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 30, 2018

A week of highs and lows

Mt. Shuksan from Ptarmigan Ridge
I took this picture of glorious Mt. Shuksan while on our weekly hike this past Thursday. It was such a beautiful day, one I won't soon forget. While we were outdoors, cut off from all internet and news, high drama was playing out in Washington, with the questioning of the Supreme Court nominee and his accuser of sexual assault almost four decades ago. I had been following all this closely, so I was very glad to have some respite from it all.

This is not a political post. There would be no reason, because nothing I might say about my own views would or should influence anybody to see things differently. It's one of those moments in the history of our country that will live for a long time, discussed and debated about the what ifs and whys, but nothing will change immediately, except for people to become more hardened in their own beliefs.

But there is a tectonic shift happening, slowly, very slowly, as it always has, with many women beginning to believe that perhaps our world might change for the better if we get involved in the political process. I'm not one of them, but that's partly because of my age and inability to begin to imagine how I would deal with the intense scrutiny and inevitable attacks. But there are many young women who have, for the first time, run for office and taken on the challenge. I'm glad for that, but other than marching for justice, I'll be watching and voting for the ones I can.

Years ago I decided to run for the position of Regional Director for the US Parachute Association. I had to gather signatures and campaign a little, not much, and I won. I was thrilled to have the chance to represent my fellow skydivers in the Mountain Region. The term was only for two years, and I served on the board for four years. What I thought would be fun and perhaps a bit of work (you had to attend the annual meeting, which meant flying to some interesting place and getting put up at a hotel on the organization's dime) turned into something else entirely. I was on the Safety & Training Committee. There were many people who had become rather famous in the skydiving world on the board, and at first I was a little intimidated, but the three-day-long meeting to discuss and decide on training techniques was really valuable, to me at least.

However, I wasn't able to handle the heat when I discovered that one of the Drop Zones in my region was breaking the rules by allowing some young men to jump from aircraft without two parachutes: only one, no reserve parachute, because the rig was designed for base jumping, which means jumping from fixed objects without any time to use a reserve. And then one of the jumpers miscalculated his trajectory and hit a bridge, being killed instantly.

I had to investigate and make a report to the USPA. Many of the jumpers who knew about the violations wanted me to cover it up, or at the very least, look the other way. I didn't, and I suddenly began to be harassed and even received death threats from some anonymous skydivers. It was a terrible time, and I tried to resign from the board, but others convinced me that I could simply serve out the rest of my term and keep a low profile. That's what I did, but it was probably one of the most difficult periods of my life, and it meant I would no longer have any desire to serve in a public capacity.

The skydiving community is a small, close-knit group, and I had wanted to make a positive difference, and I ended up paying a heavy price. The jumpers and Drop Zone owner in question were given a light slap on the wrist but did, as far as I knew, stop the practice. Once I was off the board, I continued to instruct at my local Drop Zone and teach first-time jumpers how to become safe skydivers, and I truly wish I had left it at that. So that's one reason I watch what happens with people who are willing to stand up when others attack them and admire their courage. I know what it feels like to be maligned.

Now that is not what I wanted to say in this post, that it's not worth it to stand up for your beliefs. What I did want to say is that, if you do, you must be strong and willing to take the heat. Without some people standing up, nothing changes. And there is plenty of change that will come after this week's hearings are digested and become part of the history of our country. That's as it should be, I think. I'm glad I am alive and have the ability to read and think and make my own decisions, but I don't feel moved to act, other than to vote. Which I will do anyway, because I always have and never miss the chance to vote, even in a local election.

I am reminded of a quote that has meant a lot to me over the years, and it says it all in a very concise manner. The words of Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
 But change doesn't come quickly, and sometimes it's frustrating to think that nothing will ever change. It's not true: everything changes, it's the only constant in our lives. Sometimes it's over months and years, and sometimes it's over millennia. And sometimes change is instant. Just this past week an earthquake and resulting tsunami have killed hundreds of people in Indonesia. They were just living their lives, and suddenly they died. Change came to that area, and it will take many years before the survivors will return to a normal existence. I just read about an air traffic controller who stayed on the job to allow a plane filled with passengers to flee the earthquake, and he lost his life in the same earthquake. You can read about it here.

