Life is rough at the moment. I don’t think it’s just me feeling that way. Good news is a bit rare. Bad news seems to be everywhere. Everything costs more.
The pandemic is killing up to 20 people each day in New Zealand and that’s just something we apparently have to live with now. Climate change is still a thing we haven’t really addressed, but which is making itself known a little (sometimes a lot) more each year.
Aside from sitting at home and planting a few hundred trees each year, I don’t quite know how I as an individual can do anything about any of it.
Lately I’m realising that I’m so angry at where we are as a planet, and I don’t know what to do with that. Holding unexpressed anger – for me – eventually bubbles up as panic attacks. Or it just lashes out at the nearest target, which is not fair to the people around me, and usually very embarrassing.
I need some joy and a reason to smile sometimes. So about a month ago, I bought myself a small treat.
When I was a child, we’d spend holidays visiting my grandparents in a then mostly-unknown corner of New Zealand called Mahia (you might know it now as the place that rockets launch from, but back then no-one seemed to know about it).
There was a wide-open green space between the house and the beach. A few pōhutukawa around, but otherwise the perfect place to fly kites.
I assume that’s why there was nearly always a few kites in the downstairs bedroom. I don’t remember ever being particularly good at it, but I loved flying kites when we were in Mahia and the wind was right.
On our last family Christmas at Mahia in 2014, I found the last kite still in the downstairs bedroom and took my cousin’s son out to try it. It wasn’t quite windy enough, but my aunt managed to snag this photo of me trying to fly it anyway.
Wide open windy space
You know what I have a lot of here at The Outpost? Wide open space. And wind. Also an increasing number of friends and family members with babies and young children.
I thought about how flying a kite is entirely pointless, but fun. It’s not about being productive, or making anything, or fixing the planet, or paying another bill.
It’s just about you, the wind, and your kite – all dancing in a kind of harmony with each other.
We have plenty of space and plenty of wind. Kids will be visiting more regularly over the coming years. I decided I wanted to have a kite for when they did.
I looked around the internet to see what I could find. Primarily, I wanted something that I could have fun flying myself. There’s a lot of options out there from very cheap to very expensive.
I looked at the cheap $3 kites at K-Mart like the ones my grandfather seemed to have an infinite stock of, and remembered how they frustrated me.
The line always tangled, the sticks weren’t very strong and they broke a lot. While Popa had one or two good kites, I don’t think I got to fly them much. I have memories of struggling with the crappy ones though.
I decided I deserved a nice kite.
Eventually Google led me to Lofty Kites, and I thought I found a winner. A New Zealand-based company; made from recycled materials; easy-to-fly; unique funky designs; a robust guarantee and repair program; and at a price that I could totally handle spending on something like this.
This was definitely a nice kite. A kite I could share with kids as young as two.
I bought the “Vege Patch” one. Of course I did!
A windy day
The kite arrived and I set it up. Richard and I took it out onto a paddock.
We played with it for maybe 15 minutes before a cross-wind slammed it into the ground, breaking the pole that kept the kite flat. Our fun was over for the day.
I emailed Lofty and had no problems organising a replacement pole. I just had to pay for the postage. Of course, after it arrived we had nothing but calm days or rainy days for a week.
But soon enough, a fine patch with a reasonable wind appeared between the morning showers and the afternoon showers. I grabbed my kite, found a spot on a different paddock, and tried again.
I forgot how frustrating flying a kite – even a good kite – can be.
I’d have my kite up, then I’d start unwinding it, trying to get it higher. Then I guess the wind would change, sending it back towards the ground.
Sometimes the string would get caught in some grass and I’d have to spend time untangling it.
But then I’d get it tidied up, and try again. And again.
And then I got a really good run – 20 minutes with that kite up in the air, in my dance with the wind. It struck me that it’s a pretty good form of meditation. It takes a fair amount attention to keep it up there.
My introduction to the concept of meditation didn’t go very well. I was too young, and I’m too stubborn. It was way too ‘woo’. As a result it’s something I can’t (or perhaps won’t) do. I recognise the mental health benefits of meditation, but I just can’t. I need something active to ‘zone out’ inside of.
There’s a joy in having that silly little kite in the sky. It takes my mind right off everything else, and keeps me in the moment. Whether I am experiencing joy or frustration, it’s just me and my kite and the wind. It makes me pay attention to the breeze. To stare at the blue sky. To fly my kite.
And I guess that was the entire point.
I remember the day I took that photo. Dad used to make most of the kites he had out of plastic rubbishbags, fishing nylon and straight branches. The ones that flew the highest he attached to his fishing rods and you kids loved it.
They always had multiple tails.
I don’t remember home-made ones, though we might have flown them while we were younger? That one, along with a couple of others turned up maybe in the early-mid 90’s? There was also a proper neon sports kite that Matt and Adam usually got. I do remember the fishing rods though. I’ve got a couple of mum’s surfcasters I’ve thought about attaching this to haha.
One string good, 2 strings better.