One time in Yellowstone I jumped out of a plane at 9,000 ft and plummeted towards the earth at an ungodly speed for about thirty seconds. The guy on my back tapped my shoulder and reminded me to lift my head and arms and legs up and out just as I had learned in the crash course I received in sky diving just an hour before this extraordinary moment. I was the second one to jump, and after watching my friend bravely and enthusiastically play the guinea pig, I stood idly by Dave, the experienced jumper who was the spitting image of John Denver, which was flat out eerie, as he repacked the parachute right before my eyes and prepared for my turn joking about his having a bad day and drinking “just a few beers” right before he arrived. Cruelty. My fear of flying was overridden by the mere fact that I would be jumping out of the dreaded machine, and while I can’t recall the exact make or model of the airplane, I only know that it was ten times too small. Bozeman, Montana was experiencing an unstable cloudy day but plans were not cancelled and our only worry was an abstraction of view, well, Dave’s only worry anyway. I, on the other hand, was about to pop from anxiety, and while he was quite the talkative and laid back instructor as we made our ascent past mountain tops, I was unable to keep the conversation rolling. When the door to the plane was opened I felt a wave of panic trickle down through my limbs causing temporary paralysis. Dave must have felt me tighten as he reminded me that he was “right behind me” (you’d better be) and that I wasn’t going anywhere without him. True, we were tightly secured, but what if? After all, the chute was on his back. He tells me to stick my right foot out the door and place it on the step of the plane. Hesitation. Slowly, I complied and realizing that I probably would not have the strength to battle the overwhelming suction on my own, I gave way to the puppet effect. The next thing I knew, my body was standing outside of the plane which was traveling about 70mph waiting for Dave to tell me to let go of the wing of the plane. It came and I made him repeat himself, and then once again I complied and let myself fall sideways and backwards, tightly holding my legs, arms, and head downwards just as I had been instructed. I was moving too fast to make sense of anything, but he tapped and tapped again, and I outstretched my body to catch the refreshingly cold wind. We soared downward. The parachute opened in an instant and gracefully we floated for another eight minutes until my feet were once again acquainted with the ground. I remembered seeing eagles flying above my friend’s chute, catching her breeze as she drifted closer to where I was standing, and I knew that they had to be flying with me as well.
December 30, 2002