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Creatives in the Wild - "All Creation Sings"

Nature has always been a strong theme in art. From Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” there are countless examples of how artists have looked to the natural world for inspiration. Aaron Jone’s All Creatures Yum experience, however, takes “nature as art inspiration” in a unique direction.

Aaron and I ran in the same crowd in high school and I had the pleasure of taking part in some of his bizarre ideas. When I reconnected with him recently, I was thrilled to see that in the past twenty years or so he’s lost exactly zero of his weirdness, and has refined it to a point where it is palatable to the masses. Literally palatable. In the summer of 2021 in Bloomington, IN, Jones and two colleagues of his created an experience centered around the emergence of brood x cicadas - one that included music, Ted-talk style lectures, and a menu that highlighted one key ingredient: the cicadas themselves.

I even hopped on Facebook - a place I rarely dare to go - to scroll through the All Creatures Yum! page, where people were encouraged to share artwork, photos, music and memes all celebrating the emergence of these cicadas. In doing so, I got a better sense of how many layers there actually were to this project.

When I asked him what inspired the event, Aaron said, “Unless you've lived through a brood of cicadas emerging, a big one, you can't really understand how ridiculous the experience is. I wanted to magnify the childlike experience of that and keep it, although subtle, grounded in thankfulness to God for his wildly diverse creation.” Indeed, the hymn, "All Creatures of Our God and King" was sung corporately at the event.

A very talented musician, it came as no surprise to learn that Aaron created an album entitled Little Lamb / Little Cicada to commemorate the event which features live cicadas. I was, however, surprised to see two other high school friends of mine, opera singers Tara Stafford-Spyres and Michael Spyres also on the album. This is one aspect of the project that excited me the most! It brought me right back to the days where we’d say yes to one of Aaron’s ideas, not sure where it would take us, but appreciative to be brought into his creativity.

All Creatures Yum was such a success, that Aaron and his cohorts now put on regular gatherings called Pop Up Bloomington where food, music, and cozy community are always part of the evening. Picture long, family style tables, a hymn or folk song sung prior to dessert, and lively conversation between 20 to 30 guests. If you’re in the Bloomington area, look it up.

When I think of gatherings like this taking place the emotion that rises closest to the surface for me is HOPE. I’m grateful that there are folks like Aaron that are spending the energy to bring people together around food, music, and conversation. Something that our great-grandparents saw as a regular rhythm. Something that I pray we’re headed back to. It certainly is a challenge to me to open my front door a little wider, cook for more than three more often, dust off the piano keys, and maybe even expand my palate.

What about you? What are you creating? I would love to hear about it.

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