One sunny day this summer I found myself in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. I’d been there over twenty years earlier as a high school student and it still had the same vibe. The sculpture garden is in a lowered terrace area right off the National Mall and has a bit of a reverent, Secret Garden feel. This time I had my five year old daughter with me and I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t get her very interested in the bronzes. Then we turned the corner and beheld the Wish Tree.
Part of Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace project, the Wish Tree is a live tree (the exhibit was installed during the 2007 National Cherry Blossom Festival) that has has hundreds (thousands?) of tags hanging on it, each with a wish written on it by a visitor to the sculpture garden. In the late fall, all the wishes are removed and sent to a repository (in The Hague, if I remember correctly). The tree rests over the winter and wishes can be hung again after it blooms again in June.
The practice of tying prayers to a tree is an ancient Japanese custom. I find it a charming notion- returning the paper the prayer is written on to its source. Of course we had to participate! But first we read some wishes. I was glad we were alone in the garden, as it felt almost sacrilegious, but I couldn’t resist.
Many of the wishes were in languages other than English, and many were written by school children. “I wish nobody askes about the school teacher” was amusing but also touching in its sincerity. “I wish my mom and dad hurry and get a green card” hit me in the gut.
If you were there, with a pencil and a white tag, what would you write?