When I got in the plane, my heart was racing, just like it does when you get strapped into a rollercoaster. That “uh oh, there’s no going back” feeling. The moment of commitment… But the ride up to 10,000 feet took some time, and I chatted with the guy who went up with me, looked out the window at the diminishing harbor, and generally calmed down.

The two guys we were strapped to for the tandem jumps said very little; they were busy tightening straps and checking harnesses. The Cessna 182 doesn’t have any seats other than for the pilot, so I sat on the floor, sort of wedged in front of the jumper guy I was getting attached to. Very simple instructions were given: when he opened the door and put his foot on the step, I put my foot out. Then the other. Then he would say 1,2,3, arch, and I was supposed to pitch out of the plane into the sky and arch my back with arms across my chest. When he taps my shoulders I’m supposed to extend my arms. You’ll see in the video that I thought he wanted me to refold, but he didn’t, so I put them back out.

Suddenly, the pilot made a little gesture with his hand, and Jerry (my jumper guy, from the Netherlands – average 20 jumps per day spring summer and fall) threw the door open. The rush of air in that little plane was breathtaking, and loud. We turned, and I was amazed to see what seemed like the whole side of the plane open up. One foot, then the other. I remember thinking I’m doing it! This is it!!!

Then out! It was so easy! And you just fall and roll – for a minute my head was straight down in a typical dive position and then we just came up into the flat. It was very loud because at 120 miles per hour, your ears are getting some real noise. They popped a bit. All this is so fast- I felt incredibly happy and it was like in my dreams!!! There wasn’t any fear at all, there’s nothing near you to bang into or hurt, everything is just free and easy and you are part of the big sky and the whole planet is hanging out below you. By this point, you’ve made the leap of faith that you will land, so there’s no worry in your mind about whether the parachute will open, or will I crash. You just are completely in the moment of being 2 miles up in the air, dropping effortlessly 5,000 feet.

Then, up goes the parachute! And we climb, or it feels like it (haven’t figured that out yet). And sound comes back and I hear myself screaming and laughing. That was weird! And Jerry starts pointing out stuff in the landscape below, including the bright flag that marks our landing spot at the airport, just a dot at this moment. The parachute is a long rectangle that arches over our heads. It has cavities in it that hold air, and it’s very much like hanging onto a kite. The control is quite precise – on the 8 minute ride back to the field, Jerry whirls us around several times in wonderful sweeping curves so I can see the entire region. Ships on the water like little bugs. The harbor filled with activity. Islands rimmed with beaches and waves, all the bridges I know so well, and Newport itself with all the winding streets and huge mansions and the Cliff Walk all getting larger below me.

We practice the landing a couple of times – because I’m hanging lower than Jerry, I have to raise my legs into “toboggan” position so that he bears the brunt of the landing. Basically, he just comes in at the right angle so that he starts running on the field, then he sinks down to his knees and I slide gently onto the grass like I’m on a sled. So easy!!!!

I really loved the entire experience, but the free-fall was THE BEST and I can’t wait to do it again next year. I planned for years in my mind to do this jump over a coastline, in the autumn, and everything I wished for happened, only better. Lucky me.

FYI, I didn’t select the music on the video. Hilarious choice!!

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incoming with Jerry from Denmark, skydiving pro and my best friend for ten minutes on 10.20.2007

I did it on Saturday: a 40-second free fall at 120 mph, exit altitude of 10,000 feet (2 miles) from a Cessna above the Newport coastline. Parachute deployed at 5000 feet above the ground followed by approximately 7 minute parachute ride down to the ground.

Now I’ll be doing it every October until I’m too old to get my legs up for landing. I’ll post a full review of my experience with a video of my descent later this week. For now, let me say that it was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life and I can’t stop smiling.

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the celebration margarita

I have a lot going on this week in terms of professional work and deadlines, personal business issues, and social activity, and yet what is foremost in my mind for the last 48 hours has been something that no one can see or guess. I burned the roof of my mouth on a hot piece of pecan pie on Tuesday morning, and it hurts like hell. It’s one of those things that just is constantly there, challenging you not to notice it. It’s like a personal little battle, me and my mouth. When 6 minutes go by without a wince, I feel victorious. My tongue is an unconscious saboteur, just can’t seem to stay away from the injured site, and we’ve had to have several talks about the importance of laying low.

