Yes, I really did it. I really and truly jumped out of a freaking plane today. Harnessed to the front of a strapping man who has almost 12,000 jumps under his belt. (And accumulated his first 6000 in Oregon!)
We headed to Canon City this morning with an abundant picnic and a gallon of fresh lemonade in the back of the van. The landing site was right in front of the hangar, so Levi & the kids could sit in the shade and wait for me to fall from the sky. After signing papers that said I wouldn’t sue them if I were severely mangled or dead at the end of the jump, a 15-minute training (which I kind of missed because I didn’t hear them call me over), I was suited up and ready to go.
I climbed into the back of an open pick-up with three other guys – my tandem instructor, and two veterans. They asked how I was feeling, and I thought for a minute. How was I feeling, anyway?
“Pretty good, actually,” I replied with a smile.
“Not scared at all? No butterflies?”
Another pause to think. “Nope. Not really at all. I’m excited, but not scared at all. It’s kinda weird.”
That feeling continued even as we loaded up in the very tiny
matchbox with wings Cessna. My seat was right against the door. As in…my leg was leaning ON the door. I was strapped in…sort of. But, the door was mostly glass, so I could see straight down from where I was sitting.
Peace stole over me, and I barely noticed when we lifted off the ground. Which is weird, since take-off always freaks me out a bit in a commercial jet. I whispered prayers of thanks for the glorious view, and for grace and protection as we gradually climbed to 10,000 feet above the earth.
The roar of the engine was the only noise I could hear, besides the occasional “pilot-babble”.
I don’t know how long it took to achieve altitude, but it didn’t seem very long before my instructor had me turn around so he could hook our harnesses together.
Then, he opened the door. The rush of wind just about sucked the breath out of me. It was the only portion of this whole adventure where my heart began to speed up. Still, no real fear came over me. I stepped out onto the landing gear with my right foot, next to the instructor’s, and my left knee resting on the edge of the opening. I leeeeeeaned out, and arched my back as I had been told to do, and thought to myself “Well. Here we go. Too late to turn back now.”
It felt like I was dangling out of the plane for a very long time before my instructor yelled: “One. Two. THREE!!!” And we were out! Tumbling in a free fall 10,000 feet above the mountainous terrain of Colorado.
One or two tumbles, and we were in a straight free fall.
I could feel myself grinning, and tears being squeezed from my eyes, even though I wore goggles.
I turned myself into a “big banana” – the technical term for the position you are supposed to hold while in free fall – and just enjoyed the ride.
There are no words to adequately describe the thrill of a free fall like that. I didn’t actually “feel” like I was hurtling toward the earth at the rate of 120mph at all. I just felt this incredible rush of wind holding me aloft so I could look at the terrain and marvel. I let out only one real whoop of exhilaration, and a laugh once, but silence felt more appropriate.
In fact, as I viewed my video, I realized I looked pretty darn boring. 🙂 Just a big, stupid grin on my face the whole time.
The parachute opened at about 4000 feet or so. The rush of wind turned into breathless silence as we came to what felt like a sudden stop for a second or two.
I felt a release of tension, and like I could look around more and really enjoy my “flight.”
It’s hard to describe what it felt like.
It felt surreal, light, and joyous. It felt right. Almost supernatural. So much of our Creator’s imagination was in view, inspiring awe and a deep sense of worship in me. The sense of defying gravity, if only for a minute or two, felt victorious.
And the landing? Piece of cake. I was set down so gently by my instructor, and was able to take a seat for a minute as the other two solo jumpers landed behind me.
The only part of the whole experience that was in any way negative was the trembly, nauseous feeling just after I landed from the adrenaline and endorphins racing through my body. This feeling lasted only until I was able to have my harness removed and unzip the jumpsuit, which was incredibly tight around my waist. The moment that pressure was released, I felt fine, and just wanted some water and something to eat.
My first thoughts were of Sabrina, the friend who gave this experience to me, and wishing that we could have jumped together, or that she could have been there for me to wrap in a big hug.
My next thoughts were of the four short people and the lone husband standing just at the edge of the landing site, waiting for me. I think the lone husband was the gladdest to see me alive. 😉 The kiddos came at a run, excited to have seen mommy jump out of a plane and float down on a parachute.
“Was it FUNNY?” asked my eldest. I laughed, and hugged and kissed each of them, so grateful to have such a precious little swarm of people who love me so much. I kissed Levi, and whispered another “thank you” to him for letting me do something that made him so nervous on my behalf. He just laughed and said “You’re crazy.”
We had a few more adventures as a family, after I jumped, but I’ll save those for another post, maybe tomorrow. This one is quite long enough, I think.
I have one last thing to say…
The gift of flight is a marvelous, beautiful thing. Now, I didn’t fly. I just “fell – with style” as a famed Space Ranger once said. Still…
Now, I know why the birds sing.