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, June 2, 2013

A tough week in many ways

First bloom of the season
I took that picture two months ago, and there have been an abundance of flowers blooming everywhere ever since. Look at that blue, blue sky. We haven't seen anything like that for several weeks now, and whenever we have a chance to see the blue sky appear amongst the clouds, we here in the Pacific Northwest feel happy. I'm in a down cycle right now, though.

It's been a tough week for the skydiving community. Last weekend we lost three notable men, all of whom I knew about, and one whom I knew personally. I last saw Larry Elmore at the SOS record attempt at Lake Elsinore last month. He was just arriving as I was leaving, since I was there for the skills camp but not for the record attempt. He asked me why and I told him I'm just not skydiving enough to feel confident with so many other skydivers in the air. He admonished me to get lots of skydives this season and he would be seeing me here next year, wagging his finger in my face and smiling. Well, he won't be there. He had a canopy malfunction and tried too long to fix it and when he finally went to his reserve parachute, it was too late for it to inflate. He was a retired airline pilot and had more than 6800 skydives. It was very upsetting; if Larry could make such a mistake, anybody could.

Another skydiver, Cliff Schmucker, was the president of the Parachute Industry Association (PIA) and was extremely well known and current. He was struck in freefall by another skydiver and was apparently knocked out cold. His automatic opener deployed his reserve parachute. He landed in a tree but was unresponsive, probably killed by the impact on his head. Ken Oka was entangled in a canopy wrap and was unable to get free in time to save himself. It was an awful week for the skydiving community, as you can see.

Not to mention that there was another famous skydiver, Mike Truffer, who had an opening under his canopy that was hard enough to break his neck. He is now a quadriplegic. All four of these incidents happened over the Memorial Day weekend, and I was reeling from the news. I haven't been able to put these out of my mind.

And then a book I had on hold turned up at the library, which I have been anxiously waiting to read for months: Jodi Picoult's new book, The Storyteller. I started it two days ago. Not knowing anything about it, it is not one of her usual books, but an incredible story written about the Holocaust. In typical Picoult fashion, the story is told from the point of view of all the characters in the book. Here's a blurb from Jodi Picoult's website where she discusses the subject:
Naturally, this research was among some of the most emotionally grueling I’ve ever done. I met with several Holocaust survivors, who told me their stories. Some of those details went into the fictional history of my character, Minka. It was humbling and horrifying to realize that the stories they recounted were non-fiction. 
There was a period in my life when I read everything I could get my hands on about the Holocaust. I was a young mother and unable to wrap my mind around the whole idea of it. I've seen movies that haunted me, such as Schindler's List and Shoah. Since Picoult has just written the book this year and she deals with this subject, it's horrifying to me to learn that there are really people out there who believe that it never happened. How can that be? This book is essential reading, if you ask me, since most of the people who lived through it are very old now and will soon have passed away. Their stories must never be forgotten.

All this is just to let you know why I am writing about this here, today. I still have half the book to read, and I am not going to have a chance to do it today, since it looks like the weather will cooperate for me to go to Snohomish and play in the air with my friends. I really need to dispel the angst that permeates me right now. It means driving for a longer time than usual, since I will need to deal with the bridge that is out on I-5 on the way south, but it really seems important to gather with my friends and discuss the events of last weekend. It's my therapy group in a way.

I'm sorry to be in such a depressed state while I'm writing this, since I fear that many of my readers come here on Sunday morning for an inspirational hit. Perhaps it will be there next week, after I've gotten my knees in the breeze a time or two, and my usual optimism returns. Life has its peaks and valleys, and I seem to be cruising toward the place where you begin to go up again.

On a positive note, which I feel I should leave you with, the birds are singing, fluffy white clouds dot the sky, and the days are continuing to get longer and longer, which means the nights are shorter.


Olga said...

A very tough week. I am sorry to hear about these accidents that surely must have rocked the psyche of your skydiving community.

Bob Lowry said...

I have never been interested in skydiving but believe it to be a rather safe sport. To have that number of foal mishaps in such a short period of time seems highly unusual. I am sorry for your loss.

Did these freak accidents end your skydiving interest?

CiCi said...

What can one say about the accidents and deaths you mention in this post. The way I look at it is that the people who choose an outlet such as skydiving are enjoying their lives fully. It is certainly sad that their lives ended as some would say "before their time" but it was their time, and they truly Lived. Good for them. And good for you share the sadness with your friends and then get back out there enjoying your sport.

David Oliver said...

I'm new to blogging really, (years ago I created one and then ignored it for many years), but recently renewed my interest and created some new blogs. The blog surfing has been real eye opener. I didn't have a clue how varied people's thoughts and interests are. Sky diving...I'm at a loss for words. I can't in any way relate to that although I absolutely support whatever people do that they enjoy if it doesn't infringe on anyone else. I hope that did not sound contemptuous, that was not my intention at all. I think I have a lot of feelings about it including fear and awe coupled with the idea of how could anyone enjoy falling from the sky.

I can't say anything about the loss of your friends. At our age, we know what that is all about.

I can relate to your interest in the holocaust. Not that I have any Jewish people as ancestors but the stories of it are far too compelling to be ignored.

Anonymous said...

How awful for those 4 men! It would be enough to deter me from sky diving forever. Do be careful, DJan. We here all love you!

Linda Myers said...

Oh, DJan, I am sorry. To lose several friends in a week - regardless of how it happens - is tough.

June said...

You must be reeling from the shock of all that disaster. I am so sorry.
I am proud of you for getting back out there to be with your friends, to share the pain and the memories. And to get back up in the air. You surely have had more good times than bad from skydiving.

Lorna said...

From what little I have read, it seems to me that I would want to be the only skydiver in the air, not one of many whose parachutes could get entangled with mine. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that you are feeling better next Sunday.

