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 31, 2011

Skydiving day

Our six-way participants, 30 July 2011
Just to show how one's plans for a weekend can change in an instant! Yesterday was all planned out: get up early and head to Lake Whatcom and make a six-mile walk along the North Shore with the Fairhaven Walkers, dash to the Farmers' Market for a quick look around, and then swim my usual Saturday half mile in the pool. But when I woke up and checked the weather forecast, Saturday was forecast to be sunny and beautiful, and Sunday (today) cloudy with a 50% chance of rain.

So I quickly changed my plans and drove down to Snohomish to meet my friend Linny (the other white-haired skydiver in the picture) and friends to make some jumps. This was my original schedule for today, and since I can't exactly switch, I've ended up with NO PLANS for the day, other than this early morning post.

The weather was the only thing that could have caused this change, because you can't skydive if you can't see the ground. Skydiving is required by the FAA to operate under visual flight rules (VFR), since you wouldn't want to climb up above the clouds and jump out of the plane only to find there is an aircraft that you couldn't see! And indeed, as I sit here in the early morning, I find that it's overcast and dark outside, no sunshine anywhere to be seen. I made the right choice. Yesterday was a spectacular day.

Within the space of five hours of jumping and packing, we made four skydives and I packed my own parachute three of those times. Once, we had to make a quick turnaround call, so I hired Tony, one of the Drop Zone's regular packers, to do it for me. It costs $6 and I told him that if I had a good opening I would give him another dollar. It was a beautiful opening, something I am still trying to perfect with my new canopy. Every single canopy has its own quirks, and this one wants to open, all right, so I need to slow that process down a bit. Tony's and Smart Guy's pack jobs do this, so I know it's possible.

I had budgeted enough money to make four jumps, so I was ready to leave by 2:30pm. As I was packing up after the last jump of the day, I managed to wrench my lower back in an ill-advised move. By the time I finished, I knew that I wouldn't have wanted to make another jump anyway. After taking some ibuprofen and spending a night feeling that lower back pain, I'm thinking it should be okay within another day or two, but it's sure not fun hobbling around moaning. I had just made four skydives without incident and then hurt myself packing! Sometimes life is funny that way.

I was really looking forward to swimming yesterday, since the pool is now closed for two weeks for its regular maintenance. I'll probably try to find an alternate place for at least one swim, since the activity has become a very relaxing and contemplative complement to my other physical pursuits. There's something so soothing about the breathing and stroking, and before a few minutes has passed, I enter a zone of peacefulness that nothing else provides. I have taught myself to breathe on alternate sides, with three strokes in between, in order to provide symmetry to the workout. My arms are usually a little sore after swimming for a half hour, and my legs feel worked out in a different way. When I climb out of the pool and lose the buoyancy of the water, I feel heavy and need a moment to readjust to land.

I started swimming in Florida in February when I visited Norma Jean and kept it up as a way to feel connected to her. It's been a real surprise that I have learned to enjoy it so much. Between hiking with the Senior Trailblazers, skydiving on the weekends, and swimming and taking aerobic classes at the Y, I guess you might say I'm a rather active Senior. The saying that you need to "use it or lose it" is becoming more and more evident as I age. Taking time off from exercise is not something I want to do, and this annoying pain in my back is reminding me to take it easy today so I can begin the week in good shape.

Retirement for me is only retiring from the working world, certainly not retiring from working out, or being engaged in life. My blogging life fulfills a need, too: I would certainly miss it if I stopped, not to mention missing all my friends, whose comments and blogs provide me with a community of like-minded companions. You are an essential part of my life. Thank you for being there.


Anonymous said...

DJan, your post today has inspired me to join the community gym where I live. It is just 2 or 3 blocks from my house, and I would love to swim in the huge pool there. The cost - $150 per year - seemed daunting, but, heck, if it means exercising these old bones of mine, why not?

I just love your 2 blogs and often click on them during the week to read the comment sections. Keep going!

Sally Wessely said...

We could use you as the poster "child" for active seniors.

I never learned to swim. I passed swimming in college, so it doesn't make sense that I can't swim. I swam the length of the pool after diving off the diving board. That meant I passed. I'd like to take it up and learn to swim again. I love being in the water. I find it very healing. I have two beautiful pools where I do water aerobics. I need to find an instructor for swimming. It is on my list.

