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, February 21, 2021

Skydiving boogies

Formation built at a boogie

During my three decades as an active skydiver, I would often go off to "boogies," gatherings of skydivers from all over the world, usually ten days long, with aircraft of every sort to jump from. Although I was going to write about hiking today, last night in my dreams I spent much of the night creating many outlandish skydives, and I woke this morning with a smile on my face. What fun we had, both in real life and in those dreams.

That picture was taken on Christmas Eve 2002, on an organized load with both me and SG in it. I'm on the far left in purple, and you can see his white jumpsuit behind me. Between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I made ten skydives, and on this one we had a photographer who captured this great picture. (Michael McGowan has made money for decades taking pictures like this one on organized skydives at Skydive Arizona.)

The reason I can give you all these details is because skydivers usually keep a journal of their dives, so they can be remembered. When you make ten in two days, it's easy to forget all the essentials. I'm not sure if this formation is called a Texas Star, but if not, it's similar. I rummaged through my stack of journals until I found the entry for this one. It's not very detailed, since I was more than a little tired at the end of each day, but I needed to put something in there before I lost the thread of my wonderful two days. It was almost two decades ago now, and I cannot imagine doing such a marathon session of skydives today! Or jumping out of an airplane at all, for that matter. My last skydive was in 2015, and then I sold my gear so that I would not be tempted to keep going when I knew it was time to quit.

For years, I worked on my skydiving skills, and I was an instructor for many of them, which helped me rack up the numbers. As many of my longtime readers might recall, I made more than 4,000 altogether, with one year making over 400, at the height of my passion. I never had a weekend when I wasn't working or playing in the sky. I was able to afford it all because I made money as an instructor and then spent it at boogies, so that I wouldn't need to pay taxes on that income. I also spent time in the occasional wind tunnel. This was taken at the wind tunnel in Orlando, during a five-day-long training session.

I was #A2, it seems

Time spent in wind tunnels did not count towards the hours I amassed in skydives, but it sure helped me learn better how to use my body in flight. (USPA gives awards for every 12 hour of freefall.) Looking at these pictures now, I am more than a little impressed that I was so dedicated. However, that was then, and times change and we grow older with every passing day. I sure had a wonderful career as a skydiver and love to look back at those days.

Every once in awhile I'll have a dream that takes me back to the thrill of a boogie, and that is what happened last night. I emerged from sleep up after having found five other women to make a special skydive with, and even though I can't remember now how it turned out, it must have been good since I woke feeling so happy.

Yesterday I was able to get an appointment for a Covid shot for both me and SG, thanks to my friend John, who called me as soon as he heard about this nearby pharmacy that was scheduling appointments. They were going fast, as you had to fill out a form that took awhile, and although we are now scheduled for shots a day apart, hopefully they will happen. I had an appointment through another place but it was canceled due to a shortage of vaccines caused by the terrible weather across the country. Our current ones are scheduled for the first week in March, and hopefully by then the vaccines will be available again. I almost didn't mention our luck in getting these appointments, thinking I might jinx it. 

I can't help but think that we are past the major shortages and that the vaccine supply will soon become more plentiful, but there really is no way to know for sure. Frankly, trying to score those appointments gave me as much stress and anxiety as I used to feel getting ready to make a skydive! Times sure do change, don't they?

Although I don't skydive any more, I am still a member of USPA (US Parachute Association) and receive the monthly magazine. There was a time that I would read it from cover to cover as soon as it arrived, but now I make a cursory pass through, mostly looking for people I used to know. Unfortunately, I also see how many of my old friends are no longer alive, either from an accident or, most often these days, passing away from natural causes. 

It is a constant reminder to me to cherish every single day of my life. Although I no longer jump out of perfectly good airplanes for fun, I have a universe of memories and dear friends I will never forget. I met SG through skydiving, so you can see how much it changed my life for good. We are able to make comments to each other that no one else would understand. Why I cannot remember any of them as I write is partly because I am now forgetting things more often. Not a good thing for a skydiver to realize. But I am still able to hike, walk with friends for long distances, and enjoy my yoga classes on Zoom. It is important to remember and cherish these times, too, because as life moves on, our abilities change as well.

The more time passes in your life, I think the greater you understand perspective. So I'm happy that I've had experiences that have reminded me that most exciting things might not feel so exciting later, and the most disappointing things might not be so disappointing later, either. —K. Flay

Well, it's getting to be the time for me to reluctantly put my old skydiving journals back on the shelf and start preparing for the rest of my Sunday. I have finished my tea, and my dear partner snores gently next to me. I still have a few little snippets of memory of last night's dreams to enjoy, but turning to the present moment and what I might be able to accomplish today seems more important. I do hope that you, my dear reader, will be well and find some joy to share with others in the coming week. I wish the same for myself. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.


John's Island said...

I enjoyed this look back at your skydiving experiences. You have some great memories there. Happy to hear you’re getting the vaccine. Wishing you & SG a good week ahead.

Galen Pearl said...

Like John in the earlier comment, I enjoy hearing you reminisce about your skydiving days. And I appreciate your grace and wisdom in how you describe giving it up when it was time. I also enjoy hearing about your experiences because it's fun to learn about someone's interest in something that I would not do myself. I like my feet on the ground, so it is thrilling in a way to hear you speak about spending so much time in the sky. The sky calls to you in a way that the earth calls to me. Interesting since my dad was a pilot, so he was a sky person like you. As always, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning thoughts.