It’s good to have these trials, I think. They remind me that I can never know what’s occupying another person’s mind, and that if I did, I’d probably discover that it has nothing to do with me. That look of discomfort, that shortness of reply, that evasive look, are probably just due to an urge to pee, or a headache, or the lack of skin on the roof of a mouth.

At any rate, I feel some significant healing today which has instilled confidence that the skirmish is coming to an end. Bright skies ahead, and maybe chips and salsa before the week is out!

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the offender looked like this

Last night I got a phone call at 5:30 from friend and lover J. Turns out an old friend had 2 tickets to the Red Sox, did I want to go? Never having been to Fenway, I said yes, and off we went to the ballgame. A neighborhood friend zoomed to my house to lend me her pink “B” cap, as I have no fan-dom affiliation myself, and at her prompting I put my camera in my purse, with which I took this photo of the field:

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taken with no play on the field, what was I thinking?

In a sort of charmed way that I’m getting used to, we picked up a relative who happens to be a nearby resident, and he drove us to the gate and then took our car back to his house for free parking. We got in just as the game started and I received a wonderful tour of the park, a sausage with peppers and onions, and a cold beer. We viewed the game from different vantage points over the next 5 hours, and I felt like I got the best of the Red Sox, the fans, and the park: Sweet Caroline, back-to-back home runs, great folks in the stands around us, all the famous players (if I’ve heard of them before, that means they’re really famous), guys yelling “pussy!” at the pitcher, and the agony of defeat with extra innings at the end of a tied game. And I saw John Kerry leaving the stands with a cap on.

It was exhilarating, fun, and a complete joy. I feel like I don’t need to go back for another 10 years, but I would anyway just because it was such a blast.

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Way back in July, I wrote a list of “things I want to do” in the coming year. This week, I’m thinking it would be good to pull that up and see how I’m doing with it. Here goes:

1. September: hire a full housecleaning crew to purge the house top to bottom. no matter the cost, i will be closer to godliness.

Let’s just say I’m no closer to God. My car needed some major service and wiped out my cleaning budget. But the house does stay remarkably still and clean with just the cat and me, so I’m not that bothered by letting #1 go. no fault failure, appropriate priorities, house is clean: B+

2. Trip #1: Travel to Italy to see Grace settled in, tour St. Stephen’s, and meet the school faculty. On the way home, visit London, meeting my honey at Heathrow for his birthday and staying with my friends Bruce and Andrew.

I did go to Italy and see my daughter and meet the school. All that was great, but the time shifted and sort of blew up the second part of the plans to visit London. J and I went to the Cape for his birthday instead and visited other friends in Provincetown, so I didn’t miss Big Ben at all, and we’ll just reschedule 50% success, 50% change in plans but still executed: A

3. Birthday present to myself (August 1): Buy a motorcycle. I have the permit, now it’s time to get a bike.

OK, I’m a little sensitive about this one. I really want to get a bike, but the truth is I’m scared. Everyone tells me their horror stories of friends on bikes and I’m just spooked. I wouldn’t be riding it in the winter anyway, so I’m going to readdress this in the spring. chicken factor (or is it common sense?): F

4. Go to the Providence Zen Center for morning meditations.

Haven’t done this yet, but I have gone to the Vedanta Center of Providencefor a talk on Truth and Love and a weekend meditation retreat featuring talks on The Great Illusion of Time. The best part was that at lunch I took a seat at the table with the Swami and got to ask questions and discuss the answers. No sense sitting at the back of the classroom, right?…same stuff: A

5. Sign up for a 5-7 day silent retreat at one of the many good retreat centers in New England. Probably in January.

My friend Tim is doing one of these in November at the place I’m thinking of going, so I’m going to see what he has to say about it before I sign up. still on deck: no score

6. In the fall, go skydiving over the autumn landscape.

Next Saturday, 10.20, I will be floating/plummeting above Newport during the marathon. Can’t wait. My mom and dad got very quiet on the phone when I mentioned this today. Weather permitting. commitment and reservation made: C

