5.10.10

K-I-T-E Still Spells Fun

Spinning tops, electric trains, chemistry sets, kites -- all these used to stipple childhood landscapes virtually everywhere. That last, the ubiquitous, dream-inspiring, floating, soaring wonder of paper and dowel, seems to me the most universal plaything of yesteryear which has all but disappeared for American kids today.

Not so in the developing world, though, as the kite seems to have never left places like bustling Rio de Janeiro (where it's still used as a signalling device for narco-traffickers...oh well), gusty seaside villages in the Caribbean, windblown and dusty streets in the Middle-East, and the crimson, hard-packed streets of East African coastal towns. Almost everywhere in between, there they are, little ones running fervently to race one another and the wind itself, to maneuver their swooping, slicing hopes across the sky at dusk's fading. Then the breezes still, dinner calls come and kite flying subsides to kite dreaming until the next day brings another chance at glory.

ancient chinese kite from traditions.cultural-china

It's still the cheapest way to resolve that everpresent question on little boys' and girls' lips: What's it feel like to fly? At the end of the kite string vibrates the answer, in all its dashing and diving simplicity. Out there in the breeze, sensing their surroundings, paying attention to nature's dynamism is where kids have a first chance to learn how we as humans are connected to our environment, even if the whole blustery galavant ends in tears with the kites slashed amidst menacing oak branches or utterly blown to bits after a fatal, Earth-bound kamikaze dive. Still, from this a kid would learn consequences, the action and reaction, the cost of heavy-handedness and hesitation, and the joys of surrendering control to nature.

...to be continued, depending on the winds...


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