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 4, 2022


After 10th anniversary jump

This picture was taken of me and SG on our tenth wedding anniversary, May 5, and since we got married in freefall on that day a decade earlier, we decided to make an anniversary jump from the same plane we had jumped out of ten years before. This photo was right when we landed after the jump.

As many of you know, we met skydiving in the 1990s. We connected through a now-defunct FTP internet message board called "rec.skydiving," which was just one of many different groups to help you to find like-minded people. This was before the modern World Wide Web. We sent a few private emails to each other, which expanded into long phone calls (when long distance was actually expensive) and finally into visits into each other's homes. I lived in Boulder, Colorado, and he lived in San Francisco. After several months in this mode, we decided to make the leap: he quit his job and moved to Boulder.

After lots of fits and starts, we gradually realized we belong together, and on May 5, 1994, we got married in the air above Loveland, Colorado. The above photo is ten years later, in 2004. We lived in Boulder until I retired from my job in 2008, but we spent several months trying to decide where we wanted to move to. We favored San Francisco, because that's where SG felt most at home. But it had grown far too expensive for two retirees on a budget, so we took a long car trip to the west coast to explore other options.

We spent a week in Bellingham, Washington and thought it would be a good place as a stopgap until we found out where we would finally settle. That was in 2008, and we've never left. Happy to be here in the Pacific Northwest. And we found places to skydive here, until we both decided we were probably finished with the sport. He had taken his own gear apart and stored it, but I sold my harness/parachute system in 2015, after I took my last skydive in Snohomish at the ripe old age of 72.

And there are a couple of other anniversaries that fit in here: SG made his very first skydive sixty years ago! On September 1st, 1962, as a college student of twenty, he made his first jump. I asked him what he remembers from that day:
There I was, scared shitless! Jack, the pilot of his Piper Cub, had me sitting in the back seat, and he said, "okay, climb out!" It was a very tight fit, so I scraped the back of my container across the back of the door, and then there I was on the strut, and my parachute was falling out, so Jack pushed me off the airplane. I don't remember much after that. But what I do remember is that when I was about to land, I was steering and it was looking okay, but suddenly I realized how fast I was coming down. The ground jumped up and hit me! I was twenty years old. I could hardly wait to do it again!

What had happened as he climbed out is that he broke the static-line break cord that held his parachute in its container, and quick action was required to keep it from entangling with the plane (which is why Jack pushed him off). The Piper Cub is a very small airplane that only holds the pilot and one passenger. When I began my own skydiving career, it was quite a different scene. 

It was September 1st, 1990, when I made a tandem jump with an instructor, in a little bit larger plane, a C-206, which holds five jumpers plus the pilot. Although I had the option of pulling the ripcord, taking us from freefall into the second part of the skydive, the canopy portion, I didn't need to do it; the instructor was responsible for it all. However, I loved freefall just as much as SG did, and I could hardly wait to do it again, either. Both of us went on to make many more thousands of skydives over the years, but I thought you might like to see a picture of our very first logbooks. Most skydivers keep a record of every jump we make.

His on top, mine below

These little logbooks hadn't changed much in thirty years, still recording the important information: date, altitude, airplane, amount of freefall time, equipment used, wind speed, and so forth. I ended up using this little book through my student jumps and until I bought my own equipment. And along with it, sitting on my bookshelf, I have dozens of full-sized logbooks, filled to the brim. Just looking at some of the entries brings back a memory of the jumps.

So, as you can see, this post is about several anniversaries: our wedding anniversary and our first jumps. Although we are no longer active skydivers, we will always be connected to the sport. Some couples might say (for example) that they still have Paris, but we will always have skydiving. Although the memories might fade as time goes by, the amount of time we spent in freefall will never change.

Our lives are full and satisfying, even though we are now well into our elder years. I turn eighty this fall, and SG had his eightieth birthday back in February. He is doing quite well after having suffered a stroke two years ago and later developing a blood cancer (lymphoma) but is under a doctor's care and for the moment doesn't need any treatment other than to monitor his progress. The older one gets, the more things begin to fall apart, since we weren't made to last forever, but if you can maintain your mobility and health, life can be quite fulfilling. I am so happy to be sitting here in the dark, a laptop connected to the world, and my sweetheart still sleeping next to me.

I'll finish up this post with a quote from somebody who has been in the news this past week. She has developed the same illness that SG has. And she still looks great and tells us to stay active.

