A Wishing Tree! That’s so Portland.
This humble horsechestnut on the corner of NE 7th and Morris in Portland is the bearer of hundreds of wishes tacked to its trunk by passersby. I visited the Wishing Tree last week after reading about it online.
Our local KGW did a story on it earlier this year, as did The Huffington Post. They said the owner of the tree is Nicole Helprin, who got the idea for a wishing tree from a San Franciso blog. She and her two kids put a few wishes on their tree in the fall of 2013, and it has snowballed from there.
This is now Nicole’s view out her front door. She supplies tags and a Sharpie for people to use, and there are nails pounded in all around the trunk for the wishes to be tied on.
What do people wish for?
Mostly love, health, and happiness, for themselves and for others.
General wishes for a kinder world.
Relief from personal struggles.
Wishes for loved ones’ health and well-being.
Wishes for people dealing with addiction.
And very personal wishes on love and loss.
I suppose it would be fair to say that if the Wishing Tree itself had a wish, it might be, “I wish people would stop pounding nails into living organisms,” like one commenter on the Huffington Post article suggested.
I can sympathize with that. I would rather see a wishing tree with lots of lower branches, to which the wishes could be loosely tied, not tacked.
This wishing tree is a gnarly old horsechestnut. It’s a tough old bird. Look how its roots are confined in a tree lawn it shares with another tree and the way it’s been hacked to accommodate the wires overhead. It has lived to supply more years of shade and greenery than we should have ever expected from an urban tree. Some small nail holes will probably not do it in, but if they do, that’s okay. This tree is in its twilight years anyway. Let it go out with a bang.
Let it serve as a means of expressing our wildest dreams.
Of things imagined.
And things very real and specific.
And of course, we all wish for an end to dog-on-pillow violence.
As I took pictures, neighbors stopped to say how much they liked the Wishing Tree. One said that she and her fiancé had their engagement pictures taken with it. Another passerby asked what it was and when I told him, he stopped to read several of the wishes.
What a wonderful way to foster a feeling of community! To meet neighbors. Share a laugh. Or know that someone else out there is dealing with the same struggles you are.
My favorite wish was a 5-year-old’s appreciation for the tree itself. “Why don’t these kinds of trees grow all over?” I thought.
Maybe you could have the first of its kind in your community!