On a fence between railway tracks and a bicycle path, in Montreal's Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie neighbourhood, is a suggestion box for the universe that's been filled with hundreds of wishes during these troubled times.
The box — there since April — is made of upcycled wood, paint and hardware, though people sometimes place flowers or small objects on it. There are also usually waterproof notepads and pens by its side.
The man behind it prefers to be known semi-anonymously as François C.
"When people write a note, I want them to address the universe, themselves, or life itself, and not someone with a certain gender . . . age group [or] cultural background," he told MTL Blog, though he revealed he's in his 30s and has lived in Montreal for 20 years.
He also doesn't want us to disclose the exact location of the box, explaining: "I don't wish to create an attraction. I want it to be something you simply happen to cross on your way fortuitously."
So, if you want to ask the universe for a wish, go on a walk through Rosemont — paying special attention to train tracks, bike paths and the energy of your desires.
Where did the idea come from?
François said the idea came to him during the spring lockdown.
"I somehow had the strong feeling that a lot of people needed to express themselves and I wanted to offer them the possibility to do it in a way they usually can't with their relatives, or on social media," he said.
"I wanted people to take the time to remember that they . . . still have legitimate needs and feelings, and that they still have the right to wish for better things to happen."
What do the notes say?
Topics range from love to spiritualty to COVID-19 from people of all ages, François said — a mix of light-hearted wishes, like hot-dog stands in the neighbourhood every Sunday, and deeper subjects, like gaining legal rights to see one's own child.
"I must admit that from time to time, I get so shaken by the notes I find in the box that I can't help but wonder if, in the end, I am strong enough to handle my own creation," he said.
Right now, he said pets are a recurring theme.
Here are some direct quotes from the notes:
"I don't like it when people steal my melons. Make it stop."
"I wish that my ex (R.I.P.) knows that I love him... and that he forgives me! Hasta luego mi amor!"
"I would like to get a dog or a hamster and that my mother stops smoking"
"I want to open the door to a nice relationship, deep and healthy. Seb Adams or better."
"I wish not to have cancer."
"That my friends stop doing drugs, that they make more music, some real music, that they cut the bullshit"
"Not die a virgin, pray for me"
"Defund the SPVM"
"I wish to my 5 grand-children: the strength to believe in a better world, without wars, without pandemics, without humanitarian crisis, without economic crisis."
What happens to the notes?
One side of the box reads, "All wishes will be considered with the utmost attention. Promise."
François said he keeps that promise, reading each note with empathy and understanding.
"I like to try to feel each note as if I could feel the person behind it, at the exact moment they wrote it," he said.
Then he scans them and places them in a big envelope for safekeeping.
"I think the first step in having our wishes come to life is being able to identify them for ourselves. If we reflect on them long enough to formulate them and name them clearly, then they start getting concrete enough . . . to happen or materialize in some way."