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, September 28, 2014

Falling into fall

Leaves are changing
Today I am most likely going out to the Drop Zone to make a few jumps with my friends. It's not certain, however, since the fog might not lift as early as it did yesterday. I saw pictures of Seattle from my friend Linda's blog, which showed beautiful clear skies for most of the day; here, we never did get full sunshine. I just looked at the satellite picture, and the fog in the Puget Sound area does look a little heavier than it did yesterday. We'll see.

I'd like to go, even if I only make one skydive. My season is fast coming to a close. The Drop Zone will only be open one more month, October, and there is never any assurance that the weather will cooperate. Most years I've been able to jump until mid-October, so there's hope. I know it sounds like I'm still waffling about whether or not to make this my last season, but I'm not, really. It's just been such a big part of my life for the past twenty-five years, and it's hard to think of not ever flinging myself out of an airplane and playing in freefall again. Plus there's that beautiful canopy I love to fly.

Last night I had a dream that I had a malfunction. I looked up at my deploying parachute and it was not fully inflating. I tried to wiggle it around and finally made the decision to cut it away and use my reserve parachute. Well, I successfully went back into freefall, but my reserve did not come out! I tried to punch it with my elbows, wanting it to come out of the bag, but I woke up before I figured out why it didn't work. And before I hit the ground. It was an unsettling dream. I lay in bed for awhile thinking about it, wondering if it was an omen, something I should pay attention to. I had done everything correctly and still it didn't look like I would survive.

What I think the dream was telling me is just that: no matter what I do, how carefully I make sure everything is done properly, I'm still going to die. My mortality has been on my mind lately, as I get closer to my next birthday, and as I continue to learn of dear friends who are very sick and not expected to survive, fighting that last battle. My friend Steve who has liver cancer is waiting for a transplant. He was only given six months to live without one, and it's getting close. The pictures I see of him make me very sad, but he has asked us to be positive, and I'm trying, I really am. But it's hard to imagine wishing for another person with his same blood type to meet an untimely death just so Steve can go through another type of misery. But he's strong and vigorous and wants to live, so I'm determined to stay positive, for his sake.

I've been enjoying the Ken Burns series on The Roosevelts. I've finished five of the seven two-hour-long episodes. I know the next one will take me through Franklin Roosevelt's four elections to the presidency. I was amazed to learn through this series that Teddy Roosevelt only lived to be sixty, and that Franklin only lived to be sixty-three. They both accomplished an incredible amount in what seems to me to be rather short lives, but then again, sixty years is a long time. It's only that I've gone past that number myself and now more than a decade has passed since that milestone. I've changed my idea of what defines a long life. I wonder if I'll feel the same way when I reach eighty.

I doubt it, for several reasons. It's incredible how quickly a year passes these days. Even a decade passes rapidly. When I was a young woman, it seemed like a decade took almost forever. Now, I look back ten years and feel it was just yesterday. This is, I'm convinced, an aspect of aging that we all come to realize, if we live long enough. Every year becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of my life, and every one of my paltry eight or nine decades of life finishes way too soon.

Okay, I've done enough with that bit, haven't I? What I would like to do with the rest of this post is count my blessings. It's way more fruitful and worthwhile than grousing about the brevity of life. First of all, I count the blessing of my environment, which includes the magnificent Pacific Northwest in general, and my little corner of the universe in particular. While this tiny apartment with little furniture wouldn't satisfy many people, it's quite enough for me. Sharing it with my partner, who loves me immoderately and who has taught me so very much during our quarter of a century together, that's on the top of my list.

My blogging universe is right up there towards the top of the list, too. It was only five years ago that I began to write a blog, and it satisfies some deep need in me to communicate my thoughts. Years ago I kept a journal, but it was a different time, and my journal had no audience. I still re-read parts of those volumes, but it was a complete surprise to me to find like-minded people who also write blogs. That universe of virtual friends has become a source of continuing delight. I look forward to reading about the daily life of many of my friends, most of whom I will never meet in person. Some, though, I have.

