Dozens of brightly colored paper tags flutter in the breeze. They’re tied to the bare limbs of a dogwood like leaves that haven’t yet fallen for the change of seasons. They record wishes.
“The idea is kind of to throw them to the wind,” said Debra Minkley, who started the Buckhead wishing tree in her front yard Thanksgiving weekend.
Minkley made the first wish herself. Since then, passersby on Powers Ferry Road have stopped and left dozens more. They fill out tags with colorful Sharpie pens from the roadside display Minkley set up at the foot of her dogwood tree. A small sign instructs a visitor to record a wish on one side of a tag and to record something he or she is grateful for on the other. Visitors leave their wishes in a glass jar. Minkley collects them, laminates them or covers them with waterproof tape and hangs them from the tree.
The wishes cover a lot of territory. “Some of them are poignant,” Minkley said.
Some seek peace, for the wish-maker, or for others, or for the world. Some ask for improved health or improved love lives. Others are more idiosyncratic: “I am grateful to be here, now.” “I wish for a sibling to laugh and play with.” “I wish all the homeless pets find loving homes.”
Another simply remembered, on one side: “for the brothers I share blood with” and, on the other, “for the brothers I shed blood with.” Yet another visitor was grateful for success in business, but added: “Also, please send a good man my way.”
“There’s all kinds of different things up there,” Minkley said. “I love that part.”
This is Minkley’s first Wishing Tree. She got the idea from a TV news report earlier this year about a similar tree in San Francisco. She looked it up on Facebook and liked what she saw. “It was very touching,” she said, “but there was something beyond touching that just stuck with me. I just wanted to bring joy into the house.”
She decided Buckhead needed its own wishing tree. She settled on the dogwood planted in front of her home at 4160 Powers Ferry Road in 1983, when she moved in. It stands right across the street from the Chastain Park golf course. One recent Sunday, passing joggers and strollers and dog walkers admired the tree. A few stopped to read the notes and contributes their own additions.
“I love how many people have responded,” said Chumaine Dowdle, who with her friend Liza Pevehouse stopped to take a look at the wishes posted on the trees. “We were just starting at it and we were like, ‘Let’s go over there.’”
Dowdle picked up a tag and pen and thought about what to record. “I can’t decide what I’m wishing for,” she said.
“I want to wish for my family – for my family to get along,” Pevehouse replied.
“Family peace,” Dowdle agreed.
“Family peace, that is a good one,” Pevehouse said.
Minkley says she reads all the wishes before she attaches them to the tree. So far, she hasn’t had to reject any. “I post everything,” she said.
She thinks people have responded to the tree, in part, because it’s anonymous. “Think about how we live in a big city,” she said. “People keep to themselves, but you can tell people have that yearning for something more. It is lonely sometimes.”
So Minkley has come to see the tree as something larger. “I don’t see it as my tree, as much as the community’s tree,” she said.
Some of her wishers seem to agree. “I’m grateful for random acts of kindness and people like you who brighten out days by making us take a moment to appreciate everything,” one unnamed wisher wrote. “It is a lovely tree.”