The Art of Involvement #1

The Art of Involvement: Crafts with Pride

There is no feeling quite so humbling as being defeated by a beginner’s origami guide. What makes this humbling rather than humiliating is, ironically, the people that watch me amused while I flounder. I can glance at their creased brows, creased paper, and open books and see that we are lost together. It turns out that mutual confusion is a great way to bond, and crafts can be the perfect facilitator.

Of course, getting people together at the same time and place is essential. I was one of around 40 people that came to the Valentine’s Social event hosted by Pride last Thursday. The LGBTQ+ student organization wanted to create a social event that would give people an opportunity to gather and celebrate all kinds of love with some more non-traditional Valentine’s crafts; namely, rock painting and the paper folding art of origami. 

This event took place in the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Pride Space, affectionately referred to as “the Closet” (small, enclosed, a place where gay people are). The Closet is a room where rogue stickers overtake the tabletop and worm-on-a-strings hang on the wall in rainbow order. It’s perfect, comfortable chaos. 

By the time I got to the Pride Space, the quaint room has been overtaken by an additional table and still people had spilled out into the Wolverine Commons to work on their crafts. Rock painting was particularly popular. When asked about the idea behind painting rocks, Pride Treasurer Meg remarked, “canvases can make people nervous, but rocks are just rocks.” Rocks, despite being only rocks, ended up being beautifully transformed. The other craft at hand, origami, was conceptualized as paper flowers and then broadened into the more general art of paper folding. One Eboard member in particular, Katie, spent studying how to make paper cranes prior to the event so that she could help others.

Katie is the secretary of Pride and the primary planner of the Social. She said the event’s main purpose was to further Pride’s goal of “creating a safe and accepting social space for the students of UM-D”. The Social was open to anyone and their partners, both in the spirit of the holiday and as a part of Pride’s wish to be an open safe space for all kinds of people. In short, this event was a great way to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Crafts were a must to make to take the pressure off of meeting new people. Plus, as Katie said, it gave everyone an opportunity to “learn something new and take home a souvenir.” 

Due to coming in the last half an hour, I was regulated to the crescent booth where neat squares of patterned paper lie in wait. Fun fact about me– I know how to make exactly one thing out of folded paper: a beak or boat or hat, depending on your imagination, which my dad taught me. I very much fell into the crowd of learning something new.

I began with a quick Google search: “origami beginner’s guide”. I attempted a simple cat face and folded things backwards and forwards until I corrected myself. I successfully folded a blue fox (perhaps not one that others recognize on first glance). I was happy to be making anything and turn my mind away from assignments and work. The sounds of several conversations filled in any gaps in my brain that weren’t occupied with paper folding, and I jumped in and out of those conversations as I pleased.

Each time I looked up, I could see someone new doing something different. Next to me, my friend was making a second crane so that the two of them could kiss. On my other side, a person I had never met before shared my confusion at the diagrams we looked at and failed to replicate.

After my next attempt at creation ended in paper too thick to fold properly and incomprehensible shapes, I couldn’t help but throw my hands up in defeat and laugh. The floral patterned paper I so meticulously folded collapsed onto the table. “That was a mouse,” I explained. My fellow origami amateurs tilted their heads, trying to see any resemblance. Huh.

I smoothed out the paper and gave another try more often than not. In the end, all of the defeats never erased the one beautiful fox I managed to make with my own hands, and none of the confusion overwhelmed my joy in being enveloped in friendly, unexpected conversations.

As I tuck in laughter, crease paper with conversation, / I have to accept that my clumsy fingers won’t always make things right. / But I can always start again.

The Poetry Corner – 9 March 2021

[To read an introduction to this column, please see the first paragraph of the previous post here]


This week I would like to share a poem I found recently from the Nigerian poet Gbenga Adesina. The following poem I discovered in the Fall 2020 issue of Narrative magazine. It is titled “Across the Sea: A Sequence”:






                        Across the Sea: A Sequence                       

                        Gbenga Adesina            




Across the Sea


The bottom of the sea is cruel. — Hart Crane.


On the sea, your prayer is not to the whorl scarf
of waves. Your prayer is to the fitful sleep of the dead.
Look at them, their bodies curve darkly without intention
and arrow down into the water. What do you call a body
of water made of death and silence? The sea murmurs
on the pages of this book. There are bones buried in the water
under these lines. Do you hear them, do you smell them?


In the panic of drowning, there are hands lifting babies
up in the air, out of the water, for breath. A chorus
of still pictures brought this news to me, to us. Because we do
not see the bodies sinking, because we do not see their mouths
already touching water, the hands lifting up the babies look almost
ordinary. Like the Greeks lifting their newborns unto the sky.
What is the failure of dead? That they sink?
Or that they sink with what is in their hands?


The children of God are upon frightened waters,
And God being hunger, God being the secret grief of salt
moves among his people and does not spare them.
The children of God are upon frightened waters.


There is a child whose protest is of eyes.
She has crossed the water with her mother,
they are shivering, waiting for her father, two days now, they are
shivering for a father the mother knows would never arrive.
The mother holds the child, she says to her, gently:
“It’s a brief death. Your father has gone on a brief death.
He’ll soon be back.”


A man is bent on his knees, wailing at the waters.
He slaps his hand on the wet sand and rough-cut stones
the way one might fight a brother.
He grabs the shirt of the sand as though they are in a tussle.
The stones here carry the island’s low cry inside them.
A landlocked grief. They say the man was a newlywed.
Now his vows are inside the water.
He claws at the sand. He wails: “Ocean,
you owe me a body. Ocean, give me back my lover.”


Think of the boats. The timber comes from Egypt.
They are cut into diagonals and made pretty. They
are polished by hands. Their saplings are watered by the Nile.
The White Nile flows through Khartoum
before it puts its teeth into the Mediterranean.
The waters and the trees eat bodies.


The children of God are upon frightened waters,
And God being hunger, God being the secret grief of salt
moves among his people and does not spare them.
The children of God are upon frightened waters.



The silence is a prairie country. The silence
is the silence of hospital sheets.
The silence is of IV tubes, veins, quiet siren of ghosts.
The silence is the silence of what
is dappled invisibly by a body
that is no longer human but not yet a ghost. The silence in your
body has lodged in my throat.
Silence, can you hear me? The silence is of lime,
and kraal stones. The silence is not shadow
but the light of a body buried under a mound of rough stones.
The silence is the silence
of hands. Hands, wire-vine hands, can you hear me?
The silence is the silence of broken ribs.
The silence is the silence of the head,
shorn and shaven. The silence is silence of a bandage wrapped
tight around what is sunken, what is fallen in the gait of the head.
can you hear me?

The silence is silence of blood,
seething through filament of bandage.
Blood, can you hear me?
Father, blood, Father can you hear me?






I have read this poem multiple times and every time I discover something new about it. Each section is a separate scene, but they are all connected by themes of water, death, and the struggle for connection and survival. The language, images, rhythm, line breaks, and everything is so striking to me, by the end I’m left speechless. What do you see in it? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!