High Flying

A sensuous high comes throughout October and into November as colors swirl and sounds swish around the city and countryside. It’s the season for big and small kites, with big and small people on the ground holding on to strings while their creations soar above—or come crashing down to drape trees and wires with pastel colors that may hang limp and pretty for weeks.

Kids of all ages build them, kites representing the souls of the departed soaring on high, and also just good windy-day fun for most of the creators. Smaller kids build kites with sticks, paper and any string they can find, contributing the limp but colorful forms you see draping on city wires or country trees. Bigger kids build huge kites, sometimes two or three times the adults’ heights, with far more elaborate designs using layers of tissue paper pasted into the intricate forms of stained-glass windows and modern geometrics.

Kites are a sensuous delight for the eyes, especially on and around All Saints’ Day when crowds fill villages along barrancos, steep canyons, with breezes up the canyon walls that lift the kites high. Kite-builders start while barely old enough for school or field-work. Kite-builders develop into family competitors and even commercial entrants, entertaining spectators who drive out from the city to enjoy each year’s festivals. Watch out for those beginners, though. The children’s earnest efforts to get their little kites flying sometimes brings danger when the builder runs along the roadways, oblivious to autos or other blocks to their successful launches.

Kites are also a more subtle, sensuous delight to the ears, too. There’s a soft sound as the breeze raises big and small discs, with humming vibrations from the colorful papers, strings and the wooden frames encircling the designs. There’s the occasional thunk of kites out of control, crashing back to Earth. And there’s the ooohs and aaahs of the crowds at the bigger kite festivals, that human sound practiced all year with the fireworks that welcome the New Year, festivals, weddings or any happy time. The murmur of appreciation as those big kites soar is as sensuous as the sights of colors against the deep Guatemalan skies. Listen —and look. It’s a high time for both senses this month.

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