IT WAS AMAZING
May Woodhouse – Goodreads Review
"I know from personal experience that a lone balloonist stands out as unusual in a crowd with stories of their exploits. However, it takes a Ruth E. Wilson to stand out among balloonists. The Australian’s sparkling eyes and broad smile welcome strangers as much as her fascinating career. Her story in her memoir Conquering Clouds I (Shawline Publishing Group) will captivate you from beginning to end. From a poor Australian family that struggled for years to a world-renowned hot air and gas balloonist, Ruth’s is a story of adventure and perseverance.
Born to a single woman toward the end of World War II who bore a son a year later and who struggled to provide for her children, Ruth lived with her grandparents for a while and her brother was sent to a foster home. “The terminology ‘love child’ was nowhere to be heard of. ‘Bastard’ was more prevalent,” she writes. When she was three, her mother married, and her husband adopted the children. Ruth would be well into adulthood before she learned that the man she knew as Dad was not her biological father. “I had my birth father’s name…I had to find him.” The search lasted the rest of her life.
Like so many women of the era, Ruth married and had two children. “I had left the poverty and unhappiness of my childhood behind for a better life, one with a bright home, two beautiful children and a husband who provided well. I should have been happy, but I couldn’t shake the gnawing feeling something was missing.”
Her husband’s career advancements saw the family living in America, Japan, and New Zealand before they returned to Australia. Each move opened the possibility of something that “would squash the feelings of emptiness that sometimes took hold of me.” She fulfilled her duties as wife, mother, and hostess. Baptized a Methodist as a child, she had no structural religious upbringing, but in Japan, she became curious about the eastern religions, Shinto and Buddhism. Her spiritual life grew as she learned to interpret her dreams, experienced out-of-body events, and learned to read Tarot cards. She began writing for an English-language paper which opened her world to more new experiences.
One of the stories took her to Jim Greig, a balloonist. “’What’s a balloonist?” I asked. Who knew that my life would be changed by one casual question?” And so it began. It was the early 1970s and ballooning worldwide was in its infancy, perhaps more so in Australia as the earliest equipment had no instruments. (European and American balloons had temperature and altitude gauges.) Ruth was irretrievably hooked. Her stories of learning to fly, meeting other balloonists and eventually becoming an organizer of events, if there were balloons around, Ruth was bound to be there.
One of her crowning achievements was organizing a fly-drive event across the country – The Trans-Australian Balloon Challenge – to celebrate the country’s bicentennial. It was spectacular. What a way of visiting parts of Australia tourists never see, meeting people in the Outback who welcomed us with open arms. In Kimba, for example, a local said the balloons were the biggest event to hit the town since water had been piped in some years earlier.
Ruth and her husband, Kevin, raised two wonderful boys, Mark and Grant, both of whom became accomplished balloonists, but the marriage did not last, though they co-parented well.
Ruth flew in some of the best-known balloon events in the world: Chateau d’Oeux in Switzerland, Battle Creek, Michigan, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dubai, Japan, Canada and, of course, all over her home country. While her ballooning life was fulfilling, two of her greatest dreams eluded her: her search for a life partner and the search for her biological father.
Ruth writes that she shared her stories “some challenging, some joyful and others borne of pain that may have forged by evolving spirit…Sure, my fascination for the sky has brought me much pain and loss…but it’s given me power, self-knowledge, independence, and, above all freedom.”
Plan on staying up late to finish this book."