Kites were our first form of flight, and they played a crucial role in the Wright brothers’ quest for powered flight. Since then, the relentless pursuit of pragmatic progress has squeezed the soul-nurturing beauty from flight and made kites little more than playthings. Certainly the appreciation for pure flight in any form still evokes passion in many of us, and envy, as we watch the exquisite skill of a true master.
Ray Bethell was born the year Lindbergh flew the Atlantic. A gynecologist in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, he and his wife were on vacation in Hawaii in 1980, where a kite flyer inspired him. Without a mentor or tutor, “I learned from my mistakes,” he said in a 2007 documentary. “Mistakes are okay, if you don’t make them twice,” he concluded, good advice for any pilot.
Seven years after his inspiration, a rare, one-in-a-million virus took his hearing one night while he slept. Flying became evermore important, and he refined his gentle touch and skill at flying three kites at once, one in each hand and the third connected to his belt. His aerial ballet, accompanied by the Flower Duet from Lakme by Delibes, is mesmerizing. Only when he lands each kite at the end is it clear that his mastery of his mode of flight should be the relentless endeavor of us all. –Scott Spangler, Editor