February is truly gone, and the gray went with it.
If the physical and emotional color of february is that drab, ashen, Ohio Valley steel gray, the color of an Ohio Valley March is gold.
The sun comes back, filtering yellow ochre through dirty window panes, and shrinks the snow drifts to messy mustard piles of slush on the edges of parking lots. The grass that was hidden underneath that mess is gold like hay. Gold crocuses bloom all over the grass whether it’s frosty or not, and then old Narcissus comes to us– briefly. Narcissus, jonquil, daffodil; whatever you call him, his March visit is quick. One day he’s popping brazen trumpets in every garden of LaBelle, a thousand shades of yellow and the occasional pink, but then we have a cold night. The next morning you find every daffodil in town kissing the ground with their trumpets, a picture of humility at the end of their lives. Winter always has one more frost than Narcissus was prepared for.
After Narcissus comes the forsythia– my father always used to say that forsythia blooming meant there would be three more snows until spring. Forsythia haven’t bloomed yet, nor has Narcissus come. But there are crocuses beginning to pop all over LaBelle, and the sun has come back.
The tax return came as well. It was lean this year, and we were deep in arrears to the gas company, so we didn’t get to spend much of it on anything exciting. But we set aside some to get homeschooling supplies for Rosie. I threw a diamond-shaped rainbow kite in the Amazon cart with her books– and then, on a whim, I swapped it out for a shark-shaped kite from another company. Rosie likes sharks lately. She has a rubber shark toy named “Mr. Tuna Fish” that she likes to swim around the house on adventures. I thought it was less than two feet long like the diamond kite.
When the kite arrived this morning, it was bigger than Rosie.
It was nearly as tall as I am, and its pectoral fins stretched out as long as it was tall.
We had to lay it across the living room floor like a rug to get all the plastic dowels in. The material wasn’t ordinary rattly cellophane but stout nylon, lovingly made, and the instructions were translated badly from Japanese.
I had so much grown-up work to do that afternoon. I needed to blog and answer correspondence to keep food on the table. I was desperate to do some repairs around the house. I had to buy Rosie a belt and new socks at Wal Mart. But today wasn’t that kind of day. Today wasn’t a working or repairing day, or an errand day; it was a bright golden March kite-flying day. Such days are as sacred as any solemnity.
We carried the kite to the field next to the yellow brick Protestant church called the Tower of Power. Tower of Power Church is across the street from LaBelle’s only real tower: a great water tower, carefully surrounded by a barbed wire fence lest anybody try to steal it, and with the name “STEUBENVILLE” painted on the reservoir in case we forget where we are.
The eerily strong March sunshine, unhindered by shade from any leafy trees this time of year, made the white of the water tower pale cream-colored and cast shadows on the muddy gold grass.
We unfolded the kite.
It didn’t wait for us to run with it; it went up almost immediately. Rose shrieked because the speed at which it tugged the string stung her fingers.
I had never had a kite that behaved like a kite before. All the other kites we’d owned were just limp pieces of plastic that took to the air with reluctance. This thing wanted to be in the air, like a living shark wants to be in the water.
The first few times, I didn’t let it have enough slack string– I was afraid of it tugging away from us entirely and breaking. But every time I tried to hold it back, the shark crashed into the yellow grass.
Finally, I told Rosie to run with the spool while I held the string up, and let it free.
It went up, pectoral fins quivering with passion, its tail whipping back and forth eerily like the real sharks I had seen in their tanks at the zoo. The sharks I’d been taken to see as a child went in circles– the constant, methodic, mechanical circles of an animal in captivity with energy to burn but no chance of escape. Our shark was not a captive; it was its own master. It didn’t go in circles; it went up.
“She’s taking to the sky!” I marveled.
“It’s not a she!” said Rose. “You don’t call girls ‘Mr. Tuna Fish.'”
Mr. Tuna Fish swam up, up, up past any danger of the trees or fences that usually doom our kites. He went up past the short spire of the Tower of Power Church. He went up level with the cream-colored water tower.
Rose cried out that her fingers were burning, and I took the string.
Mr. Tuna Fish flew out to the very end of the reel. I had to hold tight to a string that was pulled stiff and straight as a knitting needle.
Three boys on their way back from Maryland Market ran over to the field– first, to admire the kite, and then to help me keep hold of it. I am not a small woman– I am quite fat, as I’ve mentioned before. But I was barely enough of an anchor for that nylon shark. He was up beyond the water tower now, dancing in the air, safe, free, by all accounts delighted. He was alive. I was alive. We were all alive, and winter was nearly over, and we were at the bottom of a great golden ocean of air admiring a shark dancing in the current.
It took all five of us to reel him in.
I took out the sticks so that I could fold him. That broke the spell; he turned from a living shark back into a kite again.
Rosie ran off to play with the boys, and I took the kite home.
I’m sure I’ll be miserable again before long. I usually am. But it feels like my February gray anxiety was pulled up into the clouds over LaBelle with that shark. It’s still up there somewhere.
Maybe it will stay away this time.
(image via Pixabay)