|Crossing a stream last Thursday|
Al came back over to talk with those who were unwilling or reluctant to cross, and gave them a walkie-talkie; they backtracked a short distance to an alternate route to a nice view without having to cross the stream. While they were talking, I decided to see if I might be able to make it, and Mike snapped this picture of me as I carefully made my way across. My waterproof boots and gaiters kept me dry, and I was very pleased with myself for having done it. Actually, little Noriko, one of the hikers who is shorter and smaller than me, had gone across easily, and that was enough for me to give it a try. Nobody fell in, although not everyone's feet were exactly dry.
This has caused me to ponder the differences between people, with some being risk-takers and others being risk averse. I think we are born with tendencies one way or the other. My sister Norma Jean has never been a risk taker, while I have always been willing to try new and exciting adventures. Our entire childhood growing up together, we functioned as a team, with me charging on ahead and her offering reasons why we shouldn't rush in. There were times when I listened to her, and other times when I would convince her to give something new a try.
Since my father was in the Air Force and we moved frequently, I was often having to start attending a new school, most often in the middle of a school year, rather than at the beginning when many other children would be new. I remember having to stand and introduce myself more than once to a classroom filled with strangers. As an extrovert, I managed it much more easily than my shy and introverted sister. But it was still not an easy task.
As I became an adult, I went through some pretty harrowing experiences as I lost my little son and went through a terrible divorce, and then another. I found employment over the years, because I was a skilled secretary, a position that was ubiquitous in the 1960s and 1970s. It stuns me to realize that there are fewer and fewer jobs like that these days. Times have definitely changed.
As the decades passed, I had many adventures with friends. My sister married, had two children and was living in another part of the country, and we lost touch for many years. I knew that she had settled down in Michigan and had no desire to move any more, happy to be stationary. At the same time I was still a wanderer, first living in California, then traveling for a couple of years before discovering Boulder, Colorado. It was the first time I had found a place that I wanted to make my own home town. I ended up living there for well over thirty years and had finally settled down.
But I still found ways to take risks. I met some people who loved to climb fourteeners (peaks in the Colorado mountains that are at least 14,000 feet high) and ended up climbing 26 of them, sometimes more than once, over the years. I fell in love with the mountains. There were many harrowing experiences, close calls, and chances of getting hurt, but I had learned a few things from my sister and often thought of what she would do. Other than a sprain or two, I never got injured.
And then 24 years ago last week, I made a tandem skydive that changed the trajectory of my life. Before a full year had passed, I had made more than 300 skydives and spent every waking moment lost in the thrill of becoming a proficient skydiver. That thrill lasted for thousands upon thousands of skydives. I became an instructor and over the next twelve years taught more than a thousand students. I met my husband in 1992 through skydiving, and we were married in freefall two years later.
And now I am living in the Pacific Northwest as an active senior, having become a septuagenarian almost two years ago, but still looking for ways to take risks and enjoy myself to the fullest. This year I've almost stopped skydiving, with the weekends more likely to take me outdoors in all kinds of weather than traveling 75 miles south to Skydive Snohomish. That Drop Zone has become home to me, the place where I like to play in the air with a few good friends. I suspect that by the time the new year rolls around, my skydiving years will be behind me.
But the risk-taking aspect of my personality is still intact. I guess it will always be that way. I realize that the thrill I get from accomplishing a stream crossing or traversing a sleep slope with lots of exposure is as familiar to me as breathing in and out. As I age, those challenges will still be there, but they will be pared down to be more in line with the ability of my body to take me from one adventure to another. And there are the challenges of aging, which some wag has said "ain't for sissies." Finding ways to deal with staying active in the face of old knees and other well-worn body parts is challenging in itself.
I found this quote by Hunter S. Thompson, who lived his life to the fullest. The sentiment is dear to my heart and he deserves to be credited for coming up with this philosophy.
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"I'm working on it, Hunter. I hope that this week finds you, my dear readers, in a good place, surrounded with whatever joys in life give you happiness, whether it be outdoor activities, reading good books, or your children and grandchildren. I will never have that last particular joy, but I've found plenty of others in my life. Sending you blessings from the vantage point of a risk taker.