Last spring, some friends and I took over a deserted brown space and planted sunflowers to spruce it up. I wrote a blog about it -- perhaps you read it, perhaps not.
I guess we developed a deep-rooted connection to this space during our six months of sunflower rearing, because we returned to the location on New Year’s Day. This time, we created a "wishing wall," based on the concept of Chinese prayer flags.
Via Facebook, e-mail and flyers, we invited friends, family and neighbors to write a wish on a scrap of cloth and tie it to the fence to create public art, to gather as a community and to send positive energy into the world. We drank cocoa and mulled wine. Someone played a wooden flute. We froze our butts off.
But it was completely worth it.
Truth is, 2009 was a tough year for Riverwest. Even some of the heartiest inhabitants were shaken by the non-drug-related murders of two college students. A couple of longtime residents moved, and I don't judge them. But for those of us who continue to stay, 2009 brought a new, scarier reality, but also a recommitment to our neighborhood.
I’m not ready to hang up my hippie just yet, and so I am going to do whatever I can to make Riverwest peaceful. And maybe creating a wishing wall isn’t much, but at the very least, it brought out dozens of neighbors -- mostly with their children -- on an insanely cold day to "tie one on" for the ‘hood. Strangers became acquaintances. Children made wishes they truly believed would come true. (And some kids just wished for trips to water parks or the ability to converse with animals, but that is all good, too.)
I assisted in this endeavor, but my friends Anne and Karen did most of the work for this event. After it was over, Karen summed it up perfectly in an e-mail to me.
"I have no idea what we've started with this fence thing, but I love it," she wrote. "It's satisfying and weird and silly and important."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.