Saturday, January 8, 2011

Snow is coming

I took this picture from our kitchen window the last time we had some significant snow here in Bellingham.  Now another significant snowstorm has been forecast for the middle of next week. Cliff Mass, my favorite weatherman, suggests the possibility in a post entitled "Historic Snowstorm This Week?" If you read it, though, you will notice that the storm might hit here or even as far south as Portland. He paints an interesting picture of the event in four acts.

We have been without much weather, other than rain and some (gasp!) sunny days, so it will be almost welcome to have a little bit of the white stuff on the ground. Maybe I'll have the chance to use my new Yak Trax, which have been languishing with my gear, waiting for another round of ice and snow. Since I can take the bus downtown and don't need to drive in bad weather, I don't feel housebound at all by the elements.

My dreams for the past two weeks, ever since I returned from Colorado, have been amazingly vivid and detailed. They are almost all related to skydiving, too, although it's been more than two months since I have gotten my "knees in the breeze." A wind tunnel is being built near Seattle and should help me keep a little of the rust out of my freefall skills by next winter. They are great tools and a wonderful way for people to experience "indoor skydiving." You are supported by a column of air and the newer tunnels are quite advanced, allowing you to see how it feels. I recommend it. In 2003 I attended a week-long tunnel camp in Florida and had a great time, as you can see from this picture.

Somehow the experience of being an instructor has faded from my mind, until those recent dreams brought them up. Teaching someone how to skydive is a huge responsibility. Getting the rating to become an instructor was one of the hardest tests I have ever taken, and the first time I tried to get through the ten-day course, I failed miserably. After six months of practice, however, I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when I received the rating, unti it occurred to me that soon I would be taking ACTUAL STUDENTS up on skydives and would need to help them with whatever it took.

The way I gained the ability to handle more than a thousand students in my days as an instructor was to give them the ability to take responsibility for themselves and to teach them what they needed to do if things went wrong. I did have a student once land very hard and he broke an ankle, but thankfully that was the only thing that happened under my tutelage. I, however, have been punched in the face (accidentally) by a student and received several deep bruises from efforts to catch an out-of-control student. I'm glad those days are behind me.

In a recent dream, my student was frightened and shaking with fear. I remember looking him in the eyes and telling him, sincerely, that he had everything he needed to be safe. In life as in skydiving, fear is what causes us to make serious mistakes, and concentration and focus are the tools that help us make it through the hard times. What I learned during my years as an instructor are that facing one's fears and conquering them empowers anyone to become more of who we really are. I have seen many ecstatic faces when a successful skydive was concluded with a perfect landing in exactly the spot the student intended to land.

As I said, I'm glad those days are behind me, but I am also very glad I had those amazing experiences. I'm really grateful for the reminder that we are the sum total of our lives, not just the person we are today.  And I look forward to being able to continue to grow and change through every one of the days I have.


  1. The sum total, grow and change...I like the idea that there is always more to discover and experience with each new day.

  2. Well, would you believe there's also snow in Portland's forcast for Wednesday and Thursday? Your weatherman has covered himself.

    I absolutely love the beautiful snow but am terrified of putting even a toe out in it. I'm land locked when there's snow and ice. I do well to remain upright in good weather let alone snow and ice.

    Bob, on the otherhand is as sure footed as a mountain goat. He gets all the outside duty. The dog is about as sure footed as I am.

    I would, however, be excited to wake up to snow next week.

    You and all your adventures never cease to amaze me. I love reading about them.

  3. Okay, a wind tunnel maybe. But I'll have to grow by facing some other kinds of fears rather than sky-diving. Although I'm still VERY impressed by all of your diving accomplishments.

  4. It seems we are all to get significant amounts of the white fluffy stuff over the next few days.
    My director just called to see, if I would go ahead and cancel all surgeries for the coming week, most important Monday and Tuesdays.
    I so love to watch it, but driving in the stuff makes me nervous.
    I think you'd make a wonderful sky diving instructor, after all, look at all of your experience !
    Stay warm.

  5. I think it must be far more difficult to be a teacher than to be the student. I don't think I've ever thought about what being an instructor entails, but it makes sense that the testing would be rigorous. I imagine you were a wonderful teacher.

    It really must be something in the planets because I've had crazy vivid dreams lately as well. I've read several other bloggers comment the same. Mine have been about my past also. I understand the sentiment about being glad for the experiences but also glad they're in the past.

  6. Reading about your skydiving makes me nervous since I really, really, really dislike heights.

    During my first ski trip and after a day or so of ski school, I went up on a lift. As we were coming down, we hit a spot that all I could see was an end to the snow and blue sky. I sat down and refused to move. I told the instructor to go on and I would walk down. But, he was not allowed to leave me. After about 30-45 minutes he convinced me to ski behind him holding onto his waist. After a while, I got okay and went back up a second time. lol

  7. I'm really grateful for the reminder that we are the sum total of our lives, not just the person we are today.

    Wow, that really says it all. I cannot agree more about fear, and how facing it, challenging it, can change your life. But I have to admit, I wouldn't have wanted the responsibility you had. When it comes to life and death, you have to be very sure of your abilities. You obviously are a very special lady, DJan.

  8. Your sum total adds up to one remarkable person!

  9. I tend to be a scaredy cat. Hard to believe I actually circled the globe all by myself, returning home to Hawaii 7 years later.

    The wind tunnel I could do. I would love to experience that.

    However, I shall never skydive, because I am physically out of shape. Also, I get chest pain when I am super anxious.

    Good for you and your students that you became such an excellent teacher!

  10. Love your snow photo DJan, looks like a lot of us are due for snow this coming week. We had a little dusting this afternoon. Reading some of the comments above I can't imagine being held hostage by snow, my routine changes very little when we get the white stuff.

    I am always in awe of your skydiving adventures and even more by the fact you were an instructor. That is a lot of responsibility. While it in no way compares to what you did I was a First Aid & CPR instructor for many years. Most of my students in Anchorage were fire fighters and ski patrol. One day it occurred to me that I was teaching people who would actually use the skills they learned in my classes to save lives. That thought probably made me a better instructor.

    You are so right, we are the sum total of all we have done in our life. We are also shaped by the people we have met along the way, both in person and long distance.

  11. growing and changing every day...that is part of the adventure of life...supposed to start snowing again here today...

  12. You are amazing. I cannot say that enough.

  13. That looks fun! and a lot safer than doing the thing for real, I must say. My middle son has tried it and enjoyed it very much. The look on your face says it all D-Jan :)

  14. "I'm really grateful for the reminder that we are the sum total of our lives, not just the person we are today." That is a wonderful quote DJan.. beautifully said:)


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