Friko said...

I am sorry about the loss of such seasoned sky divers. I suppose there is no truly safe sport and falling from the sky possibly ranks with the more dangerous ones.

Do take care and stay safe.

Retired English Teacher said...

The news you shared with us today really is unsettling. Shocking even. Skydiving is a sport not to be taken lightly. How like you to get up and out with your knees in the breeze after these event. Take care dear one. I hope this coming week is filled with sunshine.

Gigi said...

Oh DJan! What terrible news - and that one was your friend. I'm so sorry.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so sorry for your losses this past week. What tragic accidents. It would have to rattle you to your core and hopefully time spent with your friends with your knees in the breeze will restore your confidence in the sport you love.
I do hope you reconsider doing formation jumps however. Just too many variables in those.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Any one of these deaths would have been sad for you, but four on a single weekend? No wonder you are shocked and unable to shake it off. Please don't apologize for sharing your honest feelings; you honor us with your openness. I am glad you are jumping again, in any case. And btw, I'm also glad that nobody died in that bridge collapse; we lost 13 and maimed quite a few more with our collapse some years ago. It hit with much of the same force as the skydiving accidents hit you, come to think of it. Have a great week.

Linda Reeder said...

I'm reading this late in the afternoon, so you are probably back home after a satisfying, and perhaps healing, day of skydiving. I hope so.
I have thought of you today, handling the I-5 traffic, dealing with death in your ranks, knowing your need to fly.
Not every day is a good day, not every week is a good week, and not every post needs to be uplifting and inspirational. Sometimes we just share our coping.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

They died doing what they loved. In my book, there's no better way to go, DJan. I think if you re-read the chapter in Seth Speaks on reincarnation, you won't feel as down about it. Keep freefalling. You were born for the skies.

The Broad said...

I am so sorry to hear about these terrible tragedies. I know how important this sport is to you -- though for me the idea of sky diving is absolutely terrifying -- I've absolutely no head for heights. I am sure that you will find much comfort and solace from your friends as you all come to terms with the shock and sadness of losing fellow colleagues.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I am very sorry for your shocking loss of commrads in sky diving.
I am curious why many people are so into the plight of lives lost over sixty years ago but not so much about the daily current losses in Africa and the middle East. The human race still has monsters males reaching out to youth trying to involve them in atrocities.
Having been born in post war Germany to this day I carry the burden of being one of those evil folk who hurt so many Jews. It's odd how teaching about that horror affects some innocents like me and very few who read give much thought to a second side.
My own relatives were forced to live up to a dictators demands. My aunt was forced to be neutered by that cruel head of state because she was born mildly handicapped from lack of oxygen at birth.
When my family was forced into Germany from thr Czech Republic in 1945 they had to leave with only a few possessions they could carry, were shoved into rains and then camps where life was hell since Germany was not in a position to host those thousands of refugees. Read about the displaced Sudeten Germans.
My parents told me horror tales of their years in the war. War is never good for any side and it is so sad the we human folk are so dumb we just won't stop making weapons and believe it's for our own good. Weapons can be turned on us at any time.
I have great admiration for you and I hope you don't get upset that I had to tell you my side but it is another side that is hardly mentioned.

amanda | wildly simple said...

DJan, I'm so sorry for these tragedies in a community that is such a part of you. What a sad time.
My thoughts are with their families and friends, and all who share their passion for the sky.
I understand your angst and needing to rid yourself of it. I hope your Sunday was therapeutic.

I have several Jodi Picoult books waiting in my to-read stack. I don't seem to find enough time to sit still & read these recent weeks. Currently working on a Barbara Kingsolver book - another author whom I have multiple books in my stack. This one is Prodigal Summer, and I also recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Of course, neither of these books has anything to do with the Holocaust.. I will make note of The Storyteller as an essential read.

Rita said...

I come here to hear how you are doing and what you are thinking about--whatever that is. :) What a horrible weekend! Shocking! And you go right back out there to get your knees in the breeze. This is why I admire you so.

I've read so much on the Holocaust, too. I shall have to try to read this one eventually, too. I've also never understood how people can deny it ever happened. Humanity has done horrible things to each other for thousands of years. We should not forget.

I hope you had a wonderful day in the sky and you were all able to commiserate together over the losses.

Jackie said...

Jan...I read this and posted my condolences last night
I don't know what happened to my comments or if I didn't hit "publish" after I entered them, but I will post again to let you know how sorry I am to hear of the losses you have encountered.
I pray for safety and peace for you.
I wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you.

wendyytb said...

So very sorry Djan. Such sad news.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I must admit that I am not as consistent as I should be in keeping an eye on all the blogs I follow. However, when someone leaves me a comment I always try to go over and look at their blog to return the favor. And every time I end up looking at your blog I come away thinking that you are such a good writer and why haven't I been looking daily for your latest update. The current post is excellent. I like the way you share your feelings with us. I think we all go through these cycles, I surely do, but I think many folks don't share the down side. There may be many reasons for that, but I honestly think it would be better if they did. Very best wishes to you on moving forward. Kind regards, John

CrazyCris said...

Oh my! Hearing about so many fatal accidents in your sport, so close together, would definitely be depressing! Knowing some of the people involved makes it worse! :o(

Fly safe my friend! It is a dangerous sport you do... *sigh* But so are so many others... Just enjoy it and don't take any crazy risks!

On the other topic: I'll have to keep an eye out for that book, sounds fascinating!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am so sorry to hear about your fellow skydivers..sad news for sure. Accidents can happen at any time..life is short:)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, so much human loss over one weekend. I'm writing this on June 11, and I hope that you've been able to grieve your loss by taking to the air and finding some surety again. Peace.