I am looking at a very strange painting inside the Master’s house. The upper right corner of the canvas shows a flying crow, clutching a white paper airplane in its claws. Below them is a silhouette of a man, holding the string of a yellow kite that flies high, reaching the upper left corner. Under the kite is a red balloon, its white string tied to an old paint brush. It has been my desire to know the story behind this painting since my first visit.
“You’re early today,” the Master says from behind me, a hint of pride and approval in his voice.
“I was bored,” I answer, still looking at the peculiar painting on the wall.
He laughs, and I feel my cheeks burn. “Ah, young women. Get inside then. Your canvas is waiting.” He touches my shoulder, ushering me to the studio.
“Master, would you mind telling me about this painting?” I ask, not moving. He removes his hand from my shoulder to face the painting on the wall. “It’s just that every time I see this picture, I feel a vague sense of sadness. I was hoping you’d tell me the story. It might help with my training.”
Sensing his dilemma, I attempt to take my question back. “… or it might not, I guess.”
“It is a story of letting go.” I hear him say in a whisper.
“How so?” I ask. I believe that letting go means freedom. As I look into the Master’s painting, however, I do not feel any sense of being free. If anything, I feel trapped.
“Or perhaps a story of love,” he continues. I asked him to say more, through silence. “The three times that I fell in love.”
Three, my mind repeats. I let him continue.
“First, it was with an airplane that I made out of paper. She was very simple, yet very beautiful.
I taught her how to fly. It was fascinating to watch her fly as far as the wind would take her. And when I see hints of her landing, I would run to catch her so she would not reach the ground. We were very happy… but then she began to want more.
‘Higher, higher!’ She would say, ‘throw me higher so I can reach the sky!’
I wanted to tell her that paper airplanes were not made for the skies, but she was so ecstatic… and lovely. I was her Master, but I was the one succumbing to her will.
So I climbed the highest tree, and threw her as high as my force would let me.
She was doing so great… but then I saw crows approaching. She was too far from my reach and I could not save her. From the tree, I helplessly watched as a crow grabbed her and took her away from me… to the skies.
The second time was when I learned to make a kite. She had a very optimistic soul, and her happiness was contagious. Learning from the past, I made a string that would always connect us. That no matter how high she went, she would always be within my reach. So I could always save her. So no one could take her away.
One day, the only day I forgot to check the weather, strong winds came. I knew she was not strong enough, so I tried to pull her back to me for safety.
‘No! I want to stay!’ She resisted, bursting with optimism. ‘I can do this, please believe in me.’ She was so determined. And once again, I found myself helpless.
I stopped pulling and watched as the winds tossed her from side to side. I tried to fight for her, but then she stopped me. ‘No, please, just look away,’ she said, all happiness removed from her voice.
When the winds stopped raging, I pulled her to me, promising to heal her. To bring her back.
‘Please, just leave me here,’ she whispered.
I left without her. Grieving.
The third and last time was with a very attractive balloon. My neighbor, a little boy, asked me to watch over her for a little while. The boy never came back.
I kept her with me, eventually falling in love. I took her everywhere with me, proud of holding something so beautiful in my hand. But after a walk in a park, everything changed.
In that park was a group of people laughing while holding balloons in their hands. ‘You’re the most beautiful,’ I told her and she smiled. We watched as together, they lifted their hands and let go of their balloons. We watched as the people clapped their hands and cheered. We watched as the balloons went higher and higher, until they were out of sight.
I looked at the beautiful balloon in my hand. Must I also let her go?
‘Let’s go home,’ she said, and I held her tighter.
As soon as we got home, she asked me to tie her around my arm forever and never let her go. I did as told with a grateful heart, because that was what I also wanted. I would never let her out of my sight.
It was later that I realized my mistake. Balloons were made to fly. I watched as little by little she got smaller and weaker. When the time came that she was too weak to object, I removed her from my arm and tried to make her fly… but it was too late.
My beautiful balloon died in my hand… where she did not belong.”
“And that, dear girl, is what this painting’s about,” the Master says, his voice coarse from telling the story.
I try to hide my tears before facing him. It was a terribly sad, and lonely story. “Have you ever met a Boomerang, Master?” I ask him, trying to lighten the mood.
“I’m afraid not, why do you ask?”
“Well, because once you let a Boomerang go… it can find its way back to you.” I tell him, trying to smile.
He chuckles. “It’s best we proceed with your training before you say anything more.”