I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday 2013

Forsythia in spring
I'm a little later than usual getting started on my Sunday morning post, since I slept in for a bit. I have absolutely nothing that must be done on this beautiful day, with full sunshine predicted and a high temperature approaching 70 degrees F possible! Last year the final day of March was rather miserable, as I remember. But we in the Pacific Northwest have been graced with the most beautiful weather imaginable for the end of March.

First a quick update on my sister PJ's situation. She is still in the hospital, and while they initially thought her heart attack caused no damage, once she tried to resume her activities, it was apparent that this is not the case. Further tests revealed that she's sustained damage to her heart, as well as having all the stents that were placed there in previous years found to be occluded. Surgery is not an option, so she is going to be sent to a rehab facility to help her learn how to cope with her new situation. She will be going on disability and possibly early Medicare, since she is only 63 and was working right up to the time of the heart attack. She is in no immediate danger, as I understand it, and Norma Jean has returned home after having spent five days in Texas to be with her and other family members.

Because of today's technology, I was able to visit with PJ via FaceTime on our phones. PJ didn't want me to see her, so I only had a few quick glimpses, but we were able to talk, and I was able to relay to her my love and concern for her. And I learned yesterday that the facility where she will be moved to has been identified. We are all hoping that the time when she will be able to get home to her beloved dogs will not be far behind. She has her husband and sons to support her.

Yesterday I finally got my knees in the breeze for the first time in 2013. It was a perfect day in the Pacific Northwest, and Smart Guy and I headed south to Snohomish. By the time the fog had burned off to reveal nothing but blue skies, we had arrived at the Drop Zone. I had to have a quick conversation with the DZ owner, Tyson, because I was one week past the time limit to have made a skydive to be considered current in the sport. He suggested that I make a solo jump and open my parachute high to get reacquainted with my canopy.

I wrote about it on my other blog here, complete with pictures. But since I like to keep those posts brief and give myself permission to examine my feelings on this one, I'm going to let you know how it felt to be inside my head. Although I have made thousands of skydives over more than two decades, it never fails to amaze me at how quickly I forget the intense sense of fear and dread that consumes me as I move closer and closer to that moment when I will leap into another world. Butterflies in my stomach don't really tell the story, but they give you an idea of the state of anxiety I was in. When I was an instructor, I dealt with the fears of my student and was able to put it into perspective. One thing I always said is that it's normal to be afraid; we are doing something rather unnatural, but those butterflies will be transformed into ecstasy if you just take it one step at a time.

In the airplane on the way up to altitude, there were two tandem students with their instructors, along with some young jumpers who are so addicted to the sport that they jumped all winter long from whatever altitude they could reach. I remembered being like that, but that was a long time ago. Now it was my turn to talk to myself about what I was doing. By the time the door was opened and it was my time to exit the airplane, I was following old patterns: I looked down at the ground, locating the place where I would be landing my parachute, and I just... leaped out.

The rush of air on my body, first from the forward motion of the airplane and then the push of the air as it whizzed past me, was exhilarating. I had done it! I was in freefall! Having more than 65 hours of accumulated freefall time, it was a familiar place. I exulted in the views, the feelings, and the sense of freedom that I feel in that special place between being in an airplane and being under a canopy. I did a few 360s, a little tracking, but mostly I just waited until I reached opening altitude. It lasted an incredibly long time in my mind, but it was actually around a minute. Then I reached back and pitched my pilot chute, which opens the main parachute. Whump!

I felt myself come to a gentle stop as my parachute opened. It had been packed by Smart Guy on Friday, since he is an exceptional packer and having him inspect everything and then pack it up made me feel much better. Two sets of eyes on the equipment is a good thing. I looked up at my pretty canopy and grabbed the brakes, releasing them so I could control the parachute. I turned to the left and to the right and stalled it a couple of times, which is what is called a control check.

Then I located my landing area and guided myself to the proper place to begin my approach. I had plenty of time to take in the view of Puget Sound and the beautiful mountains as I played under my canopy. There were no other canopies in the air with me other than the two tandems way above. (The other jumpers landed in another field.) It was divine, simply divine. I landed right where I wanted to, making a tiptoe touchdown. Sometimes when I misjudge the timing of my flare it's not so perfect, but yesterday it was just right.

As I gathered up my canopy, Smart Guy came out to meet me. I was wearing a grin from ear to ear, no butterflies, only the ecstatic feeling of having been able to be in freefall once more, and ready to pack up and go again! Which I did, I made a second jump with my friend Cindy who was able to make her skydive to stay current. The season has begun.

In the early years, a skydive would be enough to give me energy for days, and the sense of accomplishment and excitement would surround me until the next weekend. It's not that way any more, since it is now a more muted pleasure. But I feel very different today, this morning, this beautiful Easter Sunday.

The dawn has broken, there is light in the sky, and I know that everywhere on the planet there are people who got up in the dark and gathered together to watch the sun rise this Easter morning, reminding us of rebirth and renewal. I am blessed to have my life, and to share it with you.


Anonymous said...

