A Prayer and a Champagne Toast

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One of my fondest memories is a hot air balloon ride I took on a calm, summer evening a few years ago. The first time I took to the skies, I was more than a little nervous. I have a fear of heights and wasn’t sure how I would react once the balloon was high in the sky. I mean, there are so many unanswered questions: Where will it go? Where will it land? What if I want to bail out? But it was a beautiful, balmy day at Seven Lakes Park in Holly – perfect conditions for a balloon ride, according to the captain who assured me there was absolutely nothing to worry about.

On that evening, about 15 balloons were tethered to the ground in the park, the brilliant hues of the envelopes (the fabric that holds the hot air) billowing in the clear, blue sky. Four of us were lined up to board the gondola (basket) – me, my friend, a man who happened to be an airline pilot and his young daughter. The captain assured us it would be a great flight.

I could hear the sound of the flame from the burner and the whooshing of the air as it filled the balloon. We were then gently lifted, sending us on an undetermined path as high as 1,500-2,000 feet into the sky.

For some reason, my fear of heights disappeared – probably because the view was so breathtaking. It was very peaceful and serene; the only sound I heard was that of a barking dog below. We soon drifted over Lake Fenton and I immediately began taking photos of the scenery below and all the other balloons in the sky.

The breeze took our balloon in another direction, and we drifted back toward the Holly area, where the captain lowered us over a lake and the basket gently skimmed the surface. I took a photo of another balloon that had lowered down near the lake, catching a perfect moment as the balloon’s image was reflected in the water.

When it came time to land, I was a little jittery; but there wasn’t anything to worry about – the landing was as smooth as silk. Feeling only a slight bump as we touched the ground, our exhilarating journey had come to an end.

We were picked up by a group of “balloon chasers” who follow the path of the balloon during its flight and then, help the captain break it down. After driving back to the park, we were given a certificate as a keepsake and shared a champagne toast. Written on the certificate is the Balloonist’s Prayer: “The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. We have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in laughter and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother Earth.”

The experience created a memory I will keep in my heart forever!

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