April 29th, 2006

Magical Drama Queen Roxy!

This is it!

We leave soon for the jump site.

I looked on Operation Freefall's site for last-minute instructions... and noticed that you can apparently watch videos of Operation Freefall jumps. Streamed in realtime, looks like! I don't know how that works. But if you want to tune in - my jump is scheduled at 10 AM at the Georgia jump site, Skydive the Farm. Maybe kungfoogirl, katfireblade, and I will show up on camera! If so, someone snag the video, 'k?

Whee!

I'm still waiting to get nervous.

I'll bring the camera; there will be pictures! And they take video of you jumping, as a keepsake. Will likely have to get it transferred to DVD.

...still not nervous. Hm. Whee!
  • Current Mood
    excited excited
We've done the impossible...

mothafuckin' WHEEEEEE!!!!!

We have returned! We live! We rock!

Attempts to describe the indescribable will commence later or tomorrow. Pictures will accompany said attempts. And I have to figure out how to upload the video. Yes, I have a DVD of me skydiving; the videographer jumped alongside us.

Um. Whoa. Whee! I did it. :)
  • Current Mood
    bouncy bouncy
Boondock/can't believe

Operation Freefall: Getting there and suiting up; On the plane

The only way to discuss today? Several posts.

Your cast of characters: Me, Adam, and Elayna; katfireblade; kungfoogirl and her girlfriend J.

We set out at 8 AM. 8 AM! Only this could get me out of bed at 6:30 on a Saturday, man. By necessity, though, the skydiving place was way the hell out on the boonies. Rockmart, GA, to be exact. We drove for about an hour and a half to get there.

Things were minor-grade chaotic when we got there. It took a few minutes to find the paperwork to fill out. But we were soon entertained by the presence of many dogs. Oh, so many dogs. And we all, save for allergic Adam, love dogs. So there was much dog-cuddling as the place got together.

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There were nine Operation Freefall jumpers in total. We were told that we'd be going up in groups of three, at which point Kat and K-Foo and I grabbed each other saying "Us! Us!", and the guy laughed and told us okay - we'd be the first group up.

Holy crap.

We were taken aside and given the lecture. Positions for exiting the plane and maneuvering in the air were demonstrated. There was much of the silent "holy crap". And when we were separated and strapped into our harnesses.

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So from there? The plane. katfireblade's tandem instructor decided she was going first, and it was decided that I was going last. I'd intended to ask if *I* could go first, but I nodded and went with it because I thought it was because Kat was nervous; Kat later said that going first made her *more* nervous, and she'd gladly have traded places! Ah well. :) So I clambered up into the plane, followed by everyone else.

There was a narrow little bench for us and our tandem guys. You can hear my little "woohoo!" on my video when I was instructed to straddle the bench. I kept my mouth shut for a minute or two after that. But yes. My tandem guy - me - K-Foo's guy - K-Foo - Kat's guy - Kat. Next to us, our videographers/photographers. In front of us, a few solo jumpers.

The plane took off.

This is when it starts to sink in - when we go from jokey to kinda quiet. The realization that we are now in the air and attached to people with parachutes and the time we have to back out of this is vanishingly slim and shrinking. It's been one thing to talk about it... but now, we are maybe five minutes away from actually jumping out of a plane.

At 5,000 feet, the first jumper goes. A solo jumper who's doing a straight jump with no freefall, just jump and pull the cord. The airplane door - looks like a clear garage door - rattles up. He maneuvers to the hole, the roaring wind.

He waves -

- and is gone, falling away so quickly that it barely registers.

I spent a month waiting for the nervousness. This is when it hits, when my belly says "Oh, hey now - can we talk about this?"

We climb higher. The tandem guys go over a few things last-minute. My guy walks me through deep breaths, reminding me that it will be difficult to breathe out there. I nod. I breathe. He straps on the cap he's lent me to keep my hair out of his face. My videographer asks if I have anything to say before I jump. I smile at the camera and say, "Elayna - this is you in seven years!"

We reach a height of 14,000 feet.

Fourteen. Thousand. Feet.

The door rattles up. One solo jumper. Another solo jumper.

katfireblade.

Her guy maneuvers her to the door. Her video/photo guy climbs out of the plane and clings to its side, ready to jump with her and her tandem guy. She's leaning back, petrified. He asks if she's ready. She takes a deep breath, and yells "Yes!"

And they fall into the sky, and are gone.

