Recommended: listen to David Bowie’s beautiful rendition of Wild is the Wind by Dimitri Tiompkin and Ned Washington while reading.
It’s so easy to forget about nature and the wild forces that are the backdrop to our tiny life plays and sit-coms.
We knew it was windy. We even heard the shipping forecast that morning spoken in hushed, hypnotizing tones telling of gale force 11 winds gusting to … something, I forget now. And out we went loving the gusting, the big breezes and the clouds spinning in the sky as though the universe in which our Earth resides was a centrifuge.
Off we went, skipping, to walk the dog with — what else but a huge, bright pink balloon? I made absolutely no connection at the time about the powerful affinity of the wind and a helium-filled balloon.
Let me introduce you to the balloon. My child had given it a name. I’ll just let that notion sink in for you. OK, it was called “Alice”. And Alice had already had many adventures as a balloon-person with a pink ribbon tail and a face drawn in black felt pen – it was a “she” and my child had chirruped various stories about Alice.
She was doing this when suddenly I heard “MY BALLOON!”. Balloon? Oh yes ‘she’ was a balloon and here she was, no – I mean there she WAS for now she was already metres up in the air and as I felt relief flood me that some angel had stopped my child from instinctively reaching for the escaping balloon and her pink ribbon which would have taken her onto the road, I also felt the rising of a quagmire of conflicting emotions.
It was exhilarating watching Alice the pink balloon with a felt-pen drawn face and pink ribbon zipping higher and higher, further and further away with a speed that had our mouths hanging open.
The wind. The wind had snatched Alice and she, so floatily, fit-to-bursting full of lighter than air helium was crescendoing with her natural element. We stared, we saw again the pale gray clouds slewing like a torrential, flooded river across a vast sky. Alice the balloon becoming smaller and smaller in our sight as she was carried by air currents higher and further away, away, away, northwards.
It was exhilarating to imagine how that must feel, to be in the wind and part of it, losing yourself to it, having no sense of where you end and the wind begins (I am an Air sign, can you tell?!) the freedom of flying with no attachment, being freed from a ribbon anchoring bond to earth via a child’s hand.
But it was also achingly sad. We were bereaved. We weren’t ready for Alice to go, to be snatched away so suddenly in her prime, not even a little deflated yet. A shock. Watching her, a lone, alone little balloon person in a vast sky of gray wind was stunningly upsetting. How awful it would be to be so alone in such vastness.
We stood and watched and in about a minute Alice was so far away she disappeared completely. Gone.
What would happen to her?
I will spare you the hideous thoughts of seals choking on a pink balloon burst on rocks in the North Sea or a small plane crashing because of a large balloon being sucked into an engine. I could make a very long list here of horrible consequences but notice I am not. That way desperate sadness lies.
I began a monologue about Alice dancing with the wild air currents, soaring and sliding, moving so fast she might make it all the way to Greenland, or Sweden, Norway or, if the wind changed direction, America even.
Alice was going wherever the wind took her, floating high and light and with no attachment whatsoever, the dangle of her pink ribbon a kite tail now. She was filled with air, like the wind, but helium weighs less that the wind I said.
My child was sad – but good, healthy sad. And she did not fixate on the balloon that was Alice nor the excitement of the wind and so it all seemed fine. Natural.
All things have their own lifetime, short or long and we need not grieve when they go for something else awaits to replenish our joy if we can but see it instead of staring too long after a disappeared balloon and wallowing in the torment of relating ourselves to imagined things like Alice’s situation, projecting our own neuroses on it with what might happen to Alice, for example, as though we were experiencing it ourselves. (This is one of the down-sides of having a well-honed creative imagination.)
The positive carefree soaring high was as powerful and real as the sad sense of bereavement and loss. Both are important emotions to feel and deserving of attention.
As humans we are made to, like flowers and plants, always turn to the sun; to please the mind with thoughts of wonderment and things that make us happy, to notice in things as bizarre as the sudden flight of a pink balloon named Alice with a felt pen face ways we can be braver, better and more inspired. And always know that nature is with us, helping us and showing us if we simply watch and allow ourselves to feel – to be like a beautiful balloon tossed and rushed by emotional forces, going with them, letting them blow all around us not matter how stormy or conflicted they feel because we are human and being human is a fine thing.