The Old Man and the Kite

We woke up warm, breathing humid air. Our legs sitting crookedly in the trunk; our heads and torsos resting on the backs of the folded-down rear seats. I squirmed in my bag as I returned to consciousness after an extra warm sleep in my Volkswagen.

Bald Eagles abound on the coast of the Kenai Peninsula, an appropriate setting for Natalie’s first Independence Day in the country in 3 years. We were on Homer, Alaska’s “spit” – a massive 3+ mile sand bar which one of the many ancient, and now retreating glaciers had deposited at the end of its slow long journey from the mountains.

Today, there are a number of commercial establishments, (food, fish processing, tourism, etc.) grouped on mini board walks on its southern end. RV and tent sites are available along the north side as you enter.

A partly cloudy sky and cool breeze greeted us as we emerged from our compact ‘camper-jetta:’ our unlikely version of the classic bus from the 60’s and 70’s. We stopped by the local grocery to get some fruit before heading to the famed ‘Two Sister’s Bakery’ for some fresh cran-walnut bread to eat with a coffee on the beach. Diana, (an old friend from University) and her dog Cody joined us as we took in the day, perched on a drift tree.

Later, around 5pm – a 5pm as bright and lively as any summer’s noon anywhere in New England – (the sun still set around 11pm this time of year), we drove to another beach and parked to watch the kite surfers skirt the waves as we ‘dunched’ (dinner-lunch) on PBJ’s and a salad of canned beets and corn.

Parked at the edge of the sand, it was high tide and the lot was full with family cars, RVs, and travelers down for the long weekend. The spot next to us was open and provided us a fantastic panorama of the sun-drenched ocean. A good-sized SUV suddenly scrambled into view completely ignoring a particularly defined parking-lot-edge that the surrounding cars (including ours) had established. Exceeding the ‘community established limit’ by at least 2 car lengths, Natalie rightly exclaimed her disappointment as her hand moved toward the horn, suggesting we confront them.

“Shouldn’t we work to better the awareness of those around us?” she inquired. “They’re oblivious to those around them.” Indeed their lumbering car looked rather absurd on the beach, obstructing the natural scenery of onlookers.

We sat frustrated, Natalie more so, as she sat untangling kite string. The warmth of the day either made me lazy or exceedingly peaceful, but I felt a sense that the situation would right itself soon – without our intervention.

Minutes later as the family oafed back to their guzzler with the same apathy their vehicle drove in with, a young father rode up on a bike to our left. A sleeping child was strapped onto a bike seat at the handle bars and another in a child-bike attachment at the rear. He opened his 1980’s VW Westfalia camper and woke the girl from her sunny nap. With love and consideration he loaded the group into-the van and pulled away, following the oafs (my new favorite word today!). As they left, the VW camper van revealed a new scene. A meandering old gentlemen pulling a child’s single-line dinosaur kite above him. He surveyed the beach, the sky, and the sea with calm acceptance. I felt another sense of calm, which I think also touched Natalie.

The simple beauty of the beach was not lost with the Dodge Durango filled with egoists – it was merely a turning of the tides; a natural ebb and flow of humanity. The old man and the kite restored a hope that vanity and pride are not necessarily something we fall into as we age and raise a family. We are not destined for vagueness and self-obliged righteousness. Life is indeed dynamic, driven by winds set forth in many different seas and scenarios.

So, with the kite strings untangled, we walked out onto the sands and flew our kite.

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