Kinstone Provides Place to Reflect and Connect
Kristine Beck describes herself as a “land listener.” Don’t bother trying to look that up in the dictionary—you won’t find a definition there. You’ll find the meaning instead at Kinstone, the 30-acre haven of peace and tranquility that Beck coaxed out of land that’s been in her family for generations.
Located just off the Great River Road near Fountain City, along Riverland Energy Cooperative’s lines, Kinstone doesn’t much resemble the farmland it once was. Beck has spent the past nine years regenerating the land, nurturing the former fields and pastures back to their native state and installing plantings, gardens, naturally constructed buildings, and megalithic sculptures that work in harmony with the surroundings.
A stroll through this comforting oasis will give you a clearer idea of what Beck means when she refers to herself as a “land listener.” It might even turn you into a “land listener” yourself, not that you’ll likely hear the same things Beck does. Part of Kinstone’s magic is that its features are open to interpretation.
For example, the megalithic sculpture known as Three Witnesses is a dry-stacked stone sculpture with three large columns of tillite. It was assigned a name, but not a meaning. The “three witnesses” could represent the past, present, and future; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; faith, hope, and love; or perhaps something else.
Cast in Stone For Beck, all of what is now Kinstone has great meaning. “My father, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather all farmed here, so it’s got a lot of special deep roots for me—lots of good memories, lots of spirit here,” she said.
She became the fourth-generation owner of the land in 1994, and began thinking about what she could build here
in 2010. At the time, Beck owned a small software company.
“What I was really hoping to do in 2010 was to create ‘a place to be,’ ” she said. “I felt like I needed ‘a place to be’ that was very different from and unplugged from corporate America.”
Her ideas began to form after a nephew introduced her to permaculture, which she describes as “a system of design for creating more sustainable human habitats that mimic nature and that follow three basic ethics: care of earth, care of people, and returning any surplus or reinvesting any surplus into care of earth and care of people.”
Beck said the idea resonated with her, so she hired a permaculture expert to help her shape her ideas and determine how best to put them in play on the steep, north-facing property.
One thing she really wanted, she said, was to build stone circles like those she’d seen during her world travels. These ancient arrangements of standing stones are found in many places but are especially common in Scotland, Ireland, and England. Often aligned with the sun, moon, and stars, stone circles are believed to have been sacred spaces.
“Stone places just have this mysterious draw for me, ” she said. “So I started thinking about stone circles and stone places, and started looking at granite quarries in Minnesota mostly, and a lot of stones decided they wanted to come join me here on this land.”
Beck began with Kinstone Circle, which has an outer ring of 19 large standing stones, an inner ring of smaller stones for sitting, and a sacred center of three stones. This monument aligns with the summer and winter solstice sunrise. The tallest stone on the north end of the circle is positioned directly beneath the northern star, Polaris, so at one point the star appears to be resting directly atop the stone. This circle remains the center of Kinstone, with some special performances and events held here.
Beck also had a stone labryinth built at the bottom of a slope, with several standing stones installed near it. In 2012, she sold her software company and concentrated full time on developing Kinstone.
Many Hands Every piece at Kinstone was created from Beck’s own ideas and dreams, but they were built with many helping hands. Initially, Beck hosted permaculture workshops and classes on the land, and some installations were built as projects. Others were built with the help of family and friends.
Kinstone today has more than 25 unique features. Some are stone circles like Kinstone Circle, but each has its own meaning, often derived from a distinctive feature on a stone. For example, the Circle of Mystery is a 12-stone circle dedicated to the questions in life; it got its name from a shape resembling a question mark in the side of the one of the stones.
Others are single stones or smaller clusters whose shapes give them special meaning. The Basin Rock, with a natural depression that holds rainwater, is also known as The Giver because it offers water to the land. The Borderlands is made up of three large stones, one resembling the state of Wisconsin and the other Minnesota, with a long, flat stone between them representing the Mississippi River.
Other Kinstone features include restored prairie lands, raised garden beds, fruit and nut trees, a composting area, and some animals including goats and chickens.
Kinstone’s buildings include three cordwood structures: a sauna, a chapel with a thatched roof, and a pavilion with a living sedum roof. There’s also a light straw-clay cabin; a yurt; a utility building; and an education center with a classroom, library, offices, and kitchen.
Dream Come True Beck said her focus for Kinstone is now shifting away from building her own dreams to nurturing and supporting the dreams of others.
“I keep finding that people who come here are inspired not just by the stone circles or the amazing beauty of the place, but they’re inspired by the idea that someone would actually say yes to a dream like this and make it happen,” she said.
Beck said she wants to help others embark on their own transformational journeys, making Kinstone available “for people who are doing things that are in keeping with the spirit of this place.”
“I’m listening to the land and trying to figure out how I can best help it do its work, because I think it has work to do here for people, things to share with people that I can certainly be here facilitating,” she said.
To that end, Beck is transitioning away from holding her own workshops here to offering Kinstone as a host for others. The property is already available for scheduled group tours and field trips, and also as a venue for weddings and corporate meetings. Beck is developing retreat opportunities as well.
In addition, Kinstone hosts occasional musical or meditative events, usually in conjunction with the turn of the seasons. Solstices and equinoxes are celebrated with observances at sunrise and sunset when special alignments are visible. The next such event is September 23, when summer turns to fall. Mostly though, a visit to Kinstone is a personal experience. Kinstone is open daily from May 1 through October 31. The Education Center is usually staffed during open hours, but guests are also welcome to pay the entrance fee at a self-serve kiosk in the parking area and explore Kinstone on their own. The comments visitors leave behind indicate the land spoke to them as well; all they had to do was listen.—Mary Erickson
Kinstone is located at S3439 Cole Bluff Lane, Fountain City, four miles off the Great River Road. It’s open daily, May 1 through October 31; those who wish to visit outside of the open hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. may call first, 608-687-3332. For more information, visit kinstonecircle.com or Kinstone’s Facebook page, facebook.com/kinstonecircle.