Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Purple balloon

On rare, special occasions when I was in Elementary School, the teacher would bring in a film projector. Oh heaven! And we would sit in the dark and watch a film. Because rolls of film were valuable and precious commodities in those days, with no alternatives, there were only 11 films to go around in our school. So those are what we watched, over and over. And of those eleven films the one, for reasons forever lost to the mists of time, that we watched most of all was The Red Balloon.

I could look it up in two seconds on my computer, maybe even watch it in full, and learn many interesting, surprising things about this loosely remembered movie, but this isn't that kind of post. So instead I'll tell you what I remember it as:

The Red Balloon is a French film about a curiously sentient red helium balloon that follows a boy around Paris. It was either a boring movie in which nothing much ever happens, or a quietly enchanting film about everyday magic and the delicacy of love. I can't remember which.

Today I saw a purple balloon.

I looked out the window from my roost high above the city, and there it was, level with me in the air, floating down the Wintry street. 

Since I first watched The Red Balloon, in let's say 1972, I have seen thousands of loose helium balloons. I have seen them rising into the sky. I have seen them floating en masse along with the wind, and I have seen them trapped in the large atrium of my library, long ago escaped and now dipping and bobbing out of reach with gentle aimlessness in our quiet atmosphere. But this purple balloon, in all that time since The Red Balloon, was the first balloon I had seen with a sense of purpose. It was the first balloon acting on its own volition. It was the first balloon anything like the red balloon.

Except it was purple.

At a steady 75 feet above the street the purple balloon made its way towards The Mississippi River. Its path was straight and pure. Its pace did not alter. I, like any rational person, most of the time revert to not believing in magic, and so I expected the purple balloon to hit the turbulent air currents of the river gorge and to be wildly tossed about.

But no.

The balloon continued its steady, purposeful way up the bridge, as unaffected in its journey as any car down below it was in theirs. Then, at the midpoint of the bridge the purple balloon stopped. It rose another 100 feet in the air, and then it headed down The Mississippi River and disappeared from my view.

As I write this I fully assume that balloon is still somewhere on its journey. Please keep an eye out for it. I believe there are many unexplained things in our world. Maybe almost every single thing is so. But ever I live in hope that it is not forever, and one by one everything will be revealed.


  1. Lovely post! And what a coincidence, as I was just talking about that beautiful little film to my students. It rather planted itself in our imaginations and in a tender way. If I see the purple balloon, I will immediately post on the day's blog and send photos via FedEx.

    Oh, and another (albeit older grade and darker) staple movie... Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Remember that one?

    1. Thanks Grape, I'm so glad you liked it.

      I do remember Owl Creek, though for us I would put it on the opposite end of the spectrum and feel like we only ever saw it a few times. Maybe there was a recognition that once the twist was ruined it's not as good. I find myself a touch critical of the "it was all but a dream" plot device". (see Wizard of Oz).


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