JUST PART OF THE PIE September 23rd, 2019
Last week I decided to view my 2007 documentary ‘Cadmium Red Light,’ about my dear friend, teacher, and mentor, Lennie Kesl. I hadn’t looked at the film since his fatal accident in 2012. Watching it again utterly renourished my spirit and yet when I came to the scene where he talks about death, my mind skittered across a pond of whats and whys and whens. Toward the end of the film, Lennie offers, “Death is a time when you check out, and your heart stops, and all your Cadmium Red Light energies are thrown to the wind… it’s the end-scene of anyone’s life. Death is just part of the pie.”
That ‘pie’ has always been an enigma for me. I suspect for most of us. Everything I hold dear about Lennie, everything he taught me, even things he was unaware of, are very much alive inside me and I’m quite confident the vast treasure of his friends feel the same. His physical body—a carriage of flesh and bone bouncing his Cadmium Red Light about for eighty-six years on planet earth—concluded its purpose then transformed into the essential elements from which we all come—life’s sacred water back into the skies, bone and flesh into nutrients for life unfolding. This is not an ending; it’s divine metamorphosis.
Does Lennie, in that bright exuberance he so readily shared with the world—his paintings, his music, his irrepressible joy—continue to exist as Lennie and for Lennie? That remains an unsolvable mystery. Still, what he’s shared with me is a big part of the pie, as enduring as starlight. And then some.
Portrait of Lennie Kesl by Galen Garwood Savannah, Georgia, ca 2006, from ‘Cadium Red Light’