365 Days of Earrings

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cranes and Gaman

My origami crane earrings have lost their crisply folded luster after 18 years. The art student from Calcutta who lived with us in Savannah bought them for me from a Japanese fellow-student. After all these years of wondering at the skill necessary to fold such a tiny crane, I decided give it a try.

First I had to relearn the folds. I groused as I always do when the directions call for knowledge I lack: "make an inverse interior fold." Eventually, it happened: a crane. Then a smaller one. Then a tiny one--not crisp and perfect, perhaps, but maybe next time.

This morning, as I heard on the news that infants in Tokyo should not drink tap water, I glanced at a photo in the Washington Post of children at Norwood School (the school I attended from K-3) folding 1,000 paper cranes to deliver to the Japanese embassy. I hopped up to find my aging cranes.

I cannot imagine the heartache felt by Japanese mothers and pregnant women as they worry about the health of their children. I wonder how many of them are folding 1,000 paper cranes, busying their fingers until a better solution becomes clear.

About a year ago, I heard a news story on NPR about gaman, a Japanese word that means to bear the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience. We Americans need 16 syllables to say what can be said in Japanese with 2. I don't think this is a time for gaman, though. Dignity and patience won't protect those children from radiation. I wonder what Japanese mothers would reply.

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