Plane jumper

“Did we just jump out of a plane?”

My friend Audrey texted this to me after I dropped her off at home. Of course the answer was Yes; we’d just spent an hour or so looking at pictures and talking about the fact that we had gone skydiving. But a sentiment of disbelief lay under all of it, because the experience had passed much too quickly.

As promised, we’d gotten one full minute of freefall and five-to-six minutes of gliding with parachutes. The freefall ended just as I’d begun to adapt, as I tried to breathe deeply and evenly despite the heavy attack of cold, dry air on my mouth and nose. My tandem instructor steered us in a few different directions, making hand gestures that I suppose were pointing out landmarks in the distance, but I didn’t notice what I was looking at. I couldn’t. Then, almost suddenly, we reached an altitude of 5,000 feet and needed to open our parachute. He put his hand over mine and guided it to the release handle, which I pulled without thinking, jerking us both into an upright position.

I’d been looking forward to enjoying the scenery, but when it came time to glide, I was so preoccupied with trying to comprehend my midair location that I didn’t have the presence of mind to realize what I was seeing. From the plane I had seen Mt. Hood, but now I couldn’t remember which direction it was in. My forearms and lower legs started to go numb, which sometimes happens to me in high-adrenaline situations and was aided by the tight harness around my thighs. The instructor loosened my harness a bit as we floated downward.

Before I could get a mental grip on my surroundings, we reached the airspace above the landing strip and I knew that the dive was about to end. We played around with the parachute, spinning it left and right, as we rapidly approached the ground. A few moments later, it was “Legs up!” and we skidded to a stop, with me landing on my bottom.

I had thought that I would cry, but instead I laughed in a way that must have sounded a bit crazy. I was simply stunned, and a little bit shaken. Audrey, who had landed near me, ran over to give me a big hug. Both of us were laughing and grinning. “Did that just happen?” We both knew the answer intellectually, but mentally we weren’t sure how to process it. Some part of our brains had endured a forced shutdown in order to permit us to jump in the first place. Next time—yes, next time!—I’d like to try re-engaging that portion of my brain. If I can come to grips with the mere fact of diving into the sky, then maybe the next step will be an understanding of what that sky holds. I’d like to get beyond fear and into cognizance.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow wow wow wow wow! Congratulations on this completely amazing experience– You said that you’d like to move beyond fear and into cognizance, and I hear what you’re saying. But lemme tellya, it sounds like you have to take a huge step past fear in order to jump out of an airplane!

    High fives all around to both you and Audrey! 🙂 I’m so excited for you! Wheeeeeeeeeeee!!

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