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, January 11, 2015

My fifteen minutes of fame

The nine women skydivers over sixty prior to jump
This has been an interesting week. After I returned to Bellingham from Elsinore last April, where we made the record skydive for the largest formation of women skydivers over the age of sixty, I forced many of my friends at the gym to watch my video. Some of them suggested that I contact the local newspaper, the Bellingham Herald, to see if they might be interested in writing something about the event. I sent an email off to the Herald and got a polite response that maybe it might be of interest for the Prime Time section (about seniors) that is published every other month.

Well, I had done my part and didn't really need to worry or wonder whether or not they would follow up. In fact, I had forgotten about it until one day I got a telephone message from Dean Kahn, the editor, to see if I would be willing to be interviewed about it. This led to a very interesting couple of hours, as I met the journalist who was assigned the interview. She loves to talk, and after more than a half hour in her presence, I had still not said one word, but I knew all about her! She ended up taking lots of notes and did eventually get quite a bit of the information about me down on paper. I was not optimistic about whether or not she would represent the event accurately. The article will probably only be available until the next Prime Time articles come out, but last Monday it appeared in the local paper. You can read it here.

So now I'm "famous." In class the next day, a few women had brought their copy of the paper so that I could autograph it. And then on Wednesday, another instructor stopped the class before it started so she could point out the article, which she had taped to the door, in case anybody had missed it. Okay, I thought, that's the end of it, I shouldn't be accosted by many more people about it, but everywhere I went there were people who recognized me and said, "nice article." I was really quite surprised by all the notoriety.

And then on Friday, one of the women I know from the class approached me with a copy of Jill Bolte Taylor's book, My Stroke of Insight, to ask if I'd read it. I had indeed and enjoyed it very much, but she asked me if I would be willing to contact Harvard University to have them take my brain (after my death, of course) for study! She said it would be fascinating to find out if my risk-taking activities and resilience show up in my gray matter as being different from others. I was quite surprised, but maybe she's right. I'll give it some thought, since I can still use my gray matter the way I prefer: as a living, breathing human.

One of my skydiving Facebook friends had found the article and posted it even before I did, and that led to yet another round of notoriety. If you use Facebook, you know that any article can be shared with your friends, and this one was shared a total of 11 different times, causing hundreds of well-wishers to comment and "like" the article. It was quite overwhelming. I was glad when the flurry of activity on Facebook began to wind down.

It made me think about people who really ARE famous, and what it must be like to have no place to hide from the curiosity of others. Not to mention those articles that purport to tell all about somebody that has no basis in fact at all. I was surprised that the woman who interviewed me used quote marks around paraphrased and downright incorrect remarks I had supposedly made. I was taught that you only use quotes around actual utterances by a person, but that is not what she did. Only one time did she say something that came from her own brain and not mine: at the end of the third paragraph, the article says, "Skydiving became my drug." I never said that and was rather taken aback when I read it.

It's not a big deal, but it sure makes me wonder about direct quotes that are attributed to people, about whether or not they actually said it or whether it came from the mind of the journalist. If I were to ask the woman why she wrote it, she would probably say that it is because I said it during the interview. But I know I didn't. Just one person's word against another's in a conversation. Lesson learned.

It was an interesting week, that's for sure. On Monday I went to Seattle to visit my long-ago stepdaughter, and we connected in a way that surprised me by its intensity after a quarter of a century apart. My love for her has not diminished, but those difficult years were brought to the fore, and that night I had unsettled dreams about times I thought I had forgotten. It makes me realize how much I have stored in that gray matter that can still be accessed many years later. The brain is a remarkable organ, isn't it? Maybe I should donate my brain to science, although I'm not sure what can actually be gleaned from physical remains. Loving kindness will not be anywhere in evidence, I'm sure.

And that makes me even more convinced that the spirit, the soul of a person, is completely unique to that person and can only be experienced heart to heart. It's all very curious, thinking about what makes us who we are, the individual creature who sits in bed and taps away at the keys, wondering about the wide universe she inhabits. As I bring myself back down to earth, I realize that another Sunday morning post is just about finished.

I am also aware of the invisible threads that connect me to you, my readers, people I will never see in person, but whose presence is palpable in this room with me, right now. I am sending you loving kindness, can you feel it? Until next Sunday, be well and try not to be too famous.


Linda Reeder said...

I don't think I'l have to try very hard to avoid fame. :-)
I have had a bit of experience with inaccurate news reporting too, and this is a good reminder that when I hear people in the news say that's they were misquoted, it's like that they were.Why is it that so many of us humans make everything all about ourselves, like that reporter who interviewed you. She literally put her own words in your mouth!
On the other hand, In the spirit of human kindness, I will not dwell on the negative.
I enjoyed your moment of fame.

Linda Myers said...

It was an interesting article; she did make you sound a little more -- colorful.

Ain't fame grand?

Deb Shucka said...