Next month I will travel south to join five other blogging women to have our annual retreat on Vashon Island, our third such gathering. We all followed each other's lives on line and when one suggested that we get together, I never realized how much I would enjoy getting to know them in person. Another friend lives in Seattle and we met at the garden show, quite by accident. Well, not quite: her husband recognized me from my pictures on line. But you know, I have many other virtual friends who live far away from me: Hawaii, Australia, London, Maine, Minnesota, and many other places I'm not likely to travel to. It doesn't matter: they are my virtual family and I cherish them all. If someone doesn't show up on line for awhile, I begin to worry and try to find out if all is well, or whether they just decided to stop blogging for awhile. It's a part of my universe that is new and exciting; it keeps me connected and engaged. I'm very grateful for it.

Next comes the rest of my family. Although PJ is no longer with us, I think of her often. I am very grateful for Facebook, which puts me in contact with members of my family that I would otherwise miss. My sister Norma Jean and I talk by video chat every other week, and I see pictures of my brother, sisters, nieces and nephews and their goings-on through our Facebook connection. Which brings me to the reason for all that: internet connection! It is so much a part of my life today that I almost forgot to mention it, but without that, I wouldn't blog or have joined the virtual world of today.

Last week I was missing my partner, but he's dozing next to me right now. I know the sounds of his breathing and realize that a few minutes ago he turned over and is probably listening to the sound of the keyboard and pondering his day. Yep, I'm sure of it now. I think I'll finish this so I can close the laptop and snuggle with him for a few minutes. He'll ask me what I wrote about, and I'll say I wrote about gratitude. Mostly.


The Broad said...

DJan, this post is just so wonderful! I must admit that never never in a million years would I want to jump out of a plane and 'freefall', but I am so in awe of you for having it as such an important part of your life. Bravo, is all I can say to that...

I, too, find I spend lots of time thinking about my mortality. The biggest problem for me is the feeling that I don't have enough time to 'finish' my life -- there are still so many books to read, movies to see, people to meet, places to visit -- on and on the list could go.

Like you, I find blogging and the people I've come to know, are a particular blessing and when I am unable to do it there is a definite 'something' missing in my life.

And, indeed, the Pacific Northwest of America is an especially wonderful place in this world to live!

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, What a dream you had! I’m sure it would make me hesitant to go jumping today, but since I’ve never done it before … I guess I would be hesitant in the first place. I do admire your courage to jump, but I guess it is like most other things in life … we are usually uncertain about things until we try them. I know a young lady who says she never wants to fly in an airplane … I’ve tried to tell her she is safer there than on the highway. I have to agree completely with you about how time is going faster and faster. Yes, I think the perception of that is related to aging. I recall back when I first started teaching the summers seemed to last a long time. The summer just before I retired seemed to go by like a couple of days. And that was no good! : - ) Yes, we do need to count our blessings. Just to get up to our age now is a blessing. I sometimes hear youngsters making some negative comments about getting older … I don’t say anything to them, but think to myself: hope you’re lucky enough to get old. Thanks for another interesting post. To answer your question: Yes, the giant screen has loud audio. If that is annoying, you can swim or sit in other areas of the ship where there is no such noise, such as the pool (pictured) at the back of the ship. Wishing you a fine week ahead. John

Anonymous said...

Oh, I hope the fog lifts and you will be able to skydive today. That awful nightmare you had is not an omen, it was just a bad dream.

Take care, dear friend, and have fun!

Linda Reeder said...

I'm on a much later time schedule than you, especially since I had trouble getting to sleep last night, so now as I look out the window the fog is lifting and I see blue through the film of cloudiness. I hope you make it to the Drop zone for some high flying.
I certainly can identify with your list of blessings. The Internet has made life in this wonderful part of the world even richer.
I was wondering if the Vashonistas would be gathering again. It could be that you will be exploring the island as we explore Italy and the Greek Isles. I know you will have another great weekend. You are all such amazing women.
Good luck today! and now it's time for me to get out and walk!

Elephant's Child said...

Gratitude, love and laughter are the foundations of my world.
I am so glad that you started blogging, that I started blogging and that I found you. Our cyber relationship is very precious to me.
Scary dream indeed - and I hope you do get that (safe) jump today.

Arkansas Patti said...

Ok, that was a scary dream but I think you nailed the reason for it. The young never think about their mortality. It is a gift for those of us with some mileage on our bones to make us spend our time left wisely. Hope you have a great day for jumping.

