Riding a hot air balloon is probably about as dangerous as riding a Ferris wheel, but it didn’t feel that way on Saturday when I climbed into a basket and the thing took off.
As the massive balloon inflated, it took the pilot, Stan, and three men on the ground to keep it under control. Like a penned-up bull it was twisting, writhing, straining at the rope that anchored it to Stan’s truck. When he finally unclipped the line, we jumped skyward.
I looked down, saw the earth dropping away and felt a sudden sense of stupidity: Why did I agree to get in this thing? We rose quickly to two thousand feet, which is fine in an airplane, but not when I’m standing in a wicker thing that looks uncomfortably like the laundry basket in the corner of my bedroom. I am gripping the leather-wrapped rails, holding on for all I’m worth. After a minute or so of white knuckles, my reason kicks in and I realize how foolish my frantic grasping is. It’s natural of course, but if this balloon goes down it won’t help me to hold on tighter to the balloon itself. There’s nothing, really, that I can do (this is anathema to the ego). I can spend the next hour worrying and clutching or I can enjoy the spectacular ride. The choice is mine.
I have to keep re-learning this lesson. We are all on a fabulous, sometimes wild ride. The world—and all the things we cling to—is no more stable than this wicker basket, spinning on its axis, whirling in sun circles, blasting through the universe. We can worry about where this thing is going, why it’s so out-of-control, and hold on in a panic, or we can realize finally that we can’t control this ride. We might as well just enjoy it, help others to enjoy it.