Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kites and Shadows

The light off the kites in the park this afternoon was luminous. Duncan and I stood on the hill overlooking the lake, watching seven or eight kites flap in the cool wind. They were not ordinary kites, not the kind I bought at Grand Central as a kid, with their goofy faces or racing stripes, but big, heavy grown-up things, the kind of kites that you need a license to fly. Their operators used both hands to steer them with fancy plastic grips and brightly colored synthetic string, perfect for landing a swordfish. One kite, much smaller than the others, but still quite impressive made a buzzing noise––like a six-foot long wasp–– as it dove, cutting through the air, careening earthward at a remarkable speed, only to turn sharply and suddenly, just above our heads before it raced back into the blue. Another kite, perhaps ten feet long and four feet high, and made of bright red fabric, the kind parachutes are made of, was so big that each time it caught the wind and lifted higher, its driver was pulled briefly off his feet and set back down onto the ground as though fastened to a giant, lazy yo-yo.

I became just as enamored of their shadows as I was of the kites themselves and spent several long minutes watching them speed across the grass then across Duncan's face and back before momentarily vanishing until they interrupted my patch of sunlight once again. The shadow of a small child floated into my field of vision, its arms outspread as it danced a loping gallop from behind me. "Look daddy," it cried, "I'm flying! I'm an eagle!" I smiled and glanced up at the four year old who was racing amid the kite shadows, watching his own shadow intently, oblivious in that wonderful childlike way I love so much about Elijah.

I was an eagle once, too, I thought, recalling my years at Edahow Elementary, Home of the Eagles. I was a panther during junior high, an Indian in high school, briefly a Bengal for two years at Idaho State University, and finally, at Lake Forest, a forester, whatever that was. I'd liked being an eagle although our school lacked any organized sports teams so I'm not quite sure what purpose our mascot served, but it seemed a grand thing to be nonetheless and painted in gold on the maroon t-shirts they sold at fund-raisers it was quite handsome. I was an eagle the last time I actually flew a kite and as I watched that little boy fly from the grass where he danced and chased the shadows under the eyes of his father, I wondered what I'd be this time, nearly thirty years later. My various alumni associations would like to think I'm still an Indian or a forester and I probably am, but only nostalgically. Childhood and youth sometimes seem far away, a dim blur of sepia memories.

No, I'm not those things any longer, but if I had to choose, if someone pressed the issue I'd probably be a Retriever. Watching Duncan watch the kites, watching him watch the sunlight on the lake and the little boy playing around him I thought that there are far worse things to aspire to be and far few things better.


Lori said...

I was an Eagle, too... working for the Eagle branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library. We were a tight-knit team, and referred to ourselves as the Eaglets. We still do, though we've nearly all scattered to other branches or to different states. Always the Eaglets.
But yes, If I got to choose, I'd be a golden. (I really want to have a tail!!!)

traci said...

Another great photo.

We used to have those fancy kites that stacked together and we flew them when we were at the shore. It was amazing how much pull they had when they were really going.

I can't remember all the mascots I've been over the years. Of course, I was an Illini and in high school a patriot, but I'm struggling with junior high. Some kind of cat. And I'm pretty sure Columbia didn't have a mascot. If it did it would probably be a starving artist that doesn't bathe regularly and shops in thrift stores. :)

But you're right. I'm none of those things now. If anything, I'm a survivor of those things.