|Forsythia in spring|
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.