"Nearer My God To Thee"
By: Terry Bryan
Photos by Cathy Bryan
The journey through life offers many adventures along the way; but we must make the choice whether to participate in them or not. Or, in some cases, let our spouse determine our degree of participation! Such was the case for me as I was notified about a week ago that Cathy was going to go up in a hot air balloon. I thought this would be a great experience for her and planned to thoroughly enjoy witnessing her ascent into the sky from my secure location with both feet planted on the ground. Imagine my surprise when she informed me a few days later that she thought she had it worked out where I could go along as well. Suddenly, I wasn't so sure that this was really such a good idea---after all, I had (jokingly) suggested that she take out a one day insurance policy before her flight. Being a man of prayer, I set about getting in contact with my maker and thought I was doing good as we experienced storms coming in two days in a row before the flight date. I was sure He was hearing my prayers and that the weather was not going to allow the flight of the balloons to occur. Well once again it seems as though God had a different plan than me.
We arrived for the preliminary meetings, and no one seemed to appear overly nervous; then they asked who was there with the media that would be making the flight and Cathy was the only one to raise her hand----no wonder no one was nervous, they were not going UP! The next thing I knew we were being introduced to our pilot and were on our way to the launch site. There was still an outside chance that I would not be a passenger when he stated that it depended if they had anyone else assigned to him or not (OF COURSE THEY DIDN'T).
As we began to assist with the preparation of the balloon, I got caught up in the tasks at hand and didn't give much thought to what was about to transpire. Then it hit me when Michael, our pilot, seemed to have an urgency in his voice as he instructed us to hurriedly climb in the basket. Once inside, there was no time to reconsider and we were on our way up. Now you must know that I am one of those who do not care for heights in any form or fashion---I believe strongly in the passage that states "Lo, I am with you always" with the emphasis being on the word "LO".
I found myself delightfully surprised that the height did not bother me, in fact it was overcome by the awe of the experience. Cathy and I were both taken back by the serenity of the moment and the peaceful passage we were making through the air. I began thinking of possible titles for the article that I was expected to write, some of which were a little cliche-ish like: "Up, Up and Away", "The Wind Beneath My Wings", "I Believe I Can Fly", and even "A Bird's Eye View". However, as we settled into this experience of a lifetime, it seemed only appropriate to use the title of "Nearer My God to Thee". Indeed, I was amazed at how my perplexities were replaced with peace as we soared above the hustle and bustle of life below. For a moment I was completely captivated by the beauty of creation that lay before us with the sunrays penetrating the cloud cover and the fields of freshly baled hay beneath us, and the neatly arranged property lines distinctly portrayed from this vantage point. Another amazing feature of the flight was the calm quietness that was only interrupted by occasional burst of the burner which enabled us to maintain our safe distance from the activities that were below us. Indeed it seemed as though time were standing still for us just so that we could take in the real beauty of a world that we often take for granted or that we often miss because of our hectic pace of life.
Another thing that I had not given any thought to concerning this experience was that we were completely at the mercy of the wind; the original flight plan had to be scrapped because there was no way to navigate a flight to the North when the wind was blowing to the South. That was when I also realized that balloonist can not do it alone; they need the assistance of their ground crew (the chasers) to enable them to have a truly successful flight. Life is not to be experienced alone either, we all benefit from the assistance that we get from others throughout our lifetime. One last thing that came to light as we got ready to land was that we could be at ease because we had an experienced pilot guiding our way and there to make us have a secure landing. I had not really thought about the landing procedure too much until it was just about to happen, once again it was a little late to back out now. Did you know that there is no brakes or steering mechanism on a hot air balloon?? Thank goodness for Michael who has over 1600 flights worth of experience; this is one of those times when you want to be in the Master's hands.
We made a good two point landing and were back on the ground before you knew it. I owe my wife a word of thanks for prompting me to go beyond my comfort zone and experience a part of life that I am glad I did not miss. And a special thanks to Bobby McDonald for arranging for this to happen and for those on the Dairy Festival Board that see to it that the Balloons are a part of the Festival every year. We truly live in a great town!
By the way, the name of our balloon was "The Spirit in the Sky" and that is exactly what I experienced during this flight. Thank you Michael and Josie Scott for taking of your time and giving of your talents to make this a great experience!
"A truly AWESOME Ride!!!"