The power of a wish. Perhaps it is hope in its purest form - the act of closing one's eyes, conjuring up a far-fetched idea and believing it possible, and blowing out a candle. When we open our eyes, the world is just a little bit different. No one else can sense it or see it. With a wish, life changes.
The hardest part of wishing is the believing. There are those of us who are very, very good at wishing. Children have yet to lose their innocence, the source of hope, and so wishes abound. From pet dinosaurs to mom coming home from war, children are very good at wishing. Usually they are wishes for themselves or other loved ones. Occasionally, you get the rare youngster who wishes for the greater good. Those are hard to find.
Even harder to find are adults who wish for things. Adult wishes are different, because they are utilitarian, practical. They are often desperate. A farmer wishing for rain, a single mom wishing her child's cold would resolve itself, for nothing more to go wrong with the car.
The wishing tree at the Audubon still has lots of wishes left.
The rarest of all are those adults who see a star streak across the sky, wish upon it, and actually believe it can come true. How many of us haven't wished for world peace? A birthday cake with a candle (because we're too old to fit all the candles on the cake, now) and the memory of friends saying ''Make a wish, don't forget to make a wish!'' evokes a faded image of a Polaroid in my head of my third birthday party. The faces no longer have names, and the voices have faded, even the wish forgotten, but the feeling is still there. That's the power of a wish, the possibility, the maybe, the what if.
Audubon has some pretty practical wishes - a year not in the red is the most oft wished for, but sometimes we remember to dream. We were recently helped in this effort by some day campers and some third graders. When asked what they wanted Audubon to have, you should have heard the ideas. ''A walk-through aquarium!'' ''A tunnel under Liberty's cage with a dome so we could actually be in her cage without being in it!'' And the ideas grew from there. A zip line to the tower, a maze in the big field, pet otters. This all came from Audubon's baby steps into planning for our future.
Big wishes take big effort and often big patience. Little wishes are usually quite a bit easier to grant, even if they're not quite as remarkable. When I started here, I wished we had live animals, and now we do! Now I wish for some more help caring for them. Some wishes seem silly, like sharp knives in the kitchen. But really, have you ever tried to cut carrots with a dull knife? It's dangerous!
So Audubon decided to put together a list of little wishes, to see if any would come true. We hung them on a tree in our lobby and are inviting people to take one, or more, to grant. From cloth dish towels to a replacement art mural that vandals destroyed, there is a wide range of wishes on the tree. It is pretty easy to grant a wish - just take a tag, get the item, wrap it, put the tag on it with your name and address on the back, and bring it to put under our tree!
Some of the wishes are not from us humans, but from the live animals. Birdseed, new lightbulbs (because who doesn't want sun in the winter?!), and bedding are just a few things they wished for. Because the animals can't open your wishes, we're inviting you down to help with that. On Wednesday, Dec. 28, it is Christmas with the Critters. From 10 a.m.-noon you'll get to meet some of the animals in a live animal program, read a story, and help them open their gifts. The cost is just $5 per person ($7 if you're not a member) and the fees go toward getting even more gifts for the animals.
While Audubon has lots of people who made wishes, we'd like you to open our ''people'' wishes too. Wishing Day is on Dec. 28 from 1-3 p.m. At this event, we'll hear some stories all about wishes, make some wishing stars (both for us and the animals), and open the remaining gifts from under the tree. The cost for this is also $5 per person ($7 for non-members) and the proceeds go toward Audubon's greatest wish - keeping our doors open to welcome everyone in!
If you'd like to stop down and pick out a tag, Audubon is open Saturdays and Mondays from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 1-4:30 p.m. Staff is usually here during the week, for business hours, so you can ring the buzzer and someone can let you in if you can't make it during public hours. Feel free to visit our website at jamestownaudubon.org for more information or call 569-2345.
This holiday season, we encourage you to wish - on stars, candles, and pennies in the parking lot - for yourself and others. Make a wish come true for someone else this holiday season, and that may be your greatest gift.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon and still occasionally wishes on shooting stars.