Friday, January 20, 2017


When the news gets to be too much, send paper stars out into the world.

Not that you won’t get back to the news, the opinion columns, the how-to-survive-what’s-next articles. Not that you haven’t been talking about it, educating and comforting your children, ranting to those closest to you. You have vowed not to turn away, to do everything you can to support the people and programs and systems that are at risk.

But you know you have to find a way to live beyond the fear and sadness. The horror at each day’s developments. What do you do with it all? You told your kids the day after the election that you would keep living the way you knew you should live, and fight harder than ever for what you believe is right. But what do you do with this Waiting now, for the days to reveal just how many people have been betrayed, and how much damage will be done?

Start folding stars, for one thing.

At first they were Christmas ornaments for your family. For your children to take with them into adulthood: tokens of your love, a bridge from old home and old life to new. For the one close to you who left all extras behind as she fled a life of abuse in order to build something new and better.

It did not take long for this project to turn into something else, though.

It’s not just the working of your hands, or the bright squares of paper, or the repetitiveness of the task. It is the power to put good out into the world that compels you. To make something beautiful in the face of ugliness, and out of humble things, and with your own hands.

These are your greatest acts of defiance: beauty, kindness, love. They are not the only things, but they are the beginning, and quite likely the end. A promise to yourself and the people around you that you will not stop doing what you know is right.

And you keep folding. Take note, as you memorize the folds. So many fussy little preparatory creases: seven, followed by a cut and an unfolding, and you are holding a pentagon in your hand. Fifteen more folds and un-folds, a little pinching and arranging, and suddenly the paper pinwheels into shape. Five more creases, a tuck—and there. You are holding a star. And that moment where everything shifts into place becomes something you want to repeat, over and over.

There are no shortcuts. You forget once, and do all the preparatory folds with the pattern face side up. You try to force the pinwheel into shape anyway, thinking that maybe the backwards folds weakened the paper enough to make it do what you wished. But no. You have to go back and fold everything the right way. The paper had been weakened, yes, but in preparation for something else.

And this is what sinks deep into every cell of your body: how the folds weaken the paper, how the sheet softens in your hands. How without this weakness there would be no getting to the new shape.

Note how the new thing—this bright and delicate star—is stronger than the original.

Repeat, again and again, folding yourself into the process. Bend yourself over and over, in preparation for what is next. Hone your skills for beauty. Flood the world with stars. 

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  1. Karen, I LOVE reading your writing. Thank you for this.

  2. Once again---perfectly timed and exactly what I needed to hear. "These are your greatest acts of defiance: beauty, kindness, love."

    1. Thank you, Sarah. Now to remember these things. I really believe this is how we we hold ourselves and each other up.

  3. How lovely. And how tough and fierce, too. Solidarity, sister. We are in it for the long haul. XO

    1. We are, Mailizhen. I am so grateful for what transpired around the country and the world on Saturday. There is a lot of strength and beauty out there, along with the darkness.


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