Marie Smith said...

It is amazing to me how you jumped out of planes all those years. You are brave and adventurous.

Our abilities change as we age but it didn’t keep my husband and me from trying bicycling and snowshoeing this past year. Nothing like skydiving but new for us as seniors. I hope to continue to try new things as long as I can. May as well make the most of whatever time we have.

Barbara Rogers said...

I too have hung up a hobby in the last year...one that isn't quite as wild and exciting, but one which I dreamed of having all the years I worked, and then finally had 12 years of joy from. Pottery making and sculpting were such joy for me, but my breathing was suffering from dust and mildew in clay, either dry or wet, I had problems. So now that everyone is masked, it wouldn't be so strange to make pots with a mask. I'm not sure I 'll try again however. Still have my tools though!

Betsy said...

It's always interesting to hear you recount your skydiving adventures. Times do change as we get older don't they? I can no longer do many of the things I used to do with no effort at all.
I hope the vaccine happens for you this time. I still have been unable to get my husband an appointment and I'm not on Washington's list for pre-existing conditions, even with all of my heart issues. So frustrating.
Take care.

Elephant's Child said...

Just reading about your memories has me smiling. I am so glad that they came back to you in the very best kind of dream.
I am glad to hear about your vaccine appointment too. Ours officially start from today. I expect that my first is likely to be at least six weeks away. Time will tell.

gigi-hawaii said...

I love to think of you sky diving. Awesome! It is something I would not dream of doing, too scary for me to even contemplate. Blessings that you are alive and doing so well. Good luck with the vaccine.

Arkansas Patti said...

When I first started following you, you were jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and I envied your doing what a lot of us only dream of doing. That dream you had to have been cool and so glad it kept the smile on your face.
Delighted you finally got an appointment. I know that has worried you. Maybe shots will become like toilet paper and someday soon be plentiful.

Gigi said...

I'm so thankful that the two of you were able to get the appointments! I'm hopeful that the shortages, etc. will be a thing of the past soon. Have a wonderful week!

William Kendall said...

Hopefully your vaccination goes smoothly.

Friko said...

How wonderful to have such happy memories in abundance. And how wonderful that you manage to retrieve them even in your dreams!

Good luck with the jabs.

Red said...

It's healthy to look back at some of the more prominent parts of our life. Looking back at success and satisfaction Helps us feel happy as you said you felt happy when you awoke from your dream. I hope you get the shot you're scheduled for.

ApacheDug said...

That is a pretty cool picture at the top! (I appreciate you loading these images full-size so we can examine them better.) I knew that’s how you met SG, I’ve wondered sometimes if he missed it as much as you. Not to sound corny but at least you didn’t lose your spirit for adventure... you’re committed to your time outdoors.

DJan, I appreciate you sharing the news about your & SG’s upcoming vaccinations. It’s none of my business, but it still bothered me. You (and SG) were supposed to be the first ones to get vaccinated and it shouldn’t have been this difficult or worrisome on your part. It makes me wonder about others who aren’t as active or resourceful as you, who is pulling for them? Anyway—just happy for you guys.

Linda Reeder said...

I'm finally checking in after a busy day. Well, after a late start. I slept a full eight hours in my bed last night, a very satisfying accomplishment. Not quite the same as sky diving, however, but having hip replacement is an adventure of a different sort.
I went for a walk in a lovely garden at the locks in Seattle, visited with both of my kinds in person at their homes, and caught up with my granddaughter too. It was a good day.
As I read about your adventures in the sky, I thought that I have never been much of a risk taker and so my adventures are limited. Then I thought about standing up in front of a new batch of kids every year in the classroom and overcoming the fear of failure every day on my way to becoming a master teacher. And that's how I met my husband too.

Anvilcloud said...

I am sure that it is exhilarating, but I never managed to get around to it or diving (or more like snorkeling probably). I think I would have liked the latter, in particular.

As you know, you are way ahead of us wrt vaccinations, but I think I see that the local plan is to have doctors actually call their patients >80 as the next main step.

Rian said...

Love seeing pics of your sky-diving! And it must be fun to revisit in dreams...
As for the vaccine, we've now been contacted by 2 different places saying that 'our numbers have come up'... (no, that sounds a bit ominous)... how about 'our time have come' (not a lot better). Anyway, we do have an appointment next week.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Good dreams should be enjoyed! I am thrilled that you are lucky enough to have good dreams! Often mine are confusing and frustrating....getting lost in traffic...a car with no brakes...looking for a potty...
Sure hope you havre good luck finding that shot this week! It will be progress!

Margaret said...

It's wonderful to have passions, but it's also OK to move on from them when it's time. It sounds like you chose a perfect time to break from skydiving and have kept many excellent memories. Getting a covid appointment feels like trying to score toilet paper last March. I'm only 64, so I'm not able to be in the hunt, although I did get my parents' shots. Very stressful.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I could feel the joy that your dream brought back to you. Skydiiving was your passion and it gave you the gift of the present moment and the gifts of memory and now the gift of joyful dreams. I'm so glad that has been part of your life and that you embraced it so thoroughly.

I got my first vaccine shot on Monday; my second will be on March 23rd. I feel so fortunate. Peace.