Cooperation in Flight: The Cherry Blossom Kite Festival

Text: "Cooperation in Flight: The Cherry Blossom Kite Festival / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photo: Multi-colored kite flying on a cloudy sky in front of the Washington Monument with other kites in the background

Kite-flying does not come easily to my family. In Ocean City a few years ago, my mom and I sprinted through the sand over and over again to be met with a diving kite on the end of a limp string. We fell over laughing, but we never did get it up in the air. Thankfully, we had a lot more luck in both kite flying and cooperation this past weekend at the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival in Washington D.C.

The skies were partly cloudy, the temperatures were in the mid-50s, and the wind was breezy. Walking down from the Metro, we spotted the kites before we could see the National Mall. Hundreds dotted the sky, from homemade ones constructed from paper and sticks to multi-part ones with long tails. My favorites were a colorful pteranadon and a tiny, fluttering butterfly. Clearly, this was an easy day to fly a kite.

Except our kite had been put away tangled and then sat in a closet for about a decade. It looked fine, until we tried to get it up in the air.

Untangling it was like one of those bad team-building exercises you do to strengthen your relationship. Chris needed me to help him, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do. As he spent long periods just staring at it and occasionally moving a single string, I kept feel that if I could do it better if he just gave it to me. (I feel that way a lot.) Finally, between the two of us messing around while muttering angrily and giving each other dirty looks, we disentangled it.

For all the struggle, the results were glorious. Once the kite started rising, it went up and up and up. It was higher than I’ve ever been able to fly a kite, higher than I even knew that kite could go.

Flying kites at the Cherry Blossom Festival

The only danger was getting it tangled with other people’s kites. With so many kites in the air and so much string unrolled, it was inevitable. The other kite-flier and a festival volunteer helped us separate them.

But rather than annoyance or frustration, there was simply camaraderie. He apologized, we said we understood, and we worked together to separate them.

In fact, the whole event embodied this sense of community. When someone’s kite crashed down or was faltering, you picked it up and threw it up in the air. Families of all types and colors grooved to the music of a kid-friendly calypso band. Little kids waved and tried to climb in each other’s strollers. People watched in wonder the giant kites held aloft with nothing but fabric and air.

Photo: Kites

For a little while, it felt like the Washington D.C. and the America I love. Living in the D.C. area in the time of Trump has been tough. The vast majority of people in the area are deeply liberal and many feel as if their values have been drop-kicked. The federal government has a huge amount of control over D.C. as a city, to the extent they can reject local laws. With the announced budget cuts, federal employees are worried about being able to fulfill their agencies’ missions or even losing their jobs. There’s a lot of justified sadness and anger.

But for just a short time, we let it all go. Like kids, we looked up in the sky with hope and in community. Tourist or local, we worked together to make these simple contraptions fly, painting the sky with color. Washington DC was our city again, not the President’s or Congress’s. It was our home, together.

One of the most important things I can teach my kids is how to work together for the greater good. From Chris and my detangling our kite to the larger sense of community, the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival give me hope, both in these tough times and into the future.

For other experiences that have given me hope in odd places, check out my post on geek-festival AwesomeCon. For updates, be sure to follow me on Facebook

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