Thursday, March 23, 2006

Most people think it's complete nonsense to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, and before this past August I would have agreed. This summer I had the opportunity to go skydiving for the first time, and I discovered an experience and an international sub-culture like no other.

My first (and only) jump to date (yes, I plan to go again), was a tandem jump. A professional skydiver (a native of South Africa) strapped himself to my back and we jumped through the door together. He was responsible for pulling the rip cord and guiding us to the drop zone, so I could just enjoy the ride. I was immediately surprised by the lack of a sense of falling. Personally, I hate rollercoasters and other amusement park rides, but skydiving is completely different. Instead of that nauseous, motion-sick feeling in my stomach, I felt relaxed. It's like flying or floating because the wind pressure gives the sensation that you're hardly moving at all. It's loud--as if you're hanging your head out of a car door at 90 mph, but as soon as the parachute is released you experience the most peaceful quiet. I could see for miles and miles, and because we went in late afternoon, I could see the moon rising. I felt a closeness to God, and a simultaneous sense of my own power and powerlessness. I was shocked at how spiritual the experience was for me.

After three very difficult-physically demanding and emotionally charged-years in graduate school, a peace suddenly came over me that is difficult to describe. The residue of graduate school-the pain and frustration I had been holding onto-seemed as far away as the ground below. I could see those who had hurt me in my life for what they are, as tiny and insignificant as I am compared to the scale and enormity of the universe.
When we finally came to rest on the grassy field, I wanted to stay very still. I wanted to lie supine on the cool ground facing the sky where I had just been as I enjoyed the pungent aroma of the earth and grass all around me. I was unable to speak about the experience for several days afterward. Perhaps I'll share a poem I wrote about it later. For now, I still want to keep many of my feelings private. I'm only writing this now to encourage all of you to treat yourselves to this life-changing experience. Go if you have the chance. Skydiving is not just about falling, it's also about seeing.

When once you have tasted flight,
you will always walk the earth
with your eyes turned skyward;
For there you have been,
and there you will long to return.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Maybe I'm feeling this way because it's spring, but I have an overwhelming urge to throw everything in my house away and start over. It seems like all the things I treasure are rotting in a closet or an attic anyway. After a while these "treasures" only exist in my mind. Do I really need a tangible object to connect me to a time in my childhood or a deceased relative?

In some instances, yes I do. I need the porcelain magnolia that sat in my Granny's entryway. I have it displayed on a desk that I walk by and use every day. Having it and seeing it constantly, reminds me that she is still very much a part of who I am today. It reminds me of her love for flowers and her love for me. Why? Because I have memories of childhood, treasured memories of her all tangled and tied up with that object. Obviously, I would remember my Granny without having this tangible reminder, but seeing it everyday keeps her close to me. In the midst of the craziness and chaos of my life, I think I need to be reminded of a simpler time when no place felt more loving or more secure than Granny's lap.

If I love something (because it connects me to something of deeper value, because it reminds me of people I love and their love for me), I need to display it.
Stop buying useless junk just because it's pretty. What meaningful, and therefore beautiful, things are packed away in a box somewhere of no use to anyone?
If it's packed away, unused and uncared f0r, I need to give it away, sell it, or toss it. Excavate the treasure, but the junk's gotta go. It's smothering me.
Here's a poem for today...

Let's not talk about the books
hardback, paperback, on shelves, floors, tables, desks,
heavy lumps of rotting thoughts
eaten slowly by invisible pests
vapid tomes clung to
like war-time letters from forgotten lovers
without faces
Don't mention the books.

-Rachel Carter