There was a Long Dance in Washington earlier this month. It’s an event my cousin has long been involved with, and this year his wife was the “buck stops here” person putting it and keeping it all together. About fifty people participated, most of them from the Pacific Northwest, but some of us were there from Canada, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania. It was something Jack and I had never done before. We went with no agenda — except to stay awake — and no expectations.
The dance itself spanned from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. (Friday night we did sleep.) Friday and Saturday were spent in preparation for Saturday night, when, at 9:30 the actual dancing started. There are too many layers to describe this experience in a blog post. The part I want to share right now is the chant that went on hour after hour until 5:00 the next morning. Not everybody chanted for the whole time, but everybody, for some of the time, kept it going without a break. There was a men’s circle and a women’s circle: Men in the middle facing outward, arms interlinked, stepping to the right, one holding a staff, and all of them chanting, “Road home. Road home. Road home.” Women creating the outer circle facing inward, one of us carrying a basket while the rest of us made figure eights with our hands, stepping to the right, and all of us chanting, “Comes around goes around. Comes around goes around. Comes around goes around.” For almost eight hours. While drums beat. And a fire outside blazed. And people walked the perimeter of space we occupied. And sang. And danced other dances as well as the one in the center.
Two days after the conclusion of the dance, we came home feeling both new and exhausted. On Thursday I was scheduled to present a session on using origami in library and storytelling programs at a conference of New Jersey librarians. I sorta wanted more time to assimilate the Long Dance. But I was on the conference program. And ever since I moved up here I’ve been trying to find ways to make myself known to librarians and teachers. This was exactly the sort of profile raising I need.
It was a great session. Lots of good energy flowing both directions in that little room. I felt right at home with my tribe — children’s librarians!
We talked about the ubiquitous folded paper “cootie catcher,” also known as a fortune teller (see photo above), one of the oldest origami figures known. It dates back more than 500 years. Almost everybody in the room had learned this figure in grade school; and only one or two of them had learned it from a book. Everybody else had learned it from another person, one on one. “The Folk Process at Work!” It still works! It’s still going on.
I taught them a couple of quick and dirty little folding stories, demonstrated some cool science tricks with folded paper, pointed out how readily you can go from origami to Common Core math lessons. It was great.
And then at lunch…something Came Around.
Behind me in the lunch line, one of the women in my session thanked me for giving her a couple of new paperfolding stories. She said, “I already do a story with the paper cup. And I do that hat — you know, the one with the feathers…”
I perked up.
“…and the little girl — Triangle Girl…”
I got very still.
“Tell me that story,” I said.
“Well, she’s taking a nap and her mother wakes her up and tells her a friend’s coming over to play and she needs to put her hat on, but she can’t remember where she put it. So she looks under the carpet, and then under the carpet pad. No hat. She looks under her blanket. Under her pillow. No hat. And then she turns around and sees two feathers sticking out from under something and that’s how she finds it… I don’t care how many times I do it, the kids just love that story!”
Chills washed up and down my spine right then.
“Where did you learn that story?” I asked.
“From one of the other librarians I work with. I don’t know where she learned it. I don’t know if she knows where it came from. Maybe it’s traditional.”
I know where it came from.
That particular version of that particular story, with the main character named Triangle Girl, came from me. More than twenty-five years ago, when I was still living in Oklahoma City, going to library school. It was one of my first origami stories. I taught it to all the older kids I worked with at the Montessori school. I shared it with other folders at the Origami Conventions I attended. As they shared their folding stories with me. After the conventions we would sit for hours in diners — folding, sharing, brainstorming. A lot of cross-pollinating.
That little story came back around. Alive and kicking. Being passed on by people I’ve never met. The Folk Process at Work, and me right smack in the middle of it. I don’t know if I have ever felt more affirmed than I did in the lunch line that Thursday afternoon.
…There’s more on this theme — comes around goes around comes around goes around comes around…
Meanwhile, under the asterisks you’ll find my version of Triangle Girl and the Lost Hat.
Triangle Girl and the Lost Hat – by Megan Hicks
Triangle Girl (WHITE SIDE UP, ONE DIAPER FOLD) lay asleep on her bed.
Her mother woke her up and said, “Triangle Girl, wake up! Your aunt and cousins are coming to take you to the park. Hurry and get your coat on. And don’t forget you hat. It’s cold outside today.”
Triangle Girl sat up in bed and tried to remember where she had put her hat.
“Oh no!” (45° ANGLES UP TO APEX OF TRIANGLE) she said. “I don’t remember where I put my hat. Have you seen it Mom?”
“I’m sure it’s where you put it after you wore it the last time.”
Triangle Girl couldn’t remember when she wore it last. She started looking for the hat.
She got down on her hands and knees and looked under her bed. (FOLD BOTH FLAPS WITH 45° ANGLES STRAIGHT DOWN TO THE BOTTOM POINT.) No hat. She rolled back the carpet and the carpet pad. (ROLL THOSE TWO POINTS OUT JUST BEYOND THE BORDERS OF THE MODEL. YOU WILL HAVE TWO LONG, THIN TRIANGLES.)
“It’s my best hat,” Triangle Girl said. “The one with the feathers on top! And I can’t find it.”
“Keep looking,” said her mom. “And hurry. They’ll be here soon.”
Triangle Girl got on top of her bed and pulled back the bedspread almost to the foot of her bed (FOLD ONLY TOP SINGLE-LAYER TRIANGLE DOWN UNTIL THE POINT IS ABOUT ¼” FROM THE BOTTOM POINT.) Then she pulled her white sheet back as far as it would go. (ROLL THE FOLD YOU JUST MADE ON TOP OF THE BOTTOM, COLORED PART OF THE MODEL. THIS WILL LEAVE A SINGLE WHITE LAYER AS THE TOP HALF OF THE MODEL.) Still no hat. Triangle Girl was getting really worried now.
“Mo-o-om!” she cried. “It’s not anywhere!”
Her mom came and stood in the doorway. Then she smiled.
“Triangle Girl,” she said, “turn around.”
Triangle Girl turned around. (TURN THE ENTIRE MODEL OVER.)
“Do I see two feathers sticking out from under your coat there on the coatrack?”
Triangle Girl took her coat down from the coatrack. (FOLD THE TOP POINT ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE BOTTOM POINT.) Underneath her coat, sure enough, there were the feathers of her favorite, warmest hat. (TURN THE MODEL OVER AND STICK YOUR FINGER INTO THE OPENING. VOILA!) She put it on and buttoned up her coat just as she heard her aunt and cousins coming up the front steps to take her to the park.