Max smashed his head into my face… and it’s still wriggly! My tooth! It didn’t even come out! I can’t believe it!
Great, are you okay? Why is your brother smashing his head into your face?
Oh, don’t worry. It was an accident.
The past weekend alternated from an environment of peace to nearthebrinkoflosingmysanityforreal and whywon’ttheseboysstopfightingfortheloveofgod and then back to peace. Boxes are stacked neatly in the corners of every room, leaving lonely Lego pieces scattered beneath the boys’ bunk beds and across the living room floor. Our dog moves from room to room seeking refuge. And it’s been quite hot in our non-air-conditioned home for the past few weeks. Tempers have flared. Maybe they, too, are seeking refuge.
It took me four hours to dismantle a rarely used closet filled with odds and ends that we didn’t have space to care for properly, yet didn’t want to let go. Shredding sleeves of worthless paper felt good (lay-off letter, anyone?). I found our unofficial marriage certificate and a copy of a love letter scripted in broken English from my great grandfather to the woman he courted, and eventually married, in 1918. Those I kept. Unused passport photos were tucked into a box I call “old photos and letters that I cannot bear to throw away” along with sweet cards recognizing several firsts…. birthdays and holidays and etc.
A heavy layer of dust unsettled as I lifted a thick folder of material from the closet containing details on bicycle travel, bike accidents, cycling law, city zoning policies… changes to New York City streets to make them safer… newspaper clippings, print outs of e-mail exchanges, and duplicate copies of articles that are very difficult and painful to read.
I tossed the entire folder.
Well, I recycled it, anyway. I know what the articles say. I know that good people are working to make streets less hostile and more compelling for cyclists. I see no need to keep every unkind reminder of my loss.
Instead of tucking into myself afterwards, I shouted to my kids. Look at this! a picture of Miles hugging a stuffed soccer ball at six months young. Keep. A handwritten note from an old friend? Keep. Burned out birthday candles? Seriously? Toss. Paperwork from a rental three cities ago? Toss. Toss. Toss.
The process was either mindful or mindless depending on the material that we had saved for mostly unexamined purpose and little value for many years.
Shifting gears, I finally took a shower so that my husband and I could head out for an evening by ourselves. Early the next morning, and I mean early (4:30 am rising), we arrived in a fog lit field in which wandered other expectant visitors waiting for a ride in a balloon.
I have wanted to go up in a hot air balloon for a long time, and my husband’s 40th birthday gift to me was a certificate for a summer flight for two.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the Wizard of Oz when he cried out, I can’t come back, I don’t know how it works! Good-bye, folks!
His balloon lifted as Dorothy watched him from the earth feeling lost and hopeless as she realized another opportunity to go home had crumbled before her eyes.
Not unlike the Wizard, we climbed into a sturdy wicker basket and quietly yet quickly rose upwards beneath the skillful direction of pilot Roger, co-founder of Vista Balloons in Newberg, Oregon. Roger provided us both an education and a promise of knowing a space previously unknown, unique to that morning’s winds that shifted east and west as we moved through the air, high above vineyards, forest and agricultural land.
The hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. Historically it wasn’t the sort of travel available to those without immense wealth or power. The first manned flight took place in 1783 in Paris, France. Not until the 1970’s did ballooning become popular and (relatively) affordable for regular people.
We followed a cloud, slipping into an astonishingly peaceful pause in which the light warmed us and the wind seemed to disappear. I waved my hand into the emptiness. Our small group of seven, including Roger, remained pleasantly quiet as we took in the substantial views. Blinking, we watched a deep red glow rise from beyond the hilly horizon, and as we rose the sun rose with us, moment by moment. It was as if we had traveled a thousand miles and a thousand years from our daily experience, and acknowledged that there is so much more out there than where we spend most of our time.
Not unlike Dorothy, I felt lost and helpless many times during the better part of a decade. But curiously enough, the tranquility of floating 1,400 feet above the earth made me feel more grounded, more calm, and more ready to return to real life.
We went home and it wasn’t a perfect day or one in which I managed to feel that great. But just when the boys were about to bring me back to that place where Mama is losing it, I overheard the oldest suggest they have a “dance fight”.
And they did.
With no music.
It was pretty funny to watch.
When the whole weekend was said and done, I felt not quite rested, dusty and troubled and tossed, and yet moved enough by flight to be able to return to a space in which I could remember the gentle light within the balloon, wherein strangers and lovers mingled in a basket among the clouds, and I thought, I will get through this. I will do what needs to be done to move forward, change where needed, and amend plans as necessary.
We are moving soon. Goodbye folks!
All balloons start out flat and empty.
And then they begin to grow.
Until they are full and light, strong and beautiful.
We were lifted up, up, up… by invisible wings that grow still as they light on a breeze concealed from human sight. Our journey became rhythmic and peaceful as we rose keeping pace with the sun.
And our souls were realized as essential and strong as we fully entered into the day.
After I finished writing this post, I wandered around my backyard to look for overgrown zucchini, cherry red tomatoes and dog poop. I glanced at the few sunflowers that came up this season. None had opened until today.
As we leave the sunflowers behind for the new owners of our home, I hope to remember the slight turn of the wind as we drifted without great expectation or worry a day ago. So many memories in this busy house. So much stuff. So many tears. So many children (okay, two). So much love.