My Year of 1000 Cranes

Strings of 1000 cranes at a Buddhist shrine in Japan

Folding 1000 cranes is a relatively recent Japanese custom.  If you fold and keep 1000 cranes, it brings good luck. Buddhist shrines in Japan often have 1000’s of strings of 1000 folded origami cranes, in bright colors, left as offerings.  Folding 1000 cranes is a form of meditation of prayer.  I decided on New Year’s Day of 2019 that it would be my year of 1000 cranes.  It would be a year in which I would do some soul-searching; try to find a new set of dreams to replace the ones that no longer fit my world.

The idea started a bit perversely.  I’m over 50.  I’ve born three children (we have a blended family of five).  My bladder leaks when I laugh or sneeze or jump or run.  I always wear an “Always” sanitary pad in my underwear to stay dry.  The pads are lined with pink and white patterned wax paper that looks vaguely Japanese in style, which one peels off to expose the stickiness to keep the pads in place.  I usually have a small stack of these pink flowered papers in my closet waiting to be thrown away.  Looking at the small stack in January, I wondered what else I could do with them. They’re rectangular, two inches across and about 5 inches long.  If you cut them, you can get two, 2” squares from each paper; two pinky sized, pink-flowered origami cranes. (Later, I found, if I buy the extra-long pads, I can get three cranes out of a single backing paper instead of only two!)

On New Year’s Eve of 2019, I was faintly optimistic.  We had moved back into our home that May, after flooding in Hurricane Harvey. My youngest had started college. I had survived Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. The commercial shopping frenzy leading up to the dual gift giving of Channukah and Christmas was over.  We’d survived the conflict of half the blended family only celebrating Channukah and the other half lighting candles but also “doing” Christmas.

I was starting to see a New Year in which my husband and I might be able to enjoy periodic date nights and long weekends and perhaps even a vacation.  We could recover enough financially, perhaps, to think about buying a beach house – a place to escape to, where we could be just Us.  That narrative changed when we found out our unwed oldest daughter was pregnant with her second child. The father was homeless and unemployed, sleeping in his car in the Fitness Connection parking lot. They were going to need a lot of love, a lot of support, and a lot of financial help.

It has taken some practice. I had to re-teach myself how to fold a crane.  And I had to re-think about what makes me happy. Like so many other precious moments in life, I wasted some of the small squares of pink paper.  But I liked the look of the small collection of the first seven pink cranes massed together in a small bowl on my desk.   I decided to glue the cranes onto a large canvas and create a collage. The creative process gave me peace, made me happy. The art is delicate but durable, representing strength, endurance, persistence, a mother’s love and marital commitment. A piece of art into which I hope to fold all the rage and sadness and despair that I felt at the start of this year and turn it into prayers and hope. This blog is part of that creative process; part of that journey. I hope to share my unique vision of the world — at the scale of the canvas or the crane — and share some of the the resilience that life has made me build.

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