mindfulness and meditation

Never Turn Down an Invitation to a Japanese Birthday Party

For some reason last December over the holiday season break from work, I started making origami paper cranes.

I don’t know where the box of origami paper even came from – random birthday gift to one of the girls maybe – but it was in a closet where random things go to die and I happened to stumble upon it. As I stood in front of that closet full of forgotten junk holding a box of colorful six-inch squares just waiting for their big moment, a childhood memory flooded back…

We didn’t have a lot but my mother was tenaciously resourceful and she sought out the very best for me. So she did what any respectable single mother would do when she lives in a less than desirable neighborhood – she fudged the truth and used my grandmother’s address so I could attend Eakin Elementary for my first four years of primary school. It provided me a great education and with its proximity to Vanderbilt University, it was also a cultural melting pot compared to some other parts of Nashville. And as a perk that has nothing to do with this memory, it was also connected to one of the most amazing parks, affectionately known as the Dragon Park. I loved it there. Every minute. Thanks Grandma for living in a good school district.

I met so many children from different parts of the country and the world. It was surely the beginning of my love and respect for other cultures. The different languages and food and toys fascinated me. I wanted to see more, know more. Please invite me over for a sleepover…

When I was in the first grade, I was invited to a birthday party for a girl in my class who was from Japan. I have combed the chambers of my mind but I cannot for the life of me remember her name. But I do remember that her party went down as the best party I had ever attended in my six years on this planet – you had me from the first moment of ‘remove your shoes and leave them by the door’.

We ate traditional Japanese food and her mother helped us sing songs in her native tongue. She helped us fumble with chopsticks and we all got to drink from the most delicate cups. But the volume went up for me when we were all led to a table with the most beautiful paper squares – some boasted cherry blossoms and knotty branches, some were covered in abstract designs with a rainbow of colors, and then there were the extra special metallic squares that called out to me – “make me into something beautiful”.

Now I am fairly introverted by nature but when I get excited, I can talk. I mean a lot. My mother would probably tell you she remembers this particular birthday party because I narrated every detail of it to her forty-seven times on the way home. I loved everything about it and I especially loved making something beautiful from a small piece of paper. What an amazing skill to acquire, particularly for a first grader.

So back to the junk closet. I wonder if I can remember how to make a paper crane?

The first attempt was an epic fail but thankfully we have the Internet now to quench our every demanding thirst and ten minutes later, I had produced a very respectable paper crane. Much to my family’s excitement, I went on to spend the next five days perfecting my folding skills and swapped out the Christmas décor for a flock of paper cranes. Hurray – we aren’t the weird house on the block or anything.

And then it was back to work time so I closed up my origami shop. Until last week.

Big Magic - Elizabeth GilbertAs part of this sabbatical, I am trying to tap into new things and I just re-read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She has a fascinating viewpoint on creativity and seeing the outlets all around us. I used to have myself squarely in the non-creative camp but my pal Liz helped me realize that maybe I had the definition of creativity wrong. Just because Bob Ross would reject me as a student and my stick men look like a pile of firewood, I am already creating in my everyday life.

My home is a palate and I love to change it to match the seasons or my mood. My closet is a study in mid-life fashion – boring to most but I do actually put thought into what I put on my body, even if it doesn’t look like it some days.

My love of photography is a form of creative expression. Arranging the fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s in my vintage Ball jars adds beauty to my world. And a piece of paper when folded just right can also become a thing of beauty.

Eureka! I am one of those creatives. We all are. Even if you aren’t making money from your crafts and creations and cranes, it doesn’t mean you can’t hang out in the creative camp. If you enjoy it, it totally counts.

So last week the origami shop re-opened for business and because my memory is like swiss cheese, I had to revisit the trusty Internet to make sure I remembered all the folding steps to give the December cranes some new fall brothers and sisters. In addition to the visual tutorials, I also found an article about the meaning of the crane and a particular practice of folding 1000 cranes for the granting of one wish. Now I don’t even play the lottery or throw salt over my shoulder or avoid black cats but this seems like a harmless thing to believe in so I’m in. Plus, if there is a goal – any goal really – I want to accomplish it.

And while the repetitive folding of paper may not seem creative, the possibilities of what to do with 1000 cranes will be fun to design. My husband is SUPER EXCITED TOO.


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