We awoke at 5:30 that morning and were out of the house by 6:15. Of course, the pilot and crew were up and out at least an hour before us. I was visiting my family in New Mexico, and my brother Paul had arranged a hot air balloon ride for me. I know at least 5 people who have ‘hot air balloon ride’ on their bucket list. How lucky am I that Paul’s friend and neighbor Mark is a hot air balloon pilot AND he offered to take me up. A hot air balloon ride! I couldn’t believe it when Paul told me about it prior to my arrival. And now here we were, driving to the launch field in Belen, about an hour away from his house.
We drove mostly in silence, the kind of easy, comfortable silence one feels with a loved one; no words needed. The gorgeous, full moon was calling it a night, and we watched as she slipped quickly out of the perfectly clear sky, into bed, pulling up the covers of the beautifully surreal mountains that lie before us – ‘Goodnight Moon’. The dawning sun quickly took her place, and we arrived at the field to a bright, breezy and surprisingly cold morning. My excitement was mounting.
The various crews and pilots were convening, discussing the wind that threatened to put a kibosh to any flights. I hoped, hoped, hoped that we’d be able to take off.
As they assessed the situation and discussed strategy, I quickly learned that the ‘chase crew’ 1) arrived before the pilot, 2) unpacked and prepared the balloon ‘stuff’, 3) waited around while the pilot went up and, 4) drove out after the landing – wherever the balloon ended up – to pick up pilot and passengers, pack up the ‘stuff’ and go home. Huh???
Then, something happened. I relaxed into the experience, and the energy of the pilots and crews (some would say ‘fanatics’). Yes, they were grumbling about the wind, yet they were joking, grabbing donuts and goodies that had been shared by the group, trying to stay warm, catching up with each other. It was a St. Patrick’s Day flight, and many were wearing green: streamers, hats, temporary tattoos, boas. And shamrocks, lots of shamrocks. A unique group of people – non-conformists; I later described them to someone as ‘air bikers’. I didn’t understand the lingo, yet one thing was obvious – they LOVED being together, and being in the moment, regardless of the outcome.
We never went up.
And I loved it! The whole thing. The drive out with my brother, standing around waiting (and freezing!), watching this unique group of people who share the same passion and come back time after time, regardless of the outcome. The discussion, the final call. And nobody left. They stayed, we stayed and we all stood around laughing, talking and enjoying the beautiful morning.
I am a Sadhaka, and although the literal meaning is ‘someone who follows a particular sādhanā, or a way of life designed to realize the goal of one’s ultimate ideal’, I am finally starting to get that each experience – each triumph, each setback, each windy day and ‘no fly’ call – is a precious reminder that indeed, the journey is the destination. Om Namah Shivaya Shivaya Shiva!