This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from the Rev Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest who raises money for the homeless and lives on a horse farm in New Mexico with his dog Kai. offering daily meditations and reflections
It’s October and Albuquerque’s big sky is filled with balloons and I am like a puppy beneath a ball. The playful, joyful atmosphere of these floating billboards of delight and color take even the grouchiest by storm and inspire a smile. Add to that the Native American fry-bread and green chilies everywhere, and you have a recipe for pure joy.
Here, the clear blue sky begins on my farm with one orb – the setting moon, which hangs white and bright against the blue like a lone headlight shining up from a pond basin. It is the harbinger of hope for a new day and for the sun – that other orb, which keeps us warm, grows our food and plants for oxygen while melting water-soaked wood from frozen-to-thawed … miraculously making soil. It is all so amazing really, and balloons seem to speak of whimsy and joy even when we are doing some of our greatest suffering; like a commercial for Christmas toys during a horror movie or drama. It can be jarring. A reminder that some other reality might lay behind what we can see.
As the balloons took off I snapped this image while balancing a massive fry-bread in my other hand smeared with raw honey and with a coffee cup between my legs. But sometimes one needs a bit of awe.
I am not sure what I like more. There is the long, dark silence as the balloon pilots and teams unfurl their balloons and set up their baskets. It is still and it is the coldest of the cold of night. It feels like the silence before a liturgy and perhaps it is, in a way. And rather more lovely and fun than most I have experienced. But then, as the sun peeks over the mountains and warmth begins to glow (as do the inflated balloons) each lift off inspires a small, local grassy crowd to applaud their team’s accomplishment – the defiance of gravity.
This feels a lot like meditation to me. When I pray I am defying the gravity of scolding, manipulation and abuse. I am often cold at first and it is deeply still. But there are preparations in my psyche for a loft-off of sorts, in the darkness. And as my mind stills like water stilling from its ripples, there is a new clarity with both the stillness and the light, at which point we can begin to see whatever might, to us, be peace. The lift-off of our hopes and longings in whatever “prayer” or “request of the cosmos” we might release is quiet but involves a small cheer from all those from our past whose tender counsel have brought us to this moment.
It felt, this week, after many mornings of lift-offs at dawn, that I have finally been to something like what I had always hoped church might be. Quiet. Joyful. Colorful. Playful. Equal. Gentle. Wordless; with great coffee and crispy, hot, fried bread drenched in honey and cinnamon. Take. Eat. Rejoice. Giggle. Repeat.