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 23, 2014

Beginning my last skydiving season

Sandra, Hollis, Dana, Frankie, me, Louise: SOS record holders
Another Sunday rolls around. This morning I'm sitting in bed with snow falling gently outside the window. I peeked when I got up to make my tea, since I knew it was predicted for our area last night, and it's not much, actually, maybe two or even three inches on the ground. The temperature is right at freezing, so it probably won't make the roads all that bad.

I agonized over the decision about whether or not to get my skydiving gear in date and get ready for another season. Last April I went to a Skills Camp in southern California at Lake Elsinore, and last October I attended a record attempt for Jumpers Over Seventy in the same place. I met so many wonderful people at both of those events that I decided to go ahead and attend this year, once again. Although the majority of the people at this event will stay for the SOS record attempt (Skydivers Over Sixty), I will only attend the camp to get myself current for the much-smaller Women's SOS record. Last year six of us set a record, and this year I'm looking forward to being with my peers once again.

It's the only reason I'm going, actually. I've really enjoyed my years of skydiving, and I know that I have had more than my share of thrills and chills in the sport. I thought I would quit when I turned seventy, and then I attended that event last year and had so much fun and learned a great deal. I made fifteen skydives there last year, and made another forty at Skydive Snohomish over the summer season. I was happy to hang up my gear for the fall and winter and wondered if I'd ever use it again. For the first time in 22 years, I let my gear go out of date over the winter. (This means that the reserve parachute has not been inspected and repacked by a certified rigger.) I'll rectify that on March 8th, when I will attend Safety Day at Skydive Snohomish. I'll take my gear there and leave it so that it can be in date when I fly to southern California in early April.

I am truly ambivalent. So much has happened in my life during the past year, and skydiving has occupied only a small, peripheral part of it. There was a time when my weeks and months revolved around the weekends when I could skydive, but that's a long time ago now. It's been more than six years since I stopped teaching it, and I can hardly imagine that person who I was then, who looked forward to teaching a dozen people at Saturday's First Jump Course and then taking some of them out for a skydive. Who thought nothing of making twelve to fifteen skydives in a weekend! Who would return to work on Monday morning feeling well satisfied and just a little tired.

Yes, we all slow down, and our values change. I've gone on many wonderful hikes during the past year with people who have become dear friends. I've got the pictures to prove it, and we continue to enjoy the outdoors and each other's company. I lost one of my siblings this month, and I gathered with my remaining family to celebrate her life. Some of those people whom I hike with are dealing with health issues of their own, and they come and go from one week to the next. Amy is dealing with vertigo and announced that she will not be hiking with us until she gets better, although what is causing it is still unknown. I will miss her, but I know that there is the possibility of her return, and that makes me happy. That's not the case with PJ: since she was not part of my everyday life, I forget now and then that she is gone. And then I'll think of the last few weeks and remember anew.

As one of my blogging friends reminded me, grief is a process. Sharing my loss is part of what helps me heal, as I realize that it also is what I am beginning to do with my skydiving career. If you had told me twenty years ago that I would still be jumping in my seventies, I would not have believed it. I am trying to let it go before I end up getting hurt. And then I'd be required to stop and not by my own choice, but by having held on too long and not having listened to my own inner wisdom.

Spring is right around the corner now. It's the end of February and next Saturday, the first day of March, I'll attend a play with my friend Judy. The next day will be the Oscars, and I'll enjoy watching and admiring the gowns, hoping that my favorites will take home the statue. The following Saturday is Safety Day at Snohomish, and in early April I'll fly to southern California. The above picture reminds me that it's also WARM there, and I should come back with a bit of California sunshine on my cheeks. Not to mention many memories to cherish. It's a bit different now that I really do think it's my last season, so I'll be hugging my friends and savoring every last little drop of their presence.

Re-reading all this and thinking about how my plans are laid out for the near future, I realize that is all they are: just plans. And we all know about the best-laid plans, right? The quote is from an old Scots poem by Robert Burns: "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry," text from the poem To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with a Plough. I enjoyed reading the entire poem when I went looking for some information about it. That's where the link takes you.

And then again, sometimes our plans come to fruition and we look back with joy and happiness at them, glad we made the leap. Well, in my case anyway, I would be leaping from an airplane. Here's to another wonderful spring and summer ahead! (Lifting my cup of tea and offering a toast to the possibility.)


Linda Myers said...

