Around me now are 150 boxes of books, and scarcely any way to navigate my tiny apartment; boxes were not labeled well before I moved, so some of my favorite books are in boxes at the bottoms of stacks, arranged like pillars of medieval castles or network systems of ant avenues many feet into the ground. I am indeed buried by books, among them:
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr
Sadako’s courage at being an atomic bomb survivor: Leukemia, of course, radiation sickness, but she still found a path to navigate to healing sunlight in her heart—Peace Day as this story begins. Other A-bomb survivors no longer look human, so burned by radiation, but
Sadako looked normal.
Her A-bomb exposure was invisible, how full of life she remained although she was in Hiroshima on that day. And she was exposed to something she could not even see.
A nurse shows Sadako, in the hospital to get well, how to fold cranes out of paper; their wings are as colorful as leaves; the best aspirations for water, parks, gardens, wide-faced blossoms, golden promises of stars, including deep yellows of the sun.
Make a thousand of these birds, and they will fly, taking all misery with them, the bomb sucked back up into aircrafts, unfolding into flowers, blossoms of which are carpets of petals of small fragrant bouquets of forgivenesses –what have we done to ourselves?
This book reminds me always of necessities of hope. She managed to fold six hundred forty-four cranes.
It even contains instructions for folding cranes of your own that can fly above whatever we manage to do, and origami anodynes of what we can also do; efforts to counteract, paper efforts in this digital age.
And possibilities of flight to a far-off land are in no way better exemplified than in The Story of Jumping Mouse, retold by John Steptoe. A mouse, one of the tiniest creatures that is not an insect, unafraid to become friends with creatures not his species, understands better than anyone the powers and benefits of generosity— giving whatever he has to creatures he meets in need of something he could share. Of course, the Far-Off land is where the mouse lives inside himself, with his own spirit of compassion and an ability to not confuse his own needs and hopes with the needs and hopes of others. He gives his senses of sight and smell to other creatures more in need of them; he shares and is shared with in return. Such little things— but such little things make the differences, as small as atoms, the particles that are the composition of everything, and sometimes these particles align themselves in such a way that there is music, sounds of existence; indeed, the planets hum for all movement makes sound, and accordingly, love is never silent, for the heart is moving to embrace something.
In Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally,
That coat of a little girl, likely the age of Sadako, a red coat, (Little Red Riding Hood, and big bad wolves, silver ones in the sky, their teeth of atomic bombs, “my, what big teeth you have!”); girls hiding from what grownups do to each other, but there is no hiding place, the cruelty of boxes, stacks of bodies like library catalogs, morgues for old books, having to try to walk through them, somehow ignoring the truth just to be able to live with yourself, that’s always the problem, how to live with yourself, the courage to live against the grain, to understand that basic humanity is much larger than anything we have known.
Also true in Contact by Carl Sagan (I also love the movie, one of my favorites), “the vastness is bearable only through love” which enters our lives like a golden crane and conveys us beyond our own folly, the secrets of folds is how they are able to extend mere paper, for each fold is a pocket very much like thousands of universes of Pandora’s cosmic boxes –what I have in every crowded room.
Rooms in Touch the Universe by Noreen Grice give the blind more a sense of scale as planets are touched, including Jupiter’s big red spot that is much more than hurricane. Though just bumps under my fingertips, what joy to read planets compressed into a book; Jupiter’s swirling red dot a crazy monocle, pirate patch, renegade planet big from gorging smaller celestial appetites—and to think, all of this can be felt—I imagine the fingertips deepen, and bulge, hugging the braille, embracing it fully, Mars cutting into fingertips already white from icy delights of Pluto, Neptune, deep freeze of unhidden wonders, untainted by perceptions of color (that always comes later), re-outfitting themselves, loveliest masquerade ball anywhere that has anything mistakenly called heaven
When Hagar in desperation in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon strips herself naked, putting on clothes, Fruit of the Loom lingerie that had been folded in tissue paper, even the Mango tango cosmetic meant to make her more beautiful then ever, more beautiful than possible, as if she could sprout wings of “baby clear sky light to outwit the day light on her eyelids” to help her compete –and win– the love of a man, a crane of a man who will help her become the woman she can never become for herself, without that silky hair with which cranes can just fly away, those air currents, silky air currents in this kinky life, away from troubles of identity, and elusiveness of beauty:
Black stains of the race to dodge bombs.
Black stains on a red coat, red winged black birds.
Black stains of the race to get to Vega,
and not have hallucinations about locations of heaven for humanity in such deep trouble, we have boxed ourselves in, corrugated roads all around me. Road trip after road trip. Pages of these books: my maps, my navigators.
Fold life well, each petal, and open it like the gift it really is, colorful wing after colorful wing.