There are small miracles of valiant acts in every catastrophe, and we never know for sure how things will turn out. But we are sometimes forced to act, even when we know it's dangerous. We are sometimes courageous and surprise ourselves with our actions. I pray that I will never have to face an earthquake and its destruction, but realistically it could happen as I live in a place where they occur. That's part of the nature of change: our world is not static, just as our lives are not, either. I'm now old enough to have seen much change, both in the world and in my own body.

What can we do about it? Some people turn their lives over to a higher power and pray; others rail against change, unwilling to accept it. Well, it comes whether we want it to or not. I am no different, wanting to preserve the good times, good health, the good weather. But one thing also comes from having had a long life: acceptance that the inevitable change will come. And learning to appreciate the good times when they are upon us.

I hope that your upcoming week will be a good one, filled with good times and happy laughter with loved ones. I know some of us are grieving over recent loss, and that's normal and to be expected. We sure know how to do that, given so much chance to get it right. It will change, too. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.


http://peacefulheartopenmind.blogspot.com/ said...

Excellent post. Thank you.

diane said...

Said very well. Thanks!

Linda Reeder said...

As we get older we can more easily see the slow changes that have occurred in our society and government. I hope to see more in the time I have left, but I will have to live with the fact that not all changes will be welcome.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, An excellent post here. I fully share your belief in change. There is no getting around it, although some of us try desperately to do so. Thank you so much for sharing Eye on the Edge.

Marie Smith said...

I have had to take a stand for the students a few times in my job as a school counsellor. Teachers did not always appreciate it and some made it difficult for me as a result. I never regretted my actions but there were some tough times. Anyone who takes a stand has my respect and gratitude!

Elephant's Child said...

Yet another beautiful, thoughtful post. Change does indeed start with small (often overlooked) steps.
Hugs - and hopes that you have a wonderful week.

Susan C. said...

You write so beautifully.......your life experience and wisdom is hard earned and I appreciate you sharing it here. Thank you.

Red said...

Good example for an analysis of what went on this week. There are some horrible things that are covered up and for some people that's the way they want it. Kavanaugh and his buddies would like his actions to be swept under the rug.

Glenda Beall said...

You always give us words to think about. It takes some real courage to stand up for your beliefs and I don't know that I could ever run for office because of things like death threats. I admire Ms Ford for her courage and I have no idea what will come of this all, but it has stirred up a hail storm on FB. I am staying off there until things cool down. I can't change anyone's mind and I surely don't believe I have all the answers. But I feel this has all been too partisan for him to be named a Supreme Court Judge. I wish he would just step down and let someone else be nominated. I don't believe he could ever be expected to be fair and impartial now.
Yes, change is constant and sometimes it is hard to accept. But we must. Great post, DJan.

Tabor said...

Those who can stand strong and tall for those who absolutely cannot are the ones who have made important changes for us all.

Galen Pearl said...

What a great model you have shown here for following your conscience and your responsibility without demonizing those who disagree. And what an eye opener about doing something you thought would be one way and it turned out to be something else. The division we see is not new nor is it confined to government. I hope like you that more women's involvement will change the tone. We'll see.

Arkansas Patti said...

You are so right and your experience was an eyeopener. Death threats over parachute safety?? Mercy. Like you, I am keeping my protest to the voting booth and occasional emails to my congressmen and women. I think we can count on the youth of today to do the heavy lifting. I am just glad the young women of today will have it a bit easier and can feel supported.

Rita said...

You have been through the fire yourself!
Loved this post so much. So true. On many levels. :) :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

I hope you have a good week, we are trying.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking posting. Like you, I'm not at a point where I've given up my political activism. I can no longer drive to places to protest or support others; moreover, Meniere's has affected my hearing and so talking on the phone can be problematic. thus, I'm not even volunteering to call people and encourage them to vote. What I am doing is simply encouraging the younger people I know--relatives and friends--to vote. Many would not vote the way I would. i don't think that matters. It is voting that is important so that we know a majority of our citizens support this or that and him or her.

Also, I spend time talking with others about what is happening. I try to simply supply the facts as I know them and not put my biased spin on them. Unless a citizenry is informed, democracy will perish. Peace.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Incredible post. It is often so difficult to not know how to "fix" what is often so shamelessly wrong. I hope I will see this one play out in my lifetime. Thank you for writing this.