Very early in the morning, several days ago, Jackie and I got up and into preset clothing...layers of it. Cold outside and dark. And after injesting nourishment rapidly, we drove south in the city, to the field of action.
There it was, lying serpent-like on the ground, the long silky, multi-colored nylon balloon. It would soon hold 175,000 cubic feet of "hot" air...at least hotter than that of the still-dark morning. A portable fan was started and occasional bursts of ten-foot flame worked together for many minutes, as the balloon was filled and rose slowly from the ground into a vertical. Has this thing ever crashed, or just leaked slowly into a pile of destruction? I began slowly walking around the scene of what seemed like somewhat desperate action.
Didn't help that we were all asked to sign off on no legal action if we crashed or broke bones....or just disappeared into the heavens.
Attached to the bottom of this brightly colored death-trap....a basket...a wicker basket! This travel container, the center of which is reserved for "piloting" and the sides (waist-high) reserved for the passengers...all six of us making it "full." And we were told on landing to crouch, and hold on, because sometimes it "bounced."
Suddenly it came to me that I would soon be in a basket elevated a thousand feet into the air, in a wicker basket, with no seat belt, parachute or secure glass-enclosed position, a thousand feet into the air (and I wondered how high until death is certain), flames leaping over my head, and alternating with a deathlike stillness as the balloon climbed aloft.
And the travel managed in breezes by fierce blasts of flame into a balloon! Hello!
So I alternated between standing up and leaning into the pilot....or getting down to armpits at the wicker edge, and knees on the floor, all the while my wife was leaning over the edge, blissful at the experience of it all. And did I mention that she was sometimes quietly snickering at the sight of me on my knees? I learned not to look down...but to look out at the mountains on the horizon. And not to think about the airline traffic that was taxiing and taking off below. And I hoped that our bouncing landing would come "sooner than I thought."
Oh and I "looked up" frequently in rather urgent prayer.
I found some solace in remembering the days when going up an escalator seemed very daring.
Finally, we landed...very softly and with expressions of "fun, adventure, I'd do it again" punctuating the air.
1. Doing this was really good....even if very challenging. Thanks Jackie for the push! It is what we all need often.
2. Facing my fears instead of running from them, means growth for me personally.
3. And the big serendipity...laughter. It has been fun to talk and write about this and to embrace frailty rather than stiffen and sour with it seems like a key to the journey now.
In everything give thanks.