Friday, March 11, 2011

The Balloon Project

I remember when I received my first Mylar balloon; there was something special about that shiny metallic finish. After enjoying it for several days, I decided it was too pretty not to share. Using a black marker, I wrote down my phone number, a friendly hello, and a smiley face.

Our townhouse was positioned at the top of a hill on a circle drive. I still remember the moment I let go of that bright red balloon nearly three decades ago. I didn't take my eyes off of it, as it twisted and drifted its way high into the sky. I watched it until it my eyes strained to stay focused and then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, it was swallowed by the atmosphere.

A few weeks later, my grandparents were in town and had stopped by for an early dinner. As we sat around the table, the telephone rang. My mom walked into the kitchen and picked up the avocado green receiver. She returned shortly, dragging the long cord into the dining room. To the surprise of everyone, a farmer had discovered my balloon in one of his fields. He brought it home to his daughter who, as it turns out, was close to my age. As I attempted to say hello, I found myself in shock while repeating nothing more than "Oh my!" over and over. My red balloon had traveled roughly 50 miles, and I was so excited that my little experiment had connected me with kind strangers. I didn't talk with them long, or even think to ask them for their number, but it remains a fun childhood memory nonetheless.

You may wonder why I'm telling this story. Well, this memory was triggered when I read an article about a man who found a film canister while cross-country skiing in Prospect Park, following the Christmas blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow in New York. He created a video of the developed images, which went viral on YouTube and took him on an amazing five-country adventure that would end in Paris, where he met the photographer and returned her photos in person. He documented the journey and then left his film canister with a note, hoping to create a new adventure.

After watching the video and thinking back to my balloon, I was inspired to re-create that experiment. I wrote on another red foil balloon and released it into a blue afternoon sky, just 80 miles from where I had stood in my childhood driveway. The story may not end with a five-country journey that ends in Paris, but I'm still happy that I put my energy out there. Even if my balloon isn't discovered the second time around... there is something magical about the thought of connecting with others during random circumstances, knowing we wouldn't have met them otherwise.






"Explore, discover, wonder, be curious, be amazed. Life is too rich & beautiful to always live it predictably." ~ Ralph Marston 




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