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 28, 2013

A very sunny week

Me and Jonelle after our skydive
Last Wednesday we finally got that skydive in, Jonelle's first and my 4,192nd. I wrote about it on my other blog here, but since it was one of last week's highlights I'd like to discuss it a bit more. She was cool as a cucumber, unflappable but excited. She was more concerned about a young man who was in the class with her, in his early twenties, who was so scared he was shaking. He was in the plane with us and did just fine, too. In fact, he was bouncing all around and smiling from ear to ear afterwards.

I was really afraid before my own first skydive, a tandem. I slept poorly the night before and worried about it, and I asked my instructor dozens of questions, trying to delay the inevitable trip to the airplane. I wrote a long post about it, How I Became a Skydiver. Seeing the difference between our responses to the same experience, it makes me wonder if it's necessary to get into a state of anxiety or dread to have one's feelings translate into their opposite. Over the years of working as an instructor, I noticed the difference between those who saw the experience as something on their "bucket list" and those who felt driven to work through the fear they were experiencing. If something terrifies you and you do it anyway, you gain an advantage over it. And it never turns out to be quite what you feared anyway.

In the book I finished recently, Hallucinations, the author points out the difference in how memories are processed when one is in an altered state. Although our normal memories are not fixed but fluid, those traumatic events that can cause a flashback or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are stored in a different part of the brain and are recalled in vivid detail. Oliver Sacks (the author) said it is almost impossible to alter those memories, and researchers are still working to find ways to help those who suffer from debilitating flashbacks. That said, there is a huge difference between being in a war zone and the manufactured fear of jumping from an airplane in a controlled setting. Your mind may know the difference, but it's a rather unnatural thing to do. One's body has a tendency to react as if it is not going to survive. And when it is all over, the strong emotions remain, translated into happiness. That's my theory, anyway.

Not only was it sunny on Wednesday, our Thursday hike up Welcome Pass was without a cloud in the sky. This is usually the beginning of the "dry season" here in the Pacific Northwest, but we have not had a drop of rain in this area for more than a month. And now it's going to get drier, it seems. When we were on the ridge line after gaining the pass, we commented on the dry state of the plants. Usually at this time of the year there is still quite a bit of snow at that elevation, but not this year. Instead, much of the ground cover was burned and crackled under our boots. Although this is good for  us, giving us access to our hiking areas, it must be hard on the critters who are used to abundant water sources.

I know this may sound strange to some of my readers, but I really miss the partly cloudy skies and marine layer that gives us fog in the morning. Fortunately for me, I see that we do have a chance of a bit of a marine layer this morning and tomorrow, although it's pretty weak. Now, at 6:00am, the sun is rising into a clear blue sky, and it's calm with no wind at all. Maybe it's cloudy on the coast south of us, but nothing here. Tomorrow is the first of our "extra" hikes, an all-day affair where we drive more than a hundred miles to the Mountain Loop Highway and spend the day going up a hard hike. I'm hoping for at least a little bit of cloud cover, but I'm not expecting much. I'll be slathered with sunscreen and using my new hat with a wide brim.

The Trailblazers decided two years ago to add these hikes so we can go to places we cannot reach on our usual Thursday outings. I've really enjoyed learning more about this beautiful part of the country. We head out every other Monday and visit some spectacular areas. It's not actually considered part of the Senior Center's schedule, so we usually meet in the parking lot and figure out the carpool logistics. The group is usually smaller, too, since we start at 7:30 and don't return until more than twelve hours later. We certainly do get to know each other pretty well! I've been going out on these excursions with some of the same people for five years now, and a few of them feel like family.

Maybe it helps to suffer together, too. Since some of these hikes are steep and challenging, we have been known to moan and groan together as we make our way through the switchbacks and unremittingly beautiful scenery. I'm very happy to be in good enough shape to keep this up, for now at least, and I'm enjoying this very sunny summer season. Since the days are getting shorter already, and we will reach the point in between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox in a few days, I intend to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of the summer that I can!


Rian said...

DJan, have fun on that extra hike! And do be careful. I know that you are in fit shape for all the things you do, but just don't overdo. Although they say age is just a state of mind... it does affect our bodies too. But I do enjoy reading about your adventures!

Friko said...

We have been known to moan and groan together......

O really? You do surprise me!
I thought you’d all skip and dance uphill and down dale like mountain goats; Heavens above, woman, you and your fellow trailblazers are absolutely amazing. I’d be whimpering after the first mile or two, begging to be taken home for a nice lie down.

Ditto you and your fellow skydivers.

Just watch out, DJan, enjoy yourself as much as you possibly can but do what Rian says, take care.

Linda Reeder said...

While you are meeting up for mountain climbing tomorrow, I'll be winging my way to Philadelphia. Our flight leaves at 6:40 AM, and we have a soccer match tonight at 8:00, which means I'll be lucky to have four hours sleep. If I'm not to groggy I'll be thinking of you as we fly over the mountains.
Have fun!

