Thursday, January 05, 2006

“Up Where the Air is Clear”

Where I live just isn’t too ideal a place for kite flying. Seldom is there any wind, and when it does come it’s in opposing gusts. Then there’s the lack of open space to launch from.
More than the geographical and meteorological disadvantages, I never knew anyone who ever flew kites. There was no one to teach me.
But that didn’t stop me from having one astounding flight.

In fourth grade I found myself, through a confusing chain of events, the owner of a kite. If only out of spite for those events (and a respect for Charlie Brown’s aerial attempts) I decided that I would fly that kite.

I recall all of this because today the hot direct sunlight was for a time tempered by five-second bursts of bone-chilling, table-throwing winds alternating in direction. Identical weather to my day of kite-flying years ago.

That day I attached my kite to the fishing line on my pole. I thought that was an innovative touch. The rod and reel allowed for much greater control than a string on a spool, I reasoned.
The pole, however, was cumbersome and got in the way on my takeoff runs. The runs were already hard enough due to being on a short, twisted patch of uneven ground cut between walls of trees.
I would run as far as I could, waiting for a gust to hit just right, and then throw the kite in the manner of a paper-airplane while in mid-stride. That poor thing whacked it’s nose on the jagged rocks so many times…

I had just about given up as I was too exhausted from the running to keep on much longer. The sun was squeezing out all the liquid in my system, and the back of my throat was getting painfully dry. One last, stumbling run.
Launch it and… It catches.

The multi-colored bird rises probably less than five feet above my head when it drops suddenly as the wind reverses itself. But it’s back rising again as I whip the fishing rod to move it forward and thus create lift. I start running backward, toward the house, towing my wind-sail higher on the atmosphere.
I let out and bring in line in rapid succession to let the kite distance itself from me while still maintaining tension (and thus control and added lift).

Back by the house I stop and stare, gently idling the rod from one side to the other, compensating for the changing winds. The flyer is now high above the trees, about two- to three-hundred feet in front of me. It’s altitude is enough that the short dives between wind bursts are nothing to fear. It will climb again before two seconds are up.

The fishing pole was a good idea, after all. With it I am able to guide the simple wing back and forth through a right-to-left arc of about forty degrees, gently shifting up and down on the wind.

How much time did I spend? I don’t know. At the very minimum ten minutes. When I would later enter the house and see the wall clock it was about two hours after I’d gone out, but just how much was spent on my pre-flight maneuvers I’ll never know. Certainly half.

For now, I yell for the folks inside to come out and see. If they hear they can’t distinguish words and, well, I could be considered to have been a noisy kid. I give up on getting the family’s attention and decide to enjoy myself until said joy is too great not to be shared.

Finally, I reel in the kite far enough for it not to be caught in the trees, to let it down. In doing so, I’m not making the movements necessary to keep it on the wind, and it falls a little sooner than planned. Just short of the woods.
I’ll go inside and tell everyone, and then they can come watch. I’ll get it in the air again, no problem.

Inside I excitedly explained that I had been (contrary to forecasts) successful. When someone finally joined me outside the wind was wimpier and less frequent. I wouldn’t have gotten the thing airborne again anyway that day, as tired as I was from all the running prior.

That, years ago, was my one and only flight of a kite. Then again, it stands as the only time I’ve ever tried.

And now they tell me kites have to have these things called “tails.” Who knew?

No comments: