Tag Archives: skydiving

“Birds Flyin’ High: You Know How I Feel! Sun In The Sky: You Know How I Feel!”

(Continued from August 25, 2011.)

“Um.  Vie-rra?”

I look up:  The badass to take me flying is heading toward us, with an already extended arm for a handshake.  He is so much larger than me.

I make my move, grinning:

“I’m Vera!” I say.

I feel calm and yet impatient:  I cannot wait to leap out into the sky.

“Sean,” he says.  What a decent name, on a decent man!

Then, he adds:  “And for the next hour, I’m going to be — your bodyguard.”

“I like that!” I say, still grinning.  Apparently, for the next hour, I am going to speak only with exclamations.

Sean gives me his forearm.  I grab it, and for the first time in the history of my womanhood — I actually mean it.  I let him lead the way.

On the sidelines, I can see the other instructors readjusting the gear on their students.  But mine is much cooler than that:  He doesn’t fuss.  He’s not even wearing his own gear yet.  Instead, he starts talking to me, calmly, about today’s “exceptional” skies.

“You can see everything much clearer, from up there,” he says.

I assume it’s metaphor for something:  A life of wisdom, of persevering past the suffering and finally landing into humility, which often takes the very place — of grace.

It must also be a metaphor for luck.  And then I think it’s a good sign that in his name, there is an equal number of letters as in mine — and we share the same vowels.

We talk.  Where did I come from?  How did he land here?

“I used to be afraid of heights,” he tells me.  “Until my family gave me a skydiving lesson, as a Christmas present.”

And this, I assume, must be a metaphor for something, as well:  For human courage and the choice to defeat one’s limitations.

“THE SKY IS THE LIMIT,” says the sign behind Sean’s back in the alcove where we’ve walked off to pick up his equipment.

And this!  This too — must be a metaphor.  A good sign.

And I already know that I shall continue rewinding this day in my memory every time I want to land into my own humility.

The aircraft pulls up.  It’s a tiny thing.  It sounds rickety — and I LOVE that.  Because it makes survival seem easy, nonchalant — not a thing to fuss over, or to fear.

Calmly, Sean goes over what’s about to happen.  As he gives me instructions about my head and limb positioning when up on the air, he throws in a few metaphors:

“When we come to the edge, you kneel down on one knee, as if proposing to me.  Rest your head on my shoulder.  Wait for me to tap you like this; then bring your arms out at a ninety-degree angle — and enjoy the view!”

I imitate his movements.  The thrill, the impatience, the anticipation makes me a terrible student though; because besides grinning, I don’t notice myself doing much else.  But my bodyguard must know that already, because he continues with his metaphors.

“If you feel like you can’t breathe — scream!”

And this too!  This too — must be a metaphor for something.

There are three other students besides me.  Two of them start leading the way to the non-fussy aircraft, accompanied by their instructors who are still adjusting their gear, yanking on the belts, clicking the hinges.  But mine is much cooler than that:  He doesn’t fuss.  Somehow, he’s managed to get geared up already and to check up on own my belts and hinges.  And he has done his job with grace, without arousing any adrenaline in me.

I feel calm, yet impatient:  I cannot wait to leap out into the sky — which must be the limit — and past my own limitations.

We are not even inside the plane yet, but already, I can hear the echos of Sean’s metaphors:

“When we come to the edge… kneel down as if proposing.”

“Rest your head…  Wait.”

“If you can’t breath — scream!”

Inside the aircraft, the two students making the jump at 10,500 feet straddle the bench ahead of us.  Their instructors start adjusting their belts again.  The four of us sit behind them.

My bodyguard and I continue talking.  Come to find out:  He is a gypsy, just like me, traveling mostly in pursuit of conquering his fears.  For eight years, he’s been leaping out into sky.

“You must be fearless!”  I say.

“No,” Sean answers, calmly.  “But this job — is a good metaphor for dealing with life.”

Underneath us, I can see the pretty geometric shapes of farmlands and fields that I have seen before out of the windows of other planes.  Since a child, I had always wanted to leap out into the clouds, somehow knowing that there wouldn’t be anything to fear about that.

I turn to Sean:  “How high are we?!”

I notice:  I myself have started speaking in metaphors.  Or, maybe, I have always done that.  Which must be why I still find myself leaping out into the skies of my limitations — on my own.  It must be hard to keep up.

“Six and a half,” my bodyguard answers and he shows me a watch-like device on this wrist with that number.

I grab it, meaning it, wanting to devour every bit of knowledge and skill that comes with leading a fearless life.  Sean tells me that’s the exact height at which he’ll open our parachute.

I do the math.  (My mind is clear, still unaffected by adrenaline.)

It means:  We shall free fall for 7,000 feet.

Wow.

My gratitude — floods in.

Calmly, I watch the other two couples leap out at their heights.  There is something very incredible in the way they make their final choice to go, letting the skies sweep them off the edge.

AND I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS.  IT’S HUMBLING.

We keep going up to our height.

“In what order do you wanna go?” Sean asks me, over my shoulder:  Somehow, he’s managed to have done his job again, and I am now sitting strapped onto his body, at my hips and shoulders.

“Let’s go first!” I answer, still grinning.

And still:  I am calm.  And still:  I am impatient to jump out into the sky.

Soon enough, we start sliding onto the edge.  When I put my goggles on, I hear the echo of Sean’s metaphor:  He must’ve told me that it would be the last gesture we do — before leaping out.  He’s amazing.

The four of us shake, slap, squeeze each other hands.  I can feel the heat rising up behind my goggles:

THIS!  THIS HUMILITY AND GRACE — THIS VERY HUMANITY — IS WHAT LIFE MUST BE ABOUT!  

Sean slides the door up.

“Come to the edge.”

“Kneel.”

“Rest.”

“Breathe.”

I hear the echos.  The heart — is on my tongue.  I think:  I’m screaming.

Maybe not.

We get swept off.

IT. 

IS. 

AMAZING.

When daydreaming about leaping out into the sky before, I used to think I would cry.  I was wrong:

It’s all joy!  All rapture!  All gratitude! 

Like a giant orgasm, for 7,000 feet!

And it tastes — just like the Ocean!

I am air-bound now, above California.

Above my life.

“It’s Alright, It’s Alright! ALL-RIGHT! She Moves — In Mysterious Ways!”

En route to Lompoc, to jump out of a plane.  Bono is screaming about love.

And when is he not, that preacher of the better part of us?

Here comes an unexpected detour.  I catch myself thinking:  I cannot wait to fly!

But instead, I make Bono hush down for a bit and watch my co-pilot navigate through the unknown neighborhood with patience I am known to not possess. I’m intense, even in my mightiest lightness.  We follow the neon orange signs that appear dusty and somehow tired.  It’s a beach town, and other drivers aren’t in a hurry at all.  Around the bend, however, I see the pillars of the 101:  The cars are zooming by.  Freedom!

“I WANNA RUN!” Bono is back to screaming, screeching occasionally, to get the message across.

The last text I send, before turning off my cell phone, is to my BFF — my most kindred heart in this world that has put up with my messy head and impatient soul for over a decade, without much objection.  She is my In Case of Emergency; has been, since college.  Sure, there have been partners before, who would take over that burden, on an adventure or two.  But once they go — the job returns to my most kindred heart.

“In the name of love!

One more!  In the name of love!”

Ah:  St. Bono!

Interestingly, my BFF and I have rarely spoken about our heartbreaks to each other.  Perhaps, it’s because we both know that even when a heart breaks — it gets better, with choice.  And our choice has always been for the better parts of us.

Bono puts in his two cents:  

“You’re dangerous, 

‘Cause you’re honest.”

On this part of the 101, the traffic moves.  It’s a two-lane construction and we all seem to be quite certain about where we’re going.

For miles and miles, I see California — and it is glorious!

Here she is, stretching in front of me like a reclining redhead, so sure of her witchcraft; with her floor-length hair spilling around her nudity like a shadow.  In the fields and farmlands, I am exploring her long limbs:  This girl’s got some freckles on her!

When passing through her mountains, I enter her mysterious parts:  the curvatures of her hips, and the dimples on her lower back, the hills of her sumptuous behind.  In between two green peaks, I am aware of my privilege:  My glorious girl has just let me inside.  She has surrendered.  I dive.  I hold my breath a little, pop my ears.  I come out on top.

Bono chimes in:

“It’s alright, it’s alright!  ALL-RIGHT!  

She moves in mysterious ways.”

We take the onramp:  1 North.  I’m in the vineyards now:  In her hair follicles, behind her earlobes, heading toward the magnificent head of the State.  I do love it up there, but I’ve gotta make a stop (somewhere along her clavicle, perhaps):  So that I can jump out of the plane — and into the next chapter of me.

And I am thinking:  I cannot wait already!  And I feel so light!

We pull off onto the side of the road:  Here.  Finally!  But if it weren’t for the single-engine aircraft that looks like it’s been constructed from scrap metal found nearby, I wouldn’t know it.

We check in with a girl next door — at the front desk.  She’s skydived 87 times by now!  Badass.

In a company of a giggling young lovebirds, we watch two safety videos.

Sign off our lives.

On the other side of the building where we’ve been sent to wait for our instructors, I see a handful of young boys cracking themselves up at the footage of other people’s faces blown into the hideous grins by the g-force.  As these impatient souls fall out of the plane, one by one, the video plays music.  But I can lipread:

“HOLY SHIIIT!”

“OH MY GOD!”

And:

“FU-AHH-UCK!”

I laugh.  I feel so light, so fearless!

Can’t I just live like this forever and ever, in a perpetual state of expecting my next flight?!

On the other side of the divider, two other badasses are crawling all over the carpeted floor, putting together parachutes.  And I see her — IMMEDIATELY:

She is exactly my height, small and equally as brown; with an intense face, that also resembles mine, even in the moments of my mightiest lightness.  Besides a sports bra and a pair of boy shorts, she is wearing a pair of giant headphones. She’s in her head.  After all:  She’s got human lives in those brown, strong hands of hers.

“Yo, Eric!” she screams out and lifts up one of the headphone muffs.  “Fuck the apple!  Get me a Red Bull, yeah?”

And then, she’s back to crawling all over the carpeted floor:  Badass!  She untangles the lines, gathers the off-white nylon into her arms and dives.  The cloud catches her small, brown body and it deflates, slowly.

“Vera?  Um.  VIE-RRA?!”

Another brown girl has been calling me over:  It’s time for the gear.  She is a sweetheart, but her hands know exactly what to do:  Badass!  She insists on talking to me the entire time, but about life and something so light and so fearless.  The harness is heavy and I feel grateful for that:  It weighs me down, or I would fly off, from all this lightness and love.

And suddenly, I’m thinking:  I’m not fear-less.  I’m:  Fear-none!

I hear the rickety, single-engine aircraft land.  Soon enough, the skydivers start coming down, and they rush through our waiting zone with forever changed faces.

“How was it?” I ask a young boy with a headful of crazy curls.

“OH, SHIT!  AMAZING, MAN!”

He’s screaming at me, with an Aussie accent:  I’m the first civilian soul to meet him on the ground, and I bet if I weren’t being strapped in right then, he would kiss me, open-mouthed, on the lips:  So light!  So fear-none!

The instructors arrive last:  They are in red t-shirts and shorts, as if they’ve just come out to play some beach volleyball.  But they’re wearing the backpack-looking things on their shoulders, while carrying the white bubbles of chutes in their arms.  Badasses!

One of the instructors immediately chips off and goes to grab a bite of pizza.  He devours two bites.

“Um.  Vie-rra?”

I look up:  The badass to take me flying is heading toward us, with an already extended arm for a handshake, even though he’s uncertain which of the impatient souls on standby I must be.

I inhale.  Here I go:

Not fearless — but fear-none!

(To Be Continued.)

“I Want To Thank You: For Lettin’ Me — Be Myself, Again!”

First and foremost:  “WHY?!” 

Why would I voluntarily consider falling out of the sky with nothing but another human strapped onto me?

Strangely, since scheduling the appointment, I’ve caught myself wondering more about that very person — the angel on my back — than about the entire procedure of skydiving.  I know he is going to be impressively skilled and come with some sort of a life-saving apparatus on his shoulder blades.  But what I want to know more is:

Will I be able to talk to the guy?

Will he be one of those delicious badass looking creatures I can daydream about later?

Basically:  Will he be — a friend?  A comrade?

But still (and here I quote my more sensible comrades):  “WHY?!”

I have once caught a postcard urging me to do something fearless every day.  (Is there any other company more presumptuous in its vision than Hallmark?)  And I wish I could say that I’ve decided to go skydiving at the end of this summer, in order to challenge my most fearful self.

Truth be told, however, for a while there, I haven’t even considered fear.

Until:

“Aren’t you scared shitless?” one of those more sensible comrades of mine texted me yesterday, as if confiding on some shared secret.

I searched my body for any disturbance by its adrenaline.  Blood flow — even.  Heartbeat — chill:

“Nyet.”

Skydiving is just something that I’ve decided to do.  It’s just an adventure.

Thus far in life, I’ve had plenty of those; but most of my adventures have happened as consequences to my decisions to better myself.  So, as I switched hemispheres in pursuit of my education years ago, adventures would come as part of the package.  A once in a lifetime deal, eh?  And when I would change states or cities — again, while chasing better opportunities — I would eventually establish a habit for it.

It would feel strangely calm as I would land in every new neigborhood and watch it pass the windows of my cab or train.  Immediately, I would unpack my bag.  (I still do that, even if just crashing for a night in a hotel room, in an unknown city.)  And I think it always had something to do with pitching a temporary home base as someone who’s never had a home to speak of.

Home, for me, was wherever I landed.

Then, I would always take a stroll, or, as of recently, a run through my new neighborhood.  I would study the manners of the locals and would often get confused for one of them, by my new city’s tourists.

“Sorry, I’m clueless,” I would confide in these strangers on our shared secret.

My adventures would come unannounced, never pre-negotiated.  They would be something to cope with — NOT to anticipate.  So, it seems that I’ve never really made A CHOICE to have adventures, in life:  I just chose an adventurous life; a fuller life that challenged me to never get content for long enough to give up on my curiosity or wanderlust — but to continue the pursuit of my growth.

So, to quote another more sensible comrade of mine:

“Why the fuck would you wanna kill yourself?”

My decision to jump out of the sky — is in a whole new category of an adventure.  It’s a chosen one. With it, there comes a privilege of knowing that I am finally in a position to be able to afford myself, however selectively, these new curiosities that arise; and my gratitude immediately follows.  So maybe, in leading a fuller life, not only have I acquired a habit for adventure — but an addiction to gratitude.  

That seems just about right.

But now, as wait for the hour of my newly chosen adventure, what do I do with a slew of my more sensible comrades’ expressed fears?  Well.  I measure them.  Or rather, I measure myself against them.  I admit to myself that my life has been unlike anyone else’s.  My life belongs to someone who’s never had a home to speak of.

Immediately, then:  I start measuring myself, despite my comrades’ fears, however sensible.  In a way, I must stop listening to them, so that I can continue with my steady blood flow — my chill heartbeat — so that I can overhear the perseverance of my courage.  And then:  I start looking for the new ground upon which I can land.

So, instead of continuing our chat about the fears of my more sensible comrades, each time, they’ve asked me:

“WHY?!” — I’d changed the topic; and I would express my love for them, my gratitude.

And that is exactly what I’ve spent the last twenty four hours doing:  I’ve spun off endless messages of love into the phones and emails of my beloveds; to every comrade, however sensible or fearless, that I have acquired in this adventurous lifetime of mine.  Because for me, they are the only valuable possession of mine.  And as someone who’s never had a home to speak of, I’ve learned to think of them — as my home bases, all over the world.

So, now, no matter where I go:  I always have a place to land.

And I shall always land on my feet, my beloved comrades — the angels on my back!  So, don’t you worry:  I shall see you on the new ground again, after I’ve fallen out of the sky.