Saturday, December 17, 2011

excerpt for a New Book, Balloons


Who is it who does not like balloons: the colors, the symmetry, the fact that they float. My first memory of balloons was that of my older cousin popping them. I was appalled; in my three year old mind, popping balloons was sacrilegious. To this day, I identify with children who cry when their treasure explodes, and what remains is ragged and so gone.
An escaped helium balloon is quite beautiful as it waggles into the air and finally disappears. I have found the collapsed remains on beaches, have seen them surfing on the waves. I have found them on mountain passes, have noticed them waving like flags in tree tops. (I carried a heart-shaped balloon in my backpack for a week and was reluctant to part with it in the trash at the trailhead.) I have found balloons on my five acres. There once was an extraordinary red balloon that lasted for weeks, lodged high in a fir tree in the woods. Then one day, its brilliant color and its oval shape were no more; I like to think that it floated - away.
Latex balloons are not allowed in hospitals; I forgot that, and was turned away when I went to visit a hospitalized third grade student. I felt so disappointed as I took the balloons back to my car, so lonely.
Black balloons are an antithesis of balloon essence – the colors and the weightlessness of most balloons represent lightheartedness; black balloons are quite grim. On my fortieth birthday, I was presented with black balloons. I popped them; those were the only balloons I ever popped on purpose.
Balloons are so like wishes: bright and light. When I consider my wishes, I feel impractical – but, nevertheless, I still wish . . .
I were walking across Tuolomne Meadows with Ben,
through a garden of nasturtium and Four O'clocks with EJ,
on a warm sandy beach with Greg,
on the mossy lake edge at Rae Lakes with Jesse,
down Kiwi Road with Gem.
Wishes are like that: figments . . . like the bright, colorful balloons that make us happy.

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