Snow in California
by Mikihiko Hori
Yoko Ono’s participatory art project, “Wish Tree for Pasadena” at the central courtyard of One Colorado in Pasadena, California, which started on August 2nd, ’08, has just ended its display on November 9th, ’08. For “Wish Tree for Pasadena”, 21 living crape myrtle trees (Lagerstroemia) were set up and placed in recycled wine barrels in the courtyard.
Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree” campaign started in 1996. Spectators are invited to write their own wishes on white pieces of paper and tie them on the branches of the trees. All the wishes collected from the “Wish Tree” all over the world have been, and will be permanently stored in the capsules under Yoko Ono’s “IMAGINE PEACE TOWER” on Videy Island in Reykjavik, Iceland.
I had a chance to visit the “Wish Tree for Pasadena” site on its opening date, August 2nd, ’08. The leaves and flowers of 21 crape myrtle trees were shining beautifully under the sun, and, little by little, the trees started accumulating the wishes on their branches. Little did I know at that time that the trees would eventually bear more than 90,000 wishes before the project ended.
When I visited the site again on November 6th, ’08, I noticed that all the trees were covered with white pieces of paper all over so that it was almost difficult to recognize the leaves and branches hidden under the wishes.
Many blank wish tags had been prepared inside the little wooden boxes set up on the tables. On the surface of the brown wooden boxes, a piece of paper with Yoko’s hand-written instruction, was glued. It read:
Wish Tree for Pasadena
Write your wish.
Tie it on a branch of the tree.
Ask your friends to do the same.
Following Yoko’s instruction, people were still writing their wishes and found some spot among the crowded wishes to hang their wishes on the trees.
One of the interesting characteristics of “Wish Tree” is that people can not only write their very personal and intimate wishes on the tags by opening up their hearts, but also see and read other people’s wishes written on the tags. It’s a kind of voyeurism, and people can see what others are thinking or wishing as if looking into a stranger’s house through the window. Hence, we can have this strange connection of unity with others that we have never met or will never meet by sharing and reading these anonymous wishes.
Most of the wishes people wrote are simple and positive – such as “I wish for world peace” or “I wish for my family and friends to live happily for the rest of their lives” and so on.
On other other hand, some wishes are more serious and dark, and they express sorrow – such as “I wish for my brother to get off of drugs” or “I wish my parents weren’t so homophobic I am so lonely.”
By reading through these wishes on the trees, sometimes wishes make you laugh and high and sometimes they make you sad and helpless. It also makes you realize that some people’s wishes are trying to get out of the deep water they are in and come to the surface just to breathe, so to speak. I hope one day they will come out of the places they are in now. This is my wish.
Meanwhile, from a distance, the wishes on the trees looked like snow. So, the trees looked as if they were covered with snow – like Christmas trees. With the strings of wishes hanging from the trees, it also looked like icicles were formed on the trees.
Yoko once gave us the thought of what snow is in her writing called “QUESTIONNAIRE 1966 spring”, which is also included in Yoko’s book, “Grapefruit”. It reads as follows:
TRUTH / FALSE
Grapefruit is a hybrid of lemon and orange.
Snow is a hybrid of wish and lament.
As far as the wishes on the “Wish Tree” are concerned, all these wishes which look like snow are surely the hybrid or crystal of people’s joy and sadness pouring from their hearts.
My wishes I left on the “Wish Tree” will one day be transferred to “IMAGINE PEACE TOWER” in Iceland, and permanently stored in the capsules under the tower. Who knows, my wishes might be placed right next to your wishes – as if we will be neighbors without names to one another forever. Snow will melt and disappear one day. But our wishes will live on forever in “IMAGINE PEACE TOWER”.
You can see my photos of “Wish Tree for Pasadena“ at the central courtyard of One Colorado in Pasadena, California on November 6th, ’08, at the URLs below:
You can see my photos of “Wish Tree for Pasadena“ at the central courtyard of One Colorado in Pasadena, California on August 2nd, ’08, at the URLs below. See the transformation of “Wish Tree” into the ones with wishes as their blossoms:
Yoko Ono’s worldwide participatory art project, “Wish Tree”, is on display from August 2nd to November 9th, 2008 at the central courtyard of One Colorado (located off Colorado Blvd between DeLacey and Fair Oaks Ave) in Pasadena, California. “Wish Tree for Pasadena” has been displayed amongst the café tables and chairs in the One Colorado Courtyard, and it consists of 21 living crape myrtle trees (Lagerstroemia) placed in recycled wine barrels. Spectators are more than welcomed to write their own wishes on pieces of paper and hang them on the branches of the trees while wishing their wishes will come true.
