Friday, June 1, 2012

What The World Can Learn From The Quiet Ones



BlogHer announced its 2012 Voices of The Year and honorees yesterday. I am humbled and thrilled that this submission here, "One Thousand Cranes," was chosen as an honoree in the Parenting category. Thank you, BlogHer, and the entire dedicated staff there, for the support, the encouragement and for giving a place for our voices. This is no small thing to a writer. You have encouraged me and been the wind in my sails more than I can ever tell you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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In Asia, it is commonly said that folding one thousand paper origami cranes makes a person's wish come true.


Sometimes, I have to call out his name to see where he is in the house. He's always been like this, quiet ... and somewhere. And it wasn't like it was with his brothers, never if there's quiet, there's trouble, but more of a, he's quiet, let's go find him.

We'd search him out, and there he'd be; alone, silent, with his drawing pad under the dining room table. Only four-years-old but already sketching a tiger completely detailed with green eyes and a tassled tail; or quietly rolling out anatomically perfect scorpions from clay.

Or folding.

Folding and folding his paper origami.

My husband, who is a conservative white collar worker by day and secret renaissance man at home, is the one who has introduced all three of our boys to what has become the major hobby in their lives.

He began our oldest son, now 17, with piano at age five.

With our youngest, he has shared his love of basketball, football, soccer, anything athletic.

Our middle son, the quiet one, was four-years-old, when one day -- as he sat drawing by himself, my husband sat down next to him, two shiny squares of paper in his hand. Cross legged on the floor, my husband silently, slowly began folding a 6x6 inch flat sheet into an origami crane.

With his thumbnail, he drew a sharp crease in the shiny gold foil, allowing time in between each fold for our son to imitate the precise movements with his own piece. I saw something in our peaceful son's eyes come alive with that very first time of paper folding. As he watched his father, I remember him breathlessly saying, "It's so cool that I can make my own toys."

Our son had found his thing; through my husband, he has learned the art of origami.

He has been folding origami for nine years now.

It suits his personality: he's happy in his own company, he becomes absorbed in his activities, and he is fueled by instant results from his labor. Some of his origami pieces can take up to one hundred folds and an hour and a half of dedicated work. When all the steps are complete, he holds the transformed paper in his hands and with self-affirming pride, admires what he has created from a square sheet of paper.

While he folds, he holds an instructional dialogue with me:

"Mom, did you know that the biggest mistake people make with origami is to not prefold?"

"Mom, did you know that if you think you can't do an origami any longer, you can just try again the next day?"

I have learned that when he is folding, it is the best time for me to catch a glimpse into those thoughts he keeps to himself, to find out more about who this pensive child of ours is.

At times, when he is so into his paper zone that he won't hear us call him, I'll send one of his brothers to go and check on him, to see how he's doing. They always return with the same news, "he's fine, Mom, he's just at the table, folding."

This pastime of paper folding has allowed him entry into the popularity clubs at school that would ordinarily be closed to someone in the outer circle like him. During class downtime, he'll begin to fold paper into fish, or frogs, or boxes, and a crowd will soon gather and with astonished praise, say, "That is so cool! Can you make me one?" In his non-hurried manner, he'll smile, happy to be accepted; reach for another sheet, and begin folding to make the paper crane, cricket, frog, to give to whomever wanted one, while they stand around -- quiet, much like him -- and watch.

I stand behind him sometimes, captured by his hands folding and refolding so deliberately, without a sound. I know that he is nowhere else at the moment, but in his zen of creating.

He once left me speechless with his remark of, "Mom, I know how I feel when I make something from nothing ... I can't even imagine how God felt when he made flowers and bugs."

He is my beautifully quirky son, and he has taught me to seek the quiet, feel the peace of still, and to find a moment by stepping out of the whizzing world for awhile.

"Mom," he asks me, between folds, "do you know the story of One Thousand Cranes? The story goes that if a person makes One Thousand Cranes, that their wish will come true?"

I don't have to make One Thousand Cranes, honey, I don't.

