When the shadow of the hot air ballon was visible on the stone wall of the Shreveport factory, I was visibly reminded that every experience has both its bright and dark side.
While more than a hundred feet above the city, the lush green of the treetops was the first thing to grab my attention. Then I noted the street life of the inner city neighborhood -- the drab shops, buildings with windows broken, men walking home in the early morning hours from a night out, a garage sale in full swing at a gas station, dogs barking (lots of dogs barking!) and reality set in. Life was going on. I was above it all and not.
We waved. We called out. They waved and answered back.
"Sure thing! Come and get it!"
When we arrived at the meeting location, I felt a tinge of worry. The pilot was over six feet five inches and pure Louisiana redneck. He was slightly put off because we were late, having stopped for Southern Main donuts at a shop that also advertised their outstanding fried catfish. He shifted to giving orders quickly as we drove to the launch site.
"When my guys get started I want everyone out of the way. You men might be asked to help out, but you ladies (I was the only one) will have to stand back."
I held my tongue given that I was about to put my life in his hands. Later I would remind him of his comment and he would assure me that he wasn't a male chauvenist and was simply concerned for my safety. I pointed out the three other women in the other two balloons -- one of whom was a pilot -- but he didn't notice the contradiction.
We floated. We ooo-ed. We ahh-ed. We took photo after photo. And we simply took it all in.
We also hit the tree tops at one point to make a right turn (not sure if this wasn't a convenient explanation for a steering error or not). And we landed with ease.
Rather than the traditional bottle of champagne at the close of our trip we were treated to eggs and fried pork products with hashbrowns at a dive that knew our pilot well and allowed him to come back and help serve the plates.
We chatted up the crew who helped launch and pack the balloon and discovered they were all volunteer, mostly retired and felt that our storytelling talents would allow us to fit right in with their make-shift family.
I smiled. When the pilot asked which of the three men with me was my husband I had assured him that not one of the handsome men was attached to me. I didn't mention that Roger had dated both Geary and Carlos. We still needed a ride back to the car!
When we got to the vehicle and said our goodbyes, I found out what a Lousiana tip feels like when the non-male-chauvenist-pilot pushed himself against my breasts and grabbed and tickled my ass.
Beauty in the shadow of reality . . . I was struck throughout the day with how exciting all that I have planned has already been and is going to be but I was also more keenly aware of all that I'm also going to be missing. My friends are moving to new homes. New relationships are forming. Babies are going to be born. Hearts are going to be broken and mend. And that's just in the next few months. I want to see it all and still live the adventure and yet I can't.
Today I choose the adventure. Today I choose to rise above the treetops, to eat the bacon, to watch the 8-year-old football game that looked like a field filled with bobble heads, to ride the hydro behind the boat, to hit the wake while on the jet ski. Today I choose to live full out. But . . . I still noticed the shadow and remembered all I couldn't see, couldn't be a part of.
Seeing both the light and dark -- not a bad way to start a journey of reflection, I'd say.