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, June 7, 2015

End of an era

Me coming in for a landing
Well, this week I finally made the decision to sell my skydiving gear and move into another era in my life. I've been skydiving now for twenty-five years (!) and have made more than 4,200 skydives during that time, so it's not like it's premature or anything. I've accumulated more than 68 hours of freefall time as well. Skydivers receive an award for every 12 hours of freefall, and I knew when I received mine for 60 hours that it would be the last one.

What has brought this on? As those of you who follow me on a regular basis, you know that it's been coming for awhile, but this week I reached the final straw when I learned that the place I love to skydive in Snohomish is phasing out their second student landing area and will require all skydivers, experienced and newbies, to land in the same place: at the airport, which is tight and surrounded by obstacles. I'm not all that great under canopy, and it's been fairly easy to be safe if I knew everybody under canopy with me and I could anticipate their movements. That will not be the situation for the remainder of this season, so I decided to stop jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.

In a way, it's a relief not to try to stay current as I move farther and farther away from the sport. I am quite aware that my body in general is less robust than it was and recovers from injuries much less quickly than it did even five years ago. I want to keep hiking and walking for as long as I can, and part of my plan is to minimize risk. All the serious injuries I've incurred during the past 25 years have been while landing my parachute.
Kevin and me (standing), Cindy, Dave and Linny July 2011
There's another reason, a big one. These good friends of mine in the picture above were some of the people I played together with in the sky. We made formations and enjoyed each other's company all day long at the Drop Zone, and I'd go home with smiles for days afterwards. Only one person, Dave, is still skydiving today. It's not much fun to jump out by myself, and I miss these friends when I'm there. Just one more reason to let go. I could go through this final season with a jump here or a jump there, but I've decided to find a new owner for my gear and then I won't even be tempted.

When I made the decision, it didn't come as a big wrench in my psyche, and I was afraid that it would be tough to do. It wasn't. It is time, and I guess I've known that ever since I made my one and only skydive this year, in February, and sprained my back while packing up my parachute. Although the skydive itself was a good one, I no longer have anyone to pack for me (my packer for the past two years has moved on) and so there you go.

It's sometimes hard for me to fathom how much this sport has changed my life. I was 47 when I made my first tandem jump, and for many years afterwards I couldn't help myself: I was out at the Drop Zone every single minute of every weekend. I spent my holidays visiting other places where I could jump with large groups of people, and I met my life partner through skydiving. He stopped jumping a few years ago, but I wasn't quite ready then. In January of this year, the Bellingham Herald published an article about my last year's record jump, which you can still read here. I've been on formations of more than a hundred, and I've taught more than a thousand students how to skydive. It's all good, but nothing lasts forever. Like I said, it's the end of an era. I'm ready to move on.

And now I wonder, to what? I love my life here in Bellingham, the garden, the friends I've made, and the routine I've developed in my day-to-day life. I've thought about buying myself a really good bicycle and taking that up, but there's not a lot of enthusiasm behind that idea. I'll think of something, and until that happens, there's no big gap in my enjoyment anyway. I enjoy writing, and the internet has given me a good outlet in these blogs I maintain, so there's no lack there. Sometimes I think about writing a book and self-publishing it, but there's not a whole lot of enthusiasm behind that, either.

The world has changed so much in the past decade that some of the long-term plans I made no longer seem relevant. I have gadgets galore and enjoy them tremendously. They open up my horizons and give me a chance to engage with the larger world in ways I couldn't have imagined at the turn of the century. Perhaps a light bulb will go off over my head and I'll move in some unexpected direction that eludes me right now. That sort of thing happens to me more often than not. That's how I got started skydiving, for example.

I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: the internet world of virtual friends I have fills me with so much gratitude and enjoyment that I cannot imagine being without you all. I follow enough blogs to see how other people all over the world live their day-to-day lives. I commiserate with you over your dilemmas and celebrate the birth of a new grandchild (most of you are close to my age, after all), and I am content. Until next week, then, be well and I hope that all good things come your way.


Snoskred said...

Well it is obvious you are an excellent writer, so I am thinking the book might be an awesome thing to try as a hobby. :)

I think sit down with the word processor and see if a hole opens up in the screen and drags you in.. ;) If I recall correctly, that is what Stephen King says happens to him..

