Emily Dickinson once wrote:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops at all -
For Miranda Wyles, hope is more like 25,000 lights, carefully entwined in the branches of trees, in a small, green space in downtown Paris.
Her hope shines a light on the path so that others can walk in the direction of their hopes.
Paris was initially established in 1789 as Hopewell. It was renamed Paris a year later (see full history at www.paris.ky.gov ). There is just something to be noted about a town that was known to be a well of hope.
Wyles thinks so, too.
A Financial Advisor with Edward Jones Investments, Wyles made Paris her home nearly ten years ago. Last Christmas, she traveled to Fulton, Missouri, her original growing-up place. While there, she visited the neighboring town of Columbia … and illumination became her inspiration.
About twenty years ago -- the same time that Wyles ventured north to attend Transylvania University -- a man known as Will Treelighter wrapped lights around a cherry tree. He called it The Magic Tree and it was wildly popular. The idea, like light itself, spread.
In neighboring Fulton, folks there established a Wishing Tree. Wyles saw pictures on Facebook of her friends dropping their wishes into a Wish Box near the tree.
“I thought that if my hometown could do that, then we could do that in Paris,” she says.
She considered the green space, owned by Bud Wells, a few doors down from her office on Main Street.
“I started thinking about a lot of things. I started thinking about liability. I started thinking about how we were going to get Mr. Wells to let us use that space,” she says.
She approached the Paris City Commission and they agree to lease the space from Wells and to pay for the electricity. The rest was up to her … and a whole community of friends who believed in the power of hope.
“Basically, it’s a whole bunch of people who have been good to me and now I am indebted forever,” she laughs.
Hope, everyone knows, is worth it, and from that creative expectation, Hope Park on Main Street in Paris was born.
The City of Paris brought in five dump trucks of dirt to level the ground. John Mahan, the owner of Sodworks, then laid sod over the entire area.
Wyles had envisioned a post office type box to collect written expressions of hope and letters to Santa from children. She soon learned she couldn’t just borrow one, or buy an old one, from the post office. She enlisted Scott Welsh, from Welsh Welding, to make the box from scratch.
Dr. Regina Raab, the owner of Gallery St. George, adorned the finished metal box with etched stars and an intricate scene of a Kentucky dawn, complete with horses, trees and a rising sun. Raab fitted the interior of the box with LED lights so that the light shines forth when the door to the box is opened.
“Hope is the light on the darkest night,” Raab says.
Wyles researched the appropriate lights to use, even going so far as to receive expert advice from Will Treelighter himself.
“We didn’t just go to Walmart and get a few strings of lights,” Wyles explains. “I worked with a company out of Texas to get industrial LED lights.”
The main tree in Hope Park, the largest tree on the left, is lit with 18,000 lights. The remaining seven thousand lights light up the other smaller trees in the park.
The sign announcing the entrance to Hope Park was painted by fellow Parisian, Susan Cooper, an artist who does amazing work on commission. Cooper donated not only her time and her talent, she also donated the materials for the sign itself.
Wyles says the entire project would not have been possible without a great team of volunteers. Some of the work and materials were donated, some had to be purchased and paid for. All of it, though, was for the good of the community, and to the best for the future.
The official lighting of Hope Park was held on a rainy day in November, with about a hundred people in attendance. Since then, the Hope Box has received letters for Santa which the local paper, The Bourbon County Citizen, has agreed to publish. Wyles shares the other written hopes on the park’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ParisHopePark/ ). She encourages everyone, near and far, to message the page and share their hopes.
Wyles’ hope is that Bourbon County will be ‘the safest, happiest, best place for children to grow up.”
She thinks of her son, a two-year old, and blinks back tears.
A child - in whom all the hopes of all the world are realized.
“Hope is infinite,” Wyles says. “Our plan is to make this something long-term. Whether this is going to actually happen, we don’t know. Paris is Horses, History and Hospitality. Hope is just a natural fit.”
I can’t help but wonder if, for some reason, the light was given for such a time as this. Miranda had nearly twenty years to see the Magic Tree, or the Wishing Tree. Instead, it was only this past Christmas that the lights seeped into her heart.
Hope … so necessary in these strange and uncertain days. A natural fit, indeed.