Skydiving. (Or The day I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane with my best friend and some strangers)

If there is a fear of falling the only safety consists of deliberately jumping. 
-Carl Jung



It was the most magical, awe inspiring, fearless thing I think I've ever done. 
I totally thought that I would freak out, maybe even cry and most definitely scream. But, I didn't. 



      I heard the alarm go off, the small chime emitting from Teya's phone. I could feel the day break hitting my face and I blearily opened my eyes. Teya still slumbered beside me, her blond hair wild from our sunset dip in the Colorado river the night before, framing her sleeping face. I felt a wave of gratitude wash over my sleep deprived mind, just to have the time and space to share this day with her. 
I sat up and from our vantage point in the bed of her old blue truck I could see the red sandstone cliffs, illuminated by the rising pink of morning. 
     I yawned, hearing Teya stir in her orange sleeping bag. 
It had been a late night, giggling together beneath the stars the way we used to do as girls. I am certain it was after 1am by the time sleep finally claimed us. 
     I climbed out of my sleeping bag and hit the sand, Teya raised a tousled head and we shared a sleepy good morning, It was just after 6:30 am on Monday July 14, 2014. 
     We packed up our bedding and gear quickly and hopped in the truck, leaving nothing but tire tracks next to the sign proclaiming the area to be a shooting range. We headed for town, Moab. On the dusty outskirts we stopped at a gas station, and traded toothpaste smiles in an oblong mirror, washing the dirt off our faces and hands. 
We headed down the main drag of Moab, sharing an apple as we headed through town, windows down, radio coming in burst of music and static. 
Stopped at a red light I noticed a cluster of early morning men drinking coffee in wire worked chairs outside a pueblo style coffee shop, shading eyes and watching us with easy outdoor elegance. 
     We hit the highway and that's when the excitement really hit me. I could feel it fizzing in my belly, like expensive champagne. Teya reached across and squeezed my freckled arm, feeling it too. 
After 18 miles on 191 we turned left onto Aviation Way and parked the truck in a small cracked parking lot. It was 9 minutes before 8am. We walked inquiringly through a pair of gates and onto a smooth runway. 

If you find yourself confused, here, let me explain. Teya is my dearest and closest friend, we have shared everything, practically like sisters, since birth.  This past 9 months have been the longest we have ever been separated. 
Her birthday is in four days. 
   
  A couple years ago we had planned to go skydiving for her birthday but the plans fell through. I decided, even though I haven't always been the first to volunteer for adrenaline, that this was something I really wanted to do. Together.
     So in June I began planning and scheming and the day before this all took place I kidnapped Teya, with little more than a cursory warning, a quote and a packing list. We set out in the late afternoon pointing her truck westward, winding our way along the Colorado river, the road absolutely empty of everything but sun as I drove and we caught up on all things important in our lives. 
Quite honestly it was an incredibly selfish birthday present to give, just to spend the time with this woman is a gift for me. 
Alright, so that's background, you now know why we're walking inquiringly through a pair of gates and onto a smooth runway. 

We walked over to the hanger and were greeted by several jumpsuited guys who got us started on a stack of waivers and forms to sign that basically said that we understand that we are indeed jumping out of an actual airplane and no, we will not, under any circumstance sue, if it goes badly. Or you know, if we die. 
Our ride into the sky.


    After some brief training and some easy conversation with the guys we'd be jumping with, it was finally time. 
We walked out onto the runway and stepped, one at a time, up into the tiny little prop plane, wedging ourselves in, in the order we would be jumping out.  
I love flying. I always have and even though it's by far the smallest plane I've ever been in, fitting just the four of us and our pilot, while Teya and I literally sat on our tandem instructors laps (Teya's was a little overly excited by this) it was the same incredible feeling as we lifted off the tiny air strip runway and lifted up above the desert. We flew south over the canyon lands as we climbed in altitude. The landscape laying out below us, gold and pink and rust, sand stone and curling river looking new and fresh in the early day's sun.
     I was surprised to find that I was so calm. I couldn't believe it, actually. But somewhere in the mix of this plan that had been rolling around in my heart for over two years, I just surrendered, and let go of all my fear. 
I actually felt the peace pouring in on me as we climbed, and I welcomed it with open arms, letting my trust and my faith fill all the cracks and crannies and crevices that make up the whole of who I am. 
I surrendered completely. 
It was one of the most incredible sensations of my life.
     While the engine whined as it flew us higher into the azure sky, my instructor, Jeff, and I chatted about his 20 plus years as an instructor and his 6 years as a jump instructor in Hawaii. He spoke as if the islands had been the source of all bliss, his personal Shangri La. But when I asked why he'd left, he answered simply. "Divorce." 
I don't know why, I don't know what it is about people sharing in vulnerabilities but suddenly, sitting in the cramped windblown space between the tail and the cockpit, preparing to jump out of a perfectly good airplane with my body strapped to this mans, I was glad to know something about him. Something real, something more than the practiced, adrenaline junky talk that we'd shared on the ground. I felt a sense of trust to this strong, fearless, kindhearted little man.  
     I remember looking out the window, as we circled back North towards the hanger, all my straps tightened and ready to go, a thought blooming in my mind: "If I die today..  If it is my time, I've had a good life. And it wouldn't be the worst way to go."

