Yoko Ono installs ‘Wish Trees’ in Pasadena

Anissa Clarke

Make a wish
Write it down on a piece of paper
Fold it and tie it around a branch of a Wish Tree
Ask your friends to do the same
Keep wishing
Until the branches are covered with wishes

– Wish Piece by Yoko Ono (1996)

In the heart of Old Town Pasadena, nestled amongst the 1950’s inspired diner Johnny Rockets, the modern furniture palace Crate and Barrel and the upscale clothing store Kate Spade, thousands of people have made a wish. Writing their fondest hopes on little pieces of paper, participants place the tags on the branches of 21 crepe myrtle trees that Yoko Ono, the Japanese artist and musician, installed last August.

Yoko Ono’s influence for this piece, presented in collaboration with the Armory Center for the Arts and One Colorado, is an event from her early childhood in Japan: “As a child, 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 bush. Trees in temple courtyards were always filled with people’s wish knots, which looked like white flowers blossoming from afar,” she said.

If this Shinto ceremony worked for personal peace, then why not apply it on a larger scale? “All my works are a form of wishing,” says Ono. “Keep wishing while you participate.” World peace has been the theme of Ono’s work since her Vietnam War protests. “It’s like a collective prayer in a way, she says. “Some wishes are deeply personal, some global wishes for peace and better future for humankind.”

Ono created her artwork “Wish Trees” in dedication to her deceased husband and rock n’ roll legend John Lennon. On Nov 9, the tags inscribed with wishes were packed up and placed with other tags from her Wish Trees in Lonja del Pescado, Alicante, Spain and Tokyo, Japan. So far the project has received more than 100,000 written wishes collected from all over the world through Yoko’s Wish Trees presentations from different countries. The tags are placed in capsules and will be buried on the Island of Videy, in Iceland, near Reykjavik

On Oct. 9, 2007, which would have been John Lennon’s 67th birthday, Ono unveiled the second part of the project, the Imagine Peace Tower. This structure stretches thirty-feet into the sky. Ono lights it for two months out of the year; Oct. 9 – Dec. 9, the anniversary of his murder. The tower light, like so much of Iceland’s renewable energy, is fueled by water.

“I hope the Imagine Peace Tower will give light to the strong wishes for 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” said Ono at the unveiling of the tower. “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.”

Back in Pasadena, the smell of hamburgers and fries filled the air while people placed their hopes and dreams onto small tags. Rushing classical music playing in the background set the mood for Julia Hollis and Samantha Everett, shoppers who happened to pass by the pit of wish trees and decided to make a wish. “I wished for better understanding in life,” said Everett sipping a pleasantly steaming hot chocolate. “My wish was for all these wishes to come true,” said Hollis laughing at herself, Everett followed.

The crisp autumn air seemed to attract UCLA fans, beaming in their brightly colored blue-and-gold sweat-shirts, lurking among the young couples sitting at the metal picnic tables. Couples filled out tags with their love-inspired wishes. “I wish to live happily ever after with Lucy,” Robert Torres wrote. “He’s a romantic at heart, added Lucy Torres looking smitten and slightly embarrassed after wishing for “a bigger apartment.”

Whether the wish was as complex as “world peace” or as simple as “a fun time,” people who have visited the Wishing Trees have been able to let the world in on their heart’s desires: “I wish my band, The Royal Fetuses, would make it big,” was the wish of nineteen-year-old Andrew Harris. “It’s a neat idea,” said Harris as he walked around the brick path way of the blooming Wish Trees.

Young Abby Weber stepped onto white wood steps to tie her wish tag to a limping tree, “I wish for some ice cream on my birthday,” said 8-year-old Waber with a sparkling smile.

Now that the trees, officially known as Lagerstroemia, have been plucked of their ‘collective prayers’ and relieved of their heavy duty, they will be planted permanently at the Arlington Garden, a community garden, in Pasadena.

If you missed out on contributing your wish to this ongoing art project, there is a P.O. Box set up in Iceland (Imagine Peace Tower, P.O. Box 1009, 121 Reykjavik, Iceland) to handle independent tags. Even easier, send an e-mail to: [email protected]