A Japanese legend holds that if someone folds one thousand cranes, that person will receive one wish.
I’d heard this story before traveling to Japan. A thousand miles from here, at a paper shop in a small town at the base of Mount Fuji called Fujiyoshida, my sister and I found a box containing one thousand little papers to fold into one thousand cranes. We looked at each other and immediately knew that was something we wanted to do.
I folded my first paper crane in a high school classroom. The paper was beautiful, deep red. I made almost all the right folds, bending the wings out with hesitant fingers. The tail somehow managed to be upside down, but I was proud of it. When I got home, I put the origami bird in a place of honor on my desk where I could look up and see it when I worked there.
Some days, I feel like that was a thousand lifetimes ago.
My sister and I were blessed to be accepted to the same graduate school. The summer before we left, we went together to study in Japan. I met so many wonderful people, used a foreign language, took a thousand pictures, walked ancient streets, and found a part of myself I didn’t know was missing.
I know I brought back more than those one thousand pieces of paper.
Unpacking from Japan, we packed the cranes for school. I thought we’d fold a few every once in a while, but as the semesters came on, we folded dozens at once. The first color was white, and I wasn’t very good at the tiny little folds. Some of the cranes came out with crumpled heads or tails, rough and crude. My hands felt too big, too clumsy, but it felt good to push the creases into the paper and create something graceful from a square.
As we’d finish one color and move to the next subtle shade, I found myself thinking, Can we really fold one thousand of these?
At school, I learned in a way that I’ve never have before. Those days and nights, those thousands of hours of reading, writing, studying, talking out ideas, and worrying over deadlines shaped and defined me the same way I shaped each crane. The first efforts were rough, harsh even. There were plenty of times I didn’t think I could do it. In our tiny apartment, I thought this place would never feel right or feel like home, but every night, I’d fold myself into bed, look up at the constellations on my ceiling, and thank God for getting me through another day.
Some of those days felt like a thousand years.
But look at these cranes. Aren’t they beautiful?
In the spring of 2014, my sister and I finished the last birds. At the end of that year, we finished our masters degrees.
So here they are, and here am I.
We never made an official wish for our one thousand cranes. For me, I have a thousand wishes, a thousand dreams, wrapped up in each of these little origami cranes. Each one represents a lesson, a place I have been, a place I want to go, someone I love, someone I have met, a person I have been, and a person I want to be. Some of them were easy to fold, and some stubbornly refused to crease properly. Together, they make one of the most fantastic sights I have ever seen.
Do you see?
We are all one thousand things–all dreams, hopes, lessons, and loves. And once you take them out of the box, they will never go back in.
We wanted to get pictures of our cranes before they fly back to their first country. Every year, people send thousands of cranes to the Peace Memorial Park at Hiroshima which was commemorated in honor of Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who was exposed to the radiation of the atomic bomb. The story is that she tried to fold one thousand cranes before she passed away. Today, people send cranes to this park with hope for peace. My sister and I are going to send these cranes there, too.
She wrote her own entry about these beautiful birds called Paper Wishes. Please check out her most excellent blog!