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, July 26, 2015

Sleeping on the ground

My tent without the rain fly
Last Wednesday night I was reminded of an adventure I used to enjoy, before I started skydiving and everything else faded into the background. I was a backpacker and explored many Colorado trails, both with others and also by myself at times. I even had a five-day solo trip I took in the summer, packing in over a pass and making a loop, coming out over another pass. It was around forty miles in total. These days I wouldn't even think of doing something like that, but it was long ago.

It had been so long since I camped out I didn't even remember how to set up my old tent. Frankly, I have forgotten when or where I bought this tent, but it's a good one and has been used many times. With Carol's help, we figured out how to set it up, and as we worked, it all came back to me. I didn't put the rain fly on it (it's that blue plastic lying on the left), because I wanted to see the stars and let the air flow through as well. Since we were car camping, I could take whatever I wanted, so I brought along an extra blanket in case my sleeping bag wasn't enough. I didn't need it, but that teddy bear doubles as a pillow for me, and I put him in the front window to guard everything from intruders. Linda and Ward's dog Riley was a little wary of him.

The orange thing in the middle is my inflatable Therm-a-rest mattress. Back when I bought it, they came in long or short versions. This is the short one, since I was looking for the least weight to carry. It's only inflated a small amount, just enough so that when you lay down on it, it conforms to your body's contours and keeps you from feeling the ground. They don't even make these any more, but I find it to be the lightest and most comfy (that's a relative term) pad I've used over the years. I wasn't sure that it would be appropriate for a septuagenarian, but it was. If I were starting over and not needing to worry about backpacking it in, I'd buy one of their suspended ultralight cots like this one. But it makes little sense for me to spend a couple hundred dollars on something I will use so seldom.

But who knows? Now that I've stopped skydiving, maybe I'll take up car camping and explore the wonderful wilderness campgrounds in this part of the country. It was my first time in one of them last week, and I was very impressed with how well kept the campgrounds are, and I realize that there really is nothing to keep me from it. I was quite comfortable last Wednesday night, and I slept like a log, waking a couple of times during the night but once I turned over I went right back to sleep. One thing I noticed is how quiet it was. Although I am not conscious of all the sounds you hear inside a house, once I was disconnected from any electronics, it was incredibly quiet. At least until the birds began their morning songs at 4:00am. It was fun.

The routine of breaking down the camp the next morning, after breakfast but before our hike, brought back many memories of times and places where I'd performed those same rituals. Once I started skydiving, I would go to many week-long events (known as boogies) where skydivers from all over the world would gather to jump together, with lots of specialty aircraft as well as the two most popular ones, Twin Otters and Skyvans. The Skyvan has a rear exit, so that instead of climbing outside the door to exit, you just jump off the end, like you were jumping into a pile of leaves. But instead of leaves, you jump into the air and then you play around until it's time to separate from your friends and open your parachute.

I would set up my tent in the designated area for tent camping, and then I'd spend the entire day jumping with my friends. They would have organizers to get people together to make skydives, and I'd make five or six in one day. I paid for a professional packer so I didn't have to pack up my main parachute each time, or I would be limited to maybe three in one day before I'd be worn out. They have showers and places to eat right at the Drop Zone, so I'd spend a week without ever needing to leave. It was glorious, and just thinking about those days brings back such memories.

One day right at sunset, I was packing up my tent at the end of the day, feeling a little sad about the boogie being over, having made thirty or so skydives and now it was time to leave, when I heard a low rumble in the sky. Oh! It was the flyover! Far off in the distance low on the horizon, I could see them coming: five aircraft, with the largest (a DC-3) in the lead, Twin Otters and Skyvans in formation beside it. And they flew right over my head at a VERY low altitude, the Drop Zone's way of saying thank you for a wonderful boogie. With the sunset in the background, and the planes overhead, I could not have been happier. That memory flooded back when I folded up my little tent last week, reminding me of days gone by.

Today I will join my friend Judy for a bus trip to Seattle to see Wicked, a Broadway play that is making the rounds in some of the larger cities this summer. Today is the last matinee performance before they pack it all up and head elsewhere. I'm looking forward to it very much. It's not like my life has become any less full because I've left skydiving behind, but it's different now. Everything has a time and place, and I'm rather proud that I was able to make the decision to stop on my own without it having been made for me, through injury or worse. I'll always have those 4,239 skydives in my logbooks to peruse if I need to be reminded how lucky I am. And I've still got my tent for new adventures.

