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Recently, a single red balloon found its way into my backyard, its bottom booted by trickster winds under brooding skies; its redness plummeted me within the experience of Pascal, the kindergartner in the Academy-Award winning short, The Red Balloon (1956) by Albert Lamorisse. Filmed in the run-down Ménilmontant neighborhood of Paris, still recovering from the war’s devastation, the mood is somber, its grayness pervasive. Spare is the dialogue amidst the noise of street life.

On the way to school Pascal happens upon a red helium balloon snared within the crook of a streetlamp, frees, then, tames it: its brightness emboldens his fragile sensitivity, easily bruised by the crimped world of adults and hooligans around him; it becomes his confidante. A playful lei-motif traces their developing relationship, with its pranks, foolishness, joys, and grief.

But The Red Balloon is not just an ordinary movie. Its opening scene engages our imagination and plunges us into the world of symbols; some of the following are notable: grey clothing: mourning; the Cosmic Suffering Christ: red balloon; wetness: cleansing; the Divine Child: innocence; stone stairs: heights and depths; and redemption: the cluster balloon ride—thereby imprinting this story upon viewers for decades.

Even today, eyes quicken with smiles whenever the story of Pascal and his red balloon is shared.

Do treat yourself. Both the book and the short are still available on Amazon—even a freebie on YouTube.

 

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(Home care patients I’ve known.)

 

Mildred, 83 years old,

loner in dusty bungalow.

From her heart spewed nastiness: “I put my daughter-in-law’s picture in the shit house where she belongs!”

Each defecation renewed the enmity.

Twinkle Toes, her double-footed cat, kept her distance.

 

Ann, 84 years old,

born in the projects.

Years of scrubbing dulled yearnings.

The shock in the mirror: “My hair is white!”

Intruder-killer infected her lungs.

 

Sarah, 85 years old,

Scottish spinster in ground floor apartment.

Shock of white hair matched the wildness in her eyes.

Menial work around city neighborhoods toughened her feet.

Now, ulcerated, they restrict her movements from bed to commode to chair.

Friends still knock on her door.

 

Juanita, 74 years old,

matriarch in son’s bedroom, frozen in recesses of atrophied brain.

Swollen eyes resembled the sorrowing mother.

G-tube feedings ballooned her dark frame propped upon pillows.

Her extended family watched television.

 

Marie, 77 years old,

chameleon in duplex.

Spent, she had lived within the will of her mate.

Like a flitting moth, she sought rest, but there was none.

Catalepsy crippled her body-soul, listing to the right.

 

Vivian, 61 years old,

victim in handicapped apartment.

Mousy hair pulled from temples spooked hooded eyes.

Safety-pinned sweaters warmed her stone-heart.

Soul illness infected her joints, precipitated seizures.

She sat in her chair.

 

Mildred-Ann-Sarah-Juanita-Marie-Vivian limped through end time, the dross of their spent lives purified within God’s emptiness, encircling them with blessing.

 

 

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Free-fall into specter-world stuns the senses.

Impenetrable darkness obliterates the terrain.

Stench of rubbish steams the eyes.

Tasteless gloom salts the pores of life.

Dissonance clamors for direction.

Bruising of predicable routines sours the tongue.

 

Splintered glass crazes the heart-wound.

 

We enter the madness, its deafening silence enjoining participation.

We wait.

We begin to breathe.

 

Time passes.

Tears seep through ironclad fortresses.

 

More time passes.

We surrender.

 

New vision orients us to shades of gray around us.

Caustic demands diminish their stranglehold.

Strange sweetness awakens the heart, its wound a stitched ridge.

A moist path emerges beneath us.

We stand, our first steps, wobbly.

Behind us is what was.

Ahead, fresh adventure into the unknown, companioned by the Unseen.

 

 

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Available on Amazon

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