This week’s All Good Things post is dedicated to Johnny Butler and his mama, Ann Buchanan. Ann let go of her son a few days ago, releasing him to end-stage liver disease. She let go of her prized son with relief that his suffering had ended and with faith that his short life was well lived and that Johnny was well loved.
Knowing that Johnny was most likely leaving us this week, I went to Nick Cave's immersive art installation called The Let Go. I knew I’d want to share my experience in All Good Things and I also knew it would kick up the dust of sadness, serve as a celebration, and be a little therapy for myself knowing we’d soon be letting Johnny go.
Culturally, I am spoiled with theatre, opera, ballet, and museums in NYC, but these art installations just knock me out. I’ve shared New York City art installations before; Geronimo at New York City Ballet and Manifesto at the Park Avenue Armory. The Let Go was also at the Park Avenue Armory. Do yourself a favor; if you can get to NYC before July 1, go see this extraordinary room of creativity, DO IT!
From the website: Interdisciplinary artist Nick Cave creates a dance-based town hall—part installation, part performance—to which the community of New York is invited to “let go” and speak their minds through movement, work out frustrations, and celebrate independence as well as community. The reimagined Wade Thompson Drill Hall allows for social gatherings and is activated by “chase,” a multi-colored, 100-foot-long mylar sculpture that glides across the dance floor.
Before the Let Go, I was only familiar with Nick Cave's sound suits. Materials crafted into tribally inspired costumes, visually spectacular suits that create sound as the dancer inside moves through space. When people say the phrase ‘feast for the eyes,' these suits are exactly that. Our eyes had a four-course meal!
We walked into the room and were immediately mesmerized by 100-foot curtains of mylar ribbons ‘chasing’ each other kinetically weaving in and out of the crowd. That right there was worth the ticket price alone. The colors, the motion, the sound, the JOY on the faces of everyone forgetting about anything happening outside of that moment. (That is what I love about immersive and experiential theatre or art, we can't do or think two things at once, so we are locked into what is happening around us right then and there.)
The curtains were halted and then served as background to the audience and put us up on the ‘stage,’ taking us even deeper into the experience. Our souls were stirred by completely unexpected gospel music, tears streaming down faces and tissues borrowed from fellow audience members as a parade, compiled mostly of kids of color, silently walked into the cavernous room with their hands up. An artistic ‘demonstration’ like nothing I’ve ever seen.
The dancers were ceremoniously dressed in front of us as their team created their sound suits, layer by layer, detail by detail. All with underscoring by the sweet, sweet gospel choir and a very dramatic and tenacious keyboardist pounding out notes written by Nick Cave. Once the dancers were fully transformed by their suits, the real party began! The singing rose to an even higher level, the dancing was primal, sacred, and infectious. And then it seemed to end just as it got started. Aha! The Let Go.
There are a zillion different meanings you can tie to the words of letting go. Some good ones I found:
- Letting go means being willing to allow life to carry you to a new place, even a deeper more true rendition of self. Holding on means trying to push life into the place of your making or be damned.
- Let go: to be more relaxed than usual and enjoy yourself
- Let go: to stop holding something
- Let go: to stop thinking about or being angry about the past or something that happened in the past
I think the first one - being willing to allow life to carry you to a new place is what I felt during the performance and to stop holding something is the meaning that helps me say goodbye to my dear friend Johnny. In the past, I’ve been known for clinging tightly to memories, to patterns, to familiarity… to unhealthy relationships, bad habits. I find as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned there’s more freedom in loosening my grip on people and things. Holding on tight to something or someone constricts and makes them smaller. Releasing things allows them to expand and possibly show up even bigger. They are there because they are meant to be there or want to be there, not by willing or forcing them to stay with me. My attachment to things makes them less mine, it actually squeezes them further away from me.
When someone dies, relationships end, or we find ourselves resisting change, letting go seems impossible. But releasing them allows their memory to expand, it allows us to grow in new directions and encourages forward movement. Holding on to the past - hanging on - keeps us stuck and even worse, sometimes we lose our footing and are pulled backward.
I think truly letting go means surrendering to the moment, whatever the moment presents us - grief, sadness, anger, joy, wonder, awe. I think that commitment to presence is proof we’re alive. And as we grieve the loss of others, the best way to honor their lives is to fully live in our own. Life is short. But it’s also LONG. Let’s make sure we are living and loving well no matter the length of our time here.
This week’s recipe is made with spaghetti squash that could easily be part of a Nick Cave sound suit!
Spaghetti Squash and Kale Patties
- 1 small spaghetti squash
- 1 cup kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
- 1/4 crumbled feta or grated parmesan
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- oil for brushing and for frying
- grated parmesan for garnish
Preheat oven to 400° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Brush the flesh with olive oil and place face down onto the baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes until knife-tender. Remove squash from oven, let cool for 10 minutes and then scrape out the flesh with a fork separating the 'spaghetti strands.'
Combine the squash with the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Form the mixture into patties. If the mixture is too dry, add another egg. If the mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. Pour a thin layer of oil into a preheated skillet. Gently place the patties in the heated oil, cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with parmesan before serving.