|Thank you, Jonathan|
When I left the airplane and felt the incredible sensation of being in freefall, I was focused on my five friends in freefall with me, on the formation they were making and where I was supposed to be. Being a little rusty, it took me longer than usual to fly into my spot. Then we broke our grips and formed another pretty pattern in the sky. It worked just as we planned, and when it came time to separate, we tracked apart (which looks a bit like a flower opening, if you are watching from the ground). This gives the skydiver clear air in which to open a parachute, bringing the skydive to an end. I threw out my pilot chute to catch the air, which opened that beautiful canopy over my head.
At that point, I looked up to see everything was perfect, and my canopy was flying flawlessly in the bright blue sky. I grabbed the toggles and set my course back to the place where we had boarded the plane twenty minutes earlier. I took the time to look out at Puget Sound and at the snowcapped mountains, Rainier to the south and Baker to the north. What beauty! Hanging under the canopy and seeing the gorgeous place where I live, experiencing the incredible gift of skydiving, I thanked God for my life and all that I have been given. My landing was also perfect, just a tiptoe down onto the ground. Jonathan caught the moment when body and shadow connect once again.
Last year on Easter Sunday I wrote about my experience of Holy Week when I would go on an annual retreat at a nearby Benedictine convent. One of the really wonderful things about keeping a blog or a journal is the opportunity to go back and see where you were a year, two years, a decade ago. Because of yesterday's activities, skydiving and its place in my life is much on my mind, as well as the significance of all that angst and fear that I went through. Every skydiver will tell you that the nerves you feel after a layoff, even of a week's time, is normal. The first skydive of every day is a bit more anxiety producing than one following right after. Why is that?
My thought is that skydiving is not a normal everyday activity. If I change my focus to other pursuits, it begins to recede into the background and becomes a memory, something I do but not right then, not right now. My feet are on the ground and gravity connects me to the earth. Many, if not most, of my readers will never experience freefall. I have tried before to describe it, but it's not something that you can explain. Since you are able to "fly" in a vertical perspective, using the air as a cushion and deflecting it, you have a minute-long sensation of flying your body. But then you need to stop doing it before you lose track of the fact that you are actually plummeting towards the ground!
Some fear is healthy and keeps us alive. But it's not helpful to be paralyzed by fear, it's important to move through it, because it can keep you from experiencing life fully. After all, life is finite; everything that is born will die. We all know this. Some of us believe that this life is not all there is, but I won't know whether I'm right until I wake up after having taken my last breath. There is no doubt, however, that one day I will indeed take that last breath. On this day of renewal and rebirth, Easter, I am filled with optimism and hope that one day I will be reunited with my loved ones who have passed through the veil. There are many; it will be quite a reunion.
Sometimes they visit me in dreams that feel as solid as this waking moment. Their spirits just aren't bound to gravity any more, and in my dreams I often fly from one place to another. I am smiling as I remember one dream where I flapped my arms and took right off, just like a bird. Since none of us knows for sure if the spirit world is around us or not, I choose to believe that they are with me: my children, my parents, my beloved friends, and I am the one who has yet to join them.
Until then, I hope to spend my remaining days living life with passion and joy. Last week's post was pretty morose, I feel, but this week I am filled with infinite possibilities. The passage of time from one week, one year, one decade to the next, leaves me right where I started: here and now. The present moment is really all that we have. Someone said that the past is history, the future is mystery, and today is a gift. It's really true, isn't it?