On early morning rides down the Oakville Grade from my ranch in the Mayacamas Mountains (between the Sonoma and Napa Valleys) I'd often look down on a scattering of hot air balloons hanging in the still air. By the start of the new millennium, their numbers had increased: to see a dozen or more at one time was not unusual.
These days, balloon sightings are becoming more frequent in San Miguel de Allende too.
Even a single balloon transforms the view, redefining the sky into something more than mere backdrop.
Ballooning is for tourists. Where you see balloons in the sky, you know the locale attracts visitors who appreciate beautiful views slowly unfolding as their aircraft drifts over the landscape.
Over the years the California's Wine Country transformed itself from unpretentious farms into boutique wineries visited by throngs of oenophiles. Increasing numbers of hot air balloons in the Napa skies betokened a loss of rural innocence as sophisticates displaced country folk.
Disillusioned, I moved to Mexico, attracted by its authentic culture. Today it seems that $200 balloon rides have followed me here. San Miguel feels more like Sonoma or St. Helena every day. I didn't come here for this.
Still, I feel a sense of wonder every time I see one of those great nylon gasbags hanging silently in the sky.