Safely Falling

I was completely out of control, but I was attached to one who knew what was going on and who was in control.

The air roared past my ears as we free-fell towards the ground.

My mind strained to remember my instructor’s directions, even though I could no longer hear his voice.

Soaring above the clouds

Arch my back, kick my bottom, hands hanging on to my harness chicken wing fashion.

Content that I’d followed instructions, I could enjoy the ride.




He pulled the chute, the free-fall ended far too soon. I wanted it to last forever.

Soaring through the clouds

Now he guided my hands into the chute’s handles, asked me if my harness was comfortable. Everything was fine.

He told me he would be loosening the connections that held us. I’d drop a bit lower, so inches would separate our bodies.

Now, here, I felt a glimmer of fear. I knew it would be safe, I knew I’d still be attached. But it wouldn’t be the same. Once he’d lowered me, I wouldn’t be able to feel his presence. Would I be able to make it without that sure sensory feedback reminding me that I was safe?

I would choose to trust, I told myself–and so I did.

Flying, closer up

I relaxed as the distance grew between us.

I was still safe, still connected, still hearing his voice. He was still guiding the chute.

He asked me if I wanted to do anything fancy–circles, loop-de-loops, or the like. “Or would you rather just hang out?”

It was hard to push the words from my lungs: “I’d rather just hang out.”

“That’s okay,” he told me, “we’ll just hang out.”

And so we did, arms outstretched, hands in the chute’s handles. We hung there, suspended between sky and earth, observing the scenery below as we softly drifted along.

My head started spinning. I willed it to stop. I was enjoying this too much to be sick.

I wanted to see.

Preparing for landing

I told my instructor that I was getting dizzy. He encouraged me to breathe deeply, said he’d go gently.

I breathed, my eyes taking in everything I saw.

Beside me, Joanna and her instructor were doing crazy moves.

I smiled and breathed and wished I could be flying forever, and never.

The Jump

When the time came for the actual jump, I didn’t have opportunity to be terrified.

I had to get on my knees, and let my butt scootch between my knees so the instructor would have enough room to get on top of me and get himself (and the chute) attached.

Preparing to jump

I felt tugs and clicks as one attachment point after the other connected.

Now my butt needed to come up a bit, the instructor couldn’t get close enough to tether us together.

I tried to obey, lifting my bottom infinitesmely–but I guess it was enough. We were connected.

Bent elbow preparing to jump

Now I needed to swing my right leg out onto the ledge.

In ground practice, I’d been the only one of the girls who’d made it all the way to the ledge on the first try. Everyone else’s legs were too short to easily traverse the distance.

In the air, it was completely different. I swung my leg out and the air caught it, pulling it beyond the ledge.

I used all my strength to lift my foot above the ledge and move it forward to a secure resting point.

Grabbing my straps

The tap came to my left shoulder.

It was time for me to grab a strut and then dip down onto my left elbow so the instructor could get himself out through the doorframe.

He tapped my shoulder again, reminding me to let go of the strut.

I was falling. He was falling right behind me. Except not behind me. With me.

I had no fear.

The jump

No fear at all.

Missed Opportunities, or I’ve Always Wanted to Fly

Once we’d geared up, we had a short wait. Then, it was time to get in the plane for our trip up.

On our way to the plane

Joanna would jump second, we discovered as her instructor directed her towards the back-right corner of the little plane. Her instructor entered after her and took his seat on the floor facing her, back to the the pilot’s chair.

Then my instructor sat with his back against a box, bent knees parallel with the other instructor’s, but coming from the opposite direction. The two men draped their arms over their touching knees, settling in for what was for them a comfortable routine.

My post was alongside the pilot, back against the front of the plane, with instruments and our pilot’s lap to my right, the airplane’s door to my left, and my instructors knees directly in front of my own.

There weren’t many non-awkward places to look, not a lot to observe from my floor-bound vantage point. So I focused on my friend in the opposite corner, merely five feet away.

Joanna must have felt a bit awkward too, sitting face to face with the man she’d soon be strapped to. Or perhaps she was enjoying a Zen moment prior to a terrifying jump–at any rate, she closed her eyes.

On our way to the plane

My instructor saw her and turned back to me, gesturing with his head. Did I see her there? I grinned and nodded. Yes, I saw.

Now he gestured at his co-instructor, tapped on the pilot’s arm, and enlisted the help of the other men. “It’s her birthday!” He shouted, his voice a nearly indiscernible sound above the engine.

“You’ve got to help me,” he told the young pilot–and then launched into an off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

Could Joanna hear us singing over the usual noise? Yes, she was blushing now as my instructor sang loudly: “Happy birthday, dear whatever-your-name-is” and we all sang together: “Happy Birthday to You!”

We sunk back into our silence. The flight seemed much longer than I’d expected. But we were finally reaching altitude.

The pilot’s hand touched my shoulder and I thought for sure I’d done the forbidden–messed with his controls somehow. I scrunched further into the corner–but when I looked up, I saw that he was looking at me.

“Wanna steer?” he mouthed, gesturing back and forth with his hands in a steering motion.

I looked at him askance. “Are you serious?”

“Sure, It’s nothin’.” He jogged the yoke towards me and we turned accordingly.

I was facing backwards on the floor. I couldn’t see. There was no way I could steer the aircraft. Even if it was “nothin’.” I was more than a little terrified. What was going on here?

I shook my head no and turned aside. Why I was I afraid to take his daring offer? I’d always wanted to fly.

Later, I learned that he was in his late 20s and that he listened to Moody Bible Radio.

He could have loved Jesus. He could have been flirting.

I could have just missed an opportunity.

I’ve always wanted to fly.

Snapshot: Geared up

I knew I was in for some fun when we got to the part of the release form that stated something to the effect of “I certify that, apart from the conditions listed below, I am free from any medical condition…”

Geared up for skydiving

My list of medical conditions isn’t that long–but every condition means skydiving is not an ideal sport for me. I listed the group: hypotension, vertigo, exercise-induced bronchospasm.

I’d been drinking Powerade (with plenty of sodium to manage the hypotension). I had my meclizine along (to manage the vertigo). I had my inhaler (to manage the bronchospasm.) The only one I was really worried about was the hypotension. It’d really stink to black out while in free-fall, thus missing the experience I’d paid so much to have.

My friends started to worry for me. “Will they still let you skydive?” they wondered.

I told them there was no doubt. We’d all be jumping tandem–which meant the instructor tied to our backs would be doing the work. If I were to have a medical event mid-jump, the only problem would be that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my jump.

I really wanted to enjoy my jump.

Sure enough, the instructor looked over my list, asked if I used an inhaler, and never said another word.

I loaded the Powerade, took my Meclizine, and entirely forgot about the inhaler (but really, jumping from an airplane is not exactly aerobic exercise!)

Then, when my time came, I geared up for the jump!

Joanna and I geared up to go