Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wax On, Wax Off, or How To Build A Book Out Of Paper

The Crane, Rabbit, Pinwheel, Kabuto/Samurai/Yakko, Balloon, Organ and Fish.

I’m not talking about Yoga, nor am I talking about things the Karate Kid can do, though I like to pull the Crane out of my box of tricks every now and again. What southern girl wouldn’t? ;)

This morning, as I approached the Tulip Tree, I took in the magnificent flowers blooming overhead. The magnificent pink blooms reminded me of Cherry Blossoms found in Japan. I have fond memories of Japan, playing with Japanese children, scurrying over beautiful bridges and rambling creeks, and dancing among the discarded blooms that littered the ground. At any time of year, my family and I could see snow-capped Mount Fuji in the distance. And, when winter came, fireman sprayed water over an area behind our military housing, specifically carved out of the ground for ice skating. My dad also built tunnels in the 40” deep snow and, as I look back on it now, I was kind of like Lara Croft wandering in and out of the tunnels looking for adventure. (Pirate!)

One of the many things I remember are my earthquake experiences, especially the earthquake of ’68, which wasn’t matched until Kobe was hit a few short years ago, listening to the Beatles on the radio, my mom playing a beloved clown on television, and her teaching ballet to area girls in our home. But, one thing I remember and cherish is learning to do Origami. Origami was taught in grade school and soon my brother and I were making airplanes, cranes, birds, flowers, and all sorts of other shapes out of colored paper. The craft followed us into our teenage years as well.

Origami means “ori”, to fold, and “gami”, means paper. Thought to have started during the Han Dynasty, its foundations date back to Buddhist Monks who learned the art and passed it along quickly throughout Japan. A pastime of royalty, the average citizen learned how to fold colored paper when the cost of paper declined. The first how-to book, How to Fold 1,000 Cranes, in 1797, brought Origami to the masses. The common draw of this book featured a legend that a wish would be granted to the person who crafted 1,000 Cranes. Cranes have always been mythical creatures to the Japanese, thereby helping this philosophy expand throughout the empire.

The process of crafting an Origami masterpiece involves these bases:

The Crane Base
The Rabbit
The Pinwheel
The Balloon Base
The Organ Base
The Fish Base

*As with any craft project, the base is the starting point.
*Most flowers begin with the Crane Base.
*Practice makes perfect.
*To quote, “Origami is an exact folding art— it takes time to master it.”
*Satisfaction with the finished product outweighs the time and effort expended to create this delicate piece of art.

Now, why am I musing about this under the tree today? It’s almost Autumn and Japan is so far away from the south. Well, it occurred to me that Origami was just like writing a book. (Why does everything always revolve around books? Go figure.)

From Origami to writing: Plot and characterization is a book’s foundation: The Crane Base. Plots have a way of running off from us: The Rabbit. Conflict has a way of spinning out of control: The Pinwheel. Gutting/cutting scenes from a manuscript involves the Kabuto/Samurai/Yakko techniques (Hee-yah!). Thinking the world will at last acknowledge your freaking genius: The Balloon Base. Wishing you wrote like so and so, because her voice or technique would improve your book: The Organ Base. Fearing you’ve taken on a bigger book than you can finish: The Fish Base. But when creating your Origami masterpiece, always remember the sea is and always has been a metaphor in Japanese culture and cultures all over the world. Don’t go down with Ahab or the Titanic. Rise above your inhibitions and doubts like the Flying Dutchman. What you find when fishing can be the biggest adventure yet! (Pirate!)

Yes, my gentile southern friends. Origami is like writing a book. The base/plot is the foundation, which cannot stand without a sturdy limb.

Practice. Yes, sitting our dainty southern derrieres into our chairs, in front of our computers, and actually typing words onto the page will help perfect our skills.

It takes time to master art, and master it we shall so we can glory in the beautiful bloom revealed by our imaginations.

And, as we bask in the glory of our genius, we will know that art is made by gentile, productive, committed hands, sensitive to the slightest fold/plot twist.

Have you ever tried your hand at Origami? If you're a writer, what kind of animal or flower would your book most resemble? And, if you aren’t a writer, what kind of animal or flower would you like your life to most resemble?


  1. Kathy, you have done so many interesting things. Sometimes you make me feel like a blank slate!

    I can make a dog with it's mouth open that requires about four folds. When I was a librarian, I used to do it with preschoolers in story time. I have a little cousin by marriage who has been doing origami since we was about 3. When I saw him at Christmas, he and I spent a very pleasant couple of hours doing origami together--though I was the helper.

    I'm probably some kind of dog-excitable and eager to please. Maybe a beagle who's not fit to hunt. Flower? Something serviceable and sturdy.

  2. Thanks for complimenting my blog posts, Jean. But there isn't any way you are a blank slate. Please... I know you better than that. Besides, pirates never doubt themselves and I consider us to be part of the same crew. ;)

    I think your flower should be a tulip. Dependable and resourceful, a tulip's beauty begins at the bulb. The bloom rises from a sturdy stem and reaches toward the clouds and beyond. Waxy and firm, the petals cup the air in a showing display. Yes, that's an excellent choice for you, matey. :D

  3. My husband and son practice origami. My son visited Hiroshima twice and each time he commented on the Crane Memorial to Peace where people fold cranes and leave them with a wish for peace - the thousand cranes you spoke of. He said it was an awesome sight. I, unfortunately, do not share their enthusiasm for origami. Can't seem to get the hang of it and I am in too much of a hurry.

    I suppose I would be an orchid - temperamental, hard to keep (LOL) and demanding.

  4. Cheryl, I'm always impressed by how calm and courteous the Japanese people are and what joy is found in simple things, from architecture, art, and to daily life. If you imagine creating 1,000 cranes, how long that would take, the concentration, the skill learned, it makes you realize what some authors say must be true: a writer must write 1,000,000 words before finally reaching potential. This is why I like to post blogs like this. If we get our minds to imagine the possibilities, the endless ways we can accept ourselves and our destinies, we will be successful no matter how long it takes.

    Jean, when I think of Tulips, I think of you.

  5. Cheryl, funny thing about orchids, they are fragile and yet the most beautiful flower. They need a lot of care, but provide immense satisfaction to their growers. Saying you are an orchid reveals that you are multi-layered, delicate, and must be handled with care. ;)

    But what about your writing? Neither you or Jean have indicated what kind of origami product your books would resemble.

    Sometimes I think my writing is like the frog, leap-hopping across genres, since I love to combine historicals with paranormal elements. Other times, I invision my writing to be like the crane, sturdy, cautious, yet ready to soar into the sky.

  6. Awesome post, Kathy!

    At the moment, my writing resembles origami boulders (yes, indeed, there is such a thing--Google will show you the way). While it might appear to be trash, each crumple reveals layers of possiblity, words and ideas waiting to emerge from the hidden recesses of the imagination.

  7. Wow, Crystal! why can't I think of something like that? Genius!

    My books resemble an octopus - long tentacles that need to be shortened before they entomb me!

  8. Crystal, I've never heard of these boulders. Very interesting, indeed! ;)

    I actually found some pictures of octopus Origami, Cheryl. ;) But when your tentacles are shortened, you will have a book resembling the crafty crab. Right?

  9. I have never done any origami because it is hard for me to sit still that long. I think that I am more like a Roman candle fireworks than a flower. It there an origami for explosion??

  10. Hey Stephanie! A Roman Candle with fireworks in it? Hmmmm.... Don't think I've seen one of those. LOL! But you are packed with punch, an energic presence wherever you are. And we love you that way. ;)

    Origami explosion= shredded paper