Back then, we did all the research that seemed required. Our main concern was fire. We didn’t want to be responsible for a chimney or a tinder-dry meadow being set alight, or even a hay-barn. We were assured that the paper structures would drift gently downwards when the flame went out. And, should one happen to snag a branch on its descent, it would just stay there glowing until extinguished. No problem.
Our other concern was eco-friendliness – we didn’t want the carcase, the thin wire ribs to be left, littering, polluting. We wanted it all to melt away into nothingness, leaving only the memory of flight. So, those that we sourced had slender twiggy struts, with not a wire in sight. We felt safe, pleased with our sustainable alternative.
What we didn’t think of, and only heard of afterwards as these things gained in popularity, was how one in flight might be mistaken for a flare, might alert one of the rescue services, might waste someone’s precious time, resources.
But it took an image of an owl punctured and mutilated for us to realise that a paper bird, whatever its bones were made of, could still maim and kill.
So be uplifted; share the symbolism of airborne hopes, but just breathe your thanks and wishes into the night sky. No lighting of lanterns. We know better now.
The picture is of the tipi meadow lit up, but with wild flowers.