“Wish Tree for Pasadena” Flyer
The pieces of paper on which people wrote their wishes will eventually be sent to Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower on Videy Island, off the coast of Reykjavík, Iceland. Then, the wish tags will be permanently stored in the capsules placed under the base of the Imagine Peace Tower.
For my summer vacation, I thought it would be romantic to go to Pasadena all the way from Washington, D. C., just to put wishes on Wish Trees. The morning of August 2nd, the opening date of “Wish Tree for Pasadena” at the courtyard of One Colorado, turned out to be beautiful and a perfect day to make a wish.
When I arrived at the courtyard around 10 a.m., lots of visitors were already there and happily engaged in this little “event”, following Yoko’s “instruction”, by writing down their wishes on pieces of paper and hanging them on the trees. Some crape myrtle trees installed as Wish Trees had beautiful pink and white flowers in blossom, and some with flower buds that were about to open up. Wish Trees were already collecting many wish tags, dancing with the wind, and with the white tags, looking from afar, it looked as if the trees were bearing white fruits. It was also quite heartwarming when I saw many kids writing their wishes and tying them up on the trees, as if they discovered a new favorite activity.
Although I have seen Yoko’s Wish Trees on numerous occasions, I’ve never seen 21 living trees put together at one place. Therefore, I was overwhelmed not only by the presentation of Wish Trees, which were beautifully placed equal distance from one another like a little orchard, but also by the positive powers of wishes radiating around the area. The large number of Wish Trees also reminded me of Yoko’s other installation, “Ex It”, which is made up of a total of 100 coffins with a tree growing out of an opening in the top.
On the other hand, the idea of Wish Tree is not new to me at all. Similar to Yoko, I, being Japanese who grew up in Japan, am familiar with the tradition of going to a Japanese shrine. At a shrine, we frequently buy “Omikuji”, a strip of paper on which random fortunes and advice in life are written. Then, we fold the paper after reading it and tie it on a tree inside the shrine. Japanese shrines are regarded as sacred places for gods to reside, hence, the atmosphere there is very precious. The positive prayers and wishes, which have accumulated for thousands of years, linger in the air.
While being at One Colorado and watching people hanging down their wishes on the trees, I had the same feeling, and it almost made me feel like I was back in a shrine in Japan. The casual courtyard seemed to have turned into holy ground. The vortex of energy created by the collective wishes was almost tangible in the air.
Also, among the Wish Trees, tables and chairs had been prepared. There was a small rectangular wooden box with a lid on each table. On the front surface of the wooden box, a piece of paper with a description, hand-written by Yoko herself, was glued. It read:
Wish Tree for Pasadena
Write your wish.
Tie it on a branch of the tree.
Ask your friends to do the same.
When you open the lid of the box, you notice that the same statement on a piece of paper has also been attached at the back of the lid. Inside, there were plenty of pencils and paper tags to write wishes on. The pencils, which were made for this occasion, had the inscription on one side that says, “MAKE A WISH”.
After you finished writing down your wishes – big or small – you pick out one tree of the 21 choices, and hang your wish tag on that tree.
A tree, for me, represents the cycle of rebirth – it takes many years for a tree to become a grown plant out of a tiny seed. Once it becomes a big tree, it bears fruits. When winter comes, the tree sheds its dead leaves and seems to die. However, when spring comes, the tree again produces leaves and fruits. It repeats this same cycle for many years – like reincarnation. Similarly, when you make a wish, the wish may not come true immediately, but it does not mean that the wish has died. One day it will bear fruits.
On the tags hanging from Wish Trees, I saw that many people simply wrote “world peace”. 10 years from now – or even much shorter than that – with all of our wishes, we might be able to achieve total peace in the world. At that time, we might realize that all these wishes collected from the Wish Trees all over the world and stored at the Imagine Peace Tower were the testimonies of people from all walks of life, simply wishing for peace. We might also come to realize that with all these wishes as collective prayers, world peace has finally been achieved. And then, Yoko might be remembered, as she put it, as the “keeper of the wishing well”.
Later, when I went back to my rental car and turned on the engine, I swear, the intro of John Lennon’s “IMAGINE” started coming from the radio.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace”
Life can be a full of nice surprises.
“I’m a strong oak tree
Like my father used to be
Though deep in my heart
The memory’s still there
The sky is clearer now
And the wind is fair
The world is beautiful
An’ I like it out here”
“STORY OF AN OAK TREE” by Yoko Ono from
“NEW YORK ROCK” (’95)
“Wish Tree for Pasadena” + Me
Photo (c) Mikihiko Hori
I posted some of my photos of “Wish Tree for Pasadena” at my Flickr account below: