I can’t imagine any other object in existence that better symbolizes joy and innocence than that of the very simple balloon. The colorful bouncing orbs have graced the gates, entrances, and ceilings of countless celebrations and gladsome occasions. I doubt that there is one of us who hasn’t experienced the bittersweet moment when the ribbon of a balloon somehow escapes the clutches of a child, being left with no choice but to wipe their tears and watch as the wind carries their treasure high into oblivion. What is it about them that captivates us so?
Nothing could have prepared me for the splendor of the most grandiose of balloons awaiting me at the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic. My family and I arrived at Keiser Community Park in Windsor at the magical hour of dawn to find hot air balloons lit up from within, brilliantly shining against the cobalt and lavender sky. We were surrounded by people, young and old, who waited in earnest anticipation and watched expectantly at the beautiful balloons that exuded life and seemed to become magnificent creatures as they took shape and form along the dewy grass. Dazzling, giant sheets of geometric shapes and vibrant color rippled like waves as blasts of cool air and shots of fire swelled them from within.
Though there were hundreds of people milling around, there was a steady calm that blanketed the park. I believe delight and wonder deafened the continuous chatter to where it seemed almost non-existent. It was oddly quiet . . . Almost other-worldly.
While securely hidden behind the lens of my camera, time seemed to stand still as I fell witness to memories being etched into the faces of children. The sunlight, like liquid gold, spilled over the horizon and illuminated the expressions of amazement and excitement and the smiles of all. There was tenderness, a sweetness, and joy, that lingered among the grounds and between the interactions of loved ones. It was immediately apparent that this was an experience and a time to be treasured by all. Such a beautiful thing, it was, seeing people as they really should be with each other, with their guards let down and stresses non-existent.
Many curiously gathered around the woven baskets made of Kooboo and Palambang cane, doing all they could to get a peek inside before they and their fearless passengers rose upon the crisp morning air. As they drifted off into the cloudless sky, all the onlookers left behind stood still, eyes looking intently upward, captivated at the impressive magnificence of the very simple hot air balloon. It’s safe to assume some things never change.
I believe the event to be timeless. A special occurrence treasured by spectators since 1783 when the origin of hot air ballooning unfolded. I imagine the beautiful creations have held the gazes and breaths of thousands, demanding themselves to be a watched tradition passed down throughout generations.
May we remember to take time away from our constant demands and instead, relive childhood and its relentless delights through events such as this one. May we find ourselves lost in enchanting moments. May we never be so consumed with life that we miss it.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Photography by Caitlin Clary. To learn more about Caitlin’s work, visit Enlighten Me Photography
For more details about this event please visit www.schabc.org