The Crane Wife is an old Japanese folktale, which inspired a couple of wonderful songs by The Decemberists (The Crane Wife 1 & 2, and The Crane Wife 3). These songs, along with others from the similarly titled album, helped make life worth living in 2006. When it was released, I was just starting school at University (a big step up from the junior colleges I had attended to this point), and was feeling very isolated. The Decemberists, along with bands like Death Cab for Cutie and The Smiths, carried me though campus as I carried them in my headphones, not having to face things alone. I could go anywhere with my headphones in, because it felt like I had my friends right there with me. I digress, but suffice to say, these songs have been important to me since I started listening to them almost a decade ago.
Let’s get on with it: back to the story. While there are many variations of the Crane Wife tale, a common version is that a poor man finds an injured crane on his doorstep (or outside with an arrow in it). The man takes in the crane and nurses it back to health. After he releases the crane, a beautiful woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. Because they need money, his wife offers to weave wondrous clothes out of silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her making them. His wife is given her own room in which to weave her garments, where the door always remains closed, and the husband keeps his part of the agreement not to watch her work. They begin to sell the handsome garments and live a comfortable life, but he soon makes her weave more and more. Oblivious to his wife’s declining health, his greed increases.
“We were poorly, our fortunes fading hourly
And how she vowed me, she could bring it back
But I was greedy, I was vain and I forced her to weaving
On cold loom, in a closed room, with down wove”
Curious and beginning to worry about his wife’s health, he eventually peeks in her room to see what she is doing to make the silk she weaves so desirable. He is shocked to discover that at the loom is a beautiful crane; his beautiful crane, the very one he nursed back to health! This crane, his crane wife, was plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom. The crane wife, seeing him and feeling betrayed, flies away and never returns.
“…The feathers and the thread
And all I ever meant to do was to keep you
My crane wife”
–The Crane Wife 1 & 2
I chose this story as the focus of this blog because at times, we have all been the crane wife, and we have all been the husband. We are guilty of giving too much, to our detriment, and of taking too much from others without realizing it is to their detriment. As I settle into new life ventures (e.g. jobs, home, husband, etc.), I try to be mindful of times when I am giving too much of myself. What is easier for me, though, is to be mindful of taking too much from others. This is not to say that I am not selfish, because I am, but I fit the role of the crane wife more often than not. I think that goes for more people than not.
I hope this day has given you the opportunity to give something of yourself to another, and I hope that you have been able to receive a gift of kindness as well. Be well and be happy. Until next time!