By DEVIN WEEKS
Every wish is as unique as the wisher who wished it.
Rather than whispering them to the stars, those who visited the University of Idaho Extension Master Gardeners at the North Idaho State Fair had the ability to write down their wishes and hang them on the branches of an old tree that is now a permanent fixture of the fairgrounds.
"Our Wishing Tree is a place that provides both peace and inspiration to all who visit," said Idaho Master Gardener program coordinator Kara Carleton. "This symbol of inspiration shows that everybody can do a little something with their hopes and dreams. Participants were inspired to write a wish, or leave words of gratitude, on a colored wristband and attach it to the tree. They could face the wish inward, or outward. Placing or reading a wish allows the individual peace knowing your wish has been released and/or heard."
Fairgoers shared their wishes and words of gratitude on neon wristbands and stuck them to pieces of twine weighed down by metal washers.
"They range from serious to silly," Carleton said. "Wishes for pets, large and small and even mythical; better health; strength to make a change in life or succeed with one already in place. There are wishes surrounding kindness, recognition, family members, getting a family and well wishes for other family members. Some wishes involve current topics in our town and world, more food on their tables, support succeeding in college and wishes about traveling to new places."
Inspiration for the wishing tree comes from ancient tradition that is practiced all over the world. The tree itself originally comes from Carleton's in-laws' home in Everett, Wash.
"The actual tree was originally from my in-laws’ home (Susie and Dallas Carleton) in Everett, Wash.," Carleton said. "It was a 40-year-old pear tree that had to be removed. I knew just the place to give it a second life. My in-laws were as excited about the project as I was. Without skipping a beat, once the tree was cut down, they packed it into a rental truck and brought it over 350 miles (over Easter weekend) and helped install it on the Kootenai County Fairgrounds."
She said an unexpected effect of the tree was the social experience.
"I knew it would be powerful, but I am humbled with the amount of folks who participated in this project," Carleton said. "They trusted kindness and intention. They pictured their ideal, wrote it down and placed it out there into the world. Participants also took it upon themselves, per the instructions, to read the wish of another person placed on the tree. That in and of itself is an act of kindness, to release that wish for someone else by reading it and 'sending it off.' Without knowing each other, they connected and served another person in our community. We are proud to be a part of that."
By the end of fair week 2019, the Wishing Tree was a colorful collection of hundreds of dreams and good tidings yet to come true.