Thursday, December 23, 2010

what goes up

We ride by just after seven. A man is standing between his sedan and the benches overlooking Moraga. He has a bundle of balloons. He is releasing them one by one.

I watch them rise into a sky of pale rose wash, here and there briefly ablaze in the red bellies of rainclouds coming and going. The balloons bob and nod, and when a breeze tugs them away they trail their reluctant ribbons over the quiet hills and mirror of the lake1. I feel sure I am in a Magritte.

"Infinite Gratitude"—Rene Magritte

In my (public, California) grade school we had science mostly when volunteers deigned to present it in the spare portable2. I remember the delight of dry ice and bottle rockets, and, on a less engaging occasion, our Very Special Guest from the aquarium telling us we should never let go of a balloon3.

“Why not?” we ask, though we are wondering if perhaps she too has brought dry ice. Because all things, evidently, proceed to the sea, and some things, like balloons, wilt and wash clean of their party-fun pigment and so resemble jellyfish and tangle in the adorable guts of baby sea turtles4 who then die, boys and girls, die forever.

I righteously repeated this factoid at park-picnic birthday parties and graduations for years5. I might congratulate myself for holding my tongue now, but in truth my restraint is not adult, nor am I hushed by the art or whimsy in this tableau of new day, no, I am imagining—and then sure—that it’s the anniversary of this man's daughter’s death, that there is a balloon for every year she lived and laughed before she

was
eaten
by
a
sea turtle.

I will not get graphic. It's an exhausting place, my imagination.
________________________________________________________
1. Reservoir, technically. Another rhythmic lie.
2. My school was as rich as California and public comes. Regardless, I claim fellowship with every child to whom science smells like spare (read: moldy) portable. Incidentally, best "center" ever6.
3. Though their "something in the water" ad campaign is horrendous, I would still like to go the Monterey Bay Aquarium and pet the sting rays. There have been worse campaigns involving fish.
4. In the words of the illustrious C.J. Cregg,  "That's how I like my irony served, my friend."
5. I know, it's surprising I kept getting invitations.
6. Except for this one, obviously.

2 comments:

alex said...

spare portable science demos were really cool (albeit it wasn't that moldy, because rain and SoCal don't identify with each other). as a fellow "kid-from-an-affluent-CA-public-school", a good third of my classmates had parents who were gainfully employed by either USC of Caltech, so they'd volunteer their time to teach us about earthworms, earthquakes, the earth's layers, and how they clean the water we flush down the toilet with microbes before being released into the ocean.

Alia said...

The earthquake presentations were always a particular favorite of mine; I was/am a very morbid child. How lucky we were, anyway!