A metaphor of peace for a troubled city

One hopes that the many who travelled to and from Oakland in the wake of the shooting of four police officers and the funeral observance as well as those who live there every day take time to view a new vision in its airport.

Artist Hung Liu created Going Away, Coming Home, in a public art installation at Oakland International. The red-crowned cranes were selected by the artist specifically as symbols of blessing and safe travel—the color red itself is considered in China to bring good luck—as well as for their heaven-ward motion. Liu explains, “For me, the birds embody the beautiful. They encourage us to get rid of our burdens, find victory over what ties us down, defy gravity, and feel the freedom of flight.” Marrying ancient Chinese imagery with 21st-century technology, the cranes appear to soar above satellite photo images of the West Coast and the Pacific Rim that have been sand-blasted, enameled and fired into a second layer of glass panels, which lends the installation tremendous depth and dramatic impact.

When I was trying to make sense of the contradictions and glory of Oakland for my novel Lake Merritt: What Goes Around Comes Around, I too turned to birds — the Canadian geese that flock around the estuary.  That’s right, it’s not really a lake, it’s part of the Pacific Ocean.

That’s the kind of thing you find in a city where the mayor and former 30-year congressman is disinvited from speaking, because he spoke out against police brutality earlier in the year.   He didn’t get much props from the other side of the spectrum, then, either.

Without a natural rallying point, the danger is that all the various factions of the city will harden their entrenched positions.   These issues have been afoot since the Black Panthers.

But in all that madness, maybe we all need the sense of a goose.

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