**I posted this on Facebook after a dear friend died suddenly, but want to have it here on my blog as well. I saw Kim twice a year at our shared music festivals, over the past 15 or 16 years or so, hard to remember exactly when we met. “All the years combine, they melt into a dream, a broken angel sings…” I love you Kimmy, rest in glory. Your gifts ripple outward forever.
Kim Kenney had huge circles of friends, and circles that overlapped circles, rippling outward forever. I’m guessing she was something different to us all, but the common thread I see online was her bright spark, her bold flash. My way of dealing with such huge heartbreak and loss is to write. So here’s what Kimmy meant to me.
She was love personified. She was laughter in a bottle. She was a hugging machine. She was snarky as hell. She was up front and she dove deep. She was up for whatever you were up for. She was supportive and there for you when you needed it. She was loud and boisterous. You could hear her calling out a name across the campground. I can hear her now, “Louie!” she’d yell, just to hassle him a little, or let him know she was thinking about him. She was Michelle’s wingwoman and soulmate, always right there for her, always wanting the best for her. She was the light and the smile that pulled you in, pulled you out of yourself, drew you into the center of whatever was going on.
She was at the happy hour table pouring shots, making sure everyone got theirs. She was there across the table asking about your deepest stories, the ones you weren’t going to talk about, but then because she was there you did, and you felt the huge well of her love take you in and envelop you.
Whenever we met, at Strawberry or Loma, her hugs were the first I sought and the last I felt, and later remembered. She was our first conduit into our extended Strawberry camping community, coming over to our camp next door to hang out with my family and friends, getting to know whoever was open to being known. She pulled us into her camp and her loving community, and now it’s our community too.
She was attentive to the children and teens and advocated for them, learning about their needs and helping them get there. As she was for me, pushing me to play more, step forward more often, louder. As she was for any woman player or any beginner player. And she made the men step back a little further to make sure it happened. “Let Michelle play,” she’d call, though finally, she didn’t have to anymore, we were on it ourselves. She was there when I played Breakfast Club, smiling and cheering. She was always inside the music circle singing, harmonizing, or helping musicians remember lyrics. Or she was quiet, eyes closed in her own world adrift on the notes we played. Or deep in conversation next to someone, and I wanted to be there next to her too, be in on her conversations. But she was always near the music. Or dancing her ass off elsewhere.
We often were together on Strawberry’s Wednesday night to sleep in line on the road or at the Dimond O campground. The party sometimes began at Evergreen Lodge with dinner or conversation, getting the weekend started right, catching up on life, getting some extra love or music. She could hold a gaze like no one I knew, and I was never uncomfortable with it, or with her frequent hugs, or when she unexpectedly said I love you. Though you did expect it, because it’s what she did. The only one I knew outside of family who said, “I love you” at frequent intervals. Sometimes out of nowhere it would come in a Facebook message.
The Thursday morning Strawberry “land grab” was better with her, whether we walked in together or arrived first thing in our cars, determined to carve out a space – me for our ten or so families and friends who would arrive later, and she for her Tequila Mockingbird gathering of friends from all over. We’d cruise in together, me fretting about getting enough space, she assuring me that “it will be fine” – but also a fierce defender of her turf and of her friends. All business those mornings – let’s get this community squared away.
We’d hang out in camp all day Thursday helping each arrival find a good tent space or parking place, making sure there was plenty of jamming space, and hanging out and chatting in between arrivals. I wonder if those who came later knew that it was her who got it all squared away, every time. At our Loma gathering we both were among the first to arrive on Thursday, and as we helped each other unload and set up camp the tone was set for me. Kimmy is here. We can begin.
Alan remembers her spiriting me away once just as we were setting up our own camp, I don’t know for what. Later he said something about her stealing me away, to which she firmly informed him that I was not his property and couldn’t be stolen. Firmly chastised, he continued setting up. She was never afraid to speak up for her truth.
She created a “Goddess Tent” for us women to retire to when in need of a quiet space, with a rug, so many pillows, an altar, and flowing tapestries. She soon let the men in of course, but the feminine/Kimmy tone was set. If you were lucky she’d rub out whatever sore muscles you arrived with, and everyone left feeling lifted.
She’d often lean over or come up from behind to rub a sore muscle out, somehow knowing which part of you needed it, and how much. Massage was her love medicine. And when I came up behind her, she said she always knew it was me, by the way I rubbed her shoulders. Not sure if that was good or bad, but I wanted her to get a little bit of what she gave so freely.
She did not bear fools easily. But she also gave everyone a chance or three. She wanted to hear your story, what made you tick, and then invite you in to party with her.
I’ve been remembering flashes of random things these past days, a conversation in the bathroom about toothbrushes, how to pronounce Dimond O (short O), her walking by and pulling up her shirt to flash me (of course I did the same). Getting shots lined up on the kitchen counter early Thursday afternoon to aid the setup crew as we hung Carol’s tapestries and set out her flowers. Seeing her across the lawn and changing course to meet in the middle for a hello or a hug or whatever. At an impromptu women’s jam I said, in a daze of notes, “Kimmy, we need more tequila.” She brought a full bottle and poured us shots, and hung with us in support and love. How many times did we dance off to the side of the music at Strawberry, others coming and going but she and Michelle right there where we could join in any time.
And always, looking up after taking a lead in a music jam, I’d see her looking at me, smiling and nodding. Get it Nancy, I can hear her saying. I guess I’m going to keep looking for her, hoping to find her there amidst the notes, smiling and nodding. Get it Kimmy.