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, July 13, 2014

Another weekend without any skydives

Supermoon setting
When I woke yesterday, the moon was just setting over the trees, so I grabbed my camera. This is the best capture I was able to get, but it's not bad, really. The high humidity added a wee bit of haze, giving it a little fuzzy halo. I had been reading about supermoons, what makes them super. Turns out that it's when the moon is at perigee: the moon's closest point to Earth in its orbit. We'll have two more this year, in August and September. The tides are especially high and low when we have a supermoon.

I was supposed to go skydiving yesterday, with my friends Linny, Christy, Dave and Cindy. But things transpired to make it not happen. Linny had another difficult opening last Sunday under her canopy and will be seeing the doctor this Tuesday to see if she strained something again. I fear that my dear friend may not be skydiving much any more, as she struggles to get back into it. Dave and Cindy had something come up that would keep them from attending, and I really didn't want to drive 75 miles south to make some two-way skydives with Christy, so I begged off. It's funny to realize how much more fun even three people can have in the air together. And I so enjoy the fun we've had over the years.

In a way, it's fitting that I am winding down my skydiving now, when things are changing with all of us. As much fun as I have been having, I'm realizing that taking care of my body, especially my knees, has real priority in my day-to-day activity. Without good knees, it's hard to stay as active as I've become accustomed to being. But that last jump last Sunday was a really good one, and I keep wishing I could bottle it up and partake a sip at a time. I'll try to describe it.

It was Linny, Christy, and me. Linny loves to check the spot and make the decision when we will leave the airplane, and we decided to have what's called a "no-show" exit. That means Linny would look out the door, with the two of us behind her, and would leave without warning. We then dove out of the airplane door after her, catching her as quickly as we could. Then we did what we call a "fly around" maneuver. One person lets go and flies around the other two and then joins them again. It's easy and a lot of fun. We did that for awhile, until suddenly I noticed that there was a cloud directly beneath us, and I realized that we would be falling through it. (I had seen a few clouds forming on the way up, but there weren't many and I hadn't worried about them.)

You see, skydivers are not supposed to fall through clouds, because you need to see the ground and the pilot could lose his license if he intentionally allowed it to happen. It does happen occasionally, though, and really, there's nothing quite like the feeling of falling through one. It's not the first time for me, but it always takes my breath away. From being able to see everything, suddenly everything turns white and there's nothing to see except each other. It didn't last long, and then I saw the mist clear and the ground appeared once again. I saw Linny smiling from ear to ear as she flew over to me. Then it was time to go, to separate from each other so we would have clear air to open our parachutes.

As I tracked off (a maneuver that allows you to move horizontally at a quick rate), getting away from the others, I shouted with joy as I reached back to find the handle to open my beautiful canopy over my head. It was a perfect opening (thanks to my packer), and I oriented myself to the landing area, ascertained the direction of the ground wind, and set up my landing pattern, coming to the ground softly and filled with happiness to have had such a fine experience.

Then Linny landed and came over to join us. She had a split lip from her hand having hit her face, and she wasn't walking with her usual bounce after a good skydive. Then I learned she was feeling some tightness in her chest. She packed up as usual and went home. She told me that she hoped she would be feeling better so that we could play this weekend, but she still was feeling bad enough that she needed to see her doctor before skydiving again. I'm worried about her, and I realize that my skydiving enjoyment is tied directly to those people I've grown close to since I moved here from Boulder.

Everything changes, and having made the decision to let this activity go, I realize that I may not be the only one of us who won't be coming back next year. The Drop Zone closes during November and December, and only the hardiest skydivers are out in the winter, making freezing cold skydives just because they can't wait for nice weather. I've been on many a below-zero skydive, but that was a long time ago. Now I'm a fair-weather skydiver, and not even that for much longer. Although I still enjoy it very much, it's no longer the same thrill that I experienced in the first thousand or two skydives. I would never have thought that something as exciting as leaping from an airplane and being in freefall would get boring, and even if it's not quite that ho-hum, the experience has lost a great deal of its adrenaline rush for me.

When I was an instructor, being responsible for another person made me feel just as filled with adrenaline as my student, and I needed to be competent and as on top of my game as I could get. I would have as many as seven or eight skydives in one day, and by the end of the weekend I would be tired out but filled with satisfaction at a job well done. Today, I see others teaching students at the Drop Zone, and I am glad someone else is doing it. I've been there, done that, and don't need to do it any more. I suppose there will be a day when I can go to the Drop Zone and watch other people skydive, and in the same way, I won't want to do it myself. Everything changes.

Instead of skydiving yesterday, I spent the day enjoying myself with a nice brisk walk with my walking group, starting a new book (Boys in the Boat), and puttering in the garden. One really nice part of the garden is the community aspect. I have gotten to know my neighbors in the apartment complex in ways I wouldn't have otherwise. I've even stolen a raspberry or two and sneaked an especially tempting strawberry from someone else's plot.

Other than this post, I've got nothing scheduled for the day. The walking group is gathering to take an excursion to Canada and walk up Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. It's a steep and challenging trail, and then they'll have lunch at the restaurant at the top. (There's also a road to the top, but they won't be taking it.) They'll spend most of the day together, taking a tram back down and then heading home. I decided not to go, because tomorrow, Monday, is the first of the Trailblazers' extra hikes of the season, and it will be a long day. I need to be rested up and ready for what will be a new hike for me.

