People long for the sky. We look at birds with envy and we have historically treated the weather, or the sky itself as divine. To get oneself into the air is an expensive venture, no matter how it’s done. One of the earliest forms of overcoming gravity was the hot air balloon. The principle’s pretty simple: hot air rises. Trap that hot air in a container large enough and it will lift a person, or people, to the sky. Today ballooning remains popular, although not generally used for long-distance transit. Still, to be in the sky is a consolation all its own. Various hot air balloon festivals tour the country, but the Lehigh Valley Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival was the first time I’d ever been close to an actual hot air balloon. While not asking, I’m sure it is quite pricey to own and operate one. Given the number of people there, it’s a safe bet that others are fascinated by the sky too.
Apart from one vampire balloon, two things made this “Spooktacular.” One was the fact that it’s midway through October, the month for scares. The other was the vendors selling Halloween merchandise. Options for disguises have come a long way since my childhood. Blinking LED lights dangling from tentacles and battery-operated masks of black that show patterns in glowing colors on the faces of the wearers were both popular among attendees. And not just with children. Although the festival runs all day for Saturday and Sunday there are those of us who came for the evening finale—a mass inflation of balloons followed by a laser show and fireworks.
Such shows as this obviously require a ton of tech and a lot of set-up, but I couldn’t help but think as I watched that the sky, so eerily lit up at times, that in ancient times this would certainly have been considered as a theophany, an appearance of the gods. Projected onto the sky itself, or penetrating that very sky, the lights could be made at times to dip, creating the impression of something large descending from above. It was a show worth seeing. As we drove home—it was past my bedtime and I had the passive role of passenger—I spotted a large bird winging through the night, dark against a low cloud. Too dark to identify (although probably an owl), I thought how birds have a view that’s still rare among land-dwellers. Theirs is the realm of the gods.