Lorna said...

I admire you for being so active and positive.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! 100 miles in 12 hours? What, are you crazy? But, I know you will enjoy the camaraderie the most, with the beautiful scenery beckoning you, too. Enjoy it!

O-town Ramblings said...

i thought of you last week when I was hiking up a peak near my house. I was moaning and groaning a lot. Would you believe I actually referenced you in my pep talk to myself? Yep, I thought, "DJan does hikes much harder than this all the time and she's 30 years older than me!" Not that it made the hike easier for me but it did change my perspective. Thanks for always being an inspiration.

Linda Myers said...

Well, I feel a lot better now that I know you all moan and groan.

amanda said...

Your 4,192nd skydive. I love that you have kept track, DJan!
Our family doctor (whom we see more outside the clinic than in - thankful to have our health & a bunch of hearty kids)
is a lady I really admire & like. Her life in interesting.. she attended Notre Dame, with a love of FOOTBALL, and dreams of being an NFL sidelines doctor. Her husband is a rough looking, tattooed former marine who stays home with the kids. Their kids enjoy similar thing to ours.. mainly the outdoors & adventure & getting dirty & fresh air.
We are very fortunate that she has delivered our younger three children - we respect each other. She loves her work, and is good at it. Anyway - so I asked her once, in labor at the time, how many babies she has delivered. To me, that would be like sky dives. She is PASSIONATE about it.
She laughed and said she didn't know... but knowing her, and by the look she gave me.. I think she does. :)

Arkansas Patti said...

I am always caught up short when you remind us that this is a senior hiking group. A 12 hour hike would make a recruit in basic training moan and groan.
Take care and have a great hike.

Jackie said...

Beautiful blue skies...yet, I know that you miss the cloud layers.
I admire Jonelle's attitude as she approached her first sky dive. I think I would have been in the shoes of the young man who was shaking. God bless all of you. I do pray for safety for each of you as you continue to enjoy jumping out of airplanes. I can only imagine that it would be fun, because to me, it would rank up there with one of the scariest things EVER for me. You are brave. Indeed.
I can actually smell the difference in the seasons. I don't know if anyone else has ever sensed that, but I can not only feel the difference as fall approaches, but I can smell it. I noticed it first on Friday. Interesting. (Or weird. I'm not sure!) :))
Continued good health to you and your friends, Jan, as you hike and enjoy the beauty that God created.
Hugs and love to you,

Gigi said...

Yes, I am the one who finds it strange that you are missing clouds and such. Here...you can have them back! This has been the wettest summer in memory here - usually by now we are in drought conditions - so apparently we have traded weather this summer and I am BEYOND being done with it. So please, take these clouds away. ;-)

Red said...

The brain is a fascinating organ. It's quite interesting where the brain stores different things.
As I've said before , many more people should follow you up the trails. It would be good for them in many ways. For you it's not just fitness. It's what it does to your head.

Sally Wessely said...

I'm with Friko. Enjoy yourself as much as you possibly can.

Whitney Lee said...

Amazing. I read something rather interesting and scary last night about research that had used radioactivity to alter the memories of mice. That's what came to mind when you mentioned flashbacks...
As for the fear, I know after my near exit several years ago that I had a very go get em attitude. I began to do things (physical activities) that I'd been too frightened to attempt before. There is something quite thrilling about facing a fear and powering through, a proud giddiness. I'm sure your young skydiving gentleman would agree. I'm now wondering where that courageous attitude of mine disappeared to over the last few years...
I hope you're enjoying your hike this morning!

Rita said...

Since I am afraid of heights, I would be a trembling mass that would have to be pushed out of the plane. I've conquered quite a few other fears in this lifetime, so I think I'll pass on this one this time around. Maybe next lifetime--LOL!

You guys look so happy. No matter what weather you are used to, it feels strange when it is "off" and it seems to be off all over.

The traumatic memory concept is fascinating! We can also block things out, too.

Enjoy your hike!! :):)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Another book for my growing list of books to read! So Mercury went direct and you and your friend got to skydive!

Far Side of Fifty said...

You go girl! Moaning and groaning at least you continue! You are an inspiration! :)

Penny said...

Before reading this posting, I'd never thought of examining the differences in how my brain processed the events of skydiving, of which I had great fear ending in exhileration, and brain surgeries that went from fear to PTSD. Now I'll have to read Oliver Sach's latest book....thanks

Penny said...

Before reading this posting, I'd never thought of examining the differences in how my brain processed the events of skydiving, of which I had great fear ending in exhileration, and brain surgeries that went from fear to PTSD. Now I'll have to read Oliver Sach's latest book....thanks

Deb Shucka said...

I don't know anyone with more capacity than you to squeeze every possible bit of joy out of a moment. Thank you for sharing the most recent moments.

Jim said...