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.