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The Goose and the Box Kite


It happened during the middle of the summer long ago. The hot sun was high and bright overhead. Barely a breeze blew across the meadow that stretched for miles toward the horizon. Not a tree was in sight. Purple and yellow wild flowers dotted nature’s green carpet. A long piece of white line lay strewn, as if abandoned, for hundreds of feet along the grass. At the end of the line was a lone box kite.

The kite stood upright on its square base in the middle of the field, feeling useless and dejected because he couldn’t fly. “Where was the wind?” he cried. Miles away, he saw several Indian fighter kites somehow flying effortlessly in and out of the clouds in the near-still air of the afternoon. The box kite felt sad; life had no purpose for him if he couldn’t fly.

He looked up and prayed for wind. If only the wind picked up, he could achieve his ultimate purpose. But the air continued to move slowly around him. The kite looked downwards at the ground and sighed, thinking that his prayers will never be answered.

Suddenly, a shadow eclipsed the sun and a rush of air came up against one of the kite’s flat sides, nearly tilting him over. He gazed upwards with faith in his heart. But no sooner had joy filled his sails then he realized that the breeze he felt was merely the stirring of a bird overhead.

“What’s this, a goose? A silly goose?” he said.

The bird’s enormous wings were completely spread open as he circled round and round. Finally, he made a precise two-legged landing near the kite.

“I saw you on the ground and felt you might need a hand,” said the white-plumed bird.

The box kite couldn’t hide his feelings.

“It can’t be all that bad,” said the bird. “Tell me about it.”

In a whisper, the kite declared, “My creator has forsaken me. He became frustrated when I couldn’t fly without more wind, and left me here on the ground.”

The big white bird pecked at the ground, saying, “Go on, I’m listening.”

“Well, that’s it. I was made only yesterday, with dreams of flying. I let my creator down and I’ll remain here until the sun scorches my cotton sail to ashes or the rains destroy me.”

“Black or white, is it? No in-between? What if the wind picks up? Surely you’ll fulfill your birthright then?”

The box kite shrugged.

There was no life in his heart, and the bird felt the emptiness.

“Winds of fortune change for the brave and the patient,” said the bird.

“Don’t you understand? How would you? You’re a goose. I am untethered. Should a wind come along, I would simply blow over without my line fastened to the earth.”

The bird replied, “You are simply stick in a thought. It’s really a simple matter.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. Yet, that is not the complete answer. You have an attitude problem. Take it from an expert.”

The kite got riled, and said: “Attitude? What do you mean? I want to fly. I have prayed to fly. I have promised my soul to heaven for a single flight. I desire it more than anything.” Worn out with explanations, the kite languished under the sun.

“I’m not sympathetic to despair,” said the bird. “You take my meaning incorrectly.”

“You said . . . attitude?”

The bird interrupted. “Yes, attitude. Flying requires the correct attitude.”

“That’s what I . . .”

The bird began honking. “Listen. Attitude means how you face the wind. It has little to do with desire, more with posture, I’d say. You can’t fly if aren’t facing the wind at the right angle.”

“But I can’t . . .”

“Listen. If you want to be noticed, you must show more of yourself. In the case of the wind, you must change your attitude, your shape, and present of what you are to the available fates and breezes.”

“I am a square box kite. How can I change my shape? I’m not a genie, only a kite.”

The bird stretched its neck as high as it could go. “Yes, it’s true you are a square but only because you think you are.”

“The power of thought. It seems I’ve heard that before, though I can’t recall where,” mused the kite.

“Change comes from inside. I’ll show you. Look at me. A thought to my wings and look.” The bird extended his enormous wings, easily catching the light air current. He had to balance himself on one leg and then the other to keep from lifting off the ground.

“Showing more gets attention. It works for me and it will work for you.”

“I’m a box kite. Rigid sticks of equal length support this body. I can’t change what I am.”

“The idea is not to change what you are but to make the best of what you’ve got,” said the bird, undulating his long neck. “Here, give me those rigid sticks that confine you to earth. And who said or where is it written that they have to be of equal length?”

The bird used its bill to pull out every stick that kept the kite rigid. The kite was now a mass of scattered sticks and loose fabric.

“You’ve destroyed me. I have nothing to hold me up. You call this help?”

The bird ignored the kite, though he did remark before flying off, “I’ll return soon and you’ll see I am your fowl weather friend.”

For a long time, the box kite lay still under the unrelenting sun. Finally a familiar shadow circled over the field, and then the big white bird landed next to him. In his bill were sticks of two different lengths.

Placing the sticks near the kite, the bird said, “Here’s your ticket to heaven, my friend.” With that, the bird began positioning and fitting a new set of sticks within the cells of the hapless fabric. Within a few moments, the bird exclaimed, “Yes, that looks about right.”

The kite was upright again. “Something feels different. It’s subtle, but I definitely feel . . . bigger.” But how is that possible, thought the kite. I’m a box kite. So much sail—no more, no less.

With the kite in a state of consternation, the bird picked up the end of the flying line, flew upwind and tied the line securely to a sturdy bush. By the time the bird returned, the kite had rediscovered himself.

“I’m wider than before. That’s it, isn’t it? I really don’t understand how, but I feel lighter, too, somehow.”

“Changing the size of your cross spars has made a new kite out of you.” The bird opened its wings and cradled the kite between them. Turning the transformed kite toward the gentle breeze, he proclaimed: “You are not a square kite any longer but a rhombus kite with all the privileges due that form.”

A mild breeze that had done little for the box kite before now lifted him off the earth for the first time in his short life. “I’m flying. I’m flying,” called the kite.

Within moments the flying line on the ground straightened, stretched, and became taut, as the rhombus rose higher and higher. The bird flew alongside. Nearly a thousand feet up now, the kite steadied and looked below. He felt that he was born to be at this elevation and his life’s purpose was now fulfilled.

The bird circled the kite. “I knew you’d get the hang of it right off. You’re on your own now.”

Then a dreaded thought entered the kite’s consciousness. “What if the wind stops, I’ll sink like a stone,” the kite yelled to the bird. “Don’t leave me!”

The bird circled again, making sure that his wings didn’t brush against the hysterical kite. “Look. Look down there.”

As the kite peered down, joy exploded in his heart. “Yes, it’s my creator,” said the kite.

“From now on, all will be well for you, my friend. Now I’m off on a journey to another tale.”

“How can I repay you? What can I do?” asked the kite.

Swoosh went the bird as he dove and circled back again.

“Pass what you learned along. Someday you’ll meet a kite with a similar problem. Consider it payment in full.”

“Done,” said the rhombus.

“One more thing . . .”

The rhombus looked apprehensive.

“I am a swan, not a goose!”

With that said, the swan flew off quickly, then dipped one wing and banked to the left for a last look back. A happy small boy had taken the flying line from the bush to fly his kite.»

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