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60 comments:

  1. Congratulations! Well deserved, this post is sheer beauty.

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  2. So beautiful. There is so much about this that is beautiful...from your husband's ability to tap into each son's essence and give each one something so special to your son's depth of soul and connection to the act of creating. Congratulations on well-deserved recognition :)

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    1. Thank you so much. You caught it, entirely. exactly what I was trying so hard to say, without putting too many words up there. Thank you.

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  3. Beautiful story! My granddaughter is a lot like this. She's perfectly satisfied to be alone with herself and her creations. She is an absolute treasure and a blessing and I'm sure your son is, as well.

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  4. what a cool story...i took origami when i was young as well...and love his remarks on creation....lovely...and congrats empress that is awesome for you as well...

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  5. Such an exquisite and beautiful post.

    "he has taught me to seek the quiet, find peace in the still, and to find a moment by stepping out of the world for awhile".

    I think we can all learn something from him.

    Thank you!

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  6. Amazing post. You totally deserved it. Congrats.

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  7. Congrats my friend. I loved that post. xoxo

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  8. Amazing. That is all. Oh, except "congrats," as it's completely well-deserved ;)

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  9. Congratulations, so deserved. xo

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  10. This is so moving. The tone of this was quiet, artistic, and sensitive. My favourite post of yours ever (and I really liked that one about the guys asking you if you bush needed to be trimmed!) Your children sound amazing, but then again, look at their amazing parents. This post is a work of art. Who cares if nobody likes you in your small town. You have thousands of people who love you here in the Internet with an intense desire to hear more from you, and to see your success going to ride to the stars. And I'm not even jealous! I just want you to allow me the details of your ride.

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    1. "And I'm not even jealous! I just want you to allow me the details of your ride."

      Agreed. I'm not with BlogHer or anything, but the awesome community of bloggers I've found keep me going and motivate me to be a better person, not just a better writer. No jealousy here. Just admiration.

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  11. ... the zen of creating ...
    This too, you know well!

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  12. Congrats, that is awesome!!

    My son makes origami cranes too. He's been doing it for the past three years now. After the tsunami in Japan the school made cranes to help the victims and they used a video of my son throughout the school district teaching other kids how to make the cranes. LIke you, I'd often stand behind him and watch and talk. Right then I feel as if all my dreams have come true.

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  13. Beautiful post! Congratulations on the nomination!

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  14. Little teary here--he reminds me of my Brennan. I think I'm overwhelmed by the potential in them when they're so young. (B has sold 2 paintings and he's 11) I wonder if my parents ever looked at me like that....I rather doubt it. They were too busy with the zillion things on the list. I fight desperately to be sure to find the time to look at all of my boys, to see their hearts...nurture the beauty there. This was so full of your love, I could almost feel it. xo

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  16. Thank you all so much.

    I need to do an entire post dedicated to BlogHer. The way they kept me going by first syndicating me. The way they've featured other bloggers in their BlogHer Publishing Network highlight ( I had over 250 new visits that day)

    The way they take care to make sure every BlogHer conference is what everyone needs.

    I don't think they know the diference they make in our lives: by encouraging us, by their belief in us.

    BlogHer is my reason for seeing maybe I've got a seed of something here.

    I can't say enough about each of the women that I know there, and how much they love us out here.

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  17. I loved this. Really truly I know why it would have been picked as it is so touching. Congrats an honor so well deserved.

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  18. It is clear why this was chosen: the way your writing grabs and pulls one in, makes us feel, think, understand. It is clear.

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  19. What a great piece - you deserve this honor! I SO relate daily to the folding and the 'did you knows' it made me smile a little extra.

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  20. Very well-deserved. Your writing never disappoints. Congrats!

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  21. I LOVE this story and the path of your "quiet son" and how you relish his peacefulness. All kids are different and your story certainly conveys how you have wonderfully embraced all of theirs.

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  22. ...this is so beautiful...

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  23. Well deserved on this beautiful piece. Congratulations!

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  24. I was so happy to see your name on the list yesterday - but I'm not going to say I was surprised. I love this post, it's so beautifully written and makes me FEEL, which is my favorite thing about good writing. The ending is so perfect - you already have your wish.

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  25. Oh, the beauty in this post. So much beauty. Thanks for sharing again, Alexandra. It's just as perfect as I remembered it the first time. And congrats on the BlogHer honor; they couldn't have picked a better candidate! XOXO

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  26. If any post deserves it, it is truly this. Breathtaking.

