamashita from SYPartners spoke at the New York City CreativeMornings. He took us on a journey that was really unique, and it had the feeling more of a one-person show than a traditional talk. He had an accompanying DJ and sat on a stool in the middle of the stage as he told his story under a spotlight.
He talked about his challenging struggle with experiencing a stroke and the renewal journey he’s been through as part of his recovery. It was simply a stunning and moving piece of art, that had a room of 500 people captivated. At the height of the event, we were told to hold hands with our neighbors (whether you knew them or not) as Keith led us on a detailed and personal guided meditation.
I don’t think I’ve experienced anything so moving or intimate in such a large room, and with so many people I didn’t know around me. My most vivid memory is of opening the doors back out to the lobby and seeing hundreds of people visibly moved in the light, some hastily wiping tears off their cheeks, many sharing their experiences, others hugging.
It really struck me – the power of these shared experiences that we have and the opportunity that CreativeMornings has to offer a platform.
Have you reconnected with anybody interesting over the last couple of months?
Rather than reconnecting with people I’ve been out of touch with, I’ve been trying to deepen my connection with people I’ve been sporadically in touch with.
I think we’re all in a mental space where we’re considering how we use our time for connecting with people and I’ve certainly wondered: what does that mean for me? Do I have the time and emotional capacity for all the Zoom calls I want to have?
I found myself gravitating towards deepening connections with great friends, often in other parts of the world. One highlight is that I have a standing Saturday night chat with two of my best friends in New Zealand, which has brought us together in a way that has been so joyful and rewarding.
Have you picked up any hobbies during quarantine? What’s been your “sourdough breadmaking” moment?
There hasn’t been any sourdough, but I have noticed myself going back to familiar comforts, including tearing through novels. Diving into a different world has been very soothing. Non-fiction, not so much!
I also took up cross-stitch, which has been a beautiful way to use my hands and create something that, honestly, I didn’t know I could create using very simple materials. I’m just a few stitches away from finishing my first piece, a fox, which will likely be my lifetime achievement in cross-stitching, I think.
Since we’ve been in Montana I’ve also noticed myself paying very close attention to nature. Suddenly I’m very committed to identifying local birds, trees, and flowers! It’s been a surprising and delightful twist.