The McKinnie Factor
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Rachel does not like crowds. I can’t stand tourists. Are crowds and tourists the same, I wonder, as we discuss heading into the wild or into the pretty landscapes protected by the Park Service and American taxpayers. Has Rachel McKinnie ever stood in line? I imagine her making a bank deposit, but I see a wall of the bank is missing and there are sand dunes and a boiling blue sky just beyond the counter with the slips and a pen on a thin chain, a place to total your money while wildness reminds you the only thing you have to waste or save is time.
This is the McKinnie factor:
Wilderness, the way a human finds itself only by becoming lost in its embrace, as the wild becomes a sort of cathedral where you can pray as blasphemously as you wish among romping elephants and soaring eagles and the wispy breeze which wakes you to a compass you carry inside, that reminder to avoid plastic and fiber optics, and follow tides and shores. She is a beacon, I think, always on the edge of trees or snowlines or streams or fossil beds. What an extraordinary creature, I think repeatedly, on my way from Vegas to the dunes in Colorado, where I run into her halfway. She drinks red beer while I study my Arnold Palmer like Galileo, wondering if she is thinking what I am thinking, of how strange it is to meet someone just like you, who thinks the sky and the sand and the wind were sculpted just for you, a personal playground for you to live in if only you dropped those anchors that keep you hooked to mortgages and frappuccinos.
Meeting Rachel McKinnie in the Utah desert happens after you say hello to her in a parking lot in Moab. You cannot know her until her blue and orange self melds with her surroundings. She sees without limits, with an appetite that erases the past but might kill her if she gives in to it, and this is the blue sky in which her pictures are captured: the limitless stratosphere, and eyes that stare even when she looks away. She leaks energy and moves over the land like a skate or ray in shallow water, every rock hiding possibility and every pebble a chance to scratch an itch, and this is the orange dirt of the sand in which Rachel McKinnie was built.
She agrees to shoot the Arches despite the crowd. It is late, and I promise she can hide in the shadows. The place is beautiful. She realizes she’s spent a lifetime here but only once been inside the park’s boundaries. She gets lost, and shoots. I watch her and promise you silently that I will write about meeting Rachel and seeing her in the blue and orange and expect that I will tell you how unique and mysterious she is, but take my word for it when I say instead that she is exactly the same as you and me.
The McKinnie factor is an act of camouflage. She becomes you, or me, and a gift of this deceit of hers is that you can see just like she does, through her eyes, following her feet. It’s a trick, and like all real magicians Rachel does it without knowing she is pulling it.
Also by seanie blue
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