July 2, 2012

artist date: eyes to the skies

color. texture. light. scale. dynamics. science. people-watching. diversity. action. wonder.
I enjoyed an incredible artist date this weekend at the Lisle "Eyes to the Skies" Festival... I had gone once a few years back to watch the early morning balloon lift-off, and knew it would make a lovely way to start a day again this year! I stopped on my way for coffee, to help my eyes snap open wide and make sure I didn't miss a thing.
The day was absolutely gorgeous, and it started for me at 5AM. It has been a long time since I have been up that early for any reason other than traveling to or from an airport, half-awake. We are so fortunate to live a creative life, which has meant we can make our own schedules most of the time. Our home faces West, and so do all our windows, and it has been a really long time since I have watched a sunrise. We enjoy the most lovely sunsets every night we are home: skies painted incredible shades of pinks and oranges and purples and every blue and grey imaginable, lit from behind by the sinking sun as it casts haunting shadows and adds drama to the palette of pastels. But the sunrise is a whole different experience. So much brighter, almost blinding, so that the textures are less about color and so much more about light. It felt extra-magical to be up to see it on my way to watch the balloons. 
And then I reached the hot air balloon field. At 6AM sharp the announcer, who narrates the balloon lift-off  from his elevated seat above the field, explained to the waiting crowd that due to the direction of wind patterns that morning, the balloons could not fly. If they did, they might interfere with the air traffic at O'Hare. But they would still inflate for us on the field, so we could observe their glory and imagine what they might look like as they drift through the sky. And a few would inflate at the far end of the field, and drift gently to join the rest at our end, so we could get a better sense of what the balloons might look like in flight. 

The upside of this no-fly situation was that we, the audience, were invited to join all of the balloons on the field, up close and personal, which was not usually the case if they lifted off. We were able to watch the balloonists as they performed their art of ballooning from their anchored positions on the ground.  It was our own lovely hot air balloon museum, and we were all in this together, privy to experience something different than we had planned. And it was absolute magic.
The first balloon to inflate was "Joseph's Coat," which was tied three ways with two others for the title of "my favorite balloon." Isn't she beautiful?! I am kind of obsessed!
Several other balloons joined Joseph's Coat, varying colors and purposes - some promotional, some obvious mid-life hobbyist balloons, and several with no clear intent, just there to be lovely. 
One smaller balloon that seemed more 'sporty' boasted trendy neon pink and blue squares and a single harness seat instead of the traditional balloon basket at its base. That balloon rose high from its tether and back down again, showing off its capabilities and its lower limits of flight. It looked like the most fun a person might possibly have. I might have a new adventure-daydream now! (Although my own balloon wouldn't look exactly like this one...)
At the far end of the field, the three balloons who planned to 'fly' began to inflate, and here is where I found my other two favorites: 
I could have sat and watched them for hours, truly! They are so vibrant and magnificent, so breathtaking in scale, volume, color. To stand back and watch them from afar feels like something happened outside of yourself, but to walk beneath them, between them, to watch up close as they inflated and came to life: it is the closest I have come to riding in a balloon myself! These balloons will visit me in my dreams for days and weeks to come, I am certain! Watching them sway in the breeze, almost as if in slow-motion due to their size and dynamics, transported my thoughts high up into the air, like a moment from a Care Bears cartoon I loved when I was small: a vehicle into the drifting clouds. 
I have been dreaming of riding in a hot-air balloon for many years now, and this made me even more excited to try it someday soon (I hope!). What an artist date that will be!

(Learn more about my practice of artist dates here!)

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