Mel said...

You continue to amaze and inspire me. I'm trying to be more physically active, because I can tell a difference in my mental state when I do, must be the endorphins. Sorry about your back troubles - I think it's ironic that it's often the little insignificant events that can cause trouble with my back and neck. Hope you're better.
I too find that blogging - reading, writing, commenting - gives me an endorphin like buzz as well. Connecting is a good thing.
Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

Rita said...

I hope your back is better. How odd that you hurt it packing up. Life is so silly sometimes.

I also hope you can find another place to swim some in the next couple weeks while your pool is closed. You are the poster woman staying active! ;)

Donna B. said...

So happy for you in getting to jump! I am recuperating from my weeklong visit with my girlfriend Jan. She is a very active person too. I am feeling the difference after keeping a much more active life style with her visit.

My husband's friend arrived the day Jan left. He is here for his birthday weekend... so we are once again, busier than normal...

I long to get back reading what everyone has been up to... I had to get a new cell phone, which turned out to be a smart phone... so I am still trying to learn how to use it.

I think we are going to the movies...the boys want to see COWBOYS and ALIENS...so will let you know what I think...

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I continue to be in awe of your level of activity. Nasty break hurting your back while packing, but that's one of life's ironies, isn't it? Feel better soon!

Gigi said...

Funny how it's always doing something that should be easy and simple on the body - is the thing that ends up hurting it. Glad you had a good time yesterday and hope the back is feeling better soon.

Gigi said...

Oh, and thank YOU, DJan. Right now, I don't think I would be able to stay sane without blogging friends like you to cheer me on.

Anonymous said...

"rather active Senior" may be one major understatement. Your day would make a good week for me. Hum, maybe I could do better. Thanks for setting the bar high.
Arkansas Patti

Sandi said...

You are such an inspiration! I'm sorry you hurt your back . . . now you need to let it heal, but, swimming would probably be ok. You made me think about maybe trying that. I used to go to a water aerobics class at a club nearby, (and plan to return in two weeks, which I'm cleared!) but, I might trying swimming first, as it may be an easier return to exercise than the aerobics with my new knee. Glad you got your jumps in!

REd said...

A sky diving senior has got to be at the top of the order. Hopefully the back twinge sorts itself out quickly. I think for seniors to remain mentally healthy they really need to have a high levle of fitness.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if google will let me comment today...

I continue to be in awe of your level of activity and I am embarassed at my level of inactivity! You really are an inspiration.

I agree with you about the blog community. I've learned so much about how to adjust and maximize retirement from my fellow bloggers and I wish everyone was closer so we could have lunch and catch a matinee.

Hope your back is better soon. Have a great week.

Friko said...

I'd call you a hyper-active senior, in a nice way, of course. You could show many a young person the way.

Your sky-diving scares me, what if the parachute doesn't open? I go up a ladder and I feel dizzy.

At least you still need to sit down to blog!

Robert the Skeptic said...

I love it that you still jump. I miss it but I never got comfortable enough to relax... staring at that altimeter too much.

We had a little Cessna 172 (seats removed, of course). We could get 4 jumpers and a pilot in there; would take forever to up to 10k. The DZ (Willamette Valley Parachute) would back up with jumpers so it would take pretty much ALL DAY to get in 3 jumps, if that.

I loved the view of the Cascades on the way down, though.

Dee said...

DJan, I just discovered your blog from reading a comment you posted on another blog. You surely are an inspiration to all of us who want to take good health into the latter part of our lives. I, too, am retired, but my level of activity--on a scale of 1 to 10--is about a 3. You! On the other hand! Are an 11!!!! You're going to be my poster "girl."

Rubye Jack said...

Hi DJan, I'm new to your blog and find your attitude inspiring since I retired not too long ago and am often at a loss for direction. There is sky-diving off the mountain right behind my house and I have started thinking about giving it try, but what scares me is the landing.

Bragger said...

A jumpmaster once asked me how my jump was, and I said, "Fine, except for a bit of a hard opening." He suggested I roll the nose a little more the next time.

Roll the nose. THAT'S the step I left out. I never forgot that step again, with purple strap mark bruises on thighs and arms to remind me.

I never got hurt skydiving (thank goodness) but dislocated my knee taking my daughter to the potty. Dislocated the other one stepping off a campus bus. Go figure.