7. Learn Italian, and if possible try to bring my French back.

I’m listening to Italian CDs in my car, and have been actively trying to speak French to myself and the cat around the house. It’s the lazy approach, no doubt, but maybe something will sink in. halfassed, but in progress: D+

8. Use my new piano to learn how to improvise. Finally. If an old dog can learn new tricks (and I believe they can).

My son Henry had the very smart idea that breaking free of my decades-long method of playing would happen more easily if I switch instruments completely, so he started giving me guitar lessons this summer. When he went off to college, I took the vacant slot with his guitar teacher, so I’m doing that instead of piano right now…better than the original thought, requires effort and courage, plus time and $$$ commitment: A+

9. Finish the multitude of house projects, most requiring carpentry, wiring, or painting skills within my capability.

Definitely a weak link in the chain of intentions here. Between great weather and fun people, I have not been hanging out at home much to do chores. Oh well. The winter is long up here. dead in the water: F

10. Create a financial plan and start dumping money into investments.

Hitting this with a vengeance, and excited about getting my stuff in order. sheer enthusiasm: B+

11. Related to #10: see how low I can get my utilities with no one in the house but me.

Real low. 🙂 no heat til november: A

12. Get back to my painting projects.

Another alone-and-indoors type of activity. not happenin’ yet: F

13. Trip #2: cruise with gal pals in the spring. Poss carribean.

I have to say I just don’t think I’m the cruise type of person, even though I know a lot of people who said the same thing, and then loved it. Gals, you will have to drag me, but I know I’d have a great time with you!! tbd: no score

14. Trip #3: Italy in February with Grace’s 2 best neighborhood friends.

One friend may not be able to go now, but the other friend and her mother are going. No hard plans yet, but we should get tickets by Thanksgiving. on deck: no score

15. Trip #4: House exchange somewhere in the world. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having a trip planned for every single month. Maybe I’ll work on that…

I did some exploratory work and that was fun. No firm plans yet until I finish the financial stuff. smart delay: B

16. Before Christmas, have a big party at my own house.

Still want to do this, although I’m considering a trip to Virginia instead to see my parents and family before the holiday starts. We’ll see how everyone is feeling after Thanksgiving. tbd: no score

17. Go skiing for the second time of my life.

Later this winter- tbd: no score
———————-
My gpa is 82.4 – low B. Not too bad, plenty of room for boost. Never a dull moment!

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I’ve been reflecting on the flow of things in my life: the way tasks are getting done, the stream of communications, the clustering of objects in my environment…and my assessment is that I’m like the beach at low tide, riddled with tidal pools that are keeping me soaked. Puddles of “things that need to be mailed” and “items to be returned” and “tools to be cleaned and put away.” A waterhole of reading that’s stacked up in the usual places (bedroom, bathroom, next to the stove). A pond of financial sorting and filing that is becoming stagnant. A veritable lake of house projects that should have started last month but are creeping into next month instead.

Frankly, I’ve just been enjoying my many distractions, and seeing what is damming up is actually a good lesson about my character, habits, avoidance points, and interests. I’ve decided today is the day to open the sluice gate and get things moving, and it might be an all-nighter. Tomorrow I’ll let you know if I’m moving downstream.

aimee mann > bachelor #2 Great CD.

There’s a lot that happens in a life. It’s easy to think it’s what happens on the scheduled calendars we keep on our computers, notebooks, phones, and heads. That’s fine, most of the time. Then maybe you have a 24 hour period when time sort of dissolves, and all hell breaks loose, and heaven too, and it’s simultaneous and clear and awesome and you’re along for the ride at the same time you realize you’re still in the driver’s seat.

So that’s the way my day has been. Sorry I can’t share particulars, but let’s just say that it’s been a full day. I recently heard Bill Clinton say “We’re only here for a short time – it doesn’t take long to live a life.” Right on, Bill. Every moment, full or wasted. I’d say today was full up. And that’s good, at the end of the day.

