Ashley LodatoBy Ashley Lodato

The magic of seeing a flotilla of balloons up in the air never wears off. Even though I always know when the Balloon Roundup is happening, I’m still delighted and somewhat surprised to see the sky filled with the colorful inflatables. Rain prevented Saturday night’s downtown balloon glow from taking place, but it seems like most balloonists got some good flights in on Friday and Saturday before things turned soggy.

Artist Bruce Morrison is in La Manzanilla, Mexico, for a few months and one of the many things he is doing down there is volunteering as an artist in the local school. So far Bruce, who speaks Spanish, has worked with the first and second grades.

Most of the kids have never painted before so Bruce, with a bunch of eight-color watercolor sets donated from Methow Arts, is teaching basic brush technique and color selection, using masks of owls (el buho) and butterflies (la mariposa) as templates. Bruce is hoping to touch on el conejo, the rabbit, next week with third and fourth graders.

This project mirrors one that Bruce did in February with third graders at Brewster Elementary. The students who painted owl masks with Bruce in Brewster as part of their study of nocturnal animals are becoming pen pals—amigos de pluma—with students at the school in La Manzanilla. If the technology can be orchestrated properly, the new pen pals will get to have a couple of Skype sessions with their foreign counterparts.

Even when you travel 2,500 miles away, you can’t escape the Methow connection. The other night Bruce and his partner, Karen, were walking out of a grocery store in La Manzanilla and who should they see but Rob Crandall, who, with his family, has been volunteering for Project Amigo in Colima, Mexico, since November.

Second grader Annie Simmons is turning 8 on Wednesday (March 12). I saw Annie on Monday and said, “Tomorrow is your last day of being 7,” to which she responded, “Yes, but I still get to be 70.” That’s one of the most refreshing perspectives on aging that I’ve ever heard! Someone else who probably shares a similarly optimistic outlook is also celebrating a milestone birthday on Wednesday. It’s Ronda Bradeen’s 65th, so congratulations are in order all around.