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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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From brooding skies belch handfuls of snow, etching tree trunks with lacy fingers, rounding shrubs with capes of ermine, and obscuring remnants of brown leaves mashed against fence posts. Winds rollick flakes in a centrifuge with a no turn-off switch.

Hours pass. Darkness encroaches this boisterous play. Within the halogen glow of street lamps, snow-swirls waltz to the strains of an invisible orchestra. Silence hushes this wintry phenomenon with wordlessness. And still it snows—throughout the night. With daylight comes a gradual surcease. Only traces of snow meander upon the white world, until finally exhausted.

Such displays reveal the white fire of an Unseen Presence beautifying the sordid, igniting our senses, and stirring our imaginations.

We are grateful.

 

Like a cunning lover, last week’s snowfall wooed autumn’s dismantling within the rigors of winter: Leafy branches sported white overcoats; spindly shrubs stooped in supplication; fence posts peaked with medieval turrets. A solitary cardinal flashed toward a neighbor’s woodshed, then alighted and preened like a celebrity caught within the blitz of paparazzi. From a snow mound poked the handle of a red wagon. Flurries outlined swirls of breezes that fashioned ghostly images upon the asphalt street and tousled the green muffler flapping around the snowman’s neck nearby. Only random cars moved about.

All was still: Its pregnant hush evoked an OH! The first morning of creation must have felt like that.

Such OHs burst with silence, trip breathing, balloon joy, and open onto the companioning Sacred within our depths. Yet a tinge of sadness lingers in their wake, such OHs! so fleeting and evanescent. Would that we could hold onto them. That being said, we can still watch for them and give thanks when experienced.

And this year, do watch for OHs! around Thanksgiving tables, graced with family and friends. Go beyond well-worn traditions and bring something new: a new dish, a new prayer, a new listening.

“Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Available on Amazon

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