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  • Frances Schwabenland

What do Sunflowers and Hot Air Balloons Have In Common?

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

One thing that always gets my heart beating a bit faster is when I get off a plane and stand in front of Border Patrol. I hand over my passport and get so excited for a new stamp and a new adventure. Traveling, photographing and writing from exotic locations is definitely my wanderlust call but more and more, I am grateful for not only the far but also the near experiences. The past two weekends have touched my spirit and now for what sunflowers and hot air balloons have in lessons!

Over the past 3 years, The Center for Loss and Bereavement , a non-profit agency whose mission is to provide restorative guidance for those impacted by grief, hosts a fundraiser entitled, "Fields of Hope Sunflower Event". People pay $25 and can walk through thousands and thousands of sunflowers, choosing several they want to take home. This was my first time photographing the event which I thought was brilliant (no pun intended) because nature speaks to us so profoundly. The sunflowers were towering and as I walked on the path, it was as if I was being embraced by beauty. As Helen Keller, the amazing woman who knew profound loss in her life said, "Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what the sunflowers do." The fields were such an inspiring force of whispering resiliency...keep moving forward and looking up. Magic is waiting at every turn along the path.

Fast forward and this weekend Unique Photo offered yes, a "unique" photo opportunity. They provided behind the scenes photography access away from the crowds to the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning . This is the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America. It has been designated multiple times as a Top 100 Festival in North America and number 5 on the list of The 10 Most Spectacular Hot Air Balloon Festivals in the US by The heat hovered above 90 degrees at 6:00 pm on Friday and it wasn't until the last minute did the flag turn from yellow to green, liftoff was a go. I was so impressed with how dedicated everyone was and how very hard it was to get the balloons set up. Sweat was just pouring down . It takes a team to get the basket out, inflate and hold on to the balloon tightly, send flames that will help right the balloon and finally the wonder of ascension! There was not one cloud in the sky which would have provided a nice backdrop for the pictures, but it allowed for the total focus to be on the colorful vibrancy.

These past two weekends, I have been invited to look to the sun, plan out the steps, then trust, allow and be carried!

There is a beautiful "Ballonist's Prayer" that is often said upon landing with a glass of champagne in hand: "The winds have welcomed you with its softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. We have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in laughter and set you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth."

More photographic work can be seen at:

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