Friday, January 18, 2013

Balloon joys? Count the ways

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — Is there a person with soul so jaded that he or she could not be moved by the sight of a big, beautiful hot-air balloon? Or better yet, a whole bunch of ’em? I’m easy. I can still get a thrill from a few little bright red helium balloons going rogue and making a break for it. I’ve felt that way since I was a small child. Even when the lost balloons were my own, I couldn’t help but feel the loss was worth the sight of those Technicolor orbs flying high into the sky. What could be a more apt symbol of one of my favorite things: Freedom incarnate. I’m not alone, by the way. A little balloon is one of the few romantic or child-pleasing gestures you can still make for a few bucks (or a few cents, if you go for the plain, non-helium varieties). I suspect there are quite a few of us, ages newborn through great-grandmom, who would be just as pleased to get a balloon as a single rose, and a balloon bouquet just might trump a pricey pot of orchids or an elaborate flower arrangement. Plus, you don’t have to change the water, nurture and cultivate, or deal with the disposal of the depressing and sometimes smelly and messy remains. A good balloon goes out with a bang (exciting!) or deflates quietly and modestly. If it’s a mortal puncture wound, you can simply toss it in the recycling bin: no muss, no fuss. Or, depending on the balloon, you might successfully inflate it again later. (Balloon resurrection! Talk about inspiring symbolism.) If a mere toy balloon can drive me to hyperbolic descriptives like “soul-soaring,” you can imagine my reaction when I landed at prime time in the hot-air balloon capital of the world. My first visit to New Mexico, a business trip, involved a connecting flight in Albuquerque, during, as it happened, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. “Coincidence or synchonicity?” I mused, as I watched hundreds of big, beautiful balloons drift over the horizon. I took it personally. It might take me awhile, I decided, but I knew I was destined to live in the enchanted land that welcomed me with such a display. Strangely enough, when I finally relocated to northern New Mexico, I went for two years without seeing a single balloon. That all changed when I at last identified my true querencia and moved to Las Cruces. Random hot air balloons seemed to float overhead wherever I ventured my first few weeks. It felt a little like I was being followed, but not the creepy, stalking thing. It was more like kind attention from artistic guardian angels. Before long, I’d been invited on my first balloon adventure, a breathtakingly beautiful float over White Sands, followed by the traditional Champagne initiation rites and some thrilling sagebrush truck crew chases that pretty much did in my new suede boots. It was worth it. Since then, I‘ve become a fan of all the big balloon events, from Albuquerque’s Fiesta to the Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta to the White Sands Balloon Invitational and our own rambling Mesilla Valley Balloon Rally (and sometimes “Non-Rally” and “Fly-in”). I’m hoping it’s officially back in 2014. In the meantime, you have to love an event that gets canceled — and up to 20 balloons show up anyway. We hope that’s happened again this weekend. Keep looking up. You could be thrilled, too. And if someone invites you to go up, up and away in their beautiful balloon, do yourself a big favor. Say “Yes!” S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

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