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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Legend Of The Paper Crane

My relationship with arts and crafts in school tended to depend on how creative and experimental our instructors were.

Most of the time, I absolutely loved art class.  Being one who preferred to play with Crayola crayons over the hottest toys of the 1980s, I used to enjoy art period.  And depending on who the teacher was, we sometimes did fantastic art projects.

One year, we ended up making a replica of a stained glass window using black construction paper and various squares of tissue paper.  It was an ingenious craft, and while I don’t like to boast, mine was quite spectacular looking.  Another year, I attended a paper making workshop during my spring break, and I ended up making a sheet of recycled paper using compost!

(You stare at me as if I don’t know what I am talking about, but I still remember how to do it nineteen years later.  All you need is a banana peel, some newspaper pulp, some water, and a really good blender to mix the concoction together.  You sift out the water, and leave the pulp mixture to dry, and then grab a clothes iron to flatten it out.  It’s really easy to do.  Just make sure that if you do attempt to make some banana paper, you don’t make a mess in the process.  Making recycled paper can be a messy activity.)

And, I have just gone off on a really bizarre tangent, haven’t I?

The point is that I’ve been lucky enough to have the experience of doing some rather elaborate arts and crafts.  Sure, there are some instances in which I have had a few teachers where their idea of creativity is to grab a colouring book and telling us to colour a pre-drawn picture.  But even then, I would think outside the box.  While everyone else turned in pictures of grey or brown elephants, I was the only one to have one that was blue and pink striped with giant yellow ears. 

(Would you believe that my art teacher at that time tried to give me a low mark for not even attempting realism in that picture?  Please.  Art is supposed to be all about creativity and imagination, both of which I exhibited in my pink and blue elephant.)

And again, another tangent.  I’ll stop it now.

There were some art projects that for whatever reason, I didn’t understand, or couldn’t do.  I’m sure everyone has tried to build a house out of popsicle sticks at some point during their youth, right?  I couldn’t even build a fence.  Although, I must admit that the frustration over not being able to build a structure out of wooden sticks was somewhat counterbalanced by the idea of me having to eat about 250 ice cream bars to get the necessary materials to attempt that craft.

Then there was the time that my second grade teacher believed that it would be a good idea to learn geometric shapes by having up attempt to build our own three-dimensional shapes out of paper and that useless mucilage glue in the plastic bottles.  Needless to say, that glue ended up being my undoing.  My pyramid looked more like a cone, my cone looked like a cylinder, and I never did figure out how to build a cube, as the sides kept getting bent and torn.  By the end of that frustrating exercise, I ended up with half a triangle.  It’s a good thing that I knew my times tables, or else that geometric craft nightmare would have caused me to stay after school and clean the blackboard, or some other punishment.

(Just kidding, my second grade teacher was the best!)

And regarding paper folding...hah...I completely sucked at anything that had to do with folding paper.  Would you believe that I am thirty-one years old, and I still have no idea how to make a paper airplane?  I have tried to make one for years, but every single time I have tried, it either crashes to the ground in one second flat, or it falls apart before I get a chance to toss it.  Paper folding is not my forte.

And, if I can’t master the art of making a paper airplane, then today’s blog topic is one that I would likely fail at as well.

To transition into this blog entry, I’m about to show all of you a little bit of insight into my personal life that I have not shared before.

This picture above is a part of my living space about a year ago.  And, as you can see, I have quite a lot of knick-knacks on my dresser.  I’m not a hoarder, I swear it.

However, you will see some Nintendo DS games, a video game console (yes, I still have a PlayStation 2), a television, a lamp, various M&M’s memorabilia (the green M&M was a GIFT, I swear it), and two curious glass jars with what appears to be coloured bits of paper inside of them.

Those jars are actually Minute Maid and Fruitopia glass bottles (yes, there was a time in which our fruit juices came in glass bottles instead of the standard plastic), and inside them are about a hundred of these little guys.

Paper cranes of various colours and sizes live inside these jars.  They were given to me by a dear friend of mine named Kitty who I met during my first attempt at a college education.  We grew really close, and I hated having to say goodbye to her, but she decided to give me something to remember her by, which were the two bottles of cranes.  You see, my friend was originally born in Hong Kong, and she immigrated to Canada when she was a young girl.  And while Hong Kong is a part of China, my friend studied the ancient Japanese art of origami while she was a young girl.  The collection of paper cranes that I now have in my possession are years of labour from her.  It really means a lot to me that she would give me something that had so much meaning for her, and since she gave them to me, I have treasured them forever.

Unfortunately, Kitty and I sort of lost touch with each other (she moved around quite frequently and I have been unable to track her down on Facebook, as apparently there are a gazillion people out there with her first and last name.  Who knew, right?  Although maybe she’ll find this blog one day and respond to it, and we can have a bit of a reunion of sorts.

At any rate, I’d like to dedicate this blog entry to my friend Kitty (wherever she may be), and I’d also like to talk some more about origami.  After all, it is a craft, and it happens to be the topic I have picked for today.

As I mentioned before, origami is most common in Japan.  If you translated the name “origami” from Japanese to English, it would mean “paper folding”.

And that’s really what origami is...folding pieces of paper in such a way that it makes something beautiful, such as paper cranes, for instance.  In fact, the paper crane is probably the most common of all the origami creations.  But, do you know why this was the case?

As it turns out, there is a Japanese legend that states that a person that folds one thousand paper cranes will have their biggest desires come true.

Another legend involving the paper crane involves a young Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki.  Sadako was a victim of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima at the tail end of World War II.  At that time, she was merely an infant.  By the time she had reached her twelfth birthday, the radiation from the dropping of the atomic bomb had weakened her severely, having been diagnosed with leukemia.  After hearing the legend of the paper crane, she made it a mission to try and fold one thousand paper cranes, hoping that her greatest desire (to get better) would be achieved.   But when the young girl realized that there was no way that would happen, she decided to change her wish after seeing so many other sick children in the ward of the hospital that she was in.  Instead, she wished for world peace, so that nobody else would have to suffer due to war and conflict.

According to how the story went, Sadako tried her best to achieve the goal of making one thousand cranes to ensure that her wish came true, but ended up passing away from leukemia after only having made 644.  But after Sadako passed away, her classmates ended up making paper cranes as a tribute to their friend.  At Sadako’s funeral services, she was buried with a wreath of one thousand cranes, to symbolize her dream, hoping that it would come true.

Today, a large granite statue stands in Hiroshima, in tribute to Sadako Sasuki.  The statue features a young girl with her arms outstretched, with a paper crane flying from her fingertips.  Since the statue was dedicated, it attracts thousands of visitors each year who place wreaths made from a thousand paper cranes at the base of the statue.

I would call that a wonderful way to remember somebody’s life.  Who knew that the paper crane would end up being so symbolic?

Of course, there are other things that can be made by using the art of origami.  You could make roses, flowers, geometric shapes, and so much more.  I imagine that you could pick up a book all about origami at the local library if you really wanted to learn how to make these beautiful and intricate creations.  But I wanted to focus specifically on the paper cranes because to me, they will always represent a very valuable quality.


Now, as for how many cranes I have...I know that I don’t have one thousand.  At most, I probably only have 275, 300 tops.  So, at some point, I’d like to learn how to make my own paper cranes so I can make seven hundred more so that I can make my dreams come true.

Of course, I suppose I would have to learn how to make a paper airplane first...

That's all I have to say about paper cranes and origami...but remember how I said that paper cranes represented friendship?  Well, tomorrow's entry is also about friendship...only in this case, it will be a bittersweet tale.


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