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, April 19, 2015

Mid-April already

A tulip that almost looks like a rose
I took this picture when I was out at the Tulip Gardens in Skagit County on April 8. I'm sure by now these are already gone, but back then I was captivated by the look of them, all those pretty petals edged with pink, making it look less like a tulip and more like a rose to me. It's already the third week in April, and today, another sunny one, I'll be planting some of my starts in the garden. It's time.

On Sundays I don't have any scheduled activities, except for writing this post. It's already light outside and I'm starting everything a little later than usual. I just didn't want to get out of bed this morning and now it's already the time when I would normally be publishing my already-written post. Not today. I'm still trying to get my mind around the loss of another acquaintance I made a few years ago.

It was just a year ago that I traveled to southern California to attend a Masters Skills Camp and make the record skydive of 9 women over the age of sixty in a formation together. Last week that record was broken, with 16 women attending this time. It's interesting to notice my feelings around it; I'm glad they made the record, and I'm just as glad I didn't travel there. I made a decision after last year that it would be the last time I would attend, and considering how few skydives I've made since then, it seems it was a good one. I'm really fading from the scene, and although I can still enjoy an occasional skydive, there are no more thrills attached to the activity.

What happens in early April at Skydive Elsinore is a gathering of skydivers all over the age of sixty to try to make an attempt at breaking the record, which now stands at exactly 60 skydivers all hooked up in a formation, all over the age of 60. Since I haven't got any desire to actually be on that enormous skydive, I have attended for a couple of years simply to get current in the air, and spend time with the wonderful friends I've made. Thinking of seeing them again almost made me consider going this year. And then I thought of the expense, the travel, and the desire faded away as quickly as it came. I'm moving on.

I've been watching and reading on Facebook of the progress of the skydive attempts to break the record, and until yesterday, everything was going well. Today, Sunday, is the last day of their attempts, but I saw that one of the people I met and jumped with was killed yesterday. Bud LaPointe was on the JOS record attempts (Jumpers Over Seventy) when I first met him in October 2013. He was the oldest skydiver back then, and he was 87. He died yesterday at the age of 88, in a skydiving accident at Lake Elsinore. The details are still sketchy, but it looks like he was on one of the attempts and ended up pulling his parachute too low, and the automatic opener on the reserve fired, giving him two canopies out. He landed hard and I'm still looking for more details. There are so few people at his age who have the strength and courage to be doing what he was until the very end.

Some people might think that he had no business at his age doing something so risky, but Bud wasn't like that at all. I'm sure he was still making hundreds of skydives every year, being a southern California native and a regular at the two drop zones he lived nearby. He was my hero on the JOS attempts, when I learned how old he was and how he still kept on going. It almost made me want to keep it up myself, but when your heart isn't in it like it once was, it's time to stop. And now Bud is gone, and it breaks my heart to think he died skydiving and will be remembered for that, not for all the many skydives he made. He started jumping as a paratrooper in World War II and kept it up for seventy years. I am glad I got the chance to meet him and spend some time talking with him, a real legend in our sport.

Learning of that incident at Elsinore yesterday evening kept me from falling asleep easily, thinking of my friends in southern California who are out at the event, hoping to set a new record, and now they are processing what happened yesterday, too. I suspect not many of them slept well last night, either. And today they will give it everything they've got to hopefully set that new record, without Bud, on this last day of the record attempts. I've got my fingers crossed for their success but I will be spending my time in the garden, putting my tomatoes into the ground, along with the lettuce and the broccoli.

This is my fourth season as a gardener, and I'm really surprised at how peaceful and satisfying it is to spend time pulling weeds and getting my hands in the dirt. The rich soil has been giving me plenty of wonderful vegetables for the past three years, and I have learned a lot about what it means to be a gardener from my neighbors, who have been doing this much longer than me. Of the original ten gardeners who started four years ago, only two of us are left, with everybody else moving on, their plots taken over by new tenants. That's the only real problem with renting: your neighbors often don't stay for long. There is one woman in this 26-unit property who has been here almost forty years, but she will be moving into an assisted living facility soon. Things change, and that's one of the lessons I've learned in the last few years, to let things evolve without trying to hold on too tightly. After all, it's the way of things to change, even if I'm not always happy about it.

The cycle of the seasons here in the Pacific Northwest has given my life a certain rhythm that I find soothing and fulfilling. In the summer months I travel into the High Country with the Senior Trailblazers and enjoy both the adventures and the company. The weeks year round are defined by my excursions to the YMCA to attend classes and use the exercise machines. I see the same people there day after day, year after year, and I realize I've grown very accustomed to their routines as well as my own. The woman who teaches the M-W-F classes pulls into the same parking space at the same time every day while I'm on the treadmill, and now I look for her and watch her as she gets out of her car and puts exactly six coins in the meter. It makes me smile as I gaze out the window from the fourth floor.

