Balloons and Birds

This weekend was the town fair. A hot air balloon launch scheduled for 6am Saturday morning kicked off the festivities. So Justin and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:30 and headed over to the golf course where the event would be. The paper advertised around 60 hot air balloons, but when we got there: zero. But there were spaces marked off for them, and a large crowd was gathered, and there was music, so we waited. Eventually, about ten minutes after 6, a caravan of balloonists appeared. Truck after truck towing balloon baskets drove onto the grass. It was about a twenty-minute wait for the balloonists to get situated and start laying out their balloons before the first ones went up in the air. But it was so worth the wait. Watching balloon after balloon fill up with hot air and lift into the cloud-streaked blue sky, the snowcapped Rockies in the background—such a beautiful site.

As fun and cool as our town’s hot air balloon launch was, it didn’t even come close to the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival. Justin and I were able to attend that for the first time with my brother’s family last fall. It was frickin’ amazing. At both events you can wander around the lawn right next to the balloons as they are being inflated, and you can talk to the balloonists, but in Albuquerque there are just SO many balloons. On all sides of you balloons swell bigger and bigger, lurching into the air, drifting over your head. Eventually the sky is filled with hundreds of little dots of color. It made me feel very small and a little dizzy at times. Here’s a photo I took of our town’s balloon festival as we were driving away:

Pretty cool, I think. But for comparison, here’s a shot of the Albuquerque balloon festival:

Yikes, that’s a lot of balloons. There are also a lot of different character balloons at the Albuquerque festival. Darth Vadar and a mug of beer were two memorable ones from last year. But there were a couple unique ones at our little balloon festival too. There was a tweety bird, and this fun and colorful one:

And this guy made me laugh. Whenever we saw him he always seem to be peeking around something:

This one was my favorite. The painting on it was just so beautiful:

We also spent a good chunk of the day in the backyard pulling weeds, planting flowers, and pruning bushes. Everything was mild and pleasant until an episode of animals gone wild that had an unhappy ending.

Our dog Ace is a total bird dog. He takes running hops at one of our trees that always houses a nest in the spring and summer and he’s always racing around our yard, checking his different bird spots. He’s never caught a bird though, at least until yesterday. We were working away in the yard when this bird swoops from a neighbor’s tree down toward the grass. He wasn’t a very good flier and stayed only a wobbly foot or two off the ground. We weren’t sure if it was a baby bird learning how to fly or if it was already hurt or sick. Anyway, Ace saw the bird and almost immediately was on it. The craziest part of all this was that at the exact same moment, two boys in the next yard over chased a baby bunny through our fence and into our yard. So in the span of probably a minute, the bird swoops into the yard, Ace catches him, two other birds dive at Ace trying to help their friend, my husband is chasing the dog, I jump up to help but see the bunny madhopping across the lawn straight toward us and I say, “A bunny!” and then refocus and grab a hold of Ace and straddle him doing my best to hold back an 80 pound dog who is really, really excited that he finally caught one of his long sought after birds, while my husband shoos away our other dog, and here comes Peter Cottontail darting right through the middle of all this commotion and into the next neighbor’s yard. It was a crazy 60 seconds I tell you.

Ace only had the bird in his mouth for a brief moment before Justin got him to drop it, and we hoped the bird was just stunned or slightly injured, but it wasn’t to be. We took a break with the yard work and had everyone go inside to give the birds some time together. I don’t know if birds pay their last respects the way people do, but we felt so horrible about what had happened it was the only thing we could think to do. Later my husband took the bird and buried it beneath a tree in the park and marked the spot with a little cross made out of bark mulch.

But then, later that evening, my husband excitedly called for me to come see something. He pointed into a tree and this is what we saw:

See the hungry baby bird reaching up its beak for dinner? There are two more in that nest and all three of them were poking up their heads, stretching open their mouths and waiting for food. It was the cutest thing and alleviated some of our guilt over the bird Ace had caught earlier that day. And that’s when the sun broke through the clouds and a gospel choir came step-clapping into our yard singing “Circle of Life.” Okay, maybe that last part isn’t true. But if life were a musical, that’s totally what would have happened.