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  27. I don't remember reading this one! It's lovely. I'm glad it was nominated so that you brought it back to the surface again. You rock, Alexandra.

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  28. So this is the one that won? I'm so happy. I love this one. Love you!

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    1. Thank you, sweet Jennie. This is my husband's favorite.

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  29. Soooo beautiful! Love the quiet ones! xo

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  30. When you write.. It is like poetry in a story. And I love that. Every time. Congratulations. But almost any piece could have gotten you to the same place... Your voice is so made for storytelling.

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  31. I am almost speechless, but certainly not without tears. So beautiful for him, so wonderful for you, and congratulations for the recognition for what you do so incredibly well! xoxo

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    1. Oh, A. You get me. Every time. Thank you. xo

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  32. I remember this.

    And I also remember that within this entire piece of loveliness, my favorite detail is that he begins all his insights and revelations and emotions with this word:

    Mom.

    Congratulations.
    Really.

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  33. Such a beautiful piece. I'm so glad you were honored for it. Now let's see some of the origami pictures!!

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    1. I need to get them on here and have him do a post on how origami has become something that gives him an identity. Really. With the awards he's won, he's been validated through it. Thank you, Suzy.

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  34. Congrats chica, lovely writing as always xoxoxoxo

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  35. Oh, I just love this piece. Congratulations, my dear dear friend.

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  36. there is much that is beautiful here, not the least of which is the joy your son finds in his quiet creations. Edith Wharton said once that there are two ways to shed light: be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it. I don't know if your son is the candle and you the mirror; or the two of you candles and this post the mirror; or you're the candle and your son the mirror...
    but you get the general idea. Or maybe Blogher is the mirror for all of us... congratulations on this well-deserved recognition, Empress.

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    1. Thank you, my wonderful friend. This boy, he is so special...

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  37. Congrats my friend. Such a well written post friend. Love.

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  38. My youngest one does origami. It's a great hobby.

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  39. All of you here are so wonderful. Thank you so much. The blogging community has filled my life with so much good and lifted me up in ways I will never be able to say.

    It's like the first time you walk on a stage, turn around, and people clap. You realize in that split instant: people are basically good. They want others to be happy, and they applaud anything that frees a spirit.

    Why do we remember only the one or two or three unkind ones? Most of the world is made up of the loveliness above this, my comment here, from all of you.

    You have shown me that so many times over. THANK YOU.

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  40. I remember this one. Breathtaking. Truly.

    As blessed as you are to have those beautiful boys, the heavens blessed their tiny little souls when they sent those boys to you, to give them a perfect mother.

    Congratulations. You deserve it in spades.

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  41. Beautiful essay. Congratulations!

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  42. You've done it again! I begin reading your posts, ok skimming as is my nature and inevitably your words draw me in, slow me down and allow me to experience the moment you're sharing.

    Thank you as always for inspiring me!

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    1. What a compliment. Thank you so much.

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  43. I am so envious of his talen for origami. We have tired time and time aggain with nothing really to show for it. So wonderful that he has found such a passion this early in his life.
    Blessings
    Diane

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  44. Oh, this is just beautiful - and so very YOU.

    Congratulations on your much-deserved honor!

    XOXO

    Anna

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  45. Congratulations, you! This is stunning.

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  46. Heidi took the words out of my mouth. Stunning.

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  47. Funny, I see a kind of origami-making patience and passion in your sharing, interacting and advocacy online. This glimpse into your life and into the stillness and quiet of a sacred thing is wondrous.

    Thank you.

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  48. I just found myself as I got closer to the end unexpectedly with tears streaming down my face. I think it was the school part that really did me in. Amazing. Simply amazing.

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    1. It's true, isn't it? And thank you. We all just want to be accepted.

      Thank you so much.

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  49. What a wonderful tribute to your son. It reminds me to pay attention to the quiet idiosyncrasies in my girls; though they seem rare, they are there.

    Congratulations on being honored!!

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  50. You know how I feel about this. And you. Love all around, my friend.

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  51. Gorgeous essay, Alexandra! I love kids like him...Want to hug both of you!

    Congrats on the well-deserved recognition!

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