The most important thing to do as you age is to stay physically active. Lots of people just throw in the towel if they can't do what they used to do, and that's terrible. —Jane Fonda

I have to remind myself every day that each time I get to see the sunrise and the sunset as well is a very, very good one. My tea is long gone, but I look forward to the new day ahead, and hope that you, my dear friends, will have a beautiful, bright new day as well. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.


ApacheDug said...

A wonderful read, Happy Anniversaries DJan! (It seemed the best way to put it, given everything I read.) That's a great pic of you & SG on your 10th, and I keep thinking of you two as recently-marrieds, why is that? You've been together close to 30 years. Anyway, love the photo of the log books too (I just dig stuff like that) and I could just picture SG's first jump in my head as he was retelling it. (Certainly glad his first wasn't his last!) I'm glad to read SG is currently doing relatively well, and again congratulations. My gosh, how many people can say they got married in the air!

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Such an interesting read. I do keep active, but I am not adventurous to do sky diving. Just reading about it seems way too thrilling for me. Glad you enjoy it and it brought you together. happy anniversary.

Marie Smith said...

Such great memories, Jan. I enjoy hearing about your skydiving careers, you and SG. The log books are treasures of a lifetime, life in free fall. That conjures up wonderful images. Glad SG is doing well! Take care, you two,

Arkansas Patti said...

Enjoyed hearing the rest of the story. You two turned the love of a sport into a long term love and marriage. I am so glad SG is doing so well and that you still have memories and mementos of your daring adventures. You are in a pretty exclusive club.
Enjoy each day.

Elephant's Child said...

This is a wonderful post, packed with precious memories and wisdom. Happy anniversary and thank you.
I am very pleased to hear/read that SG is doing well.

Rian said...

That is a great picture of the 2 of you! And I can see that it would bring back some wonderful memories. And I'm also happy to hear that SG is doing well. Happy Anniversaries!!

Red said...

You've both lived an active an interesting life. We must stay active and stay in the game. Those who stay at home and don't participate in life are soon in trouble health wise.

Gigi said...

So very many things to celebrate in this post. Love the picture of you and SG and am so happy to hear that he is doing well.

Have a wonderful week!

Linda Reeder said...

I'm reading this late Sunday evening after a very full day. just wanted to let you know I'm here.

Anvilcloud said...

There’s always something to do and look forward to And it’s great for you to have such an exhilarating past as well. I do recall the days of bulletin boards. IIRC it was called altnet, but I might be wrong. There were also chat groups, but I also forget exactly what they were called. I never did those much either. I did a lot of email back then — as in pen pals. Then blogging came along and the time of actual email correspondence was over for most part. Email has become utilitarian and not much more than texting, it seems.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Thanks for the look back over all the years. You and SG have a great story.

Watching the news last night, I thought about you when the report turned to a 90-year-old who went for a dive to celebrate her birthday. Here’s a link to the story on CBS where you can see some pictures …


The posted story, “Grandma takes up skydiving for 90th birthday” is pretty cool. 😊

FRIDLEY, Minn. – Members of a Twin Cities church banded together to give a Minnesota nonagenarian a high-flying birthday gift! Photojournalist Tom Aviles meets 90-year-old Ida Shannon, as she takes the leap of her life with the support of members of Heights Church in Columbia Heights. Ida will turn 91 later this month. Her 90th birthday present jump was postponed until this summer. Oh, by the way: Ida raised 10 kids and worked into her 80s!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Lots of Happy Anniversaries for you two! Thanks for the update on SG I appreciate it! Nice to know how he is getting along.
I admire you for all the jumps...something I would never want to do! Race Car driving maybe...sky diving not so much.
Hope you will have a good week! :)

Linda Collison said...

Freefall connects us all. I'm so happy you and Skr found each other in the falling. I notice Bob Russell signed your logbook for AFF level III. Bob and I celebrate 30 years this November, and I remember you at our wedding. Freefall connects. I can also make out Bill Jackson, tandem master and John Rice's signature for AFF II. And look, you went on to become an expert and marry one of the sport's great innovators in freefall flight. Ain't life grand? Blue skies, Linda

Linda Myers said...

What happy memories! It was good to read your cheerful, grateful post.

Tabor said...

Wondering if sky diving has gotten prohibitively expensive due to fuel price increases? I can imagine how exciting. I also agree that keeping active is the key. It is a real challenge for me as I think it only works if you push the exercise routine. I do hate that, but am still exercising along.

Gigi said...

I'm so glad you are going to see your family! It will be a treat for you all, I am sure.

Have a wonderful week!