1000 Cranes – achieving my milestone

The last 10 cranes

I folded the last of my 1000 cranes yesterday. We had talked about making a celebration out of the last fold. But finishing in the middle of studying for the algebra final with my son was also ok. A bit anticlimactic. Being in the middle of the flow of life was appropriate. The journey of folding cranes has ended up being a journey of mindfulness in the middle of the everyday.

I’ve folded most of the cranes while we were studying algebra this year. Or during very long and not very interesting business meetings a long way from home. The act of folding was like doodling on paper or fiddling with worry beads. Keeping my hands busy kept me awake and focused and contributing. It helped me endure a lot of moments that together might have been unendurable. That was the superficial benefit of the journey.

There was the subtle joke that very few people understood – the pink paper that looked so oriental and delicate and that I was so openly working with (and occasionally sharing) was sourced from sanitary pads. So there was a strong element of rebellion, putting the private in public without anyone around me knowing.

The journey freed me as well – to be creative and recognize and embrace how vital that drive to create is to my own sense of well being. I created more this year, beyond just the cranes, than I have in many years. I taught myself new skills, explored new avenues. Gained my first 1000 followers on Instagram. Started this blog.

The year has been every bit as difficult as I expected it to be on New Years Day. The financial burden of other people’s needs has been heavy. And several of the dreams that I tried to hold on to at the beginning of the year are well and truly gone. Early retirement and a house on the beach.

But, I turned my stepdaughter’s vacated bedroom into a retreat for myself. And I found a way to sustain myself. So that simple desire to have something of my own to show for the year has turned into much more. I want to keep going. The completion of 1000 cranes seems to have become more of a milestone than a destination. I need to glue the last 100 cranes onto my canvas to complete my art work. I’m not sure what I’ll do next. But I do have a vintage dictionary I’ve been cutting up. Maybe, once the mother’s prayers are complete, words will start to take flight.

Folding an Origami Crane

Though I started this blog on a philosophical note, describing the significance of folding one thousand cranes, this space is about creativity and about craft and about decor. And while there are thousands of video’s and photo instructions on the internet about how to fold an origami crane, you’re here now, with me. And if you’ve read the first blog, your next question is probably, “well how do I fold a crane?” So rather than making you search the internet for instructions, here is how I fold a crane, starting with the liner paper of a sanitary napkin, cut into 2 inch squares.

Gently grasp the wings in step 22 and pull them apart to open up the body of the crane. Then repeat 999 times.

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.