At a glance, one might be forgiven for mistaking the Wishing Tree of West Ghent as the victim of some lazy tee-peeing. But upon further inspection, you’ll find this sprawling cedar tree adorned not with toilet paper, but wishes—hundreds of them, from modest to grandiose. You’ll also find this wishing tree unique for its surprising lack of materialistic wishes, as well as its number of wishes authored by children. Examples include wishes to reunite with friends and grandparents during the COVID-19 pandemic, to “catch all the Pokémon,” and even “for all of these [other] wishes to come true.”
This old cedar Wishing Tree was set in motion by Suzanne Sherman in 2016. Sherman, who remains in the neighborhood, has attributed her inspiration to a chance encounter with a wishing tree while traveling in California. Upon returning to Norfolk, Sherman placed a line of twine around the oak’s low-hanging branches and hung the first wish. Today, it is accompanied by hundreds of others. “I hope it continues as long as people want or need it to,” Sherman has said of the tree. “It’s a peaceful place.”
This Wishing Tree is rooted in a quiet median of Norfolk’s West Ghent neighborhood at the intersection of Redgate and Matoaka. The tree is also conveniently located along the Elizabeth River Trail, so if you’re wishing for a good picnic spot, here it is!
Fancy adding a wish of your own? Bring pen and paper to the lucky oak, say “please,” and pick a branch. Before you leave, read at least one other wish and hope for it to come true. It’s a local rule!
Know Before You Go
To best attach your wish to the tree, bring a clothespin or a hole puncher and piece of string. The thicker your paper, the better! Alternatively, you may attach a strip of cloth, ribbon, or prayer beads and keep the wish to yourself.