The Red Balloon

As I was preparing materials last month for our mid-winter break activity amidst the squall headed our way, I decided to go to West Meadow Beach to collect driftwood. As an outdoor educator, one of the many factors I need to consider are the elements. I saw the short window of opportunity on a weekday afternoon and headed down to the beach.

For the middle of February, it was a mild and sunny day with a slight breeze rippling the brackish water. Likewise, many others were enjoying their walks after being dormant for so many months. Getting my dose of nature, I proceeded north along the wrack line towards Crane Neck Point. The shallow water along the shoreline was crystal clear, which is a good indicator of ecosystem health. As I passed by slipper snail shells, horseshoe crab molts, old oyster shells, whelk shells and dried seaweeds, I grabbed up some small driftwood pieces being careful to remove the bare minimum that I needed and examining them for any signs of wildlife. After all the snow that had accumulated, it was amazing how much sand I could see on the beach. Before I turned around to head back towards my car, that’s when it caught my eye…the red balloon!

I didn’t see it on my route earlier, but there was a red balloon drifting parallel to the shoreline being tossed by the small breaking waves. It was too far out but as someone who cares so deeply for the environment, I knew I couldn’t leave it there. “How cold is that water right now?” I thought to myself. Not terribly cold and I had the right footwear on…bean boots are waterproof but still rather short and I knew the water would flood into my socks and shoes. What were my other options? I followed it as it quickly moved along and as I looked ahead I saw that the beach dog legged left toward the point. From how the current was traveling, if it reached that turn the balloon would get close enough for me to grab it. Many people passed by and waved hello, not realizing what I was trying to accomplish or that there was even a balloon in the water, mind you it was a bright red one. After about 10 minutes of following it, the balloon finally came close enough where I could step into the water without getting soaked and I grabbed it! On my way back to the parking lot, I saw two other popped red balloons twisted among the reeds on the high end of the beach. What was originally a materials collection outing turned into so much more and I’m glad I was there.