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, February 27, 2011

Skydiving, swimming, and sunshine

Yesterday I had a really full day in the Florida sunshine. It started with swimming 20 laps in the community pool here at Betmar Acres with my sister Norma Jean. She swims anywhere from 42 to 54 laps and I feel quite intimidated trying to keep up. I haven't swum laps in a pool for thirty years, but I found that once I had good goggles and ear plugs, I could manage to swim several laps before I had to stop to catch my breath. I don't remember how to pace myself quite yet. Today I'll try to swim ten before having to stop. Going slow and steady is the trick.

Then my friend Jennifer, who jumps at Skydive Snohomish with me and Smart Guy and hasn't jumped for two months, is in Florida to attend a conference and joined me at Skydive City here in Zephyrhills for two skydives yesterday. The sun was almost too intense, the weather being more than five degrees warmer than normal and more humid. We were both sweating as we walked to the plane and went up into the cool, clear air at altitude. It was a wonderful day, and we made two fun skydives together. That's her on the right, me on the left in the above picture, coming back after our first jump.

The funny thing is, I was more apprehensive about the swimming activity, since it is not a very comfortable and well known pursuit, and skydiving tends to be much more familiar, with me having accumulated more than 65 hours of freefall time. I know it might seem odd to those who don't skydive (the vast majority of people), but I look forward to learning and remembering how to breathe, stroke, and exercise while in water as a new and exciting skill. It's so fascinating for me to watch Norma Jean and her morning companion, 80-year-old Midge, swim constantly for almost an hour without stopping. And I can continue this activity once I return home, since the YMCA has an Olympic sized pool.

If I had the wherewithal to maintain two residences, one in Bellingham and one in Zephyrhills, I might consider it to be close to Norma Jean and Skydive City during the winter months. But frankly, I'd miss the snowshoe trips with the Senior Trailblazers and my gym companions very much. Not to mention Smart Guy, because in no scenario in my mind do I see this being a place where he would be comfortable. So, perhaps I will come to visit Norma Jean for a couple weeks in the dark of winter and spend time swimming with her, sharing together, and making a few skydives, just to keep my knees in the breeze. That makes sense, doesn't it?

I've been here in Florida for ten days now, and it is amazing to me how my life in Bellingham has slipped into the background. While the sun shines here and I sit in air-conditioned comfort in Zephyrhills,  the wind blows and sub-freezing temperatures in Bellingham keep Smart Guy inside and the birds eating us out of house and home. I have another ten days here. I plan to enjoy it all to the max, and once I head back to Washington state and we circle Seattle's Space Needle in the airplane, this place with all its warmth and sun will recede and become a cherished memory.

Norma Jean has not yet found a new dog, although she has been looking. She wants to rescue a chihuahua or two on her way to wholeness. We will have accomplished that before I leave, I hope. Then I will be joining her and the rest of my family in Texas for a week at the end of March so that the rest of the family can reach closure about Pete's passing and mark the shift in the family dynamics. Little Lexie will also meet her Texas relatives, too. It's a full time in my life and in the life of all the Stewarts.


CiCi said...

Perfect timing for your skydiving friend from WA to be in FL right now so you can skydive together. You look so happy in the picture. I can certainly understand the joy for you when you skydive. I hope you and Norma Jean find a dog (or two) for her before you leave FL.

Teresa Evangeline said...

What a great photo of you and your skydiving friend. Two women so full of Life! It sounds like this is a very fine time for you, despite the difficulty. The possibility of making it a yearly thing sounds like a good idea. Your skydiving is very inspiring to me.I need to look more at all the possibilities. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

DJan, you are the sort of woman who enjoys herself anywhere and everywhere. And you get along with everyone, too. I think it is wonderful that you are trying to master lap swimming -- not an easy task if you are not used to it. I hope you can continue to swim at the Y in Washington.

So here's cheers to you, my friend. Bottoms up!

Linda said...

DJan, this is a wonderful post on so many levels. It was nice to get a glimpse of you that the world in general does not see.

I like GiGi's comment that you are the sort of person who enjoys herself anywhere and everywhere. That's a huge compliment. Most folks can't say that.

Grandmother Mary said...

I like how you take advantage of the opportunities around you including the challenges, like swimming laps. You're an inspiration. What a good way to go through life.

Linda Reeder said...

I think a mid-winter visit to Florida each year is a great idea!
And by the time you get back to Seattle and Bellingham spring will be arriving!

Linda Myers said...

Yes, wintering in Florida sounds like a grand solution for you, DJan. Isn't it nice to have found a new way to exercise, where you're just starting out, that you can do indoors regardless of the weather?

Gigi said...

I am so glad that you are there and spending time with Norma Jean - I'm sure she really appreciates it. Wintering in Florida sounds like a great idea.

Nance said...

I can't even begin to relate to the sky-diving, although I've imagined it many times as the ultimate test of my fear of heights. And I'm no swimmer, either. In fact, Curves with Zumba is about all the excitement I can stand.

But, boy, honey, can I relate to wanting to pick up and move to someplace wholly new at this late stage of life. Me? San Diego, from my east coast suburban four-bedroom to an urban So-Cal 1-bedroom condo. Be still, my arrhythmias!

Whitney Lee said...

I think everyone is right; you're one of those who is simply happy wherever you may be. It must make you a joy to be around. You continue to amaze with your constant desire to try new things and your enjoyment of the simple pleasures.

How great that even down there you were able to jump with one of your friends. This may be one of my favorite pictures of you!

I really like the idea of making an annual trip to see your sister. I'm sure you would both love it. No matter how close you may be and how easily technology allows you communicate, there is nothing that can substitute for actually being together.

gayle said...

I love that you are thinking about spending time with your sister for a couple of weeks each winter.

Once again I feel like such a lazy person. I don't think I could even swim one lap. I Am going to get busy and start doing something!!

Sally Wessely said...

I think your idea of spending a good deal of time there each year with your sister sounds great. Treasure the time. I'm glad you are enjoying those things that bring you such joy.

#1Nana said...

Your trip sounds like a lovely break from the cold and damp. I hope your sister is doing well. Spending time in Florida each year during the winter sounds like a great plan. You are lucky to have family there. Have fun!

Donna B. said...

I have a huge smile on my face right now. You sound so happy and know you are enjoying yourself immensely. I marvel at your willingness and fortitude to pick up new skills so easily.

You are magnificent!

Friko said...

How absolutely brave you are!
I know you've done skydiving routinely but the mere thought makes me come out in fear bumbs. Give me swimming any day. Even if I can't do your sister's hour-long swims.

You sound reasonably happy, perhaps the physical activity makes the loss of a loved one easier to bear. Good luck to you and your sister.

LInda Hoye said...

I hope you enjoy your time to the fullest in Florida. I'm here in the Pacific Northwest where it snowed. Again. Today. Yuck!

Trish MacGregor said...

Great photo of you and your friend. Vivacious, daring women! Love it.

Far Side of Fifty said...

A friend for you to jump with..yeah! I can almost feel that warm sunshine..and yes you should visit Florida and your sister every winter. Great idea to build a fence for the new dog..:)

Far Side of Fifty said...

How did your new canopy work..did you like it..:)

Mel said...

You are such a life force! I am in awe of all you do, and humbled that you can swim laps and skydive with such ease. I always tracked my air time when hubby flew private planes, which is neurotic because I'm not a pilot, and it made me laugh to think you've spent a third of the time I've spent inside a plane falling out of them!
I am glad you are enjoying your family time, reconnecting, sharing and mourning together. That is how these things should be. And yes, Florida is a lovely place to visit, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't take the heat and live there. Safe travels.