THE WISH TREE
by Hilarie Page
Last Saturday I was walking down Fifth Avenue when I noticed a tiny Asian woman standing on a kitchen chair under a tree. She was tying small pieces of paper to the branches like ornaments. Dozens of them. On the papers were written notes. I stopped to read a large hand-written sign that was tacked to the trunk of this tree. It read:
AS OUR CITY ENTERS A NEW SEASON, MAKE A WISH AND TIE IT AROUND A BRANCH. ASK YOUR FRIEND TO DO THE SAME. KEEP WISHING UNTIL THE BRANCHES ARE COVERED WITH WISHES.
THIS INSTALLATION WAS INSPIRED BY YOKO ONO AND WILL END ON SUNDAY NIGHT 8/23
I was fascinated, like a squirrel in the road, momentarily frozen. I wanted to stop and find out more, but I was running for a train and didn’t have a moment to dally. But I made a note to myself to make a pitstop back to this spot later that day on my way back into the city, so intrigued was I by what exactly it was that constituted so many wishes hanging from those branches. What did all these paper notes flapping in the breeze say? What were people wishing for? I wished I had more time to find out.
This wasn’t exactly on my agenda that day, but as I knew time was of the essence as this installation was going to only be up for one day, I made a point of getting back off the train later when time permitted.
Arriving back at the tree at twilight, it seemed there were even more wishes hanging from its branches than were there earlier that day, flapping in the breeze like windchimes. Rapt, I stood under the tree and reached up to still them so as to read what they said. There was something so endearing, uplifting — and heartbreaking too at the same time — about all these messages thrown to the wind. And some were quite funny.
There were too many to list, but here were some of the more remarkable ones:
- I WISH EVERYONE WOULD JUST CALM DOWN
- my wish is for unification and rationalityto return to this country
- I wish I could fly away from here
- I wish David was still alive
- I WISH I COULD BREATHE IN THIS MASK
- I wish I could go to the beach
- i wish allison wouldn’t worry so much
- I wish the pandemic would end and we could go back to normal life
- I wish that my grandma will come back — Kim
- Less hurting . . . More genuine love
- ALL LIVES MATTER especially those MOST persecuted BE HUMAN TO ALL
- Happiness in Love
- Stop the killings — God loves all his people
- I wish for a vaccine
- I wish to experience love
- FREE BELARUS
- Health and Safety 4 Everyone
- I wish everybody love, peace, prosperity and great health. God Bless US.
- I wish we as a nation can learn to love one another & not hurt each other. I pray for peace. I pray God heals our land of Covid-19.
- Yo deseo que la gente pobre tengan algo de comer
(I wish that poor people have something to eat)
- I am thankful
- I wish I had a hot dog
- Peace in Hong Kong
- I wish Alexis finds a man who isn’t drunk in the the morning
- I wish you were here . . .
I wished I had been able to talk to the tiny girl on the chair who created this installation when first I saw her, and regretted having not. So I decided I would return again the next evening, Sunday, for that was the day stated the installation would come down. Maybe she would return . . . What now, I wondered? Then what? What would she do with all these wishes? Maybe I could find out more.
But when I returned the following evening, the tree was bare, all wishes vanished, but for another sign on the turnk that replaced the original sign. It read:
Thank you everyone who made a wish in front of the Wish Tree this past week. Within days, we collected more than 150 wishes filled with very warm and heartfelt thoughts from individuals of this community. Unfortunately, due to the upcoming thunderstorms, we have had to take down the installation.
All wishes will be sent to Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, where she will eventually build a sculpture filled with wishes from all over the world. In the meanwimte, please feel free to share your photos and videos with #wishtreeharlem.
Thank you again and we wish you a very wonderful season as our city moves forward.
I didn’t know anything about this peace tower of Yoko Ono’s, but I certainly was curious now and felt compelled to research it. Come to find out, The Imagine Peace Tower was a created by Yoko Ono as a memorial to John Lennon. Located on Vidney Island in Iceland, this white stone monument is etched with the words “Imagine Peace” in 24 languages, referencing Lennon’s song “Imagine.” It consists of a stunning tall tower of light, projected from a white stone monument that has the words “Imagine Peace” carved into it in 24 languages. The white stone monument is a wishing well. And to date, preserved and contained in such wishing well are over a million wishes that Yoko Ono has collected from all over the world since the inception of her interactive art project “Wish Tree” started in 1996.
“All my works are a form of wishing. As a child in Japan, I used to go to a temple and write out a wish on a piece of thin paper and tie it around the branch of a tree. Trees in temple courtyards were always filled with people’s wish knots, which looked like white flowers blossoming from afar.”
“I have saved all the wishes people made and hung on my work, called ‘Wish Tree’ in many different countries. The number of those wishes I collected and kept has now reached over 495 thousand, and they will all be buried in the Wishing Well in this light tower on the Isle of Videy. I hope IMAGINE PEACE TOWER will give light to the strong wishes of World Peace from all corners of the planet and give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world now filled with fear and confusion. Let us come together to realize a peaceful world. I consider myself very fortunate to see the dream my husband and I dreamt together become reality.”
Yoko Ono, 2007
Huh. To think that all these wishes were going to be flown to Iceland!