written by fiona
published on May 2, 2022
The vast open fields and long runways of Tempelhof allow for activities to occur in the city’s core that would typically be confined to the outskirts. This means that more people get involved, both as participants and observers.
These space-hungry sports range from the extreme skateboard windsurfers to the simple act of flying a kite which, in this place at least, isn’t just for children. In fact it’s more common to see adults flying kites here, especially the fancy ones.
In my experience these colourful wind dancers tend to fall into two categories which, without knowing the correct terminology, I’ll call active and passive.
The active kites often resemble mini parachutes and boast an elaborate string system giving the flyer precise control over its direction. A skillful operator can perform all sorts of swoops and shapes, figure eights and loops. They grab my attention, for a moment.
But it’s the passive kites that really stop me in my tracks, for a couple of reasons. First, they tend to be more interesting designs. Whether it’s a stylized representation of a real thing, like a mesmerizing disembodied pair of legs, or a completely abstract form, like this hypnotic low-flying stripy vortex. They tend to be organic and free-flowing — alive!
These kites are also fully at the mercy of the wind and, in this way, make visible what is often only felt. They ripple and jerk, sink and soar, painting a picture of the gusts with their billowy form. Their movements are unpredictable, like a wild creature, further contributing to their vitality.
Just as intriguing to me are the people who fly the passive kites. Often they are older folks, usually alone, seated on a chair or bench with their kite tied off or anchored to the ground. They will stay in that spot for hours, buffeted by the wind themselves.
To some this may seem like a waste of time, I definitely had that thought initially. But now I can imagine it actually being a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon — staying outside for hours in a lovely green space watching as your kite captivates passersby, stopping people like myself, mid-run.
The flyer looks on as we get closer, smile, take a few photos, then keep moving. On a busy Summer weekend, the number of people who experience kite delight must be in the hundreds.
In a small but meaningful way these kites and the people on the end of them are also contributing to the overall uniqueness of the place. They help give it character, make it a destination. Simply by being there and letting the wind do its thing.
I imagine the kites might feel like an extension of the flyer, a way for them to reach out without actually doing the dancing themselves, a playful “hello!” at a distance.
Thinking about things on strings reminds me of when I last visited my brother in San Francisco. We were eating breakfast bagels at a picnic table in Patricia’s Green and observed an older man walking a large white Cockatoo on a leash. This prompted several interactions with complete strangers who were curious about the bird or wanted to pet it. Maybe this is another reason people like having a dog, they help facilitate connections with strangers, if only for a brief moment.
With passive kites though, even less effort is required for arguably greater impact, especially if you can let them soar in the middle of a city. Just set it up and observe, the joy will come to you.
written by fiona
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