Life goes on, moving as it does both quickly and imperceptibly at the same time. I look up from a book that has captured my attention and realize that hours have passed and I've been unaware of it. I notice the arc of the sun as it moves across the sky from season to season, wanting sometimes to slow its journey so that I can savor the moment, but it just keeps on going. I think this is one reason I've grown to love photography so much: the moment is captured and I can keep the memory alive. I took this picture of Bud last year, and it will help me to keep his memory alive. Blue skies, Bud! I'll plant my tomatoes today thinking of you.
Bud LaPointe 1927-2015

18 comments:

Linda Reeder said...

I'm got up late, for me, and I saw that you had posted late. Know I know why.
Bud's death is a great loss to the sky diving community as well as to each of you personally. I am sorry for that loss.
Planting things in the soil sounds like a good therapy for sadness. Enjoy another day of glorious sun.

KH said...

Sorry about your friend. Enjoy today's sunshine on your face. Hugs, Kim

gigihawaii said...

Condolences to his family and friends.
I love taking photos of people at my parties, knowing that in a few years, one or more of them might be dead.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so sorry you lost your friend to such a sad accident. Perhaps losing your live, doing what you love, is not a bad thing. So glad you got that picture of him full of health and vitality.

Gigi said...

Those tulips are gorgeous!

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend, it sounds like he was a very interesting person.

Far Side of Fifty said...

When you die doing what you love it must be a wonderful thing. Although you are correct non sky divers will talk about the horrific death that could have been avoided...I am not sure you can avoid it at all.
You sound happy to go into the garden, it is a great activity for you and you know exactly where your veggies come from!
We have rain today...finally we need about two weeks of it...but I am happy with one day:)

#1Nana said...

So sorry for your loss. I've also been pondering the theme of change and loss. There is a part of me that just wants to stop time from marching and hold on to all that I love and hold dear right now.

Elephant's Child said...

I am so sorry for those who are left to grieve, but, like other commentators, wonder whether going out doing something you love is entirely a bad thing.
Love your tulip rose. And I too find peace and solace grubbing in the garden. Such a rewarding place.

Janice C said...

Such a thoughtful post, sorry to hear about your friend. He died doing what he loved and I personally think that's a better way to go than lingering in a nursing home bed for years.
On a happier note, that tulip is lovely!

Tabor said...

I did not know you did something so exotic as skydiving. While it was a terrible loss I am sure he was doing what he loved and does not regret one minute. You do what you want when you want when you are over 60.

Linda Myers said...

Your skydiving song has a new verse. I like it.

Red said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. Sky diving is really rolling around in your head. You look back to all you've achieved. You look around and see some of your losses. I'm sure something will come along that's just as challenging as skydiving.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I'm sorry to hear about Bud's passing. How many times have I heard people say, in situations like this, "at least he was doing something he loved." Does that really make any difference ... I don't know. It is sad when an accident takes anyone, regardless of age. I do find it amazing that he was still able to do this sport at his age. I wish you some peace in dealing with this. I like what you said about gardening and how some of the other gardeners have moved on and how we really need to embrace change. So true and yet we all seem to want to keep doing the same things over and over. On a different subject: I keep a little file on my computer ... it's a Word document ... and in it I put down little quotations that I find from time to time that are interesting and worthy of looking at again. Your post today includes one that I'll add ... "I notice the arc of the sun as it moves across the sky from season to season, wanting sometimes to slow its journey so that I can savor the moment, but it just keeps on going." Perfect! Thank you DJan ... Wishing you a fine week ahead! John

Rita said...

It sounds like he truly loved skydiving and did die doing what he loved. If his heart was still in the sky than it is not a bad thing. Still is sad, but I hope it was quick and not painful. He obviously lived a full life and will be missed by a lot of people. :)

Gardening has become a new love for you, along with the hiking and walking trails. Life changes and shifts. You have a great life that you love, that's for sure. ;)

Retired English Teacher said...

I'm so sorry to read about the death of your friend. It is sad to think that his death will be what people remember rather than all he did when he was alive. I hope that worry of yours about him isn't true.

Retired English Teacher said...

I'm so sorry to read about the death of your friend. It is sad to think that his death will be what people remember rather than all he did when he was alive. I hope that worry of yours about him isn't true.

Glenda C. Beall said...

A young woman skydiver was killed in an accident in our part of the country recently. I'm sorry your friend was killed, DJan. I know that will stay on your mind for a long time. I feel the same way about time. No sooner do I arise than it is time to go to bed. The work I need to do here will never get done, I'm afraid. So, maybe I should stop and just smell the roses from now on. Love your blog, my friend.

Friko said...

But just think DJan, Bud died doing something he loves. Isn’t that a much more desirable death than lying in a hospital bed attached to tubes and things. He was out in the skies, relishing every moment up until the last minute.

You appear to be doing something I would never have thought possible, realising that sky diving may not be with you forever. You have so much to fill your life, to have your attitude to being alive is not given to many.

I’m glad to be back blogging, pitiful, isn’t it?