Now I'll get up and start my day before driving over to Judy's to enjoy her company for the day, and a marvelous play as well! I'll let you know what I thought of it, next Sunday when we meet again. Until then, I wish you every good thing and loads of your own adventures. Sometimes I need to be reminded of how really fortunate I am, and when I think of you, my dear friends who are reading this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Be well until next week.


The Furry Gnome said...

You are very fortunate indeed! Your tent quickly reminded me of camping trips too. In recent decades it's been mostly canoe trips, but a small tent and my therm arrest are just fine. I hope my health let's me get back to it after my next surgery!

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I love your positive spirit and no regrets.
When I camped over a Labor Day weekend with friends, I remember having a back ache due to sleeping on a thin mat over sand. There was no back support. That was too bad, because the swimming, food, and camaraderie were wonderful. I just didn't like being in pain.

Kailani said...

You are such an amazing woman, Jan. I'm enjoying getting to know you better, and I love your stories of past AND present. Glad you had a wonderful time, and I hope you enjoy the play. I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard nothing but glowing reports. :)

Linda Reeder said...

You ALMOST convinced me that tent camping would be fun again. But I am very tied into convenience these days. Besides, I do a lot of "roughing it" in my own yard, bush whacking and weeding and crawling on hands and knees in mud and heat and with mosquitoes buzzing about my ears.
I do love visiting parks, then finding our hotel.
Great post, again, DJan. Enjoy the play. I saw it several years ago in Seattle.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sounds just perfect to me! I love to cook whole meals over a campfire...but I hate cooking inside:)

Arkansas Patti said...

Hum, wonder if I remember how to put my tent up. Not so sure about that suspended cot and it is pricey. I tend to enjoy a blow up mattress. What you had sounds great and you slept well. That is the true test. You are living your life on your terms, one can't ask for more. Keep enjoying Djan.

Red said...

You make things happen for yourself. Some people could just sit back and do very little. Camping takes effort but the results are awesome. It takes energy. I don't know why some people have all kinds of energy and the next one very little energy. I know that in some cases lack of energy can be physical but many times there's not a physical cause. Enjoy the play.

Elephant's Child said...

How I love your zest for life.
Have a wonderful, wonderful week.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I feel lucky to have found Eye on the Edge. I looked at my Blogger Dashboard to find the first time you commented on my blog … it was in January, 2013. Then I looked in your Archives and found my first comment on Eye … January 21, 2013. We have been regular and loyal commenters for each other for over 2 and 1/2 years, but I feel like I’ve known you a lot longer. I really enjoy reading your weekly reflections on life. In today’s post it’s neat to read about how you and a friend camped out. It seems like a forever ago since I did that but I clearly remember the joy of seeing the stars late at night. I also remember the importance of something soft between me and the ground! :-) Thanks for sharing all these little stories. I’ll be looking forward to the next one. Take good care and have a fine week ahead!

Coloring Outside the Lines said...

Love your zest for life DJan! I love to camp- everything is just better in the outdoors. Food tastes better, I sleep better, and I can totally relax..if it's not too hot!
Have a good week!

O-town Ramblings said...

You never fail to inspire me DJan! For many years now I've protested that I'm far too old for tent camping. Since you're still out there sleeping in a tent on the ground I guess I'll have to stop using that excuse, or at least acknowledge that it is really just a weak excuse and not a fact. Thanks for giving me a gentle nudge toward getting back out in a tent and enjoying the great outdoors.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wow! Over 4,200 skydives!! You Sadges never do anything in a small way!

Sally Wessely said...

Good for you. I once loved camping, but the last time I went, which was at least 25 years ago, I was cold and miserable. My husband does not camp. He never has. I can't see myself taking it up. I do miss those days though. I'm into convenience these days. I have no problem sleeping on the floor or the ground, it is the lack of facilities that I miss the most when I camp.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Ah yes the joy of camping. For me it stared as a Girl Guide. I posted that once. Later it was with hubby before kids and then with Buddy. The girls got to pretend camp in a field on our farm in our old tent. It has been long gone but like you I have fond memories. Sometimes a scent of hot summer air will send me to the place of memories and just last week it did. I recalled my camp counsellor dats back in the late 60's.
Again a smile just because you gave me pause to reflect.
Can't wait to hear about Wicked.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

YOu are indeed an adventurous soul. I will sleep on the ground for no one, hell no, i get, did it too much in my childhood as a grow woman i get up feeling like some beat me with a horse whip all through the night on every inch of my body..... eeek no. I am glad you enjoy yourself though.

love the way you live life.