The brisk morning air chilled my lungs and urged me a little quicker across the rocks and sand. Up on the rise, I saw a balloonist readying for launch. The silk was fierce with streaks of black, red, orange and yellow. The basket, a carefully woven box of comfort and protection, was roomy enough for four or more. “Nice balloon” I offered, standing safely out of the way. She beamed with the simple praise and asked me to ride along.
While the pilot and her friend checked their gear and attended the flames pushing hot air into the sack, I watched a magnificent volcano form in the air. I eagerly climbed aboard when they called, thrilled that they were sharing their adventure with me.
As we flew across the mesa and up the river valley, the friend explained all the details about flying. Through her words, the mysterious magic of flight became comprehensive instructions that even I could follow. The magic was the story teller’s ability to make the learning as much an adventure as breezing over the landscape.
Wow! I could really do this, I realized. Devouring every resource I could find, pestering every pilot I knew, I began the steps to get my own license. Soon I will be flying over this mesa! Great energy and enthusiasm infected all of my conversations. I soon found myself with a wealth of new friends, from all walks of life, drawn to the life changing force those gals had shared with me.
While preparing for my first flight, a shadow caught my eye. The chamisa hinted at movement in opposition to the air. A shape seemed familiar, but I couldn’t be sure. Reaching in my pocket, my fingers found and tossed a token through the air. If I was right about this shadow, the token would be claimed.
Silence stilled the insects, the birds and lizards. Everyone waited for the confirmation. The chamisa moved ever so slightly as shadow became form. I held my breath as coyote lifted the token between her teeth and walked toward where I stood, next to my new balloon. She stopped a few feet away and stood there staring at me. It seemed like an eternity and coyote’s features barely expressed the thoughts within. Her fur laid easily across her back, body poised and ready, but not rigid. No sound came to me from her throat.
Finally, she came closer to where I’d waited as still and quiet as the moon, feeling equally out of place in this bright morning of unexpected possibilities. Coyote stopped, just out of reach, when my arm lifted as though I’d touch her shoulder. I wanted to let her rest that proud muzzle in my hand. I wanted us to remember. Coyote warily dropped the token at my feet and sat, watching. I lifted our peace offering from the sand, returning the charm safely to my pocket.
Our last parting was angry and loud, barking and stomping off in our separate ways. That was over a year ago. Since then, you might have believed we’d never existed, mere thoughts that our minds had imagined. Now, this ghost stood before me forcing our minds to accept what our souls always knew. We were very real.
Laying one hand on the basket and holding the other open to the sky, I invited Coyote to join me. I wanted her to be part of these dreams coming true. Like two pups we tousled, nipped, licked, chased, tackled and finally curled around each other. I dared to trust the contented peace.
Coyote jumped in as I launched the balloon. I rigged a step so she could enjoy the view with me. Coyote accepted my pats on her back and closed her eyes while I scritched beneath her ears. Still, her body never completely relaxed. I began to wonder why she came back, if she would stay. I began to question what I wanted the answers to be. The ravens were everywhere. They’d strutted on the ground as I prepared for launch. They followed us, calling, soaring across my vision and refusing to give guidance. I felt like the elders were laughing while they watched the fool.
We sailed into hoodoo land and I marveled at the alien formations that nature imagined into reality. Coyote began pacing around the bottom of the basket, her nails scraping the floor as her agitation increased. My efforts to calm her completely in vain, I stood back and watched the storm approach.
Leaping onto the step meant to give her joy, Coyote pushed off the rim of the basket and out into nothingness. Form became shadow absorbed by the sky, invisible once again.
Reacting to the dangerous tipping, I was too late reaching for the fire that would breathe life back into my sinking balloon. Gravity stole the crown from altitude. My balloon and I crashed against those bizarre rocks and I sat stunned into silence.
Wedged in a gap between two of those melted cones, I just watched the clouds for a while. Raven came and sat on the peak, back turned to me. When she did turn to face me, she gave a single call then flew up to the sky.
Yes, dammit! I’m up. I’m moving. I’ll make the repairs. This dream is mine. I claim this future that I see. And now, I’ve learned some things must stay behind.