Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hoarding Wishes: A Tale of Oceans, Immigrants, and Dandelions

Bottled wishes

In the Western world we wish on stars, we wish on dandelions, and in my family we wish on bales of hay. Years ago I met a man who wished on the ocean and has regretted it ever since. An immigrant from Vietnam, he made his wish on the ocean when he was one of the boat people fleeing Vietnam. He wished he could go to America. At a refugee camp in Thailand he told immigration authorities that's where he wanted to go. Once he was in America for a couple of years he realized he'd made a terrible mistake and should have wished for Australia. "But," he said with a sigh, "you only get one wish on the ocean."

Too bad for him, but great news for me. I'd never heard of wishing on the ocean, which means I had a brand new wishing technique at my disposal. However, since you only get one wish on the ocean I keep waiting until I can figure out something really good to wish for. After years of flinging my wishes to the stars and the wind and bales of hay, I have become a wish hoarder. 

These little bottles filled with dandelion wishes can be used in a couple of ways. You may save the dandelion wishes until something wish-worthy comes up, decant the bottle, shake out the wishes, and blow them away to be fulfilled. Or ... you can fling the wish bottle into the ocean when and if you are finally ready to make your one and only wish on the ocean. There's no real connection between dandelion wishes and ocean wishes, but it seems like it would produce a double-whammy. I also like the vague message-in-a-bottle connection (in fact you could record your wish on a tiny scroll and insert it in the bottle), and the idea that someone somewhere may come across this little bottle full of wishes washed up on the shore.

Step one: carefully pick dandelion

Step two: store dandelion in an artful ad hoc assemblage during prepping

Step four: assemble tiny vintage perfume bottles

Use tweezers and toothpick to insert wishes into bottles

Bottle one

Bottle two

Bottle three

The complete wish collection

Postscript: A little more about wishes

Wishing on a star: Origins date back to worship of Venus in ancient Rome. Venus is the first bright star that appears at sunset ("Starlight, starbright, first star I see tonight...).

Wishing as You Blow on a Dandelion: Dandelions were known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. They were probably brought to America on the Mayflower. They have been used for divination (blow, and the number of seeds remaining tell you how many years until you'll be married or how many children you'll have). Wishing techniques vary. The one I grew up with is to wish and then blow, and whoever catches the seed someplace far away will grant your wish. An alternate method dictates that it is catching a blown seed that grants you a wish. The nicest origin story for this wishing technique is that the dandelion seeds are really fairies or sylphs and they grant you a wish for freeing them to fly away.

Wishing on a Bale of Hay: I grew up with this tradition and assumed it was widely shared until my sisters and I discovered that no one else in the world makes a wish when they spot a bale of hay ("Bale of hay - make a wish!') We now suspect my grandfather made this up. I still make a wish every time I see a bale of hay.

Wishing on the Ocean: Other than the old Vietnamese man I encountered on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, I have never heard or been able to track down any other account of this belief regarding one wish on the ocean.


  1. No oceans here so I am going to start wishing on bales of hay, there are a lot of them here.

  2. I like that idea about the bales of hay, though was it to keep you quiet whilst passenger-ing in the car?
    And capturing dandelion seeds as wishes is simply delightful, love that idea!

  3. Maybe bales are a remembering of white horses. you see a white horse and make a wish, but really they're called grey- or so tiffany aching was told.
    people go to the sea with 10 dimes and ask the Star of the Sea~Yemaya for wishes or La Sirena the mermaid -she has other favorite things but the teaching of La Sirena is to be careful of what you wish for.
    I'm long over due to tell you I love your blog, you art and your whimsy. Please don't stop. Thank you for your generous spirit. Joy to you, faun

    1. Why thank you. Your note came at a perfect time, a nicer thought than I could have wished for.


Related Posts with Thumbnails