Nice reflective piece, DJan. I can tell your skydiving thoughts have evolved since last year. Sounds like you're ready.

Linda Reeder said...

Ah, yes, the best laid plans. I really hope yours come to fruition. It would be a lovely ending to a pastime that is past time.
I am beginning to think about my 70th birthday this summer. Maybe a little garden party is in order. And then there is our Mediterranean cruise including time in Italy planned for next October. Plus just the day to day pleasures of life here in paradise. Much to look forward too.

Far Side of Fifty said...

WELL, I think you should just take it one jump at a time and see how it goes. You are a big girl and I trust that when you feel something is unsafe or is causing you physical problems you will quit. Until them you have to live each day to it's fullest with no regrets! Hope you snow melts quickly..we have horrid winds today and the wind chill is like -35...another crappy winter day that I will make the best of:)

Anonymous said...

I would have quit sky diving by age 65. Why push my luck, right? But, it's really up to you, DJan. Don't listen to me, as I am just an old fogey. Lol.

Cynthia said...

I'm excited for you as you look ahead to one more season of doing something you love. I think there is something precious and special about living anything consciously as the "last time", no matter what it is. Here's to a great summer!

Elephant's Child said...

I am a bit sad that you are thinking that this is your last sky-diving season. For me, as much as for you. Probably more.
But is is your decision, and obviously not a snap one.
I will join in you toast - here's to many rich, exciting possibilities.

Gigi said...

Happy Sunday, DJan. Only you know when it is best to hang up your gear and whether or not this is your last season I hope you have a great one!

Enjoy that play - I can't wait to hear about it.

Arkansas Patti said...

I always wondered if I were a good athlete, would I know when to hang it up. I always hoped I would leave on top of my game.
You are the only one to know when that time will be.
Now to check out that link. I never did know the whole story behind the quote.

Linda Reeder said...

I came back when I had more time to follow the Robert burns link. What fun to read that poem again. It has been a long time since I last read that!

Red said...

You've covered a lot of territory this morning. In giving up something we go through a process similar to grief. My suggestion is make a decision on sky diving a year ahead, Enjoy your last year to the max and then it's done. You're in control.
Have a great skydiving season.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Now that you're thinking this might be your last season, you'll be evaluating your experiences from that perspective. You'll be able to confirm your decision, or alter it, based on the most recent evidence. I admit that I do like being able to say I know a woman who's my age and jumps out of airplanes. :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, yes, you have a plan, and yes, it may change, but I find having a plan to be a comfortable thing even as I deviate from it. A plan helps set boundaries for me because I tend to keep my options open unless I have some plan. Then, as the options appear I can pick and choose among them. But if I have no plan, the options inundate me and I'm overwhelmed by choice. Does that make sense????? Good luck. Peace.

amanda said...

If you trust your wisdom, experience, & heart, you'll be happy.
I feel that your life will be full of wonderful activity whether you hang up your gear or not. :)
Enjoyed your reflections, and the laying out of a plan. It helps me to make plans in typing out my thoughts, and I agree that it helps with healing & adapting to change, too.

Glenda Beall said...

I understand so well your statement: "That's not the case with PJ: since she was not part of my everyday life, I forget now and then that she is gone."
I have to stop sometimes and realize that my sister, June, is gone and so are my three brothers. As they were not part of my everyday life, my mind continues to think of them in their worlds, in their homes and I even think I might give one of them a call before I am brought up short with the finality.
You inspire all of your readers, DJan, with your zest for life and skydiving. You inspire me to go on with my work when I have been giving thought to heading in a different direction.One more year.

Rita said...

I still have to stop and think sometimes about my dear friend, Ruby, to realize she's not here anymore--and it's been a year. But when they lived far away it's easy to pretend they're not really gone, I think.

I believe you will know when the time has come to pack up your gear. Could be during the year or after your first jump or at the end of the coming season. You'll know. It sounds like you are ready soon.

Lorna said...

Life goes on and we are sometimes forced into decisions. I look at you as a woman with courage and an open mind about new possibilities.You truly are a role model, DJan.

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

Good luck to you and your endeavours. You're very brave to skydive!

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Friko said...

No, DJan, you’ve said this before.
I think you’re addicted and will only give up when you can no longer physically do it.

And why not? Do what makes you happy.

Stella Jones said...

I hope you enjoy the Spring D-Jan and that whatever you decide, it turns out to be the best for you.