Anonymous said...

In a sense, I am sorry that the world of skydiving is now closed to you, but I understand your reasons, mainly that of preserving your good health. I don't want you to injure yourself again (remembering that awful accident).

Just make sure your life keeps expanding, not contracting. So many seniors find themselves eating and sleeping and watching TV on a daily basis and nothing more. I know you won't let that happen to you.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I have no doubt you will find many ways to fill your hours, your enthusiasm for life has always been inspiring ... Happy Sunday ... here's to expanded horizons!

Linda Reeder said...

Your decision was long deliberated and thoughtfully made. Congratulations on making that decision, and on 25 years of pursuing that passion. It seems to me that you have already moved on. While you may look for a replacement, are you sure you need one? Your life seems quite wonderful as it is.
We're having a weekend with the Grands and enjoying the sunny days, while escaping from the heat of the afternoons. I'll be blogging about it later.
Have a good Sunday. Now that I've said goodmorning to you, I will get started on my day.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, It is not surprising to hear about your decision to stop jumping. I suspect those of us who are regular followers of Eye have been expecting it. What impresses me is your methodical approach to your decision and how you have been carefully contemplating it for a while now. As you move forward I hope you will give extra consideration to one of the possibilities you mentioned: writing a book and self-publishing it. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts! As I’ve said before, I often find myself agreeing with your reflections on life as I read your blog. I think you will find success in whatever you decide to do next. Thanks for sharing and have a good week ahead.

Meryl Baer said...

It is best to make such a major decision on your own, when you are ready, and not be forced into it. And when one door closes another opens. You are open to different things, and something will come along that will catch your interest and enthusiasm. Whatever it is, it will be fun to read about!

Far Side of Fifty said...

As one of your long time blog friends I breathed a sigh of relief. I am so glad you quit before getting hurt. It sounds like you are okay with your decision...and that is as it should be. I am certain you will find another passion...or maybe not...sometimes it is just good to have extra time to do many different things. You will always be a skydiver just a retired one:)

Linda Myers said...

Sounds like you've moved into this decision rather than jolting into it. I'm glad for you. And now that you have space in your life, the next thing will come along in good time.

CrazyCris said...

A quick gaze on my blog's page and I noticed the title of yours on my reading list. Coincidence I should happen by there today (as you know I am woefully absent fro the blogosphere these days) in time to happen upon this post. The moment I read the title I was pretty sure I knew what it was about... You've mentioned this a few times in the past, wondering when would be the last jump.

Would you have done anything differently last February had you known it was the last?

I guess when you know, you know. Bravo for your clarity and decision-making power! It's amazing you've been jumping out of perfectly good airplanes for so long!!! Most people I know wouldn't even try it once, let alone again and again and again. (I'm very tempted... and yet... I think I prefer jumping out of perfectly good boats).

Enjoy everything else in your very rich life! I hope I can "make" some more time to come hang out with you here and share some of it... HUGS!!!

Glenda Beall said...

It seems we continue to make changes in our lives and go in new directions. Six years ago,I reinvented myself. Now I am thinking, also, of making some changes. Like you I am contemplating what is next for me. I had to give up some passions when I moved to the mountains twenty years ago. No more horses in my life. I have always ridden and owned horses. I think it is more difficult to make those changes when we feel forced to because of our health or age. My friends are having to make decisions as to where they should live, how much care they need, etc. Those are tough decisions to make. They keep people awake at night. I know it must be hard to give up skydiving but you have many reasons in your post that this is the time. Maybe that helps. You have many interests and friends so you will still be busy doing things you enjoy. I feel I need to do something that is helpful to others. That brings me joy. I look forward to reading what your future holds.

Elephant's Child said...

Your decision. Made when the time was right for you. Which makes it a good decision. Nothing can take away the memories.

With your hiking, swimming, walking, exercise classes, reading, movie watching, and wide range of friends it isn't as if your life is empty. How are your death doula classes going?
Cyber hugs - as always.

Rian said...

