If you're waiting for the perfect moment, you'll never write a thing because it will never arrive. I have no routine. I have no foolproof anything. There's nothing foolproof. —Margaret Atwood
My Birthday Present
My birthday is at the end of August, and I had big plans: I was going on a hot air balloon ride. I’m not a big “bucket list” person, and this is really the only thing I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t know why that is—any one of my friends could tell you that I’m afraid of heights, rollercoasters, and flying in airplanes.
But a hot air balloon doesn’t really seem like any of those other things. It seems like something else entirely, like magic. Like the sheer whimsy of the thing will prevent anything bad from happening. Besides, as I told my friends, I’m simply not glamorous enough to die in a hot air balloon ride.
The balloon ride was scheduled for the actual day of my birthday, and the whole week prior, I was so excited that I was practically dancing around the house. I don't know what the weather was like where you live last August, but where I live, it was a creeping, sultry month in which the air was so warm that it seemed desperate, clinging to my neck as I tried to go about my business. I was eager to get up into the sky, away from the heat.
The Plot Twist
The day before my birthday, I got a call from the balloon pilot, Bryan. (Yes, hot air balloon pilots have FAA licensure.) He had been in an accident (no one was injured, but the vehicle he used to transport the balloon equipment was damaged) and needed to reschedule.
I said of course, and that I was glad that he was okay, and that I was looking forward to going on the balloon ride whenever we could make it happen. And then I hung up and felt very sad and moped around for the rest of the day. I wanted to go on the ride on my birthday. It was going to be special. Boo-hoo poor me; I couldn’t go on my balloon ride.
My husband gave me no pity. “You’re being silly,” he said. “It’s too hot right now. It won’t be fun. Reschedule it for the fall. Then we can look at the leaves and it will be nice and cool.”
I didn’t want to listen to him; I wanted to reschedule for as soon as possible. But I knew he was right. So I rescheduled for October 11 and hoped for fair weather.
As the heat passed away and the air turned cool, I began to get excited again. The day of the ride was absolutely perfect, with blue skies and light wind.
We met Bryan, owner of Aerostat Productions, in the parking lot at Big Y Supermarket near my house. I didn’t know what we were doing, exactly. Bryan had said that we would “go from there,” but I didn’t know what that meant.
Well, it turns out that you can’t really plan the flight course of a hot air balloon ride in advance. All you can really control in a balloon is whether you go up or down. For the rest, you have to depend on the wind.
So he tested the wind and determined it was blowing toward the south. That meant we would drive north and float back.
Once we were in Sunderland, Bryan tested the wind again, and explained that the colder the air, the more “lift” we would have. (Again, thank goodness we didn’t go in August!) We helped him set up and inflate the balloon on its side using a large fan. Then he and his assistant, Dave, righted the basket (yes it’s a wicker-style basket) and turned on the flame. The flame that emits the hot air is, unsurprisingly, hot. Again, October was the better time for this adventure.
We clambered into the basket and Bryan raised the flame and then slowly, slowly...we started to rise. We floated forward and I thought we would run into a tree, but just before we touched the branches, we rose swiftly into the sky.
People waved to us from the ground as we sailed slowly over the Pioneer Valley, over the corn maze (quite the view from the sky!), over houses and fields and trees, even over a flock of birds. It was quiet. It was magical. It was perfect.
It was worth waiting for.
Most Things That Are Worth Doing Are Worth Waiting For
As with the balloon ride, I’m not always patient. I want my writing to be finished. I want someone to publish it. I want it all as soon as possible, preferably now.
But I don’t have control over anything but the writing itself. I show up. I write. It will be finished when it’s right. It will be published when the right editor appreciates it.
In the words of the immortal Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.” That’s why it’s important to try not to think of it as waiting. You aren’t waiting, you’re working.
And you’re practicing the art of perfect timing.