I Know a Woman Named Molly Whitman

I am fascinated by hot air balloons. The colors, the size, their slow ascend into an evening sky. The view that allows a living person the closest thing to an angel eye view of the spectacular creation that is the world. No drama, no political debate, nothing. Just the calm, quiet peace of air and height.

I am also terrified of heights. I haven’t been on a rollercoaster since the summer of 2004 and that was a feat.

I’m also not big on feeling physically insecure, meaning that I have open air on both sides. This is why I like to sit either by a wall or next to at least one person, but I prefer a middle seat. It is also why I hate motorcycling, because add in a high rate of speed to a lack of sides and you have given me all of the necessary ingredients for a full-fledged freak out. Pedal bikes I can handle because I control the speed.

I realize that this sounds insane. A woman so afraid of heights that she has backed down the stairs leading up to the Gemini at Cedar Point, and who enjoys tight enclosed spaces, actually wants to get into a hot air balloon? Ask me if I like planes. I dare you. It’s probable that you know that answer. I do not.

I’ve asked my husband about hot air ballooning with me, and I have asked him more than once. The answer doesn’t change. No—he doesn’t trust a basket.

There is a hot air balloon festival in Metamora, Michigan every fall. I have never attended and I have wanted to for years. Maybe this year nothing will conflict!

Thinking about hot air balloons makes me wonder about the things that fascinate us. For me, my fascinations are closely related to my fears. Heights equal fear which equals a fascination with hot air balloons. Water equals fear which equals a love for, desire to conserve, and hot tempered rage at the destruction of, oceans and marine life. I cannot swim, yet I want to whale watch.

Could it be an innate desire to conquer something within myself? My inner Merida saying “I can do this!”

I wonder who else has fears and fascinations that contradict. Whitman says, “do I contradict myself, very well then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

One of my favorite bands, Flogging Molly, says in their song “Float”, “ah but don’t, no don’t sink the boat, that you built, you built to keep afloat.”

My boat is my own healthy level of fear and need for self-preservation; however, as Whitman says, I’m allowed to contradict myself. And who doesn’t have a bucket list of contradictions?

If I combine Whitman and Flogging Molly, I get this (Molly Whitman): “I contradict myself, and I have a boat that keeps me afloat, I am large, like a hot air balloon, I contain multitudes, even if I am alone in my basket.”

And at the end, I am left wondering if I could climb into the basket, even if I found myself alone. I also wonder… what was Walt Whitman’s hot air balloon?





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