Of Balloons–and Dreams, and Many Things

Ballooning is a dream...
Ballooning is a dream…

The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things:  Of shoes–and ships–and sealing -wax–Of cabbages–and kings–And why the sea is boiling hot–And whether pigs have wings.”

Lewis Carroll



We went on vacation recently.  How’s that for a first sentence? I can follow it up with…wait for it…I saw a lot of sculpture.  Fascinating, you say?  I went up in a  hot air balloon, attended a 100th reunion, spent time with adult children and with good friends.  We also contemplated FDR as President and Rockefeller as Lord. (The last two are related, via the Hudson River.) I did some birding at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, a really cool place, and spent time in Washington, DC, the Blue Ridge, Lancaster County, and upstate and downstate New York.  We took in such hot spots as Skaneateles, NY, and Intercourse, PA. Modes of transport included plane, metro train, foot, automobile and kayak. Photographs were taken.

On the Mall at Sixth and Constitution
On the Mall at Sixth and Constitution

We lived in Washington for over 35 years, so it’s home.  The National Gallery of Art and the sculpture garden on Constitution Avenue across from the Archives are long-time favorites. Imagine a cool, clear day.  Low humidity, which to Floridians is manna from the gods. Throw in an Andrew Wyeth exhibit of windows, and some Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas and you’ve got me shivering.

Andrew Wyeth Exhibit "Looking Out Looking In"
Andrew Wyeth Exhibit “Looking Out Looking In”


Mary Cassatt--Little Girl in a Blue Armchair
Mary Cassatt–Little Girl in a Blue Armchair

Then, stroll up to the sculpture garden and amble by the big typewriter eraser, the even bigger spider and more old sculpture friends and you’ve got me stopped cold in my tracks.


Typewriter eraser by Claes Oldenbury and Coosje van Bruggen
Typewriter eraser by Claes Oldenbury and Coosje van Bruggen
Spider by Louise Bourgeois
Spider by Louise Bourgeois

Next, we had a tasty lunch, good conversation under the trees, and then walked over to the Hirshhorn sculpture garden.  On the way we peeked at a new tree –wrought in stainless steel–wavy and tangled on one side and smooth and serene on the other. I think it’s symbolic, but beautiful anyway.  I wanted to see it with snow in winter…NOT!

Stainless steel "Graph" by Roxy Paine
Stainless steel “Graft” by Roxy Paine

It was a most fantastic day topped off with a wonderful meal at the Capital Grille (motto: “We wine. We dine”) with interesting, thoughtful and exciting people. Here’s to you, Kathy, Bill, Anne, Bob, Harriet, Steve, Judy, Michael, Julie and Henry. We love you all.  Museums, sculpture and friends. DC at its best.


Next day,  we cleared our minds and headed for the Blue Ridge where we attended Shiloh Quaker Camp. First there were Work Crew Skits featuring a running salad skit (name all the salads YOU can think of)  and a campfire.  I had a flash back to Girl Scout Camp, but I was completely wowed by the songs sung at Shiloh.  My favorite was “I Like Tasty Italian Desserts,”  written and directed–in three part harmony–by a 17 year-old counselor named Diego.  Favorite line:  “Serve me some crispy cannoli.”  The camp director, Hope, our daughter, was also in fine form.   For over 20 years, she has never missed a summer at Shiloh, except when she attended other BYM camps like Teen Adventure.  We are very, very proud of our Director Daughter. Thank you, thank you Baltimore Yearly Meeting for your camping program.


At Shiloh:  Hope, 9, Jordan.14
At Shiloh: Hope, 9, Jordan.14, 1993



Director's Cabin at Shiloh, Pre-Civil War
Director’s Cabin at Shiloh, Pre-Civil War


Hope 2014
Hope 2014








After wandering around in Shenandoah National Park for awhile and visiting a couple of wineries, which are popping up all over Virginia, we headed for Lancaster County, PA., and something completely different.

Looking up
Looking up
Climbing in

A big black, red, yellow, green, orange and purple balloon awaited us in Intercourse, a small dot of a town in Amish Country, most famous for it’s “welcome to” sign.

Traveling around in a balloon is a dream. As suspected, the Amish and Mennonite farms from above are beautiful.

Amish farms are beautiful from the air
Amish farms are beautiful from the air

The ride is  quiet, except when the burners whoosh hot air to make us rise, and rise we did–high enough to see the Chesapeake Bay, and buildings in Philly and Newark. (For a video go to:  http://youtu.be/24i4e99RoDk)  Takeoff and landing is fun, but here’s a truth:  YOU CANNOT STEER A HOT AIR BALLOON–our pilot could only make it go up or down–a hot air balloon is not like a sailboat. (How could be as old as I am and still have that notion?) About sunset, we swooped to land a couple of times only to be thwarted by a tiny breeze blowing in the opposite direction. Finally we alighted in a housing subdivision, where no less that 50 residents gathered to watch, including the local police and our chase vehicle. I heard someone say it was the most exciting thing that ever happened in that neighborhood.  For more great pictures, see my husband’s photo blog of our adventure at: http://johnswankphotoblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hot-air-ballooning-in-pennsylvania-dutch-country/ Many thanks and recommendations to New Horizon Balloon Team and our pilot Todd Plank. And to Nancy, who seems at home after moving back to  where she began

Landing was fun for everyone involved
Landing was fun for everyone involved

Obviously, there’s more of our vacation to come.  Sculpturely speaking, we’ve just touched the surface.  Coming up–Storm King and Kykuit, and a visit to Stone Barns. Birds! More family! More friends! We will not speak of cabbages and kings–but of many other things.





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Retired journalist, writer, editor and teacher. Our lives were lived in the Washington DC area, but I was born in upstate New York. Love nature, birding and reading. Volunteer at Ding Darling NWR . Proud mom of two, married to a wildlife photographer.

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