First, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that it’s also Veteran’s Day, which coincides with the anniversary of the end of World War I. Here, it’s a day to honor all of the brave people who have served in the United States Armed forces, which includes members of my own family. Since it’s a more serious and well known day, it didn’t fit within the confines of this month’s project, but I wanted to start this post by pausing to say thank you to everyone who has served this country.
It’s also World Origami Day, which celebrates the age old art of paper folding. Ancient legend has it that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted their wish. In some versions it’s also a lifetime of good luck. Today, this small folded crane is also celebrated as an international symbol of peace, which also seems fitting for a day celebrating the end of a war.
I tried origami once, but wasn’t very good at it. The simplicity of the final form is deceiving once you start to fold the paper. But I appreciate the beautiful creations I’ve seen people come up with, from dragons to dinosaurs to beautiful flowers. It’s amazing to think that it’s even possible to create those forms out of a single sheet of paper.
The only paper folding I was determined to learn when I was a kid was that of a paper airplane. I would imagine whole stories for my tiny invisible pilots inside, who were about to take their maiden flight on my masterpiece. This was an unfortunate thing to do, since I sucked at making paper airplanes. My tiny pilots would inevitably die a horrible death as my planes consistently failed to fly properly and crashed into the floor.
Looking back now, paper airplanes are like flying origami. Perhaps, my failed attempts at traditional origami should have provided some foreshadowing and saved all of those tiny pilots from doom. But I’ve always had a determination that was never bothered by being paired with a complete lack of skill. When I wanted to do something, I just did it.
There was one day, several hundred failed planes into the process, when on the last fold, I tossed my airplane away and a beautiful thing happened. It flew. It glided across the room, and landed gingerly on my desk next to a stack of books. I was shocked. I was all ready to find a tiny phone so I could call the families of my tiny pilots and tell them the terrible news, when the thing had actually worked.
Maybe I hadn’t quite made a thousand, though I’m actually not sure, but my willful perseverance had produced success. Something I wasn’t naturally good at, had become a skill. I took a single piece of paper and had created an aerodynamic masterpiece of paper propulsion. And best of all, I had gotten my wish.
When I think about making a thousand cranes, I have to wonder if there’s a lesson buried there, like all good legends. Maybe it wasn’t about magic cranes at all, but simply about determination. In the end, your wish is really up to you. If you put your heart and soul into something and focus on it long enough, good things will finally come your way.
I stopped making paper airplanes soon after that, as tiny pilots everywhere breathed tiny sighs of relief. But the feeling I had that day stayed with me. A thousand failed attempts at various other things would follow, but I never doubted that, one day, I would eventually succeed. All thanks to a single piece of carefully folded paper.
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!