Thursday, August 4, 2011

Air Dreaming

or Looking Up

I've never actually met any asthmatic dragons.  That doesn't keep hot air balloons from making me think of them, though, with the wheezing sound they make as the propane burners light, and the hiss of hot air from nowhere, bare seconds before a glowing behemoth drifts into view across the roofline.

One of those gasping breaths sounded the other morning as I was pouring tea in the kitchen.  I ran out onto the patio to look, mug in one hand, camera in the other, to see a whole fleet of balloons (a float? a bubble? What is the collective noun for a bunch of balloons?) sailing by.  Albuquerque is a mighty fine place for hot-air ballooning, and it's not unusual to see one or two on a pleasant morning shortly after sunrise.  To have seven or eight of them gliding past en masse, though, is rare except during the International Balloon Fiesta.

These were all commercial balloons, "regulars" that I have photographed from the patio many times.  Even though I know they're only going across town and will probably land in a vacant lot somewhere, they always manage to suggest adventure to me.  As I wrote last year, seeing them in flight awakens the urge for discovery, for travel into the unknown, for going anywhere so long as it's yonder.  Some crisp autumn morning when the cottonwoods in the bosque are glowing with their own internal sunshine, I'd like to go ballooning and follow the trees down the Rio Grande like a migratory bird.  In the meantime, watching the balloons go past reminded me again of the pleasures of looking up, up, up, when often the focus in the garden is out or down.

In my last post, I embarked on a quest to evoke a greater sense of space—of airiness and light—in my garden, and Diana of Elephant's Eye asked in a comment whether I could make use of any borrowed scenery. I do have little bits of views here and there, a snippet of the Sandias, a snatch of downtown, but not much that can be seen while seated on the patio.  My garden very much needs to be a resting place; the seated views are the ones that matter most.  From the Adirondack chair I can see rooflines and satellite dishes, the very tips of young trees, and not much else—or so I thought.  Then I looked farther up.

Oh.  Yes, I'd say that's some scenery I could borrow.

Why didn't that occur to me before?  New Mexico and skies go together like, well, like scrambled eggs and green chile.*  Even in the mountains, sometimes the most spectacular views happen overhead.  Perhaps the best thing I could do to create a sense of open space—not as a substitute for airier planting, but as a complement to it—is to provide reasons to look up.

Oddly, as vertical as they are, trees don't seem to do that, not at short distances.  They focus attention (at least, my attention) on or under them, not at the sky.  Maybe a trumpet vine to climb the stark east face of the house?  A mirror in the shade, angled to show the sky?  (Surely it would be natural to want to trace the source of the reflection.)  An artwork?  I've long wanted a sculpture, mounted high, of a bird about to take wing, capturing the moment of that leap into the blue.  Like the balloons, just the suggestion of flight might be enough to make the heart soar skywards.

If all else fails, lying down in a reclining chair would probably do the trick just fine.

* With a little melted cheddar, all rolled up in a lightly toasted tortilla.  Yum.


  1. The trumpet vine and the mirror both sound like great ideas to me. I love mirrors in gardens.

  2. Stacy - I finally googled Adirondack chair because I didn't know what it was and you have mentioned it a few times. It didn't look as comfortable as I imagined would be required for in-depth musing.

  3. b a g - we have Adirondacks - try them - they sit blissfully ... on a sunny afternoon tired gardeners have been known to sleep ...

  4. Lie on the ground if you can ... The only problem is getting eaten by insects - but the rumor here is that there may not be mosquitoes in Albuquerque!
    I spent some good time this spring lying on the ground looking up through the branches of a hickory tree ...

  5. Thanks for the vote, Ginny--I'm a little worried about all the root sprouting trumpet vine does, but a neighbor has a vine that has reached all the way to his roof, and it looks gorgeous blooming against the stucco. I love the way mirrors show the unexpected side to things, too, and both of those would be easy fixes.

    b-a-g, what Diana said. I've tried some knockoffs that weren't comfortable, but the really wide deep ones are instant relaxation.

    Sheila, I might have seen a mosquito this morning but couldn't be sure. It would have been the first one of the summer... Looking up through hickory branches sounds like a lovely, dreamy way to spend a spring day.

  6. Ah, such wonders await! I love to watch the sky. I still "see" things there:)

    So happy to read your posts. They always brighten my day!

    Blessings to you.