The Improbable Balloon

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We’d been hiking with friends because it was in the high seventies at the end of October, and joyous clouds danced along the horizon but didn’t approach.  The tilt of the light of October; it lends some starkness, it fills up the golden and red leaves and fires them with electricity.  Everywhere I turned the light was playing with the colors.  I had to pay attention.  I left our group and wandered down by the mighty Susquehanna River, taking off my socks and shoes and rolling my jeans up to my knees, and wading out into the edge of the vastness.

I began to pray, perhaps I had been praying already, drinking in the creation afire round about me.  My face to the strong wind, the waves lapping at my legs, and that stillness found within my heart when in the wild, I closed my eyes.  Feeling the wind push me, push me; the river gently tugging, my shirt billowing behind me, I opened my eyes.

There, about 30 feet above the water, way across the wide river, was something shiny and red and moving.  My brain tried hard to understand this thing, and then, ah…a heart-shaped balloon.  Where had it come from?  Who let it loose?  Or did the strong wind pull it from a child’s wrist?  Did a lover spurn a gift, did it escape a trash can?

It was coming fast on the wind, crossing the river.  Improbably, impossibly, it descended, it rushed, and before I could ask why this should be, it was there, right beside me, pinioned on a low branch above the lapping water.  I realize it doesn’t sound like an impressive thing, but…

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…sometimes when the day is barely of earth, when it is stalked by light so enchanting that all things seem full of mystery, when you’ve just been praying…well

You cannot be blamed for feeling that God sent you a red heart balloon; that in loving mischief He wiggled it away from a somewhere, and ushered a wind to take it to astonished you.  Well, it can happen, on a day like that.

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