10,000 origami cranes floated down over Tokyo each bearing the soul of one gone in nature’s recent fury. Each crane cried freely the tears flowing into the Sumida forming a wave that washes back to the sea, replenishing its loss. We, too, shed our tears and look skyward sad in the knowledge that with each passing day still more cranes will fill the sky more tears seep back to the still angry sea.
We pull in to the parking lot where our mailboxes are arrayed like so many graves at Arlington, or more like the drawers in a low cost mausoleum.
This is the new Postal Service, sharing the burden of the need to cut costs even at the expense of services.
Standing nearby are two Sandhill Cranes watching the postal worker carefully unload the trays of mail and buckets of packages, soon to be slotted and eventually carried away.
The birds stare at us, knowing it seems that they are protected, and we need to walk and drive around them, for they have no intention of yielding ground to us, certain they were here first and they say they tolerate us only barely, and if we doubt that, they will explain in pointed detail with their beaks.
We walk around them and wonder how they would hope to open the metal box where any mail they might receive will soon enough be deposited.
A crane stands placidly staring through the window as we earnestly attempt to imitate him, hoping he will honor the effort if not the result. The master is graceful and we are far less so, and out of the corner of my eye I see on the crane what could be a smile, or as easily derision, and take comfort in the thought that the root of the word is shared with laughter, and we can accept that not as a mark of failure but effort. The crane returns to the pond the master to his neigong and we imagine we are all noble birds awaiting flight.
The river that I imagined, a torrent of words and images is little more than a dry trickle, construction cranes along one shore hauling away half- and ill-formed thoughts, leaving only desire and frustration as a marker of what might have been. I looked at each bend, hidden from sight as harboring that epiphany that I promised myself, and not further evidence of my own delusion. We will make port this afternoon Where I can, at last, offload my frustration and these shards of a fantasy now gone to dust.
Origami cranes lumber into flight and lift into the sky over the small, back street Temple somewhere on the periphery of Shinjuku. They know their flight will be only temporary, that their wings will grow quickly tired, that the rustling sound of two thousand wings will soon fall silent as the breeze bids them a peaceful night, and the Temple bell announces the evening zazen.
The cranes slowly gather one upon another upon still another, wings unfurled, invoking senbazuru, each one of a whole, each threatening to fly off in ten directions, and none. Still others, sit around, patiently awaiting completion of their senbazuru, uncertain of, uncaring for, its arrival.
Painfully jammed into the middle seat of five three hours into the fourteen hour flight SFO to Tokyo Narita, it is easy to imagine myself a sheet of origami paper carefully and precisely folded into a crane wings bound in anticipation of taking to the air.