Ah, sweet serendipity.
The other day I decided to check out North Williams Avenue as it had been a while; Rick Gencarelli (of my previous Meet Your Maker post) had told me that he and Kurt Huffman were co-owners of Phillippe’s Bakery and I thought I should check it out — and see what else was going on nearby.
Those of us who’ve lived here for more than a few years are routinely shocked at how much this neighborhood has changed of late. Walking down the street, I had to remind myself that not so long ago there was not much more here than modest houses, a few small businesses and lots of free space.
Happily, there are still some glimpses of what it used to look like.
You’d never know that this lot was surrounded by brand new condos and retail space — or that this set of doors was in front of a large (for now) undeveloped lot.
Of course Phillippe’s was a winner — how could it not be with such savvy talent behind it?
I’d just made a giant batch of cookies so I didn’t need sweets but I bought an exceptional baguette here and filed away the image of these for another time.
So visiting this bakery would have been enough reason to head back to Williams, but look like what else I stumbled upon.
The Wishing Tree.
The first thing I saw was this chalkboard.
As you can see, a box of pristine tags and Sharpies await your thoughts — and my eye travelled up to the tree just a few feet away.
Of course I was intrigued and I stopped to see what kind of wishes people had shared.
Apparently some people are hoping for a little luck on the romance front.
There were lots of cards hoping for longevity in the relationship they currently enjoy.
(“love for days and days”? I guess some people view time differently than I do. Sign of the times?)
Some were hoping for harmony, either personally
or just in the world around them.
(I love that someone else sees the healing powers of a good ‘wich.)
I also saw that quite a few people were looking to get through current difficulties and the obstacles that prevent love from coming into their lives.
Interestingly, I only saw one political message which surprised me with the election just weeks away.
I’m happy to say I didn’t see one cynical or careless wish in the mix (and I must have read over a hundred of them), and I only saw one request for a material object.
While I was standing there, a gorgeous African American woman came upon this tree and we spoke for a minute or two.
It was her first time there at The Wishing Tree, too, and we marveled at all the wishes the tree held.
(Neither of us knew the back story on the tree, but I noticed that an interior design company resides in the house behind — perhaps the owner is the creator of this neighborhood focal point?)
This fellow tree visitor told me that she always walks around with a red pen because she considers red ink lucky — and she urged me to write my wish with her pen so that I’d have extra good luck.
Forgive the shaky handwriting — I was trying to balance writing on my thigh and talking at the same time.
I have to tell you, after she walked away I was really tempted to look at her wish, but she seemed like such a private person that it felt intrusive to read her tag after she left.
The Wishing Tree works because the wishes are so intimate yet completely anonymous, so I left her tag unturned.
Besides, sometimes it’s better not to know — and just wonder. What could this goddess possibly ask of the universe?
Some of the last wishes I read were the most poignant for me.
As much as I complain privately about the astronomical costs of healthcare for the self-employed, I can’t remember a time when I’d to say no to something as basic and fundamental as a tooth cleaning because it was beyond my financial reach.
What an interesting and telling wish these days, no? Of all the wishes, a dental cleaning is the one you most desire?
Unrequited love gets me every time, and I would love to know the story behind this one.
And then there was one wish that really got me.
After reading it, I could read no other.
I wanted to honor it by really thinking about it and the toll it must take to carry that burden.
Pretty powerful, right?
Isn’t that what we all want for ourselves and others — a dignified, peaceful death at the end of a long, healthy and ridiculously happy life?
So thank you, Wish Tree and the people at 4048 North Williams for this tree.
Without any treats in the car and only a half-eaten baguette in my bag, all I could leave was this.
I’ve found that whenever someone tells me that I’ve made their day, they actually make mine, too. I think it all comes down to the fact that we all need to know that we matter to those around us.
And the public gesture of this communal tree revives our long-held hope that wishes released to the world at large maybe, just maybe, can come true.
Portlanders, in these days of all-grim and stupefying news, a visit to the Wishing Tree is a must-do.