Sailing over a meandering river two of the balloons become targets for a young man with a .22. Their withered remains collapse into the waters below. The rest of the colorful melange gradually drift out of sight headed away from the setting sun. They dance over a tree-draped ridge which forms the rocky backbone against which the river constantly exerts its force. The river and ridge are ancient neighbors accustomed to eons of shared events and sights. For them, the balloons are at once both exciting and mundane; a brevity of interest amongst millenniums of untold happenings.
Aided by a downdraft, a few of the trees at the top of the ridge make an effort to reach out and capture some of the beauty for themselves as decoration. Assisted by a clump of mistletoe, an old sycamore manages to hold a pink balloon in its gray and white streaked boughs. The sycamore sighs happily with its success and, over the next several days, shares its prize with its more diminutive neighbors. The balloon is gradually handed down through the forest canopy, finally nesting among a clump of Christmas ferns.
Daytime is gently displaced by the rosiness of dusk which itself is gradually transformed into nighttime’s starlit skies. The breeze which has guided the flight now fades into the still night air as the balloons lose some of their haste. They, too, rest with the quiet countryside. Yet, their journey continues, more slowly, over dew covered fields. Some contain cattle, but they patently ignore the quiet, overhead parade. As their large jaws grind cuds in a sideways motion, their huge bodies rest on bent legs folded underneath them.
The balloons sail on, their reverie briefly interrupted by the din and glare from a busy roadway below. However, their height gives them protection from the hurried jostle beneath. Slowly, but inexorably, the long hours of flight gradually dissipates the gas which has given progress. As though weary from their long journey and seeking respite, each one begins to randomly lose the altitude which has given them a lofty plane. Singly, and in small groups, they drift closer and closer to the earth finding anonymous landings in unnamed meadows, forests, and streams.
Two balloons (one blue and one green), regain contact with each other in their dreamy descent. In their slow, easy drift to earth, they are chosen to gain purchase near a small house. Their silent approach runs no risk of disturbing the pre-dawn sleep of humans or animals as they descend. Quietly landing within a short distance of each other, they roll about in the high summer grass as though stretching to ease their fatigue. Gradually they come to a complete rest, whispering to each other, waiting for the dawn.
The old woman lies awake in her bed, accustomed to years of early rising in order to accomplish the tasks of each day. Near her home, the river’s currents carry cool night air that caresses the soft warmth of the land. Their meeting creates a wispy, undulating fog that beckons to the old woman and she walks to it, her uncovered head glistening with dew. Her lower body is enveloped by the slowly swirling cloud. She reflects on her long life. She smiles as her soul loosens its earthly bounds and takes a place in the heavens. Now a star, the morning songs and calls of birds become a cacophony of greeting, a celebration of this new spirit in the waxing sky.
Although unseen during the bright day, her new position is a lofty realm over the soils she once tread. And, she is always there; sometimes prominently like the bright star she has become. Other times, her presence is muted by clouds or sun.
But she is always there.
(To Be Continued).