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, August 10, 2014

Going skydiving today

Me under my pretty parachute
Last weekend one of my skydiving friends, Cindy, finally got recurrent for the season and sent me an email, asking if I would be interested in skydiving this weekend with her and her husband Dave. I said I definitely would, although it's not the same without my friend Linny. She has made only two skydives since she got whiplash from a hard opening last September, and I suspect she may not continue.

In a way, the few jumps I've made since returning from southern California in April has been a good segue into my desire to stop skydiving after this season. Rather than just driving down the 75 miles to Snohomish to get my knees in the breeze and jumping with anybody who might be around, I've begun to focus on other activities. That's not to say I won't miss it, I know I will. But things change, and we grow older with every passing day. Acknowledging change is important.

When I moved here six years ago, part of the reason I wanted to leave Colorado was to get away from the teaching aspect of skydiving. For the previous twelve years, I made well over 200 skydives every single year (unless I was injured) and taught numerous First Jump Courses to new students and took them out skydiving. Every weekend I made six or eight skydives with students, sometimes more during the long summer days. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest, I knew that skydiving would become seasonal, and that was all right with me. It was a good way to point my interests in new directions and discover what this new environment had to offer.

Much has changed in those six years. When we first moved here, there was a Drop Zone in Vancouver, BC, managed and owned by an old friend. Because of access issues, that skydiving venue closed down a few years ago. We stopped going north of the border to skydive. Then because of his shoulder injuries, Smart Guy stopped skydiving, and I knew that the time was coming for me to think about stopping, too. Last October in southern California I re-injured my left knee, which had ACL replacement surgery back in 1994. I wasn't really wanting to acknowledge how much I had hurt it, but as the weeks and months passed afterwards, I knew it would never be back to normal.

In that twenty-year-old injury, I had a good bit of meniscus damage, and the doctor told me that the knee would eventually develop arthritis, more than likely. I've been spared that, but the alarming popping and clicking that has become a daily occurrence tells me I've got to be careful not to let it get any worse. I started wearing a brace on that knee when I go hiking or walking, and miraculously the knee pain has diminished to almost nothing. Although I can no longer sit back on my heels (because of pain in the left knee), I can now do pretty much everything I could do before the October injury.

My Thursday hikes are very important to me for many reasons, not the least of which is because of the incredible beauty that I get to enjoy when I'm out in the wilderness. The friends I've made over the years, and the ability to stay fit are also important aspects of those hikes. When I first joined the group (six years ago), I figured that a group of hikers organized at the local Senior Activity Center would be easy and probably not much of a challenge. How wrong I was! I well remember that first hike: it was in September, and we went up to the Mt. Baker wilderness to hike the Chain Lakes trail, around seven or eight miles and up and down more than 2,500 feet of elevation. I was the only one in the group of twelve or so that didn't have trekking poles. I had never used them before, and I thought they were not very useful.

That day we had everything except a view: it rained and hailed and the wind blew us sideways. We kept on trudging, and frankly I was impressed with the hardiness of my fellow hikers. I had what I considered to be adequate rain gear and clothing, but by the time we reached the end, I was soaked through. And that was also my last hike without trekking poles: the next week I borrowed a spare set of Al's and the week after that I had my own. I am on my third set of poles already. They make an incredible difference, partly because of the balance, but mostly because it gives me a way to take the majority of the weight off my knees on the downhill sections. I don't think I could do without them now.

I also learned from my fellow hikers how to find a pair of waterproof hiking boots. I love having dry feet while tramping through puddles and crossing streams. That took a good bit of trial and error, but I found a brand of boots that fit my feet and keep them dry and comfy (Lowa's, if you're wondering). They are not cheap but they last for several years if I take good care of them. At first I didn't and found that leaving them, wet and covered with mud, in the trunk of my car after a hard hike was not a good idea. These days I bring my precious friends inside afterwards, take out the insoles, and clean them up. It's worth the effort.

One of these days, I won't be able to do the hard hikes any more; just like skydiving, it takes a certain amount of fitness, and abilities change over the years. But that's not today, and I don't intend to do anything that will keep me from enjoying the outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest for many years to come. Of course, life itself is not guaranteed, much less the ability to run and jump and play. One of the things that this blog gives me is some perspective on my life, on how the years follow one after another, and small imperceptible changes can be noticed.

One thing I realize as I sit here, tea now gone and my partner still asleep next to me, there's a feeling of anticipation from just thinking about a day of skydiving that I don't get from a hike. A flutter of anxiety in my stomach, not only from the thought of skydiving but also driving 150 miles (there and back) on the freeway. Although I'm careful, there is no way to anticipate accidents, just pay attention and be cautious. But there's no way I would stay away because of what might happen, so here I go, off into my day, filled with joy and gratitude for what these old bones still allow me to do! Please take good care of yourself, and until we meet again next week, I hope you will also be filled with joy and happiness. That's my wish for all of us.
The flowers on last Thursday's hike


Anonymous said...