     And then they opened the door. 

Teya and her instructor went first and then just like that Jeff and I were scooting to the door, and there is the sky and the world stretched out below us and the cold wind whipping at us and I have to put my feet on the little ledge now and I bite back the moment of hesitation but there is a calm inside that says, just do it. So I do. 
      And there I am standing on a small rubber ledge 10,000 feet above the earth on a rickety airplane strapped in a harness to a man I met an hour before and I hear his voice saying something and I know the moment is here and then..  we're falling. 
     As if in fast motion I rehear Jeff's words instructing me to curl back my body and I do, my body responding effortlessly as if I'm not falling through the sky, easily and fearlessly and unstoppably. We flip, over backwards, together like gulls and then we're falling, and my glasses are slipping, and I don't really care. 
Because I'm flying. I'm flying. 
      And then I feel him pull the shoot and I put my arms out the way I'm supposed to and then we're really flying, floating, floating over the world spread wide below us and I'm giddy and grateful and smiling and in shock and in awe of the silence of floating on the air, of the magic. This is magic. 
     This is something I was born to do. This is why I ache with envy of the birds and the bugs with theirs wings. 
Jeff swings the GoPro attached to his wrist around and asks me how I feel and I laugh into the camera and say "Holy. Shit! This, is.. this is AMAZING!" I can hear him chuckle. And then he tells me to reach up and grab hold of the yellow handles of our paraglider and I do. He lets his own hands drop and I hear his voice tell me I'm now flying our paraglider. 
I am giddy. This is bliss. This is freedom.  
     I'm addicted, to being this free, to the quiet, to the wind and the sun in the eastern horizon, and the sense of surrender, of fearlessness that comes from complete and utter trust. "Pull on the right side." He tells me and I do and we begin to swirl and spin and dip to the West. I laugh, I can't hold it in. 
"You did really well back there, You know how to follow direction. You're a natural. " I laugh. "I love it. And thanks." I say.
     Jeff takes control again and then we do some loop-de -Loops and I begin to feel a bit nauseous, so we stop. And float.  I'm trying to soak the whole experience in, every blissful detail, the way the land looks beneath us, the way the wind feels against my face and the way my breath feels in my chest, the goosebumps tingling on my skin, underneath my camo jumpsuit. 
     As the earth begins to look close, maybe a hundred or so feet up, I feel my stomach lurch again, the feeling of falling sweeps over me, as the land begins to look real, not just toy cars and river beds, but again I breath out and release. Trust. 
     We come down in the field, The smoothest landing, right on our feet. My Chacos catch me and I do not stumble. The pull of the glider landing beside us shifts our bodies against the weight. Jeff unhooks me and I feel the trust, the connection that made that flight possible sag and drop to the ground along with our nylon glider lines. 

And then there is Teya and she is running to me and I to her and we are hugging in our jumpsuits, our smiles so big, that words don't really matter anymore because we have just faced the sky and the falling and we have triumphed.  

Best. Day. Ever. 



Comments

  1. Seems like a song is appropriate:
    " I am the eagle I live in high country
    in rocky cathedrals that reach to the
    sky....I am the hawk and there's blood
    on my feathers but time is still turning
    they soon will be dry....
    Come dance with the west wind and
    touch on the mountain tops ...sail over
    canyons and up to the sky... Reach
    for the heavens and hope for the future...be all that we can be not just
    what we are." John Denver

    ReplyDelete
  2. And those who see me and all who
    Believe in me... Share in the feeling
    I feel when I Fly...y.....y.
    WOW That was an awesome ride!
    WOW

    ReplyDelete

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