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‘Origami Guy’ hopes thousand wishes come true through tree

VISTA — One thousand wishes are the goal — and if that happens, then, according to legend, all those wishes will come true.

It’s an ancient Japanese tradition called “Senbazuru,” which promises that should a person fold 1,000 paper cranes, their wish will be granted.

And so enter Vista’s “Origami Guy,” the artist who wishes to remain anonymous, though continues to strive to make an impact on his (yes, it can be confirmed he is a he) community through “creative vandalism” and the folding of thousands of paper cranes.

The folding of those cranes is underway as the Origami Guy readies to usher in the fourth year of the Merry Tree of Wishes.

The tree goes up Nov. 25 at Lush Coffee & Tea Lounge in Vista (324 Main St.) and will remain there until it comes down Christmas Day.

The idea for the Merry Tree of Wishes was borne out of the annual World Tree of Hope, which is set up in San Francisco each year.

After meeting with the Tree of Hope’s organizer one year, the idea that the Origami Guy could do something similar locally emerged in the form of his Merry Tree of Wishes.

And ever since its inception four years ago in the coffee shop, the Merry Tree of Wishes has seen a steady increase in the amount of wishes that get put on the tree.

“That first year, we probably got about 75 to 100 (wishes). The next year it doubled. And last year we had 638,” the Origami Guy said.

And so for this year, their goal is to get 1,000 wishes to hang on the tree.

“What I tell everybody is, ‘we get a thousand cranes and a thousand wishes, everybody’s wish comes true.’”

It’s free to participate in the wishes tree. He said simply visit Lush, pick out an origami crane, write a personal message on it the wish tag, and hang the crane on the tree.

He explained that his interest in origami came about eight years ago when his daughter was dealing with some health issues. His wife began folding the paper cranes in the hopes their wish would come true, and he joined in the folding efforts.

After the couple had finished folding the 1,000 cranes, he realized the meditative outlet it provided him.

“I found it to be very relaxing,” he said.

He’s folded so many that he can now fold the cranes blindfolded, if he had to, he explained.

While many people know the artist’s true identity, for these projects and others, he tends to relish in the anonymity of it. Some of it because of the mystery it adds to the projects, but also the ability to maintain plausible deniability — because (the city doesn’t always appreciate the so-called “creative vandalism”).

The Origami Guy has been known to “butterfly bomb” businesses (where he uses butterflies to dress up the storefront’s windows.

The businesses seem to appreciate it, he said. “I don’t know if the city always appreciates it,” he added.

Regardless, the Merry Tree of Wishes, he said, can offer people a “cleansing” of sorts, allowing them to write things that they know might never happen, but it’s a way of them accepting reality.

And despite the country’s political climate following the election, the Origami Guy said people always need this kind of outlet.

“I read every wish on the tree, when I take it down,” he said. “And I look at them as they go up and I laugh and I cry every time I read them because there’ll be somebody who will wish for a threesome, and that’s totally fine with me, and then there’ll be somebody who wishes that they find a cure for dementia, because they want their dad to know them again.”

Once the tree comes down, he said none of the crane ornaments or their wishes goes to waste either — the cranes usually become part of a special project that will get auctioned off.

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