When I was young, my mother used to tell me horror histories. The protagonist was always Sister Rebeca Molano, a Salesian nun from a small-town boarding school that my mother attended in her teen-age years. Sister Rebeca loved to threaten my mother with the forks and the eternal flames of hell.
For that reason it was a total surprise to me when one day, in my twenties, I realized that I had the inclinations of a nun.
Although I no longer believed in the Catholic Church, or in any other organized creed, the monastic life attracted me because of my tendency for silence, discipline and meditative contemplation in search of the divinity. That which didn’t persuade me whatsoever was the idea of celibacy.
I decided then to profess as a nun without a religious order, and to find a husband, not an ethereal Agnus Dei, but a man entirely of bone and flesh. Then build a convent of nun and monk around my made-up liturgies and rituals. Nowadays I maintain several of those monastic habits. In addition, I have always been fascinated by the lives of nuns and monks throughout history.
Years ago I discovered the diagrams to fold an origami nun created by Kunihiko Kasahara. It is one of my favorite models of all times because of its simplicity, the elegance of the folding process and the result, which in such a few folds synthesizes the essence of a nun.
When I worked in a publishing house in New York City, to alleviate the pressure produced by my being cloistered in an airless skyscraper, I began to fold inch-tall paper nuns. Little by little they turned into pets of the Spanish department. Every day we grouped them in different ways: meditating nuns, gossiping nuns, praying nuns, or in other nunish activities.
Some of those nuns can be seen in the photograph in a wooden convent built by my husband, a great wood worker and a great encourager of my playful spirit. We gave it to Eva, a dear friend who managed the Spanish project at that publishing house. The convent resides now on an altar at the entrance of her house, next to other sacred objects. There the nuns elevate their prayers, perhaps without much success, for peace on Earth to men and women of good will.