The Wishing Tree


Recently, I went on a photo assignment for The Weather Channel where I covered Tropical Storm Hermine (not to be confused with Hermione from Harry Potter) hitting the shores of Norfolk, Va and Virginia Beach, Va.

There wasn’t much “destruction” but there was a lot of flooding. Most of my visuals were of reflective pools, rivers that took over neighborhoods, intersections that became ponds, and trees trying their hardest not to snap in half from the fierce winds. You can only snap so many photos of puddles before you go on the hunt for something different.


I pulled into a quiet neighborhood in Norfolk. Birds were chirping. Leaves stuck to car windows and in soggy clumps along the gutters. People that were assessing any damage done to their homes and cars dotted the sidewalks.

I found a spot to park where I could file photos without being disturbed or accused of spying or doing something illegal with a laptop in a parked car. Right next to my car, about ten feet away, was The Wishing Tree.

By this point I was super tired. I mapped the original location of Tidewater, Va from my house in Baltimore and it said that it was two and a half hours away. Come to find out, that’s a VERY large area and it was closer to five hours away. I got two hours of sleep, woke up at 2:30am, and left the house at 3am to get there right after the storm hit around 7:30am. By this point I was running on empty calories from McDonald’s and black coffee caffeine.

The Wishing Tree was an old tree, not very tall but it was very wide. I’m not a tree expert but maybe it was an oak tree? The road was divided into two ways and in the center was a dirt divide full of trees. This is where the Wishing Tree sat. Next to it, half buried in the mud and dirt, was a plastic bag that held markers and blank paper tags with twine threaded through holes in the top to make for easy tying.


I expected to read wishes that were of unattainable things: cars, money, fame. You know, the things one only believes that they can have if it’s requested through an extraordinary circumstance – the wishes you think only a genie in a lamp has the power to grant.

To my surprise (and heartbreak) the wishes people so carefully wrote were things that anyone should be able to have. Wishes for love, family, sustainability and happiness. Reading these made me forget my own troubles for a bit, for I have a lot of things that many people can only wish for.

“I wish for Brett to always be happy.”
“I wish for CL to meet a good boyfriend.”
“I wish for us to become our own heroes.”
“I wish for my daughter to find a good job where she is treated with respect.”
“I wish my mom saw how amazing she is. I wish my dad saw it too.”
“I wish for everyone to find their passion.”
“I wish people would find a cure for cancer and help all the kids suffering.”


After a huge tropical storm, it looks like all of the wishes clung onto the tree. Many were soggy and damp, some had small tears and curls, but they were still hanging on nonetheless. Whoever started the Wishing Tree did a very good thing. Maybe with this post more people will be inspired to designate one in their neighborhood.

Meaningful things are found in the quietest of places.


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