At one point during the time I was living with Harry, he began making origami birds, something he had not done since he was a child. It just came to him one day, to start making these birds again (after a hiatus of more than eighty years).According to Harry, when he and his eight brothers and sisters were youngsters in Poland, they amused themselves by making these folded paper birds. He's not sure where they learned this craft, only that he's "always known how to make them."
Harry taught me how to make these birds - a series of squares and triangles that pop open at the end (very tricky!) - and when I went back to the island over the summer, I decided to make a bird mobile to hang in my kitchen. I told Harry about the mobile I had made, and that I would show him how I made it when I got back to Brookline in the fall. Harry got so excited about the mobile idea that he didn't wait for me - he designed his own. In fact, Harry was so excited about these mobiles that he would go on to make a multitude of mobiles - Harry became a virtual bird mobile-making machine. I don't know the exact number, but I'm sure it was more than 100 over the course of about two years.
Harry collected paper for his birds everywhere he went - flyers from doctors' offices, catalogs that came in the mail, magazines - and spent hours each day folding them into birds, carefully hanging and finding the balance point for each bird.
Harry's birds served many purposes, I believe. The folding and construction were an outlet for his once-busy hands and for his creativity; they filled his day and gave him a reason to get up in the morning, and most importantly - they connected him with people. One of Harry's biggest joys was to give these mobiles away as gifts - to friends and strangers alike. Additionally, while Harry was in production, sometimes as many as four or five mobiles would hang in his apartment, scattered throughout his living room, suspended from book shelves, fluttering in the breeze. Harry liked being surrounded by the fluttering birds - they were good company for a man who lived mostly alone.
A most interesting point regarding Harry's birds, I think, is the fact that Harry, because of an inner-ear issue, had problems with his own balance; his bird mobiles were all about balance.
Harry's origami bird starts as a square, folded into a series of triangles and more squares.
The most difficult step in creating the bird is the final step - popping it into shape, which involves tucking the tail down, the head and beak up, with the wings folded "just so."
When the folded paper becomes a bird, it's a bit magical.
Here, Harry is beginning to assemble the mobile.
Harry's New Year mobile.
An Israel-themed mobile.
Here, Harry checks the balance of the birds.
This is what Harry's living room looked like when he was in full production.