In response to my last post, Dan the Balloon Man told me that I had it all right, except that I forgot the part about the feeling of floating away into the freedom of the skies. Well, said I, since I was still very firmly planted on the ground as that balloon soared off into the evening sky, I was not exactly qualified to write beyond my perspective of the experience. Obviously not a very imaginative writer.
A few weeks later – a surprise and a chance to broaden my perspective. So here it is…
Treasured moments: the Sequel.
All hands release…the lift off is simple, understated, effortless. So gentle. Calm. Free.
Eyes now look downward; waving hands, houses and trees fade into miniature as horizons spread wide and prairie sky expanse overwhelms and reminds that up here one feels smallest of all.
The freedom of the launch is somewhat of an illusion, however. The vast azure sky-bowl quickly becomes the playing field for a game of wits. Today the players are well-matched.
In the basket, one hand, gloved in experience, rhythmically controls the fire which, contrary to its blasting, raspy harshness, results in graceful quiet ascent. The pauses between breaths become gradual descents. Like the chess king, this soaring majesty plays within its prescribed lines of movement.
Outside the basket, capricious winds, free to roam at will, play a mocking game of catch-me-if-you-can.
“Here we are! Down here!”
Yes, there they are indeed, loitering low over a marshy mirror. Catch them long enough to glide across…oh no! Gravity is interfering from the sidelines, threatening a watery dunk. Breathe hard, fire! Breathe long! Up! Up! Up!
Laughing winds disperse, disappointed that feet in basket remain dry after all.
Treetops slide by – reach to pick a leaf or two for luck. Reaching too far is bad luck.
Rising higher still provides an unobstructed view of the quilted landscape with its nuances of harvest colour that dissolve into hazy horizons. Like a child’s game of tag momentarily interrupted by some new discovery, the winds are forgotten as eyes feast on the handiwork below.
Straight, tidy road seams both join and separate patchwork crops: tractor-stitched standing wheat, corduroy-ribbed mowed canola, worn-velvet green pastureland, and French-knot embroidered hay bales. Free-form appliqué lakes, lagoons, and dugouts curve comfortably into various dips and hollows. Dark green windbreaks wrap protectively around tiny rectangular houses and barns… Gotcha!
Just like that the game is on again.
Zephyrs zig and zag, relishing the chase. Mischievously, they sometimes push from below but refuse to blow forward. So…let’s soar high, high, high to find a breeze too tired for games, but not so gusted out that it lacks navigational value. Airy voices whisper and play in hair as altitude slips by, but vanish completely at 4000 feet above sea level. Palpable stillness envelopes and holds close.
Hover here. Be still. Breathe gentle. Breathe it all in.
Treasure this moment, this perspective.
Another chase now ensues. Far below a truck with pairs of eyes and hands peers upwards, tracking, predicting, waiting. From above – more predicting, calculating, and out-maneuvering wind to find a safe place to return to terra firma. Perhaps the field punctuated with hay bales? Too far. The highway ditch? Hmmm… Maybe not. What about that nice green backyard by the white house? Who lives there? Who knows…but go ask if they mind having a giant balloon land in their back yard.
And who in their right mind would ever say no?!
The white house people don’t, of course. Just try not to hit my new trees, he says. The balloon people aren’t about to argue.
The landing is gradual, gentle, leisurely, enacting a slow pirouette and inviting a final panoramic view until the final airborne moments… one hand in the basket quickly tugs the red cord to let hot air escape high in the crown. Outside the basket, feet rush and hands grab dangling wooden handles and pull, pull, pull to bump gently down on green mowed lawn. Riders tumble out as mighty balloon lists and basket topples.
Graceful majesty flounders, engaged now in a silent struggle as remnant hot air pushes hard to rise against gravity’s leaden downward tug. Gravity wins. The many hands are back again…this time not to resuscitate, but to squish and squeeze and squelch every last breath of air until it lies once again limp, wrinkled, lifeless. How sad and seemingly cruel.
The community of hands reach wide, hug and lift fabric folds back into the canvas bag – stuffing, dragging forward until everything is safely in its resting place. Heavy basket and bulging bag are stored in bed of truck. They will wait quietly for another opportunity to billow into life and soar again…
But there is not silence among the helping, riding, or piloting hands. The balloonist’s celebratory ritual fills the evening air as everyone gathers around the tailgate – a recited prayer, a timeless story, a raised toast. Once-strangers, now gracious landing-hosts fill gaps in the circle. Laughter. Warmth. Camaraderie.
Walking reflectively home later, I feel like that listing balloon, floundering and yet fighting to soar above heavy earth-bound perspectives. So much down here blocks my view, limits my vision of the grander story and greater purpose of my two-footed shuffle along earthen paths of life. But I fight to soar, to live in rich and full awareness of the vast and eternal perspectives of a God who has made my life, as minuscule as it seems, an integral part of His vast redemptive handiwork. Grace upon grace. Hover here. Rest. Breathe it all in.