|Me and Jonelle after our skydive|
I was really afraid before my own first skydive, a tandem. I slept poorly the night before and worried about it, and I asked my instructor dozens of questions, trying to delay the inevitable trip to the airplane. I wrote a long post about it, How I Became a Skydiver. Seeing the difference between our responses to the same experience, it makes me wonder if it's necessary to get into a state of anxiety or dread to have one's feelings translate into their opposite. Over the years of working as an instructor, I noticed the difference between those who saw the experience as something on their "bucket list" and those who felt driven to work through the fear they were experiencing. If something terrifies you and you do it anyway, you gain an advantage over it. And it never turns out to be quite what you feared anyway.
In the book I finished recently, Hallucinations, the author points out the difference in how memories are processed when one is in an altered state. Although our normal memories are not fixed but fluid, those traumatic events that can cause a flashback or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are stored in a different part of the brain and are recalled in vivid detail. Oliver Sacks (the author) said it is almost impossible to alter those memories, and researchers are still working to find ways to help those who suffer from debilitating flashbacks. That said, there is a huge difference between being in a war zone and the manufactured fear of jumping from an airplane in a controlled setting. Your mind may know the difference, but it's a rather unnatural thing to do. One's body has a tendency to react as if it is not going to survive. And when it is all over, the strong emotions remain, translated into happiness. That's my theory, anyway.
Not only was it sunny on Wednesday, our Thursday hike up Welcome Pass was without a cloud in the sky. This is usually the beginning of the "dry season" here in the Pacific Northwest, but we have not had a drop of rain in this area for more than a month. And now it's going to get drier, it seems. When we were on the ridge line after gaining the pass, we commented on the dry state of the plants. Usually at this time of the year there is still quite a bit of snow at that elevation, but not this year. Instead, much of the ground cover was burned and crackled under our boots. Although this is good for us, giving us access to our hiking areas, it must be hard on the critters who are used to abundant water sources.
I know this may sound strange to some of my readers, but I really miss the partly cloudy skies and marine layer that gives us fog in the morning. Fortunately for me, I see that we do have a chance of a bit of a marine layer this morning and tomorrow, although it's pretty weak. Now, at 6:00am, the sun is rising into a clear blue sky, and it's calm with no wind at all. Maybe it's cloudy on the coast south of us, but nothing here. Tomorrow is the first of our "extra" hikes, an all-day affair where we drive more than a hundred miles to the Mountain Loop Highway and spend the day going up a hard hike. I'm hoping for at least a little bit of cloud cover, but I'm not expecting much. I'll be slathered with sunscreen and using my new hat with a wide brim.
The Trailblazers decided two years ago to add these hikes so we can go to places we cannot reach on our usual Thursday outings. I've really enjoyed learning more about this beautiful part of the country. We head out every other Monday and visit some spectacular areas. It's not actually considered part of the Senior Center's schedule, so we usually meet in the parking lot and figure out the carpool logistics. The group is usually smaller, too, since we start at 7:30 and don't return until more than twelve hours later. We certainly do get to know each other pretty well! I've been going out on these excursions with some of the same people for five years now, and a few of them feel like family.
Maybe it helps to suffer together, too. Since some of these hikes are steep and challenging, we have been known to moan and groan together as we make our way through the switchbacks and unremittingly beautiful scenery. I'm very happy to be in good enough shape to keep this up, for now at least, and I'm enjoying this very sunny summer season. Since the days are getting shorter already, and we will reach the point in between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox in a few days, I intend to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of the summer that I can!