Friday, May 15, 2009

Waiting to jump

Days never end like you think they are supposed to. This one, however, was more so than usual. Skratch and I got up this morning, sure that we would head to the Drop Zone in Snohomish and make some jumps. He promised Elaine that he would make his first jump back with her, after he had been a couple of years away from skydiving, and I came along to document the proceedings. She recently returned to jumping after a year and a half break for childbirth. The picture above shows the Caravan on the left, waiting for jumpers, and the 182 on the right waiting for a wayward jumper. The silhouetted jumper on the couch is just hanging out waiting for his load.

Aside: Star, thanks for the comments about blog names, and the possibility of "The Skydiving Chronicles." But today really showed me how far in the past the skydiving chronicles really are.

Yes, I made a jump, and it was wonderful. But when you have already accumulated more than 63 HOURS in freefall, a jump is, well, a little bit... familiar. I felt the usual butterflies on the way up, looked out at the spectacular views of Puget Sound and the various mountain ranges, figured out my exit order and talked to the guy jumping out after me and made sure we were doing compatible stuff. He asked me where I planned to exit, and I asked him for his help, since I wasn't sure. He suggested exiting right over the lumber yard, which I did. We looked out together, and then I leaped into the air.

Brisk, not cold. Freefall position stable, terminal velocity reached. I look down and see Highway 9 running north and south below me and start tracking due south. A little moderate track, then putting on the afterburners. Nice and stable. Altitude check. What?! Still at 10.7? OK, what now? More tracking, a backflip (not too much of that, since I promised I would stay on my belly). A look around, first at the Sound, then 180 degrees around to the mountains. Beautiful!! A shout of gratitude and for sheer joy. Beepbeepbeep... another altitude check, and it's time to pitch. A quick wave-off, and I reach for my hackey, find it, and throw it into the air.

Whump! I look up, and my beautiful Stiletto is carving quickly to the left (closed end cells). Before I have a chance to react, I'm flying straight. Looking down, I see that the landing area is right below me, and I need to bleed off some altitude before I start into the pattern. Oh, there he is (my fellow jumper), down below me. Great, I can watch his approach and follow it, which I do. I land close to him, nice standup landing (although I flared just a touch too high, should have let the canopy fly a bit longer before finishing the flare). On the ground. Jump finished, a truly wonderful experience.

Skratch watched the whole thing, getting ready for his jump with Elaine. It's after 1:00pm, and they are supposed to meet at 3:00. He's got his gear together, he's ready. I wish he would jump with me, but he promised Elaine, so we wait. I pack up my gear, change the closing loop, glad for my new dacron lines (which slow down the opening to accommodate my aging bones). I see Skratch adjusting his goggles. Time passes, 3:00 gets here. No Elaine. We discuss what to do, because I can see clearly that his resolution is beginning to waver. He's getting past the place where he wants to jump, I can see it in his eyes. 3:30, no Elaine. He calls her and leaves a message, and a few minutes later she walks up, babysitter was late. But he has already released her, released the jump, and decided not to jump today.

We have a long and illuminating conversation, the three of us, but decide to reschedule. Once Skratch had girded his loins for the jump, the fragile moments when he began to put everything away, thinking that today is not the day, the moment for him to jump was gone. To make a jump, you need to be totally, one hundred percent, present and willing.

I was disappointed, but I saw that for some people, a schedule and a commitment might indeed cause the event to happen, but he is not one of those people. I need a schedule and a place to be every day (which is why I attend a daily workout class), because without it I would never get to the gym, I would flail. But he, on the other hand, chafes against a schedule. We are all so different, but it's clear to me that what needed to happen today did happen, but it wasn't a jump by Skratch and Elaine. It was a clarification of the place that skydiving occupies in my life, in my husband's life, and it's not what it once was.

And that's really okay. But if not "The Skydiving Chronicles," then what?


  1. I enjoyed reading your post on sky diving. When I met my husband in San Francisco he had been on the sky diving team in the Army in Arizona, and was sky diving in the Sonoma Valley – but I never joined him, too chicken… I think you could consider as a name for your blog Djan’s Impressions of…. you could chose something, or Djan’s Reflections then change your forewords, or Djan’s Reality.

  2. Thanks for the ideas, Vagabonde. I just perused your site for quite a while trying to figure out how to contact you directly and discovered you have cleverly kept that from happening. So, hopefully you'll get this. If your husband was skydiving on the Army team back then, he probably knew my husband (Skratch Garrison).

  3. Well, if you're starting to move toward the "remembrance" phase of your skydiving career, perhaps you could mix up some of your proposed blog names. Maybe "A Skydiver's Amethyst Remembrance," or "Amethyst Skydiving Remembrance."

  4. DJan, I could really relate to this post, since after a long hiatus from skydiving (more than ten years now), an activity which once defined my life, I've been toying with the idea of coming back, but thus far have decided you can't go home again. When your heart, head and will aren't 100% there, its either risky or futile to do something.

    I have to admit, I loved the vicarious jump you just took me on, but judging from the photo the DZ sure looks different than the DZs of the "old days." Very serene, guy reading a book (!) waiting for his call. Do you feel that difference?

  5. Linda: the DZ is really not that different, except that tandems are where the money is, and the "up jumpers" need to just chill and take slots where you can. But Snohomish does treat its tandems well... they get a really quality experience. And they also allow fun jumpers to double or triple manifest. On Sunday we manifested our six every third load, which worked out just great.

    If you decide to return to skydiving, it needs to be on your terms, not because anybody is pushing you... just my 2 cents!

  6. That was very well described. I could feel what it must be like to go up in the airplane and feel the exhilaration of the anticipated jump. I shall know who to ask if I need to add a sequence like that in one of my stories? Thank you for sharing. It was, quite simply, wonderful!
    ps I almost missed this post because it didn't come up in my list of Blogs just entered. Will have to watch for that in the future.
    Blessings, Star


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