Gigi said...

What an awful nightmare! But no, I don't believe it's an omen - and I hope you got to go play in the sky.

I am also grateful for the internet and the friendships I've discovered because of it. Have a wonderful week, DJan.

Rian said...

Your dream, DJan, was more than likely your mind working out it's perspectives on your love of sky diving... and your prospect of making it your last season. And I think your interpretation of it is also a good one.
I love to fly too (in a plane, not free-falling)! And there have been times when the flight hit bad weather,lightning, bumpy, etc. and my thoughts during that time were always, "I'm so thankful that I got the opportunity to experience flight..." (may seem childish to some, but flight still amazes me).

As far as age and accomplishments go, my *only* contributions that I can claim are my children. DH and I raised 3 good kids who became 3 well educated family oriented adults who (or whom?) we love and who love us. Not earth-shattering or world-shaking, but never-the-less means the world to us.

And I think you're also spot-on when it comes to the importance of gratitude. The old saying, "Don't cry because it's over, Smile because it happened" comes into play.

Red said...

This was a biggie! You covered a wide territory. The dream? Dreams sometimes bother us because they are so vivid. As for an omen of the future? No. sometimes there are amazing coincidences but either one could happen separately.
We grieve our own end. We must come to terms with our end and then go on and live the rest of our lives with great energy. Many cancer patients say that after cancer has taken over, is the best part of their life.

Rita said...

Speaking of time flying by...is it a year already since you bloggers all gathered together! Wow! Funny, I was just thinking today about how it seems like only yesterday I was holding my little baby Dagan in my arms like I am holding Ian now...but that was almost 40 years ago! Where did the time go?

Your dream...some buried worries, yes. But that doesn't mean it's an omen. I wouldn't take it seriously unless I started dreaming that every night. ;) When you live each day basically like it could be your last, then you're always ready to go. I think you do that most all of the time and fully appreciate your days. Glad your honey is back home.

Stella Jones said...

We all have to slow down and give things up as we get older don't we! Hard isn't it!, we all hate to do that because it feels like our lives are slipping through our fingers. You have kept yourself so fit that I think you will live forever! So don't worry about your next birthday. Just enjoy it. As one hobby goes away, another one will come along.

Friko said...

Dear DJan, your Sunday morning musings may be idle but they have depth. It’s the sort of thing we ‘old folk’ do, ponder the past and look to the future and feeling grateful for the present.

It’s not such a bad old life; maybe the ups and downs were a little steep at times, but for now it’ll do.

Better than the alternative, anyway, don’t you agree?

Dee said...

Dear DJan, most Mondays I visit blogs and yours is one of the first I visit because I am always enthralled by your Sunday morning musings. You make me ponder my own life. And today you have me making a list of all for which I'm grateful. It is wonderful that as we age we have more and more for which to be grateful. Peace.

Sally Wessely said...

Gratitude. I think you write on that subject often. I think of your blue eyes and I remember the life I see in them. I think of your adventurous spirit and your kind nature. You bring people together in such great ways. We all gather around to read of your adventures jumping out of planes and hiking and mountains and we feel gratitude that we know you. Can't wait to see you again.

Glenda Beall said...

Your writing makes me feel I am in the room with you as you talk. I hope you got your skydive in on Sunday. I say go for it whenever you can. People think we are "done" when we are not nearly ready to call it quits. We have some interruptions but that doesn't mean the end. I am happy to have two more classes at my studio this fall and still have time and energy to work with a private student. There's life in the old dog yet!

Deb Shucka said...

I can hardly wait until we're sitting together and talking in person about your reflections about living, aging, and dying. About both the pain and the pleasure of getting older and being fully aware and accepting of where you/we are in life. Your last three posts are so similar in tone, and they make me wonder if you're not on the verge of some new leap in your journey. One that doesn't involve jumping out of planes, but perhaps something more spiritual and completely new for you. Sending you love.

Far Side of Fifty said...

That was a nightmare...not a dream! A really bad nightmare:(

Life and time seem to go really fast for us too, how can that be there are still 24 hours in a day.

Far Guy has been stuck on "life" things since he was so ill last spring. He needs more goals. Sometimes his thoughts are so depressing. I just keep trying to cheer him on. :)