Well, that's about it from my little corner of the Universe. I'm feeling pretty good, and I walked yesterday without my knee brace and had no pain at all afterwards. (I carried it with me, just in case.) Today is supposed to be hotter than yesterday, and it was plenty warm then. I'll stay hydrated and enjoy the moment, as I hope you will, too. I am wishing you all good things until we meet again next Sunday.


John's Island said...

Hi DJan, While reading your post today I was reminded of a news story from this past week about the world’s tallest water slide, Verruckt, just opening up at a water park in Kansas City. It’s 17 stories high and the ride down is likened to jumping out of a plane. If you want to know more about it just do search for “verruckt”. My curiosity is this: After so many jumps would you feel any thrill going down a water slide like this or would it be just an ordinary thing? Now, I sure like your picture of the SuperMoon. For the last four or five days I’ve been watching it early in the morning as it makes its way across the sky to set in the West. We should have good luck in catching the next two as well, in August and then September, since they are during times when we usually have a greater chance of clear skies. Thank you for keeping an eye on John’s Island and your kind comments. Wishing you a good week ahead. John

Linda Myers said...

I was thinking yesterday about the long hikes we used to take, in the U.S. and elsewhere. These days I watch my knees and my energy level, and the walks are shorter. Still, even though those were the good old days, so are these!

Linda Reeder said...

Your "morning" moon and my "evening" moon indicate the differences in our daily patterns. I stayed up until midnight last night, on the computer and reading my Kindle, and when I rose at 7:30 the moon was long gone.
I did get a walk in this morning before it got too hot. We are hanging out at home most of the day. we'll watch the world cup match at noon, or at least have it on in the background. This evening we have a big Sounders soccer match, against Portland, who we love to hate, and the whole stadium will be open. We expect about 60,000 people.
I can not imagine myself ever skydiving, but I'm happy for you that you've had a good, long run at it, and lots of fun and thrills, met lots of great friends, and stayed safe. If that last jump were really to be your last, it sounds like it would be a great ending.

Elephant's Child said...

A beautiful post - and thank you for describing the magic of your most recent skydive so that I could sit and savour the magic.
Have a great week - and I hope that Linny gets some good news from her doctor.

Gigi said...

I hope Linny is feeling better soon. Sounds like you are having a fine weekend - even if you didn't go and fling yourself out of a perfectly good airplane! ;-)

Have a wonderful week, DJan!

Arkansas Patti said...

Were it me,knowing I was winding down from enjoying a passion anyway, I would let the perfect dive you had last week be the final one. You have so many other active interests, hiking, walking and gardening, that happy knees are a must.
That is just me. I love going out on a high note, like I did with my horse and then my motorcycle.
Sure hope your friend Linny is doing much better.

Red said...

You've given a fantastic description of skydiving and the maneuvers you make. It was like being right with you. Enjoy Grouse mountain.

Jackie said...

After reading about your jump with Linny and Christy, I found myself getting the shakes. Literally. I don't know how you've done it all these years, DJan. I truly don't. I admire you and your friends so much for being such free spirits and for not being afraid of parachuting. I am such a big chicken. I admit it.
My prayers this evening will be with Linny. I do hope that she gets a good report from her doctor. It always concerns me when I hear that someone experiences tightening in one's chest. Prayers for your friend, DJ.
Enjoy your walks. I know that you will. It seems to me that you bring happiness to everything you endeavor and likewise bring happiness to those you are around. What a splendid testimony you have.
Hugs and love,

Anonymous said...

Those sky diving experiences are awesome. You are so adventurous, DJan.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You had a good jump last week..not so much for Linny...I hope she is okay.
Putting something behind you or putting it in it's place in the past will free you to go forward with new adventures.
I loved your description of your dive...but not the cloud part.
I hope you have a wonderful week:)

Rita said...

Beautiful moon shot.
That's a sobering thing to have your friend still having issues from a rather bad jump. You don't want to have any knee injuries to prevent you from all your walks and hikes, that's for sure! I know you're careful, but I want to see pictures and hear lots more about your adventures up the mountainsides for a long time to come, my friend. :) :)

Retired English Teacher said...

Here it is Tuesday, and I'm just reading this. I have to say that I think giving up a sport like skydiving that you have loved so well for so long would be hard. On the other hand, I had not realized how much of a community experience the actual dives were. I understand the tight bond that exists with the other divers, but had not understood the jump bonding. It seems that you are in the right frame of mind to let go of the sport as those with whom you have grown so close withdraw. It seems it would make it easier.

This is such a great time of year. Hiking, gardening, walking, and skydiving have kept you very busy. Take care of that body so you can make it all last as long as you can.

Friko said...

You make skydiving sound so easy and enjoyable but I have to admit that I am glad that you are also sensible enough not to overdo it and put yourself in danger.

You are so active still, it takes my breath away.

How different are lives are. But isn’t it good to have an enjoyable obsession (well obsession-ish).

Glenda C. Beall said...

You are a great writer! I could almost feel the wind as I soared along with you. I didn't know you could do so many maneuvers in the sky as you fall. It is hard to make these changes as we get older. I feel sad for you and Linny as I feel a sadness for myself but I know we must do what is best to take care of our health. I look forward to next week's post.