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.
As a child I was quite adept folding sheets of newspaper into paper hats and paper boats. The boats immediately took on water, and sank like the sodden masses I made them to be, but I could wear the hats for hours, until my mother had to scrub my forehead to get off the printer’s ink. You might think I would consider becoming a reporter or journalist given my penchant for newsprint, but I instead became a Buddhist because I do love folding things over and over and over again kirigami requires the use of scissors, which my mother prohibited.
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.
A man ran down the street this morning, flapping his arms. It wasn’t clear if he was running for exercise, moving his arms in the bitter cold, or actually thinking they were wings and with enough motion he might take off. There is also the possibility that he was simply crazy and a look at the thermometer, reading 6 degrees did lend some support to that conclusion. He ran up and down the street staring up at the sky. I watched him for the better part of an hour. I grew tired just from watching but he seemed tireless. Finally, unable to stop staring at him, unable to accomplish anything else, I picked up the phone to dial 911, to get him the help he needed or soon would in this chill. The 911 dispatcher said we get them all the time, particularly as the holiday approach. “Keep an eye on him,” the dispatcher asked, as if I could do otherwise. Just as the squad car turned around the corner, carefully approaching him from behind, I looked on in awe. I saw the man lift gracefully into the sky to the surprise of the crows gathered in a neighbor’s gingko tree. As the police officers stood by their car, staring at the sky, I finally looked away and daydreamed of origami cranes.