05 October 2003

Such a weekend! I am torn between the desire to describe every moment and the desire to go to bed, so I’m compromising by writing until the dryer’s finished running its cycle, figuring that I need to stay up until the laundry’s done anyhow. Zeke’s already in bed, stretched across all the pillows, snoring like the crusty old man he is. Every snore from his salt&pepper nose tempts me to bed, so I’ll type quickly.

Friday night, I went with Tiska to an opening at the Coleman Gallery on Central/Rte 66. I love that Tiska keeps inviting me to these artistic events; without the impetus of her company I probably wouldn’t go, but there is something inherently healthy about an artistic space. Wandering around Page’s gallery, I was struck by her ethereal landscapes, but even more, I was struck by peace of the gallery, and thought about the hours I spent wandering the Falconer Gallery at Grinnell....

Though the Coleman was lovely and full of wonderful pieces, I was actually more taken with the New Grounds Print Shop next door. It’s a combination gallery/workshop/classroom, and artists can rent time in the print shop, which is wonderful because presses are very expensive and few beginning artists can afford their own. New Grounds had the same ambience I so valued in the painting & drawing studios at Grinnell. "There is a sort of energy here [in the studio], a tangible vibration of creation. It is in the finished or near-finished works on the walls, the still lifes in the center of the room, the easels standing ready to hold blank canvases, eager to hold up art... " (3 October, 1999)

Later, Tiska and I went for dinner with her friends Val and Liz at Taj Mahal on Carlisle (only a few blocks from my house!). It was a funny dinner because Val and Liz kept asking me questions about the midwest: "What do people eat there?" "What jobs do people have?" "What do people do for fun?" "How do they talk?" I loved talking about Iowa and Wisconsin, of course, but I felt kind of weird and kept saying, "It is the same country, after all." But I tried to explain about hot dish, and potlucks, and getting lost in cornfields when we were kids. Later, I said something to Tiska about their fascination, and she said something about the midwest being exotically normal.

Saturday, I helped Tiska cover the pond so falling leaves don’t muck it up, and after a long conversation about our usual topics – how stupid Bush is, and how scary the country is – we watched part of the movie "Punch Drunk Love," but hated it and turned it off.

Saturday night I went with my friend Lisa to this great coffee shop in Cedar Crest to support Jennie and her friends. They had an evening of psychic events, and because Lisa and I were too poor to afford to pay anyone for a reading, Jennie and her friends offered to do some gratis readings for us. Jennie is one of those rare people who becomes vital to me within days of our meeting, like Ali. She "read my crystals" which – like most things with Jennie, I suppose – sounds completely crazy but at the time, because I trust Jennie so much and because she has such a deep sense of honesty about her, it seemed perfectly natural. Also, the things Jennie told me affected me in a deep way, and part of this, I think, had to do with this very strong conviction I suddenly had that I was loved and valued. Later that night, after I dropped Lisa off at her mountain house in the countryside between Cedar Crest & Edgewood, I drove home on Rte 66, listening to "The Joshua Tree," enjoying the chilly night air (!!), and watching the mountains, black against the lighter blue of night sky. I began to feel that this is home....

This morning, I got up at 4:00 AM and with Danielle and her parents headed down to the Balloon Fiesta. When we got to the grounds, it was still very dark, and very cold (yay!! I even got to wear mittens!!). While Danielle’s father went to save us a picnic table on the launching grounds, Danielle, her mother, and I went in search of breakfast burritos and coffee. Breakfast burritos: disgusting in Iowa, delightful in Albuquerque. Packed with hot green chile and cheese.... mmmm. Just before 6:00 the first balloon went up. Dawn was still a while off, but the mountains behind us were already beginning to take shape against the lightening sky. The first balloon was yellow, lit up by its propane flames like a giant chinese lantern against the still dark sky.

The whole AIBF scene was like a cross between a state fair (with all the booths and people selling all kinds of randomness – we even saw two alpacas) and RAGBRAI (with all the "teams" and balloonists). Just after dawn, the field began to fill with balloonists inflating their balloons, and by about 7:00 there were already two or three long rows of balloons waiting to begin the mass ascension. Of course, the first two balloons of the mass ascension were the POW-MIA balloon and the Zia (New Mexico flag) balloon, both carrying giant American flags. For the next few hours, the lift-offs were non-stop. Every minute another balloon took off, and we were close enough to see the specifics of the take-offs quite clearly: handlers dropped the anchors, a referee with a dog hat on (haven’t figured that one out yet) blowing a whistle, clearing a path through the crowd for the gondola to bump along the ground several feet until it gains a bit of height and floats up to join the rest. We stayed until about 9:30, at which point the crowds were becoming rather unbearable, and the sky was filled with hundreds of balloons, with hundreds more on the ground waiting for their cues to begin inflation and ascension. It was pretty incredible, though I wished there was a part of the field reserved for spectators who promised to be totally silent and not say irritating things. Something about the giant balloons slowly lifting into the sky and then hanging aloft against the morning blue calls for quiet and peace. Next year, you’ll have to come down and experience this for yourself; it’s too big for pictures or words. I’m hoping that later in the week I’ll be able to find a good watching place high above the crowded fields from which I can watch the Glow (all the balloons lighting up after sunset) and "afterglow" fireworks.

For now though, the laundry’s done and Zeke’s kicking in his sleep, so I’m signing off for tonight, to catch up on some of the bedtime hours I spent this morning jumping around a frosty pre-dawn field (in a sweatshirt and jeans and mittens!!).

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