Surprise Landings

My imagination created all sorts of serene and beautiful images in my mind, but reality was far more astounding than I could imagine. The crisp morning air cleared my lungs and smelled like spring in full bloom. The sunrise, just completed, painted the blue Colorado sky pink, orange and silver as far as my eyes could see.

The balloonists scurried around unloading their vans and pulling huge fans and colorful balloons to the ground. It was fascinating just to stand by and watch as they set up for the morning ride. My stomach fluttered, just a bit, as I took a quick sip of my hot coffee. In just a short while I would finally be going up in a hot air balloon for a ride across the Colorado sky!

This bucketlist adventure was a long time coming. I had been trying for weeks to get this adventure scheduled and the spring weather was just not cooperating. One day it was too windy, the next too foggy, then it started raining and rained for the better part of three weeks. Persistent, if nothing else, I kept trying and finally was rewarded for my patience with a perfect Colorado day!

My trusty sidekick this morning was my son Sam, home for the summer from his first year of college, he had been working long hard days for several weeks now at his summer job and I felt like he’d earned a little reward.

Before long, the bright balloons were laid out on the ground, and the huge fans set up to start filling them with air. Sam was appointed an assistant and looked fairly official within minutes. It was fascinating to watch the huge balloons start to come alive as the life giving air started to fill them.

In just a matter of minutes the balloons took shape and filled the sky like giant lollipops just waiting to be enjoyed.

After brief introductions to our fellow passengers, our pilot, Jeff, gave us instructions and started loading us into the giant wicker basket. I was amazed at the size of our balloon; it dwarfed the other bright flowers in the sky. The basket was equally as impressive, especially, when I realized it would hold 12 of us!

The morning felt magical as we began ascending into the sky. We started floating in the air, rising little by little. The silence broken only by the occasional sound of the burners turning on and off, carefully filling our colorful balloon. I soon felt like a tiny part of the universe, the land below getting smaller by the minute, as I realized I was but a mere speck in the big sky. As we drifted I became aware of how little control I have over my world, forced to realize that in some ways, I go where the wind blows me, like a tiny birthday balloon accidentally released at a party. Up, up and up we went.

We met a beautiful family on this adventure, a couple and their five children, four of them girls all in college, the youngest a high school son. What struck me about this family was their support of each other. They had gathered as one to celebrate a birthday among the girls, and while each was an individual, as a group they were whole.

As we floated in the sky, I felt a sense of peace wash over me.

Life can be messy, sometimes it doesn’t go the way you planned or dreamed, sometimes we are hurt and disappointed, other times we are filled with love and peace. The ride in the hot air balloon reminded me of this. At times I was filled with a feeling of anticipation, nervous and jittery, not sure of what lay ahead. At times, I was filled with a calm sense of peace, of love and of oneness with my world. I felt closer to God, just a tiny speck in this big world I live in, and yet, I felt special and loved. At times I felt sadness, deep in my soul, that life isn’t always what I want it to be. The way the wind blew us into the soft clouds felt like we were totally adrift with no control over our destination or our outcome. But, then I would feel the burners kick on, feel the pull of the air fill the sails of the balloon, and I was reminded that I did have control over my journey, and that God was with me every minute of the way.

Amazed as we came down in altitude preparing for the landing, I knew we had in fact, had control all the time. As the landing field came into view, Jeff our pilot advised us to hang onto the handles in the basket. “Sometimes it can be bumpy, more so than you would expect, so I really want you hang on.” He cautioned.

My mind listened and I held on, but, I had to admit I felt no concern. We had floated in the clouds; we had carefully cleared treetops and wires. The journey had gone as planned. My expectation was that the landing would too.

Just then the basket touched the ground, but instead of gently setting down we bounced, tipped to one edge and went back up in the air! Slightly unsettled, we all gripped the handles as the basket touched the ground yet again at a precarious angle. The weight of all 12 of us, combined with the wind, made the job of piloting a soft landing far more challenging than I would have guessed, but Jeff remained calm, deftly controlling the huge balloon and limiting the air flow upward. The force of the basket skipping was not insubstantial and we bounced around like rag dolls. Next, the moment came where we balanced one edge of the basket firmly on the ground, but the opposite edge of the basket still hung suspended in the air. Time stopped and adrenaline surged. We all knew what would happen next, even though all were making our maiden voyage, except for our fearless leader Jeff.

I looked up to see the balloon crumpling and laying gently on the ground. As it pulled us to the left the basket teetered and then began to lie down also. Soon all 12 of us, arms and legs sprawling lay on the ground, our basket tipped to its side. We all laughed and squealed and as I looked to my side I saw my new friend, the brave mother of five teenagers, with a tear running down her cheek. Concern filled me immediately, “Oh my, are you ok! Are you hurt?” I asked, concern my only thought. It was then I saw the smile start to form in her eyes. “Oh yes, I am fine, I am just laughing so hard I am crying!” she relied. Soon a tear started to form in my own eyes.

The bottom layers of brave travelers scrambled to climb out on hands and knees. We struggled to stop laughing long enough to crawl out ourselves.

Each new adventure I find myself on tends to teach me some new lesson, and the hot air balloon ride didn’t let me down.

Sometimes, the skies are calm and life is peaceful and beautiful with all the potential of a dream. But sometimes, life will throw you a curve, things will not go as planned and life will be bumpy. You might get jerked around you might have to crawl out on your knees. Fear, danger or pain usually hit without warning leaving scars to heal. No matter what happens stay resilient, find the laughter and lesson in everything and don’t be afraid a few tears along the way.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was amazing, peaceful and had just enough excitement to be called an adventure. I met a beautiful family and made a new friend. I got to spend time making a memory with my son. I got to float in the clouds for just awhile. Life is good.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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