I used to feel that type of ecstasy when I played my violin solo in front of a faculty jury at the University of Hawaii. How thrilling to hear the piano accompaniment and to be in sync with it. I can only imagine your joy, though, and don't think I'll ever skydive.

Linda Myers said...

Wonderful description of your experience. All your other postings have been of multiple jumpers "playing" in the sky. This one was extra special.

Rian said...

After reading your post this morning, my thoughts were...'God's in His heaven, all's right with the world'!
(at least for the moment)

Linda Reeder said...

"Rebirth and renewal". Yes, that's what it was again for you yesterday as you went diving into the sky. May those wonderful feelings linger for a while.
Sending best wishes for your sister's health.
Have a beautiful day.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I have goosebumps from reading this and experiencing your wonderful freefall and perfect parachuting. Glad it went so well, on such a beautiful day, and extra glad you shared it here. Now to your other blog for pix.

CrazyCris said...

It's good to hear PJ is feeling better! But it's a shame it will affect her future lifestyle! Why can't they operate? She's younger than my father... and the doctors told us he was considered "young" when it came to heart surgery...
I hope the rehabilitation helps her and she can make a decent recovery!

How wonderful for you to share your thoughts with us like that about how you feel while skydiving! I've often wondered if people who do it regularly are scared or not at jumping out of that plane... You made the whole experience feel very real! It's great you can keep doing it this year! Hugs!

Lorna said...

DJan, I wish I had your health, your mobility, and your freedom. Happy Easter.

#1Nana said...

...and we are blessed that you share your wisdom and experiences with us! I did skydive once to celebrate my 40th birthday. I didn't, of course, freefall. I was on a static line that pull the cord. I had a radio link to a person on the ground who directed me every step of the way. I remember that sense of peace when I realized that I was floating gently to earth all alone in the sky...and then the radio crackled to life and I was no longer alone. Once was enough for me. I didn't quite get that whole flare thing to slow my landing and hit the ground a little to fast. Most of the shock was absorbed by my butt! Not a graceful way to land.

Happy Easter my friend!

Red said...

Thanks for the update on your sister. I wish her well..
Great description of your jump and the feelings that wen with it. I think we have to do some of these things to challenge ourselves or we just dry up and get old. It's much better to be active. I miss running, but it wouldn't be smart to continue.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I'm grinning from ear to ear in delight that you did this and that it spoke to you in the same way it always has with some fear and then, as you said, a rush of ecstasy. When you describe the dive, the fall, the lift--all of it--I find myself breathless. Oh, the joy of it. Peace on this Easter day.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, PS. I'm so glad to learn that PJ is better and I trust that being in therapy will result in her not having to be rushed back to the hospital because she went home to soon. Peace.

Gigi said...

Our minds must be running in the same patterns today. I mourned my forsythia today (Hubby ran over it with a lawn mower last year and killed it dead) as I could have used some bright, cheerful flowers on this rainy day. I also thought of rebirth and renewal today several times.

I'm glad to hear the PJ is doing well. I will continue to keep her in my prayers.

Happy Easter, DJan.

Arkansas Patti said...

So sorry Pj's prognosis wasn't too good but hopefully the rehab will give her the tools she needs to get back to enjoying her life. So good you got to talk to her.
You really surprised me admitting to having pre-dive fears. That has to add to the thrill.
Wonderful description of your dive and I can now understand your fascination. Wonderful post.

Rita said...

I hope your sister will be okay and adjust to her new lifestyle. It's difficult to change when your body forces you into it without your consent, I know. I'm glad she has support around her. :)

And you amaze me (and so many people) with your bravery and spirit. Sounds like it is going to be a good year in the sky! :):)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

You are a true Sadge, through and through, DJan. Your jumps alone qualify you in the Sadge court. Great emotional descriptions.

Deb Shucka said...

I have such admiration for you and your spirit of adventure. I loved reading this description - could almost feel the wind and the whump and your ecstasy. What a wonderful way to renew. Thank you so much for bringing us along for the flight.

Jackie said...

I read about your jump on your other blog, but I'm so glad that you posted it in more detail here, Jan. I feel better now. (And that's saying a lot for me, because I don't think I could ever jump out of a plane. Hubby wants to, but I don't.
Reading about your 360s and your elation and peaceful feelings as your looked at your surroundings made me feel better about someone jumping/parachuting. That helped me a lot. So glad that you made that perfect landing and that Smart Guy packed your chute.
I enjoyed reading this more than I can say. Thank you so much....

Friko said...

Congratulations on having started - safely and happily - another season. Adrenaline rush guaranteed.

Happy landings!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I admire you DJan..I could never have been that calm..nor would my eyes have been open. I am so glad you had two beautiful days over the weekend..Happy Easter! :)

Retired English Teacher said...

You amaze me. This truly was a special post that gave me insight into the experience you felt as you did this dive. Some of us will never know first hand what this must be like.

I am behind on reading blogs and did not realize that your sister had suffered a heart attack. I am so sorry to read this. I too am sending best wishes for her recovery as she deals with her new normal.