origami is the name for the ancient japanese art of paper folding. using my highly developed origami skills, i will transform this unpretentious square of paper into a graceful animal, elegant flower or useful container.
i ponder the simple beauty of the paper. pure white on one side and a delicate peach color on the other. after a suitable time of being very present in a meditative state with the paper, i am inspired and i make my first move.
as i gaze at my first couple of crisp lines, i am reminded that paper folding is a universal art. some say it started in china 2000 years ago just after paper was invented while others claim it is japanese in origin. all i know is that creative ways to fold paper have been seen for centuries through out europe as well. so where did it start? i don’t know.
but i do know that the word origami is japanese and comes from the word “oru” which means “to fold” and “gami” which means paper. before the word origami was used, paper folding was called “orisue” or “orikata” or “orimono” in japan. or so i’ve been told.
many people say that the first japanese book written about origami. this forerunner of the current do-it-yourself crafts book was published in 1797 with the snappy title “senbazuru orikata” or “how to fold 1000 cranes”. someone must have checked the book out of my library, because i didn’t find it on the shelves, so, i can’t verify the publishing date.
as you know, the crane has long been a sign of good luck, longevity, love and happiness. fables boast of cranes living 1000 years, being faithful to only one mate and raising happy, healthy families together much like the legendary suburban american family of the 1950′s
the crane is honored in the time-consuming wedding ritual called sembazuru. even today, the bride will fold 1000 paper cranes before her wedding day so that she and her husband will be blessed with a long and happy marriage. the cranes are often displayed at the wedding while the bride’s paper-cuts are easily concealed with small bandages, tasteful gloves or an attractive bouquet. (disinfectant is a must to prevent infections).
1001 rainbow-colored paper cranes given to someone who is ill is a much more personal way to say “get well soon” than your average card from the supermarket. unfortunately, this thoughtful gesture is a tad impractical for short-lived illnesses like colds, influenza or coronary bypass surgery. i think anyone would welcome a single hand-folded crane as a get well wish, birthday greeting or expression of sympathy. it doesn’t take a flock to say you care. you know!
crane folding plays an integral part in the exploration of outer space. while i hold out for someone to design a crane space station complete with flapping wings, japan’s aspiring astronauts are folding cranes as part of the skills assessment and psychological testing candidates must undergo.
many people today associate the origami crane with peace. is it because a folded paper crane resembles the enduring icon of peace – the dove?
well, maybe. or it could be because of a little girl named sadako sasaki.
sadako was born in japan in 1943, so it makes sense that she has a japanese name. it think that her name sounds exotic and very friendly. i picture her as a happy and smart girl with dark eyes and pretty black hair.
i know that she was athletic, because when she was 11 years old she was eagerly preparing for a big race. like all competitive athletes, she practiced. one day while practicing, she felt very dizzy.
i know from spinning around wildly at the conclusion of one of my internationally-acclaimed spontaneous interpretive dance numbers that dizziness can be overpowering, if not nauseating. so, it’s no surprise that sadako fell to the ground from her dizziness. it happens, you know.
sadako’s parents were concerned,parents are like that, you know. so they took her to see the doctor. was it an ear infection that made her wobbly? excitement over the coming race? one too many pre-workout snacks?
unfortunately, no. the doctor said it was leukemia. leukemia was also called “atom bomb disease”. it was the radiation from the atom bomb that was dropped on hiroshima when sadako was only 2 years old that made her so sick.
it makes me sad to think that, in 1955, there was not much hope for anyone suffering from leukemia. but, sadako was very brave and her friends were very kind and wanted to cheer her up and offer her hope.
one day her best friend came to visit her. she folded her a shiny golden paper crane and reminded her of the her of the legend: if someone folds 1000 paper cranes they will get their wish fulfilled! well, who wouldn’t want a wish to come true? i know i would! so, sadako began folding origami cranes.
now, i wasn’t there, so, i don’t know for sure, but, some people say she folded over a thousand cranes before she died later that year. others say she completed only 644 cranes before her death and her schoolmates folded 356 cranes before her funeral so that her wish would come true.
what was sadako’s wish? to run again? to be healthy? for world peace? to be back in school with her friends?
i don’t know. but i bet she didn’t wish for fame and to be forever associated with peace, strength and the graceful and beautiful origami crane. but, that’s what she got.
a plate of cookies gets eaten one cookie at a time, a tasty sandwich is eaten one bite at a time (even if they are big bites) and an origami crane is made one fold at a time. i believe world peace starts one heart at a time.