To say the past few years have been challenging is an understatement. How do you deal with it all and remain sane? You can pray more, drink more, eat more, or …
You can go to the Wishing Tree, grab a blank card and a colored marker, write a wish on the card, and drop it in a jar. Come back a little later, and your wish will miraculously reappear neatly laminated hanging from the tree in front of a home in the Village Mill subdivision in Dunwoody.
On the Wishing Tree, you will find hundreds of laminated wishes throughout the spreading branches of a large dogwood tree on the edge of the sidewalk. They seem to come from all ages and languages. Some are signed. Some are serious, wishing for the recovery of a sick loved one, a new job or good grades at school. Some are prayers for an end to the pandemic. Others in the large handwriting of young children are for toys or bicycles.
Beside the tree is the ubiquitous Dunwoody sign: EVERYTHING WILL BE OK. Under it are the remnants of a fairy garden.
In a phone call, homeowner Janey Hoag, explained how it all started years before with the fairy garden that she and her husband, Andrew, created as an enchanted space for their two young daughters.
When their oldest daughter entered kindergarten, notes of encouragement from a fairy began appearing in the garden.
“At first, we didn’t know who it was, but we knew she knew us because she knew things about us,” said Hoag. “As our kids got older, the fairy went by the wayside, but the fairy garden was still visited by younger kids in the neighborhood.”
By then, it had become a neighborhood landmark.
“A lot of neighbors told their kids they could go from home only as far as the fairy garden,” said Hoag.
The Wishing Tree was born in 2016, when their daughters were in fourth and sixth grades.
“When we prayed at night, our kids were kind of egocentric,” Hoag said. “I asked them to think about things not part of their own lives.”
The fairy garden was already there. So was the dogwood tree over it. The magic was already there. The Wishing Tree was a natural.
People already frequenting the fairy garden were the first to post wishes. During COVID, the tree became a place people came to feel better and post wishes about staying healthy and COVID going away.
“They could also stand six apart and socialize,” Hoag said.
Since then, the wishes have been both fanciful and heartbreaking. One little girl wrote on the front and back of a card every day for 12 days before Christmas.
Another signed wish read: “Wish me luck, wishing tree. I’m coming out to my parents tomorrow.”
Many wishes have come true.
One day, a woman stopped and said, “Last year I wrote to the wishing tree about my mom’s cancer. I want you to know she survived and is healthy.”
Some people post follow-ups to their wishes. A pregnant woman initially wrote, “I’m trying to walk a lot. Wishing for a happy, healthy baby.” Eight months later, she posted again to say, “Eight months ago, I wished for a happy, healthy baby. I just want you to know she’s here.”
Perhaps the most magical wish was from a “little person” wishing for a magic wand. Two days later the magic wand appeared among the tree’s branches. It was gone after several days. Did it make its way to its “little person”? What do you think?
The Wishing Tree seems to cast a spell on everyone who sees it. One day, a public works crew removed a large limb that was overhanging the sidewalk. Hoag found the branch under the tree with a note that read, “Please forgive me.”
Hoag gives Andrew credit for keeping the magic alive. As the tree’s caretaker, he personally laminates and hangs every wish, removing only the ones that have faded into illegibility.
So, what’s the secret to the Wishing Tree’s power?
“Wishing is universal. Who you’re wishing to is up to you,” said Hoag. “I know where my wishes go.”