For years, my oldest son has wished for an accordion. I always figured it could be one of those things he would find on his own, later in life, so I wasn’t spending much time looking for one to give him. He’s a music major in college, plays the euphonium and other low brass instruments, as well as piano, ukelele, and almost anything else that makes a sound.

While I was visiting a hospice patient the other day, I talked with her son-in-law who had an accordion to sell, asking price of $100. It’s hard to reconstruct how the conversation evolved to reveal that, but it came out of the blue and before I knew it I had a fine 1958 accordion in a case in the trunk of my car for Jack’s birthday at Thanksgiving.

The first month of school this year has been a bit tough on Jack this time around, and he decided to come home this weekend for some recharging and home cooking. So I decided to give him his gift early as a sort of spirit booster and because I didn’t know if I could hold in my excitement for two more months. It turns out that he’s actually recovered from his blue mood in the last week, is feeling good and happy and healthy. So it was really icing on the cake to watch his face when he took the case and opened it – I think it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever given in terms of pure joy. Here he is trying it on.

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During my qigong class, there is a period of doing a special walking technique. The entire class is quiet as all the students practice this walk around the large studio where the class is held. In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that I have a substantial amount of clicking in my joints while walking – knee, ankle, foot. I’ve always had some of this, but it seems to have gotten worse lately. It’s dismayingly audible in the quiet environment. I decided to search online to see if there is a name for this condition and maybe something to remedy it.

On one site I found a huge list of inquiries sent in by readers; they are organized under common headers. Taken as a whole, the list is somewhat disturbing as it displays a range of concerns from a sore toe to pretty disgusting descriptions of bodies gone bad. Some not too offensive examples:

A ganglion is making movement difficult
Alternatives to relax on my wedding day?
Can a chiropractor stop my son wetting the bed?
How can i grow taller?
I had pins and needles while playing tuba.
I would love to be able to dance again.
I’ve a lump on my leg the size of a sprout.
Small bones growing from the neck
Back pain is ruining my life.
Stabbing pains in the side of the calves
My calves twitch.
My knees feel hot after cycling.
Are my ribs cracked?
I think i may have broken my nose playing rugby
Travelling with a broken collarbone

And then I saw it. Not the question I thought I was looking for; it turned out to be, instead, an entire CATEGORY on “Clicking, Cracking and Creaking Joints.” The response says that clicking joints are not a cause for concern, that they are caused by relatively lax joint capsules that allow more than a usual amount of movement. Always looking for the good news, I brightened up at the fact that physical activity tends to make this condition more obvious. Guess my workouts are working!

A side note: all my children have extremely lax joints, and Grace, the athlete, has suffered the most from dislocated shoulders requiring surgery, to time in a wheelchair for knee issues. I thought this was from their dad’s genes more than mine (sorry, R!) since he’s always had a lot of flexibility, but maybe mine are a contributing factor too.

I’m fascinated with a tool over at Blogger.com that shows images being uploaded in real time. It’s hard to pull myself away from the flow of images as they pour in from all over the world. Welcome to the global community! My friend at The Daily Jimmy brought this site to my attention – Thanks, Jim.

Last night I fell asleep on the couch at 9 pm after a tough kung fu class. Woke up at 2 am with the computer still balanced on my stomach and the cat on my head. Got up and wondered if I should just start some work (why not?) but after a glass of water decided to try to sleep some more. My bed was so comfy that I went right back to sleep until 7:30 this morning. Wow. Ten hours of sleep for me is usually something to be worried about; it just doesn’t happen unless I’m sick. Luckily, I feel great today, and I’m guessing that this is part of my transition to an empty house – correcting a 20 year sleep deficit.

As I was stumbling up the stairs, still sleepy, I heard the trash truck coming around the corner and realized it’s Thursday, my pickup day. I ran outside to drag the can to the curb, and it was completely empty! I went back into the house and got the few items in the kitchen trashcan, a few tissues at the bottom of the bathroom trash, and that’s all there was after being gone for a long weekend; one person just doesn’t generate much waste. I’m hoping my utilities bills show the same result…

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THINKING ABOUT:

"If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" -Hillel
all the match.com entries are found early in the march 2007 archive...