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“The secret is with the cherries—dark red—tart ones from Michigan,” she added. “After I pitted them, I cooked them down with honey and brown sugar ‘til syrupy, then whipped them in the food processor before adding them to the filling. Would you like to try some?”

It looked velvety-plain, blushed with regal hues. Slowly, I spooned some on my tongue, set a-tingle with inside-out sweetness and smacking with chocolate wafer cookie crust—yet instantly, sadness set in: I must swallow this treat.

Such experiences scrape free the perimeters of routine living, blow cobwebs aside, and open new vistas of joy. It’s all about plunging into the present moment, shimmering with inner harmonies, brimming with sensuousness, and replete with buoyancy. Pleasure peaks beyond imagining. However the imperative to hold fast such experiences paradoxically loosens our grip.

Yet we remember such foretastes of heaven. We’ve been visited and we know it.

Evidently the Psalmist had such an experience when he exclaimed, Taste and see the goodness of the Lord (34:8). That was over two thousand years ago.

We are in good company.

 

 

 

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.

 

Ahead of me, cars and trucks inched up the exit ramp curving to the left, onto North Kingshighway Boulevard, site of the sprawling Barnes-Jewish Hospital and clinics. The afternoon sun wilted long grasses along the pavement; the air, sticky with humidity. City pigeons scrounged for seeds.

And yes, there was someone near the stoplight: short, stocky, walking with a limp. A slouch hat covered his head; a graying beard, his square jaw. Safety pins fastened his wrinkled khaki shirt. Around his neck hung three white plastic rosaries of varying lengths and a cardboard sign scrawled with words in black letters. Behind him, stood a battered shopping cart, filled with bags and opened boxes, their contents spilling over its side.

Missing was the City’s ordinance against panhandling, usually posted near the stoplight.

Upon seeing me wave, he hurried to my car, his dark eyes glinting in the sun, his wide mouth grinning, revealing missing teeth. He reminded me of a fun-loving grandpa, full of stories; of an old laborer with a broken body.

“God blesses you!” he repeated over and over, welcoming me into his home. No longer invisible, someone had seen him and he knew it. I was humbled.

Long ago, a friend had taught me that nothing is as it seems.

 

 

Available on Amazon

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