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Why can’t we see the wind?

Posted by PlayGroundology on September 20, 2008

Earlier this week we hopped in the car ocean bound in search of wind. The air was breathless still in our yard as we readied to go – not a blade of grass in motion, not a whisper of leaves to be heard. On the trip out for what I hoped would be our first kite adventure together, Noah asked, “why can’t we see the wind?”

Now before you think that our just turned 3-year-old is a budding philosophical giant wrestling with the metaphysical, I need to come clean. During a far ranging discussion on storms the previous week that encompassed lightening, thunder, rain and other meteorological mysteries we did bandy about the concept of wind’s invisibility. Noah took this information to heart, tucked it away and in a puff of curiosity as we motored along Cow Bay Road breezily popped the question.

My answer was less than stellar and certainly not scientific. It was along these lines – you can feel, hear and see the effects of wind but cannot see or touch the wind itself. As we were driving I was able to point to a flag aflutter as an example of seeing the effects of the wind while not being able to eyeball the wind itself. This has satisfied our lad on the wind issue for the time being. A quick google provides one, two alternate responses. Take your pick in the event that this question ever comes your way.

Rainbow Haven Beach had just what we were looking for – even though we couldn’t see it – lolloping, blusterous gusts of blowy wind. We assembled our $3, “Made in China” clown face kite very rapidly and thrust it into the air. It swayed and danced tethered on a string its tail swishing 20 metres above our heads. Noah wanted to know if any birds would visit the high flying kite but nary a one glided anywhere near. Maybe like some young children, birds are spooked by clowns. Perhaps it’s the rictus-like, just a bit too happy perma-pressed smile….

Our first time kiting was a great success. Noah-David took the helm himself on 3 separate occasions and looked skywards into the sun as our paper (oops composite fabric) bird tugged and bobbed and weaved. The wind’s pull was steady enough to tire his arms so he asked for a couple of breaks. This will be an ongoing past time with many more outings on the horizon. We’ll continue to spool out the fun, string flying through our fingers and kites sailing away on eddying updrafts. As we speak almost exclusively in French with the 2 sproglets, I was curious to find the origin of cerf-volant. Seems it wasn’t a flying deer at all as a literal translation would suggest but a flying serpent, snake, or dragon…

I’ve also enjoyed kites with my 2 eldest daughters. Alexa and I had many kiting adventures on the other side of the harbour. My favourite spot was the springy moist ground above Pebble Beach at Duncan’s Cove. Never any question of having to search for the wind there. Always a blow, a gust, a send a kite into the air breath of wonder. Makyla and I did our first kite flying when she was just over one-year-old in Barbados. There’s a big Caribbean tradition of kite flying at Easter that we took up one of the 2 Easters we lived there.

As a kid I loved the bat kite and stingray designs. We’d have dog fights with them high above our playground that bordered on Toronto’s 401. The bat kites with their red decal eyes and foreboding black silhouettes could be vengeful marauders when they swooped into or dove onto other kites. The material couldn’t withstand direct hits and a mid-air collision would often result in rips and tears that we would doctor the best we could with hockey tape. Broken strings would break hearts too as the wind would waft a flopping kite across the 401 never to be flown again by its original owner again.

40 years down the road the materials have become much lighter and more resilient. Despite the increased technical sophistication, I think a young boy, or a young girl’s thrill of flying a kite hasn’t really changed much in the thousands of years that we’ve been looking skyward string coursing through our fingers and wind teasing our hands. For more on kites, consult Best Breezes an excellent blog and website on this enduring source of of fun and simple pleasure.

Nellie-Rose is making headlines again with an alarming means of expression. She’s really throwing herself into it head first. In some circles her new move is known as a Glasgow kiss. In less picturesque language it’s simply a head butt. You wouldn’t think there would be much cause for shying away from a wee baby’s forehead. When Nellie gets excited though she lets fly and usually the closest target is somewhere on our faces. She would be a mean striker on a soccer pitch. Given that she can propel her cute little noggin backwards too, we need to be doubly alert. Really what we need is eyes in the back of our heads. If she gets a direct hit or even wings the cheekbone, or nose with the exceptional velocity unleashed from her well developed neck muscles, we’re talking big surprise and some measure of pain. We can usually see these special kisses getting telegraphed but there’s still a need for caution and defensive measures as she’ll try and pop off 5 or 6 in rapid succession when she’s in that exuberant, ecstatic zone. We love to see Nellie-Rose in that state of happiness and so far none of us have had to get treated at emergency. Here’s hoping that this is a phase that will quietly fade away into the night with minimum of fanfare.

Before leaving the lovely Nellie altogether, take a listen to this whooping crane recording and then throw in a soupçon of bray and you’ll have an idea of the insistent and not quite endearing sound that our girl makes when she wants something to happen right away as in yesterday. Her ‘honk’ is a bit more prolonged and the pitch is not as high. Fortunately this Nellie call is of relatively short duration and has a low daily frequency. The goos and the gaas, the i yaaas and all the rest are how she really converses with us inviting us to her world as she crosses into ours. Thankfully the whooping honk is reserved for special occasions.

Not to be outdone by his sister, Noah-David tools along on his own path. On this birthday week that has meant: fingernails that are growing now that they’re no longer velcroed to his teeth; the first afternoon at tiny tot soccer – a high energy giggly gang of 3 to 4 year olds being put through a basic soccer boot camp by 3 teens; the first time that Noah asked to have his picture taken – an action shot falling off the bottom of a slide at the Woodside Playground; and his first selection of a toy bought with his own money, birthday dollars from his great grandma in Québec.

As soon as he tried the Color Roller – a real sight and sound extravaganza – the sale was clinched for Woozles. Despite suggestions, nothing else would do. Six days later the intensity has started to diminish but this number is still in the revered land of top toys. The roller’s sound factor combined with Noah’s ability to push it like a lawnmower are attributes that should ensure this toy a long, playful life.

A couple of quick postscripts. Noah’s highlight at tiny tot soccer was getting to hold on to the only yellow checked ball. That afternoon on the Tallahasee gym floor our lad was flashing pretty constant smiles and rolling in the giggles. The next outing is sure to be fun.

This afternoon walking Nellie-Rose back and forth in the front room while patting her back softly to ease her into napland, our darling little sweetpea returned the kindness and gently patted my shoulder for a couple of minutes. Shortly afterwards, she was asleep in my arms. This was just the cutest.

Only 2 more sleeps and we board a plane for Barbados.


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