I admire your tenacity, DJan. You're very honest with yourself, too, which is good. Do whatever makes you happy. Enjoy the rest of your life.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I always enjoy reading your reflections on life. From my point of view it looks like you have a really good take on accepting change and, especially, for making preparations to adapt to the way change affects you. It seems that it must be very difficult to decide to stop skydiving as much as you have done that and enjoyed it so much over all the years. It just seems commendable that you have thought things through and made adjustments to accommodate moving into the “golden years.” Sitting here thinking about your blog … what I wish we had … and maybe it exists and I just don’t know it … is a place to recommend blogs. I would recommend yours under the category of “Reflecting on Life”. I was reading your Profile and it just strikes me as a key to blogging … “Not … to satisfy anyone but myself”. Indeed, I will think about putting that in my own Profile. The best blogs are the ones where folks are just describing their own interests. These blogs are not usually the ones with “give-aways” to increase page views or win awards. So, thanks for sharing some interesting thoughts. And that picture taken on your hike Thursday is just great! Have a good week! John

justme_alive said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, savor today.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

You could have been a philosopher! Love this post.

Linda Reeder said...

By the time I'm reading this you should have already been up in the air. I hope you are having a great time. My kids, Jill and Jake, are hiking up to Camp Muir on Mt Rainier this morning. It should be a spectacular day for it there too. Hopefully they have reached their goal and will descending soon. They plan to make it to the soccer match at the stadium this evening!
The kids are here with us for the day and we'll drop them off with a sitter at their house for the evening while we go to the soccer match too. So far I can't get them off their screens, so I have joined them on mine.
I'll be looking forward to a report on your day in the sky.

Elephant's Child said...

I hope your dive was wonderful.
I so admire your tenacity for life, for beauty - and your wisdom. Letting go and moving on are hard to do, let alone to do as gracefully as you do.

Jackie said...

Take care of you, Jan.
I know that you are happy to be skydiving today.
Thinking of you....

Arkansas Patti said...

You are probably back now and reflecting in the joy of your jump. Hope it was a perfect day,
I admire how you are able to take a few limitations and just adjust your pleasures to fit the new perimeters.
You make us all want to do better. Thanks.

Gigi said...

I hope you had fun playing in the sky today! Have a fabulous week!

Linda Myers said...

Hope your afternoon in Snohomish was memorable!

Red said...

I wish ,more people could or would reflect on their life like you do. As you say, it gives you an understanding of yourself as to where you came from and where you're going.

Rita said...

I hope you had a successful day taking leaps of faith into the sky. I can hear you knee-weighing the one more jump vs. all your hiking and walking adventures. One day the hiking and walking will win I would imagine. But you will always be a skydiver. No matter what. No one can ever take all those years falling through the sky away from you. You're the only mountain climber I know, too. :) :)

The Furry Gnome said...

Boy can I ever relate to your comment that 'things change and we get older every day'. I hope I can learn to age as gracefully as you are!

Deb Shucka said...

I know I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. I love, admire, look up to your spirit of adventure. I also love how intentional you are about how you spend your time and your body at this stage of life. I'm so grateful to be able to watch you travel just a bit ahead of me on this trail.

Marty said...

I enjoyed this posting, DJan. It was both a recognition of our limitations and a call to keeping moving in whatever way works for us for as long as we are able.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Enjoy every day we don't know how many more we get:)

Friko said...

I knew you wouldn’t give up just yet. Why should you. The pleasure and enjoyment you derive from skydiving comes through with every word and also that you are sensible enough to know when to stop.

Whatever lights your candle!

There should be more like you, enjoying life to the full in spite of serious emotional unhappiness and complaining joints. If we could all pick ourselves up as you have done we should be lucky.

Sally Wessely said...

You amazing woman you inspire yet again. I hope your Sunday jump was amazing. I think of you so much when I try to push myself to do more than I have done the past few years.

Back when you lived in Colorado, over twenty years ago, probably about 24 years ago now, (how can that be?) I went to the skydiving place near Ft. Collins with a guy I had dated for a number of years. He jumped for the first and only time that I know of. He was in awe of the instructors there and those 'older' more experienced jumpers that were always there. I think of you often when I think of that day. I wonder if you were there. I wonder if I saw you long before I knew you through blogging, and before I ever became your 'flesh' friend. All I know is that the day in Ft. Collins was a long time ago and you are still jumping. Yup, you are amazing.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Thanks for the interesting question on my blog today about the medallion Wolf Robe is wearing in the portrait. I did put the magnifier on the postcard but can't make out any additional information on the photo. Your question led me to do a little research on F. A. Rinehart. He was an American artist and photographer who did some historically important work at the Indian Congress of 1898 in Omaha. (You have to love history to get into this stuff like I do ... ha ha) Anyway, my guess is the medallion had something to do with the Indian Congress, but what ... I don't know. Thanks again for the question and peaking my curiosity. John

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for your wish that this week be one of joy and happiness for me. Lots has happened--something on the highway that could have resulted in a bad accident for me and others but didn't, a visit to the eye doctor who's put me on stronger medication for glaucoma that I could still afford, and the encouragement I've received from a knowledgeable friend for my writing and the schedule I've set for myself for the next two years. So this week had brought me your wish. I had your week also was joyous and that you enjoyed your Sunday skydiving. Peace.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Just to let you know, I answered the question you asked on yesterday's post about Chief Wolf Robe. Posted an update on the blog. Thanks for the good question! John