The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Chinook's Wishing Tree Will Display Hopes and Desires of Area Residents


December 9, 2020

With loss so prevalent-whether considering incomes, people, routines, security, connections, or comforts-and with risk quite literally in the air we breathe, the Friends of the Pool and Park Foundation, along with Chinook Pharmacy, are proud to present Chinook's Wishing Tree. Although this tree has a variety of purposes, its focus is on hope and healing

Those involved in the project invite anyone interested to simply write a wish on one of the tags provided at Chinook Pharmacy between now and December 25. That wish will be displayed on the Wishing Tree, which sits at the entrance of the pharmacy.

Although free-will donations to accompany one's wish are accepted as a fundraiser for the Friends of the Pool and Park Foundation, a donation is not required to make a wish.

When she put up the tree, Nancy Diemert, Pharmacist and Co-owner of Chinook Pharmacy, said, "While situating the star on top, I reflected about whether we should call it a Wishing Tree or a Prayer Tree since 2020 has been such a challenging year. But my vision is that people can tie-on either a wish or a prayer, depending on their beliefs. They can even write the name of a loved one on a tag and make a donation to the Pool and Park Foundation in that person's memory."

The idea for the tree was initially Diemert's, and she shared it with her daughter Kelsey Harry, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Pool and Park Foundation (FPPF) as a Member at Large.

"Mom mentioned the idea of a Wishing Tree to me and said she already had most of the supplies to do it so it wouldn't cost the Friends of the Pool and Park anything. I took the idea to the Board, and they liked it, so we went with it! We're very limited in our fundraising right now because of Covid, and this seemed like a nice compromise," Harry explained.

For Harry, the purpose of the Wishing Tree is to put a little positivity out into the universe. "I hope people have fun with the Wishing Tree and use it as a way to reflect on what is important in their lives. I also hope it gives people a chance to think about what they're thankful for," she said.

On Black Friday, only two wishes hung on the tree. One of those read: "My wish is that we have good will in our hearts and then we give it away." The other read: "I hope that we all face each day with our minds open to knowledge and our hearts open to compassion."

Wishing trees are not a new concept. They trace their lore back to ancient times. Identified as having a special traditional, spiritual, or cultural significance, a wishing tree is essentially an individual tree which has been designated for the purpose of accepting offerings and wishes. Generally, people will come to the wishing tree and leave notes, ribbons, coins, tobacco, or something similar, to have a wish granted or a prayer heard. These trees are known in various parts of the world, and some cultural groups even have festivals that revolve around them.

For example, in 17th century Scotland, the practice took the form of hammering coins into the trunks of hawthorn trees after making a wish. The trees used for this purpose are often old or already fallen, and according to some beliefs, divine spirits dwell in these trees, so if a sick person presses a coin into the tree, their illness will go away.

For the Tanabata festival in Japan, people tie colorful papers with written wishes – or tanzaku – to bamboo branches. Bamboo is believed to have been adopted for this festival because of its tendency to grow straight and tall, giving the wishes a clear path to heaven. Likewise, ideology persists all over the world suggesting that trees-with their crowns and limbs stretching heavenward-are focal points for spirituality. Because of these beliefs, placing one's deepest wishes and hopes on a tree branch is a metaphorical act.

The tying of ribbons on trees is also reflective of the prayer cloths Native Americans affix to trees and fence posts at the site of a battle in remembrance of their ancestors or to mark a site as sacred. To illustrate this truth, members of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes still leave prayer cloths at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument on the Crow Agency near Billings.

Just as yellow ribbons are tied around trees to welcome home soldiers and others returning from foreign lands, blue ribbons are often used in remembrance of fallen officers of the law or others in authority.

Clearly, the custom of tying ribbons to a tree in order to ask for wishes, hopes, and healing resonates with cultures from around the world. And given the loss and risk so currently prevalent, the world can use extra hope and healing. It is for these reasons-more than for the potential to generate funds-that the FPPF want to see the branches of the Wishing Tree covered with wishes.

According to Tony Robbins, one of the nation's top business strategists, "energy flows where attention goes." Wishes are powerful because they connect us with our ideas and desires. Once we give them a voice and make them visible by writing them down, our wishes become real and actionable because our motivation increases and our focus improves.

"I think the act of writing down your hopes for the future is very powerful, and right now, we need a little hope," Harry concluded.


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