I have taken to surfing the site called 43 things for ideas for my A Year of New project because, surprisingly, coming up with a year’s worth of things that I haven’t done before (and can currently afford in both time and money) is no small feat. If you haven’t heard of it, 43 things is a social media site for people who state their goals and then write about accomplishing them. Lots of people are saying things such as “drink more water” and “lose weight” and “exercise more” but occasionally I come across other people’s goals that are really interesting and creative, and are goals that I want to accomplish too.
One day I saw an unusual one: it was someone’s desire to fold 1000 paper cranes. Say what? Although I had heard of the practice of folding paper – more commonly called ‘origami’ – and paper cranes before, I had never heard of someone folding 1000 paper cranes in particular. To learn more, I explored the site further to find some people that had accomplished this particular goal. I was amazed when I saw that someone had written that folding 1000 paper cranes had made them feel “joyful.” Now I knew I had to learn more. Just what was folding this many pieces of paper into tiny little cranes all about, and why did it make people feel so darned good?
Soon I learned from a little research that there is a Japanese legend that purports that anyone who folds 1000 cranes will have one wish granted to them, such as long life or recovery from an illness. In particular, the story of Sadako Sasaki has become famous. A short-term survivor of the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima during World War II, Sadako was still a girl when she tried to fold 1000 cranes while dying of leukemia. Unfortunately, she eventually succumbed to her illness before finishing them.
To me it seems as though the crane is a symbol of hope for many people, and after reading about the legend I thought it would be fun to try to fold one. Just one to start, not 1000! I love paper so having an excuse to visit my favourite stationery store and buy something new was appealing, and I got an origami book from the library and bought some irogami (special square origami paper with one white and one side coloured or patterned) from The Papery downtown. Then I got to work.
The first design I tried was the beginner-labeled “Kabuto.” I must say, it was a piece of cake! Not only was it really easy to fold, I thought it looked pretty cool in the end. I found myself thinking that it would be pretty neat to have a party for Chelsea when she’s older and make hats for all the kids in this design so they could be little Samurai warriors for an afternoon! Kabuto got my origami experiment off to a great start.
The second design I tried was the (also beginner-labeled) “Banana Boat.” Frankly, this was a really stupid design. It was barely even three-dimensional and felt like I hardly performed any origami at all to make it. Folding the banana boat was so boring that it did not make me want to do more origami, but I forged on towards new challenges.
And challenges I got! The third design I tried, “Cormorant on a Rock”, looked pretty simple from the get-go, but when I got thick into the folding of it I wasn’t so cocky anymore. I found myself reading and re-reading instructions and my beak definitely did not work out in the end. I also realized after I was finished that my cormorant (pictured in red) was much more wrinkly than the book’s cormorant. OK, origami – not as easy to do as I had originally thought!
Next I tried the ferocious and intermediate-labelled “Piranha” which, again, looked easy enough in the picture. The folding did go along smoothly in the beginning but then I got to a point where I had no idea what the instructions were telling me. I thought I had actually folded it right until I looked back at the picture I had taken of the finished product against the book’s prototype and realized … not so much! I’m sure if dropped it into the sea my piranha would lose the game of survival of the fittest and be eaten by all the other properly-folded piranhas.
Finally, the long-awaited crane – the “Tsuru” – beckoned, and I jumped into folding it with fervour. It didn’t take me long to realize that only the insane would actually fold 1000 of these! I reached a sticking point where I had no idea how to do what the book was telling me to do, and in the end my tsuru looks like it got into a head-to-head combat fight with another tsuru – and mine lost! In all it took me about 30 minutes to fold my tsuru – and that was even to do a pretty bad job of it. Do the math folks: it would take 500 hours to fold 1000 crappy-looking cranes at that pace! It would take a year to create them if I spent almost an hour and a half every night in the pursuit. I’ll give you one guess who is never going to fold 1000 cranes in a year … or even in a lifetime!
All in all, after this short experiment I can tell you that origami is not as easy as it looks. It’s fun to do but also frustrating. Perhaps I need to find a different book with designs more like Kabuto, which I thought was the best of the few I did. It would be fun to fold some more designs for and with Chelsea as she grows up. (She did carry the Tsuru around a while but I found it lying abandoned in a corner of her room later on!)
I can see why origami is a true art form because it would take me years to master even some of the beginning folds. I’m pretty sure I will never fold 1000 cranes! I don’t care if doing so would bring me a wish or long life or whatever the legend says. Undertaking that particular goal may make some people joyful – and for them I am truly happy. For me, however, it would be crazy-making. Maybe long life is not for everyone, or I’ll just have to take my chances!
Missed last week’s A Year of New post? Visit it here.