When was the last time someone told you to “go fly a kite”?
The phrase is not as common as it once was. I don’t know if that’s because kite flying has been replaced by so many other possible activities, or if more direct phrases such as “go away” or “go to hell” have become more generally acceptable. Regardless, I decided it was time to go fly a kite.
Monday was one of those beautiful west Texas desert winter days we get. After some ten days of interminable winds with blowing sand and dust, the air was clear with a strong breeze to keep the 78°F/26°C temperature from being too hot. Contrast that with the sub-30°F/-1°C freezing fog we’ve had all day today, and you’ll grasp why we refer to it as the West Texas Rollercoaster.
Tired of sitting at my computer, I dug out my old kite and went outside.
I’ve had this kite since the late 1990s. I bought it on a four-day trip at the Washington State coast so I could join the others flying kites in the off-shore winds over the Pacific Ocean. It’s a trick kite, which I’d never flown before, but I needed something that could handle the coastal winds and yet wasn’t too fancy. I did manage to get it into the air on my own and was able to keep it there, although I didn’t intentionally try any tricks. I envied a bit those who could manage two and three at a time, getting one up, then tethering it to something while getting the next up. I’m sure I could have gotten some pointers if I’d asked, but I liked figuring it out myself. Besides, that was one of the benefits of kite flying – keeping your distance to avoid entanglement. I only flew the kite once or twice after that, as it followed me to New Mexico and then Texas. In fact, I’d never flown it since moving here in 2011. On our last move, my husband was ready to throw it out, but I disagreed.
I was a little worried that a piece or two may have gotten lost in my journeys, but it was all there. Assembly was quick; unwinding the strings was a bit more complicated. That’s right, there are really two strings — one for each hand — and trying to unwind them without getting things crossed up or stuck on small weeds proved challenging. And then I had to remember how the strings attached.
During the setup process, I found myself remembering when I was small, and we’d get a kite at the Five and Dime store. Paper with thin wood struts, they required a tail for any chance at control, which we’d make from strips of cloth from old sheets. You’re supposed to be able to run with such a kite to launch it, but it always seemed to take at least two of us to get it up high enough.
Finally, everything was set for this launch. I held my strings taut, jerked down, and up it went! It may have made ten feet before it curved left and nosed into the dirt. I tried several more times, but the steady breeze that had convinced me to fly the kite had degenerated into light, variable, and unpredictable puffs. I sighed, wound up my strings and took everything back inside. Twice more that afternoon, I went through the whole process again: unwind, try to launch several times, rewind, and go in.
As I headed back in the final time, I realized I wasn’t nearly as frustrated as I might have been. Sure, I never got it higher than twenty feet before it lost lift and crashed. But I’d been out in the sunshine, the dust wasn’t blowing, and the song Let’s Go Fly A Kite from the Mary Poppins movie played in the back of my mind all afternoon. (There are several video versions via Google and YouTube if you aren’t familiar with it.) I defy you to stay grouchy with that song!
Call it Zen and the Art of Kite Flying if you must, but the whole process was akin to a moving meditation. Nothing I was doing or saying or even thinking had ramifications beyond the point of trying to get the kite in the air. In fact, I was deliberately trying not to think of all the pressures I was facing that day. And it felt good. My body felt good. My mind felt good. My emotions felt under control.
It goes back to the idea of adults learning to play again. Drop the agenda, the one-upmanship, the need to excel, and just play. People spend a lot of money to achieve the same thing with fly fishing. But that’s not required. Fly a frisbee. Play catch.
I’d begun to consciously work with this play idea a few years after buying the kite. I was doing database work in an office that I called The Cave. Inside a converted warehouse, it was large but had no windows, and the walls were a blue wallpaper with tiny flowers. But under the fluorescent lights, they were concrete gray. The first thing I did was replace the lights with full spectrum bulbs. Then I added a desk fountain. A Koosh ball and slinky followed. Before I left that job, I had installed my HO train set on a sheet of plywood. It was amazing how many people would come see me with some excuse, just to toss the Koosh ball or run the train.
That deliberate attempt to play helped me through some dark times. But I’ve kind of forgotten that in the years since. I’m inclined to get a bit too serious about things, which is why I love my husband so much — he reminds me to laugh, to lighten up.
Perhaps there is some of this idea in Jesus’s words, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3, NIV) How often do we bring our agendas to God instead of being open to what might be available if we just let go. We get so serious about how things “should be” and forget how much better things could be if we let go of expectations.
But the key lesson for me in this instance was: how much more enjoyable life can be when I take a little time to enjoy it in the moment — to play, to soak up a little sun and fresh air, and accomplish nothing but having a good time in in the presence of my God.
So, go fly a kite!
Grace, Peace, and Hugs!