It sounds like that reporter needs to go back to journalism school. On the other hand, what a great and interesting experience for you. And as you always do, you've written about it in such an insightful and powerful way.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Before I forget, I want to respond to your question at the end of the post … Did we feel the vibes of kindness you were sending … Yes, I actually think so … Well, I was watching Sunday Morning (Channel 7 – CBS), as I usually do, and something triggered a thought … better get to the computer and see what DJan posted. :-) So, there you go. Mental telepathy …? I enjoyed your post this morning. Yes, that is awesome about becoming famous … My first thought was the saying about “everyone gets 15 minutes of glory” … but that seemed inadequate. This is much more than 15 minutes! :-) In any event, it’s a cool story. Congrats on the publication … I will go and take a look. Regarding the use of quotation marks … I was taught the same as you … they indicate exactly what some said … not a paraphrase. That is just poor journalism to use them as the reporter did. I do think this kind of abuse happens to well-known individuals fairly often. Someone once said something like – Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. Now that I’ve read your post I think I will request to set up a recording device if any interviews take place. :-) Thanks for sharing another excellent post and have a fine week ahead. John

Anonymous said...

I wrote over 30 articles for 2 local newspapers and was recognized by a lot of people that way. I am surprised the reporter did not tape record the interview with you. Grossly negligent.

Rian said...

Congratulations, DJan (no period needed)! You are definitley due your 15 mins of fame. And I loved the video... very impressive. There were times in years past that I considered sky-diving. But now at approaching 70, think I'll just enjoy it *virtually*.
As for trying to not be 'too famous'... that's a given... and happily so.

Elephant's Child said...

Bad journalism. And bad journalist. Not uncommon, but she has no need to indulge in the unhygenic practise of putting words in your mouth. Your own are MUCH more interesting.

June said...

I had my turn at local fame several years ago, when Small Pond's weekly printed my name in every issue for months. Fortunately I was never asked for a comment and no one ever made up something that had supposedly come from my mouth . . . but oh boy! did I learn the value of "a woman's name should be in the newspaper three times in her life"!

Arkansas Patti said...

Totally agree with Elephant's Child. Can't believe she rattled on so much about herself. It must have surprised you that she listened at all.
However, I love that you had such a nice jump with your knees in the limelight. We all know you are special, now a lot of others do also thanks to a partially accurate reporter.

The Furry Gnome said...

Glad you got the recognition you deserve! You're famous to me. And yes, I did feel the vibes. I'm sure I did!

Red said...

Congratulations on having an article done on you in the paper. It's always a bit unnerving to see yourself in th paper. I was wonsdering when yu would be interviewed because very few people would be in your category.
It's the genes that make us different!

Rita said...

Well, she did get a lot of information about you in the article considering you wondered if she was ever going to let you talk at all--LOL! And it was very favorable and you sounded adventurous and charming with a great sense of humor--and we know that to be true. The essence was correct, anyways. I think it is wonderful!!!

Went I won that first prize for a poem I was shocked that the local paper had a little blurb, I got interviewed by phone on the radio, and for one day if you googled my name the first three pages were about my winning. I had my 15 minutes, too. I don't think I'd like to be famous, to be perfectly honest. Fifteen minutes was fine, but I can't imagine being intensely scrutinized all the time everywhere you went. Uffta!

#1Nana said...

If skydiving isn't your drug, I bet I can guess what is!
It was still an interesting article.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am off to read it now:) I will be baaaack:)

Far Side of Fifty said...

I didn't like the drug remark either. Who knows why they bother to pretend to quote a person when it is in error. Silly reporter anyway other than that I think she got an essence of who you are...famous for sure!!! I enjoyed reading the article thanks for the link FAMOUS LADY!! :)

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

As soon as you said she did all the talking at first, I was sure she was going to write the story the way she wanted it to go. Peter and I have been in the media a lot, promoting the carousel and a couple of other causes. This summer we realized that hardly anyone seems to read the big daily papers any more, but when we were interviewed for a suburban or neighborhood paper lots of people paid attention. Glad you got some big-time attention, because your story (even when slightly misquoted) is pretty inspiring!

Glenda Beall said...

I interview writers for my blog and I always do my best to quote them accurately. In fact, I like to do email interviews so that I have direct quotes. It is always wrong to put quotation marks around words that are not direct quotes.
I'll go and read the article as it seems from comments that you come across as the interesting person we know you to be.

R. J. said...

I really enjoyed reading the newspaper article. I look forward to reading your autobiography. I'm sure you could write an amazing account of your life. I know you have more to say than the article could include. I admire how you are willing to put yourself in the public eye. Somehow it reminded me of the line in Kris Kristofferson's song "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose." http://performingsongwriter.com/kris-kristofferson-bobby-mcgee/

amanda said...

Congrats, DJan, on the article! I've opened it in a new tab to read, but before I do - I must say that it sounds to me like maybe this woman has no business in journalism. Quotes are quotes. Period. That's my belief. Interviewers are supposed to do the listening, and careful, attentive listening, not the talking.
I'm all for creativity and loose constraints- in creative and personal endeavors. But in professional matters and in documentation, I'm for the straight & narrow, accurate detail, and the best portrayal of reality & truth. If I were to quote someone, I would take careful measures to get it right.
My two cents. :)
Glad to hear your Monday in Seattle went well.
Yes, I do, I feel your loving kindness and wisdom often. THANK YOU!

Sally Wessely said...

You are famous to bloggers. We do read your words because you write from the heart in an authentic ways. You are also famous to us because you inspire us in so many ways. The journalist that wrote about you is probably not read by as many readers as you are. Still, it is nice to have some local recognition.

Marty said...

I'm late to this week's party, but I especially enjoyed this Sunday's post. There was a lot to take in - skydiving, fame, dissection!
But your final reflections were well considered, as usual. I enjoyed starting my day with them.

Bill said...

This makes me smile. Well done. May your feat inspire others!