Summer, '18-'19

. . . no book can teach what can be learned only in childhood if you lend an alert ear and eye to the song and flight of birds.

(Calvino, 1999, p. 21)

Recently, my eldest daughter decided to fold 1,000 paper cranes as a gift for her cousin. A friend was visiting Japan and sourced 1,000 small, square sheets of exquisite origami paper: smooth patterned colours on one side and textured neutrals on the other. My daughter was moved by the story of Sadako Sasaki, a child ‘hibakusha’ (atom-bomb survivor) who died from leukaemia, before achieving her goal of folding 1,000 cranes as a wish for world peace. The tradition of gifting 1,000 cranes, strung on fine lines, as a wish for others, inspired my daughter. And so, she began.

She folded herself into each winged crane. As she lined the edges and ran her nails along seams, her breathing became precise: meticulous. Peace settled within and around her with each careful gesture. In the pockets of her spare time emerged birds of happiness that gathered as ‘senbazuru’–1,000 paper ‘orizuru’ later to be held together by string. She handled each delicate piece with respect: select, smooth, crease twenty-two-times, set-aside, then repeat. 

She released the flock as prayer. 1,000 blessings for a lifetime of love. The installation was challenging, fraught with hesitation as to the right place to leave the threaded cranes. She left them swinging in response to inclement weather and wild winds far away from where she herself lived. A prayer without letting go, is a wish without wings. She let go.

What if each new day was like one delicate sheet of origami paper? What if we made our own 22 folds in the space of a day, and lengthened our own gauzy wings? What if we gently and meticulously folded in on ourselves? Our inside-reverse folds, creased well, might make one small thing of beauty–no more, no less–each day that we might live. What if the simple act of making one small wish was strung together with others in the darkness of night, suspended as prayer, waiting for the right moment to be released in flight? 

Holding, we could fold thoughts and dreams each fragile day and gently pry apart hidden wishes, flattening bulbous shapes and lengthening wings for flight. One folded piece alone is a gesture of hope. Crease each day. String a few together as a diaphanous gift for another: 1,000 blessings for a lifetime of love. Fold thoughts into prayer. Hold. Thread and suspend to swing in the world. Let go. Begin again.

Happy New Year!

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* Photographs of origami cranes folded by Samantha Coleman, by Lucinda Coleman, 2018, reprinted with permission.



Calvino, I. (1999). Mr Palomar (W. Weaver, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: Vintage.