Flying High

February 13, 2018


What happens when a naughty puppy meets a girl flying a kite...the perfect antidote to solastalgia of course.


When my Australian cattle dog Fred was a puppy, she was a bit of a terror to say the least. Born with a natural instinct to chase down, herd and nip the heels of any moving object, I just wasn’t sure that my Achilles or my sanity could survive her adolescent mischief.


I remember clearly the day before she turned 18 months old, I was at my wit's end, All the puppy training, obedience classes and reprimands in the world just couldn’t stop her. And while she’d give other dogs due respect-running children, wheelie bins or anything airborne was fair game.


On this day, we were at the dog park, which, on a weekend tends to be full of dogs with pent up energy-after being neglected during the week. Big dogs, little dogs, they were all there-rough housing, swimming in the bay, digging holes or fetching balls.


A few hundred meters away from the dog park was a designated children’s playground with great climbing equipment, water fountains and picnic areas where families could spend time without the madness of unbridled puppy joy.


On this day though, a young family, who didn't have a dog, decided to set up their picnic rug right in the middle of the dog park. Of course, they had every right to, but- as we’ll soon see-it wasn’t really the greatest idea.


Things were going pretty well with Fred, she’d found a dog about her age and size and they were enjoying digging holes and chasing each other around. But Suddenly Fred stopped what she was doing and stood at attention, staring straight ahead of her. Curious to see what she was looking at, I followed her gaze.


There, only 100 meters away, was a young girl who was with the picnic family and she was trying to launch a small plastic kite. Now I’ve said that Fred had some issues with flying objects, and as I looked from girl to dog I felt a sudden sense of dread, and I heard the words ‘no Fred please don’t’- escape from my mouth, just as that naughty dog launched into a full run-right as the girl, who had only had minor launching success pulled at her kite to try again, Fred grabbed it. And she didn't just grab it and run off, which might have been kind of cute but no…. she tore the offending object to threads.


Needless to say, the parents weren't very impressed, the poor girl was in tears and I had a lot of explaining to do, hoping of course that they wouldn’t report my dog and begging them to take payment and accept my apologies for this terrible act.


Both Fred and I skulked out of the part as soon as we could, both with our tails between out legs.


Weirdly, literally the next day as if a switch had been flicked Fred went from evil Kujo dog to the gentle easy-going lovable dog she is even 13 years later.


Now, you might be thinking that a perfect antidote to solastalgia, would be to live with a dog-and you wouldn’t be wrong, but what this unfortunate incident reminded me, that another antidote to solastalgia can be found in the simple joy you can get from just flying a kite.


I remember trying to make a kite with friends when I was a kid. We'd painstakingly put sticks together, take some paper and cut out the shape of that diamond, draw something not so Picasso on it, stick it to the sticks, add some string, and do our best to launch it.  Unfortunately, our sticks were usually too heavy to get off the ground, but we had a lot of fun giving it a go, and in the end one of us usually had a real one to use anyway.


After that day with my crazy dog, I rummaged around and found a kite that I’d bought years before-when I lived in New York. I decided to sneak over to the park, without Fred and give it a go.


 Although kites originated in China, they can be found all over the world. Not just a play thing of children, kites have been instrumental in religious ceremonies, military operations, measuring distances and helping the Wright brothers test their theories of flight. They come in all shapes and sizes and have featured in many books including of course-the best-selling Kite Runner, which tells the tale of kite fighting in Afghanistan, and who can forget the beloved Charlie Brown in Go Fly a Kite, which, unfortunately for Charlie, involved his kite ending up in a tree.  And while you don’t need an aeronautical degree to fly one, knowing wind direction can help.


My own reconnection to kite flying after ‘the incident’ I must admit was a little frustrating, but once I got over the idea of instant gratification and focused on the magic of physics, I fell in love with it all over again.


Now days you’re more likely to see drones in the park than kites, yet they cannot complete with the gentle swoosh swoosh of a kite as you manoeuvre it up and around, flight it as high as your string will allow, watch it flutter in the breeze-in all its magnificence- set across a cloud-dotted sky. It doesn’t need batteries, or a manual, all it needs is childlike joy and wonderment.


I still fly my kite whenever I get a chance. But ever since that day in the dog park, Fred just cannot share my enjoyment-any time she gets wind of a kite flying somewhere nearby, her tail will tuck, she’ll start to shake and make a b-line for the nearest tree.


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