Wishing Well Part 7 (Final Part)

Wishing Well

Part 1

When you wish for something hard enough, you just might get it. Then

comes the part about how hard you thought about what happens next, as

in being careful what you wish for. Jiminy Cricket says nothing about

which star you should wish upon, nor about possible evil consequences

of choosing poorly. How about the venerable first star I see tonight?

Does that imply a filter, a guarantee against bad choices and evil

consequences? Suppose you say you’re bored stiff and wish something

interesting would happen? By interesting you mean? Who cares? Nothing

could be worse than this. Let’s give it a shot: I really wish

something interesting would happen. Oh-oh.

Part 2

Wisharama in Wishitopia in G-flat minor

How old were you when you realized “I wish I knew” does not

necessarily mean you want to know?

What it more likely means is that you don’t want to take the time to

find out. Or it’s not worth knowing. Or you’re too lazy. Or . . .

Or maybe you do know but telling would take too dang long. Or you

don’t want us to know. Or . . .

How old are you, anyway? What makes any of this the least bit scary? (Isn’t it?)

I wish I knew. I wish, really wish, you’d think hard about it, then

let us all know.

Part 3

The list of things people wish for is endless. Ever try to visualize

“endless”? What’d you see?

I see a long, long adding-machine tape with individual handwritten

entry after entry after entry, curling and unfurling slowly out into

dark and endless space, destination infinity, wherever it can be


I wish I could see what Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking saw. Or what

Neil Degrasse Tyson sees.

Elon Musk. Does he really wish to spawn the movement that puts humans

everywhere? Literally everywhere? Would that be wishing well? I wish I


Wait. I know.

Only look at planet Earth. Clever humanstuff everywhere. Everywhere!

Purely natural stuff nowhere. Nowhere! (Hippie stuff, we smugly


Will we learn better over time? Or will we remain too clever by half

until the too-rapidly-nearing end? When the cows come home? When what

goes around comes around?

What do you wish to be when you grow up? An NFL star? Rock star? Movie

star? Media star? Multijillionaire on-line entrepreneur? Maybe a

pussygrabbing USA President? (Or, you know, grab whatever.)

How about alive and well in a shared natural setting? Are we wishing

well? Wish you knew?

You know you know.

Part 4

If it’s worth wishing for,

It must be worth working for.

If you wish/work hard enough for something worthy,

Will luck be a Sinatra lady?


“The harder I practice,

The luckier I get.” —Tom Watson, golfer.

“Pray for a good harvest,

but keep on hoeing.” —Future Farmers of America.

Praying. Anything like wishing?

Are they the same?

One sma’keed time I wished for something worthy

and got it.

By praying?

Don’t recall being into prayer yet.

Mom prayed. Both grandmas.

Couldn’t’ve hurt. Could’ve helped.

Working definitely helped.

The desired object was a bicycle.

Arden Farms Dairy and the City of Bremerton co-sponsored a traffic

safety jingle contest for kids, parental help allowed, even


We did seven entries, each one penned carefully, laboriously by my

reluctant second-grade hand. The first six were random shots. Maybes.

The seventh was my own inspiration, the simple idea of connecting

traffic light colors to their one-word directives:

Red is for stop.

Green is for go.

Yellow is for slow.

By then experienced jingleists, we massaged it into something we all

liked, I copied it neatly, and we sent it in. This was the one. We

were sure of it. And it was.

Mrs. Bostrom bolted out of her house clutching The Bremerton Sun to

her chest, shouting my name. “You won!” she cheered, shouting my name

again. “You won!”

In a special box on the front page, on a list of jingle contest

winners, my name.

At the presentation ceremony, the neatly racked boys’ bikes looked

sturdy, solid, and plain. All except for one gleaming red-and-white

tank model, a ruby among agates.

I wanted that very one, of course. Who wouldn’t? But to get it? I

fervently wished it would be awarded to me. And it was.

Part 5

Have you ever wished you could go back and revisit some part of your

life? Not actually relive it, maybe, but watch it happening

fly-on-the-wall style? Would it look the same as the memory you now


Does memory automatically confer enhancement? Or is it only randomly

different from the original, better in some ways, worse in others? Is

it ever exactly the same?

A long time ago, as an English teacher at Wai’anae High School, where

students’ use of Hawaiian creole English was considered a problem, it

occurred to me that if we treated pidgin as the acceptable cultural

variant it should be, not the enemy we’d made it, it would be easier

to teach American standard English as the cultural variant it is, not

the enemy we’d made it.

Mark Twain became my ally. Each of my eighth-grade students had a copy

of “Huckleberry Finn”. I had them translate the whole “You don’t know

about me” first paragraph twice, first into standard English, then

into pidgin. We had fun comparing the results.

Then we read the whole book aloud together, with everyone

reading-along in their own copy. I told them to think of Huck’s

language as a kind of mainland pidgin and did most of the

reading-aloud myself.

That approach worked so well that I next tried it with an

eleventh-grade English class using Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.

It took about a semester, and students seemed respectfully attentive,

though evaluation is always difficult.

Years later Glenn Kila, one of those eleventh-graders, told me it had

changed his life, inspiring him to go to UH as an English major.

Before, he’d never thought of going to college at all. He became a

teacher, then an administrator at more than one school on the Leeward


Of course I feel good about that, but do I wish I could go back to

relive even one class session? I do not.

I’ve been logger, longshoreman, gravedigger. I’ve hitchhiked from

Boston to Seattle and bicycled across northern Europe. I’ve hiked the

ridgeline from St. Louis Heights across Ka’u Crater and down the

Palolo Trail.

Nothing I’ve ever done was harder work than teaching English, and I

wish never to do it again. But to be a fly on the wall of that

eleventh-grade Wai’anae classroom just one time? I can only wish…

Part 6

I wish Joe’s lights had not gone out yesterday.

Today a large truck rolled up displaying the legend: “Leave the heavy

lifting, sorting, and transport to the professionals.” And

professionals they seem, clicking into place pieces not designed to

click into place — Joe’s old lumber, pipes, buckets, tools — once

wished-for, once-useful stuff.

Joe was not a hoarder; everybody collects stuff. Some of the stuff

I’ve collected once rested under neighbors’ houses, neighbors now

gone, like Joe. Golf clubs from Burt, coiled copper wire from Mark,

sage words of advice from Joe.

The neighborhood was ten years old the summer we moved in with our

children, our wishes — ten years older than us. It’s getting younger

around us, now among the old ones, all obedient to time. I would not,

do not, wish to be an exception.

Blessed far beyond my just desserts, I often think. Blessed? It seems,

yes. Undeniably. While it is metaphorically true that I hoe for a good

harvest, it is literally true that I keep on praying. Truly.

Like Joe, like Mark, like Burt, I’ll stop everything soon enough —

praying, wishing, hoeing. Everythinging.

I wish that truck would leave.

Ah, there it goes now.

Part 7

If I were given one last wish, it would be that we all be given one

last wish and that every ten years all our last wishes be placed in

topical categories and counted and ranked by number and that the one

with the highest number be declared winner and be granted and that

every ten years the winner would be: “Now that we have killed God, we

must honor our obligation to His memory to gather as one human family

dedicated to saving this gifted Earth we say we love so much but treat

with such careless disdain.” Amen.

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