How Quirky is Berkeley? Wish Trees.

1874 Capistrano Avenue. Photo: John Storey

Wish trees, sometimes known as wishing trees, have a rich legacy. Kalpavrisksha is a wish-fulfilling divine tree in Hindu mythology. Yoko Ono has written about wish trees in her native Japan: “As a child in Japan, I used to go to a temple and write out a wish on a piece of thin paper and tie it around the branch of a tree.” More or less famous wish trees are found in Scotland, Hong Kong. Malaysia, Turkey, Ireland, and Noe Valley, San Francisco.

In my strolls around Berkeley, I have found two full-fledged wishing trees. They are worse for the wear, but they rock and roll quirky for me.

The first is on Capistrano Avenue, shown above. The messages range from the sacred to the profane, the sublime to the ridiculous:

1874 Capistrano Avenue. Photo: John Storey
1874 Capistrano Avenue. Photo: John Storey

A second fully qualified tree is at 601 Jaynes Street.


601 Jaynes Street. Photo: John Storey
601 Jaynes Street. Photo: John Storey
601 Jaynes Street. Photo: John Storey

In November, 2013, people walking in front of the Jewish Community Center on Rose between Shattuck and Walnut were asked to describe what they were thankful to see leaving that season.

Rose Street between Shattuck Avenue and Walnut Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell

And in a similar vein, in 2013 I photographed this post-it wishes in the Uplands.

The Uplands and Encina Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell

I am enchanted by these wishing trees. I want one! How hard can it be? You just need a tree in the sidewalk strip, some note cards, and string. My first wish would be – I wish that we could save the Village.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,000 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

For a fuller and more idiosyncratic version of this post, see Quirky Berkeley.