Last Saturday, I participated in a “magic hour” tour in Berkeley honoring artist Susan O’Malley. The Swell artist duo of Ali Naschke-Messing and design studio ScrapD facilitated the experience. From the KALA website: “Wear yellow in Susan’s memory – she traversed San Pablo in a yellow hat for her Print Public project. The 40-minute walk will convene at the Kala Gallery, begin with limbic exercises related to Swell’s walking practice, and then embark along San Pablo Avenue. Susan’s ‘BE YOU’ artwork marks the beginning of the walk, and her mural ‘MORE LOVE, LESS INTERNET,’ the end with meandering in observation of common beauty along the way.”
Mixed feelings overcame me prior to the outing because of Susan’s passing and personal events. I had lived in the neighborhood and experienced a flood destroying my vehicle, a pit-bull attack almost killing my dog, and neighbors fighting a building extension. The area was calling to investigate it once again. However, I was reluctant mixed with rays of resentment. These blocks provided so much pain and now it had become a beacon of my friend.
What would the “magic hour” have to offer?
Entering the KALA gallery, a sea of yellow clad individuals awaited instructions. The Swell artist duo of Ali Naschke-Messing and design studio ScrapD shared the itinerary of events: pick a stranger to sit in front of, talk for 5 minutes while they affirm in silence, answer a question from the Listening Partnership banner, switch roles, and repeat. Once finished, we walked the neighborhood twenty minutes in silence then the group was able to share positive intentions. The goal was to be more present and aware. The final destination was Susan’s mural: “LESS INTERNET MORE LOVE.”
During the expedition, an old adversary yelled at our group: “Are you my new neighbors?” No one responded. She didn’t recognize me but it was ironic. The same woman who fought my family’s presence was delighted to see people traversing her street. I felt calm and accepting. Like Susan O’Malley would say: “BE HERE NOW.”
On the stroll back, “Love” written in chalk adorns my old “home.” Like the Facebook status: “It’s Complicated.” Love inhabits this territory now. It’s shaped into a different form and meaning. Appreciating silence and forgiveness on this path of discovery can be difficult. That’s what the “magic hour” provided for me.