DJan, it's obvious that your decision to quit sky-diving and sell your equipment was well thought out and conscientiously made. All my life I enjoyed riding horses... one of my fondest memories is flying through a field on horse-back racing with friends. It was a feeling of complete freedom that I'll always remember. But a few years back, I gave up riding completely(after spending a week with my back killing me after a riding episode). I decided that I was too old to ride anymore. My back apparently was no longer up to it. My daughter has and loves horses and she and my grand daughter continue to invite me to ride. But I know my decision is for the best. As yours is, I'm sure. (Not to insinuate that riding is in any way similar to sky-diving - only that there's a time for everything and giving up something you love is sometimes the right thing to do.)
You're a very busy and smart lady. The empty spot sky-diving will leave will soon be filled... but those memories will always remain.

Gigi said...

I know this decision is tinged with a bit of sadness; it has to...it's been something you've loved to do for so long.

But, knowing you, that activity will soon be replaced.

Have a great week, my dear friend.

Carole said...

Hi DJan. I have followed your blog for quite a while now, and so appreciate each of your postings. Like you, I am very active physically. Since I retired 2 years ago, I've had even more opportunities to explore different options for keeping active. I am occasionally frustrated by some knee problems, but remind myself that I'm fortunate to otherwise be able to participate in a wide range of activities. I just have to be creative with adapting what I'm doing.

I think you are wise to be open to whatever comes your way. Your spirit of adventure, along with your love for being physically active will surely open new doors of opportunities for you!

The Furry Gnome said...

Congratulations! What a wonderful part of your life to look back on. You sound very comfortable in your decision, and I know you're already busy with lots of other things. I know you'll just keep right on enjoying life!

Sally Wessely said...

Life is like that, isn't it? One day we just know we have have moved on from something that used to be the center of passions. So it seems with you as you have decided to give up skydiving. You have great rational for your decision. I'm personally glad to know that you won't be jumping out of planes in a place that does not feel as safe to you as the places where you once jumped. This truly is an end of an era for you. It is the end of an era for your readers too. Your identity is not bound up in just one or two things, I think that is why you are so able to move freely through the air on the ground and in the sky.

Jackie said...

You are such a kind blogging friend; no one could have a better one. Your blogs are always beautifully written, interesting, and fun to read.
I'm happy that you are content with your decision to not skydive any more. You have been a wonderful teacher to many. Your love of being under canopy will live on through those you taught. I wish you all the best in whatever you decide to undertake next. You will do well. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Always interesting when we decide something we've done forever is not something we want to do anymore. I did that with snow skiing. Skied for 35 years and then one year just said, no. Don't want to do this anymore. I'd rather find a warm pub and read and write.I felt so relieved when I made that decision.

A little time taken and you will find your next pursuit. That's what I'm doing now, taking the time and hopefully, magically, my next thing will come to me. Ha! We'll see.

Jazbriz said...

DJan, I do love the way you write. Your true feelings come through in your writings. You have, obviously, been thinking about this decision for a while and it is time to move on to new opportunities! I look forward to reading about them.

Tabor said...

I come here to visit as I like the way you meet life head on and take each challenge as part of the tool kit for your growth. Like you I find the bloggers I read become like actual people I might know. Some similar interests and some not, but always a variety of stories. Good luck in your next ventures, and I am sure you will share.

Red said...

You will probably feel much better now that the decision has been made. You will have many good memories to look back on. Very few people have been skydivers . You will easily find something else to do. As an avid cyclist I strongly recommend against starting cycling at this age. Stopping cycling is always in the back of my mind. Falls have great risk at my age.

Rita said...

You've only gone skydiving once this year and yet your days are always full and busy. You have already made one new addition to your life--gardening! Something else may come to you...or not...but your life is very full and delicious and filled with friends both in the flesh and on the screen. And you have a lot of hiking ahead of you. :) :)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Spoken like a true Sadge!

amanda said...

I have been away from the computer screen and blogs (mine and others) for an unexpected long spell, DJan.. I have thought of you so often throughout my days. It really is a special connection to have found with others here in our changing world.
Anyway, logging on today at last, and right away I scrolled my feed to find your latest update.
I know this decision has been a while coming and that you are ready for it.
Congrats on your many, many achievements and memories made in the air, and may you enjoy many, many more with both feet on the ground. Hugs!!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Not an easy decision, but I'm glad the trigger for it was a combination of circumstances rather than an injury! You are a busy, happy, involved person who will find lots of ways to continue to make your life meaningful!