Helium’s Hope

Wearing shoes of cracked, black leather, an old woman is standing in her yard. The grass about her feet is ankle deep and dark green. Draping in loose folds over her thin, bony frame, a faded blue dress, flecked with white daisies, is testimony to her practicality. The dress itself extends in long, vertical ripples to her calves and the sleeves slip just past her elbows, only just exposing her brown hands that are lined with dark purple veins. The palms of those same hands are etched with gray-white streaks as though lightning itself had traced its explosion on her leathery skin.

Her upturned head is covered with a gingham bonnet, salt-streaked from countless hours in the hot yellow sun. Under her chin, a graceful bow keeps the covering in place. Although her shoulders are gently rounded with age, and her arms seem to protrude stick-like from her body, her tanned and wrinkled face is angled expectantly towards the summer sky.

Glinting with hope, her blue eyes refuse clouding.  Her eyes are following bright ascending objects as they gradually rise towards the milky and azure heavens. Easing through the oak trees about her, a breeze finds its way among the strong limbs made furry by Resurrection Fern which resides in green carpets along their sturdy branches.  From a perch high above, an unseen Wood Thrush sings its melodic song.

To keep her balance, she spreads her feet slightly and concentrates so that her watching may linger as long as possible. Only a minute ago, she released from her careworn grip a sweat-moistened handful of cotton strings to the end of which are tethered bright balloons . . . a merry mixture of rainbow colors gaily ascending in a slow, happy swirl. The breeze that is easing through the oaks, promptly embraces the balloons as they rise. Dividing the gregarious cluster into smaller groups, and, finally, into individuals they swim through the sky in their non-ordered, spiral flights.

Surprised by the too-close pass of a red balloon, a Cooper’s Hawk lashes out with his talons and is further shocked by the loud bang of its abrupt collapse. Wheeling away in fright, the hawk pursues a safer haven while the remaining balloons continue their random drifts. Higher and higher they ascend until the upper air currents sweep them to the east, gradually fading from the old woman’s sight.

Yet her vision extends beyond the horizon over which those balloons disappear. After all, this recent launch has been preceded by countless others over the decades of her life. Her perceptive abilities having been honed by loving and loss, she understands the circle of life.  Her heart swirls with a mixture of emotions . . . including memories of her own children as they progressed from babies to adolescence and beyond; each one growing, rising, and slowly separating from the hands that gave them life and nurturing. As she did with her own, she sends hope along with the milk of human kindness with this new offspring as they take flight.

(TO BE CONTINUED, if you’re interested, of course!)

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