(To watch the video that accompanies this review, click here)
“Go fly a kite” seems like a fairly lighthearted aphorism, but since my first real kite-flying experience last weekend, I couldn’t disagree more with the inference that the act of setting a kite aloft is trivial, frivolous or childish.
On the contrary. What I discovered in one afternoon, standing in a field by the river with my husband and our five children, is that flying a kite is so many things. All of these are deeply significant, and many of them sorely lacking for almost everyone who is immersed in the challenges and vagaries of contemporary life.
Leland, the head artist and visionary behind Little Cloud Kites describes the act of flying a kite as a “ceremony”. This may not be immediately relatable to someone who has only flown the nylon dimestore version—which are lots of fun, but constitute a different experience. So bear with me.
Little Cloud Kites, in many ways by virtue of their design, insist upon ceremony, or rather, they simply embody it. Everything about “Quetzal”, our Little Cloud Kite, from the wooden box it arrived in by mail, to each packaging element, including the instructions printed on unbleached paper, is beautiful. The carrying bag, which comes included with every kite, is beautiful—lightweight, easy to maneuver. There was a sense of joyful anticipation as we walked down the lane, Lee carrying Quetzal slung over his shoulder. Unwrapping the kite and setting up the wooden skeletal elements was simple, and easy, but also required a stately sort of concentration and a little patience, which only contributed to everyone's excitement.
It was one of the first warm days of the year here in New Brunswick, and the sky was a stunning azure. The dogs bounded around, and the kids took off their shoes. Lee was the kite authority, because although Little Cloud Kites appeal to, entertain, and bring delight to people of all ages, they are not really designed primarily for young children—but as we can attest to, these kites are the perfect companion to family time.
There was very little wind, but nonetheless, within a few minutes, after a few false starts, our kite was aloft! And we all cheered. Quetzal was suddenly alive.
What I didn’t realize about kites, or about Little Cloud Kites in particular, is how much kiting is an act of creation; performance art. It’s not only the kite and its flyer who are in communion, but also the maker whose efforts have contributed, from afar, to this collaborative event in time.
Leland, kite-designer extraordinaire, sees his kites as objects that facilitate a meditative practice—a spiritual connection between a person, earth and sky. I wondered, as we walked down to the field, whether or not this sense of stillness in motion would be available to me—a mother of five children, juggling babies and dogs and bikes and backpacks. And though I didn’t have a chance to actually steer the kite myself (this time!), I experienced, even as an observer, several instances of that very phenomenon, amid the bustle of my family. Words are mostly inadequate, but I would describe the sensation as a profound connection to, and awareness of the imperfect heartbreaking beauty that is being alive in the world.
Paradoxically, congregating as a family around the kite enhanced the quality of the time we were all spending together, also--and didn't negate but amplified the moments of tranquility I felt. I don’t think we have had that much fun as a family in a while. The kids frolicked, but never drifted too far away…because there was a kite in the sky! A kite that would periodically dip and dive and even embark on a good hearted attack! At one point, our oldest and arguably our most mischievous kid, Horus, started to chase the kite, engaging it in mock battle, and Quetzal made an adept and impressive opponent!
Perhaps Quetzal's biggest fan is my lovely and long-suffering husband Lee himself—Lee can be slightly grumpy and immune to fun at times, and while he willingly accompanied us to the river, I could tell he was sold as soon as the kite took off. Lee himself had to be reminded that we had been out there for two hours, and he delighted especially in letting Quetzal meander so far up into the clouds, that Lee reached the end of his tether, something that generally happens without a kite involved.
Do you want to hear the brutal honest truth? I wrote to Leland immediately upon our return from flying with Quetzal, because he wanted to hear the brutal honest truth, especially after receiving the video that we made. The following is some of our exchange.
I thought Leland was nuts when I first heard he was starting a kite-making company. But he and Quetzal have turned us into loyal proselytizers for a long-overdue kiting revival!
Go fly a kite!