One of the first adult books I remember reading as a child – it sounded like an adventure to my young mind – was Night Crossing. It chronicles the story of two families' plan to flee East Germany, via a homemade hot air balloon. The story fascinated me, I think I read it multiple times. That they would have the courage to build such a thing, in secret, and trust that without testing it would float them to freedom - over razor wire and stasi - was a bold and audacious idea to me. They floated to freedom? Yes, they floated to freedom.
Perhaps it was the fact that I had ridden in one when I was even younger that further peaked my interest. I had flown with my parents, from somewhere down along the big river, over the house of my best friend – waving and calling hello's - landing in the farm field just up the street from my house, was perhaps the connection to the adventure I found in the story. I don't think it would be truthful to say I fully understood the real desperation and reality of the story at that time.
Today hot air balloons still hold a fascination, a fairytale reality. Seeing them floating up in the sky speaks of frivolously fun adventure. Where will they be able to go? Where will they land? What does it look like from up there? Is it warmer or colder?
Our local balloon launch is a part of the Annual Green River Festival in Greenfield, MA. Pilots from around the region come to offer rides three times during the festival and participate in a night-time lighting. On Sunday morning, early, the public can come and watch the launching at no cost and it's a great way to see and learn a bit about ballooning up close.
The balloon launch is a loud, busy, and colorful place. Burners are being tested, balloons inflated, folks are awaiting rides, and pilots are instructing their crew. Some balloons are fresh and brightly colored, some baskets are named, some balloons have seen many happy trips, some are corporate, some are private, some baskets small, and others larger. Most come in vans, occasionally one comes tucked tightly in a station wagon.
The moment a balloon begins to float, it is as if we want to float with it in all it's colored glory and rise into the skies. I can jump for joy, but I can't jump that high! Take me, take me away with you! On their way to floating they bump and squeeze in together a riot of color and patterns pushing skyward. It's a welcome way to begin the day.