Wild Geese & Weather Balloons


by Benjamin Allen Root, Sr.



Looking west from the city and very high I could see it plainly. A weather balloon floating like a shiny bubble against the deep blue of the morning sky. Others had seen it, too. It seemed to have come out of the dawn. I watched it for some time, trying to determine its movement and what size it might actually be, which also would give some idea about its distance away. But this was hopeless. I could not tell. Finally as I started to get back into my car something else caught my eye. I never would have seen them if I had not been focusing on the distant balloon.


Passing directly between the balloon and me was a large flock of wild geese in V-formation, flying south. They were very high, and almost indistinct. I looked in other parts of the bright sky for more of them, but there were none. They appeared in an interruptive way, as does a small child who wants attention, saying, “Look at me.” The event and the coincidence seemed special. The birds’ course was constant and their wing movements never broke their rhythm of beats. They were focused on a distant point, and traveling at a steady speed. The course would not be changed for the sake of weather balloons or noisy cities below.


Jackson was awakening and beginning to move, but the geese had apparently been aloft for a long time. These flying visitors were from a greatly different world, with no kinship to the rush and turmoil down below. I wondered if they have thoughts about the cities over which they pass. Could beings such as they possibly understand our fashions, our machines, our concrete, our schedules, and our strivings? Is it bewilderment that makes them fly so far above?


They are a strange lot, these creatures of the sky. They seem to hear some distant voice and obey it as though they are free in the heavens through which they pass unquestioningly. Days marked by obedience and free flight lead only to the next day, as they blindly accept the will of that which they cannot understand.


Weathermen will send other balloons aloft to measure high-altitude air currents while for the geese, their flight is already informed. Their very actions indicate that for everything there is a season. Life for them is so simple and methodical that one can easily tell when the sameness of summer days is gone and bright leaf colors are enroute, when the holiday season is about to begin, and when it is time to prepare for winter.


Photo by Carol Baldwin, NOAA OMAO