Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Flying Folktales I

The most blustery months of the year occur in early spring. March and April are rife with wind-blown possibilities, especially because these sun gladdened, blossom-filled months lure everyone outdoors.
We all know that this is kite season, complete with large spools of thread and dazzling colored kites swirling in the sky overhead.
Just last night while walking my dog in the neighborhood park, I saw a kite stuck in the branches of a mulberry tree and was reminded of how when my nephew Steven was nine-years-old he flew kites at the beach. Kite in hand he would run off towards the waves of the protected Bodega Bay alcove. Lifting the brightly colored kite up in the air, he always knew exactly when to let it go; the spool of white thread quickly unwinding as the wind whisked the nearly weightless paper kite out to sea.
Kites can become the center of a family folktale as mentioned above. They can also become a family folktale messenger. Here is one such example:

Paper Kites carry Family Folktales on their tails

When I was writing for the Marin Independent Journal, I interviewed members of the Hispanic community about their Dia De Los Muertos traditions. This community of immigrants whose homelands included Mexico, San Salvador and Guatemala held an annual Day of the Dead multi-media fall extravaganza that always included altars, skeleton cookies and a community procession of at least one hundred people; many of them in costume. The grassroots parade was always led by the local Aztecan dancers and drummers in full regalia.
During the interview, I spoke with Eduardo Galatia, a young man from Columbia who had only recently become part of the festival’s organizing committee. This family man had come to the San Francisco Bay Area as so many immigrants do in search of a better life for his family.
However, unlike other residents who baked and decorated sugar skulls upon which they wrote the names of deceased children or who built lavish altars displaying pictures, momentos and favorite foods just in case the ancestors were hungry, he explained that kites were an important part of how his countrymen remembered loved ones who had passed on.
Resourceful, his Columbian community took advantage of their mountainous geography. Exposed to sea winds not punctuated by trees, the terrain was perfect, he said, for kite flying. And because kites could virtually reach the heavens where ancestors resided, they became ideal vehicles for transmitting family messages.
Each family made at least one kite of paper that was colorful painted with designs the ancestors would recognize. The kites also had thickly woven tails that had handwritten messages on strips of paper or cloth tucked into them.
The kites were released during the afternoon when the winds were their strongest. In that way, Eduardo said, well wishes and reminders of love could better reach the other world.

Now It's Your Turn
So maybe the next time you want to remember someone (living or not), you can make a kite upon which you can either write a brief folktale about that person or you can weave the story (on a scroll of paper) into the kite’s tail.
This could also be done for special occasions such as birthday party celebrations. Everyone could write a brief folktale about the birthday boy or girl and then take turns flying the kite for a while before letting it go, sending it on its way to another place. Who knows? Much like a message in a bottle, it may be found by someone else!
Don’t forget that even the act of making and flying a kite with special messages can also become a family folktale to tell others about at a later date.

Flying Folktales II will explore Family Folktales on the Wings of the Tibetan Wind Horse

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