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Life as performance art

Life as performance art


By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

March was the month for flying kites, or so we heard when we were youngsters.

I suspect it may have been true in the south or in someone’s imagination, but not around here. March was too cold and snowy, and with rare exceptions April hasn’t been much better.

Still, the idea of standing on an open hill, flying an old-fashioned trapezoid-shaped paper kite with rags tied on for a tail, keeps lingering in the back of my mind.

It was probably more of a fantasy than reality. There was nothing simple about the trial-and-error method of tying on a tail.

Too little weight once the kite got up in the air, and you couldn’t control it. Then it came crashing down. Too much weight and it was impossible to get up in the air.

Add the threat of kite-snapping tree branches, dire warnings about electrical lines and cheap cotton string that snapped easily, and it became an exercise in frustration and futility.

Often, it took two people — one to throw the kite up in the air and launch it, the other to work the string.  Little wonder that a favorite non-expletive retort was, “Go fly a kite.”

The fantasy of kite flying was that somehow we could metaphysically soar through the skies ourselves, like a bird. In the last century, Kodak sold small cameras that could be lifted, then another string pulled to trigger the shutter. I’m not certain it worked too well. Most people were just happy to get their kite in the sky and pretend their toy was a message sent to the heavens.

A few people excel at kite flying. A favorite place to do so in early spring is the Washington Monument hill. Before long, it will be along the sandy coasts of Lake Michigan.

These people seem to effortlessly toss their kites in the air, tug the cord and magic things happen. From time to time we read about competitions or kite fighting, where one competitor tries cutting their opponents’ strings.

I wonder if kite flying will be replaced by radio-controlled drones. From what I’ve seen, flying a drone isn’t all that easy, but hobbyists don’t have to rely on variable winds and other factors. But then, neither do they have the pleasure of getting their kite in the air and hearing that snap and flap as it moves in the wind.