K-Foo and I scoot forward on the bench. My heart is pounding, and I'm hoping to keep from peeing my pants. K-Foo gets maneuvered to the door on her knees. I see her and her guy nodding to each other, and -

Out.

I don't even say down, I say out, because that's it - I have no sense of direction from them. In a blink, in half a heartbeat, they are gone.

My guy scoots me forward on the bench, maneuvers me to the door. To the roar, the pressure of wind, an almost-inconceivable two-plus miles over the earth. The brain protests. No animal was meant to be here, and to drop...



I get in position, knees on the edge of the plane, but I can't get up on the balls of my feet as instructed, and this is suddenly Very Important.

"Are you ready?"

"My feet aren't -"

"That's okay. That doesn't matter. We're going to go now."

"Okay."

"Ready -" he rocks forward...

"Set-" he rocks back...

"GO."


Forward, and I don't have to do anything, and there's nothing I could do; his body/weight/momentum/experience combine to carry us forward, and forward is out...


GO.
Everyone here is a crazy person.

Operation Freefall: The Jump

Forward, and into the sky.

The first thing I realize is that it doesn't feel like falling. I am suspended. The air, the wind, the g-force, the velocity, the everything - It combines to make me feel as though I am hanging in midair, held firmly. It is later theorized that this is because, that high up, there is no perspective. You can't judge where you are in relation to anything. You're not falling past anything - you're so high up you can see the curvature of the earth. The brain cannot process what's going on as falling.

The second thing? It's cold. The cold sears into my hands, my face.

While this is going on, my body is performing a combination of instinctive moves and remembered instructions - I relax my arms, I slip my legs back between my tandem guy's legs, hooking small boots onto his calves.

While this is going on, I remember that the instructions regarding the videographer - that I am supposed to look up, so the video isn't just of the top of my head. I look up. I smile, and he grins back; he circles around us, spinning, and my tandem guy spins me. It's hard to keep my head up against the insistent pressure, but I do, and I laugh...

The third thing I notice is that it is difficult to breathe - the sheer pressure on my chest as I plummet, the thin air. I concentrate on taking a few good deep even breaths, and know I'll be okay.

The fourth thing I notice is that I am not afraid.

I had been afraid, just moments before. Seconds before. Freefall lasts a full minute, over a mile straight down. These thoughts are in the first ten seconds. I had been afraid in the plane, afraid of falling, but knowing that I must do this. And then I fell forward, and...

...and I am not afraid, and don't know that I ever will be again.

This is what happens when you let go.

There are plenty of opportunities for fear on the plane. But once you fall into the sky...

The brain does not process fear.

Maybe fear is a response, not just to "something scary", but to choices. As long as you might fuck up, there's something to fear. The wrong action, the wrong decision.

When you are fourteen thousand feet in the air - then twelve thousand, ten thousand, nine thousand, all in a matter of seconds -

When you are suspended, pressed between air and earth by forces that seem more mystical than scientific, when you are simply *there*, striving to look up, so completely away from everything you've ever known -

When there are no choices -

This is the ultimate surrender, and fear has no place here - no soil to grow in, no space to live.

'song, in air, one mile straight down at terminal velocity, laughing. Finally knowing what it is to let go.

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To be continued...
We've done the impossible...

Operation Freefall: The Jump, continued; Back on Earth

Freefall lasts both one minute and forever. You want zen? Baby, that is zen. It is loud and silent, it is completely without time or perspective - it is a moment eternal. It is freedom and fearlessness and nothing more than you.

And I cannot describe it. I could sit here all night and throw words at it, and never come close to showing you what it was really like.

He deployed the chute - a gentle tug pulling me from horizonal to mostly-vertical.

And the videographer dropped.

Discussing the jump with Kat and K-Foo later, we agreed that that's when we realized how fast we'd been going. There'd been no sense of speed... until we were slowed and the videographer continued at the same pace. Dropped? No, not dropped. Not even plummeted. It was as is he was hurled at great force, hurled as if by the hand of god. We couldn't describe it in words, just in gestures, bringing our hands down abruptly, with force.

The videographer dropped, and I gasped, and then he deployed his parachute, and I could breathe again. I looked around, drifting slowly. "Hey! There's Kat! And [K-Foo]!" One with a yellow parachute, already so close to the ground; one with blue. No, I couldn't see the girls - I was only able to tell because they'd gone first and second, respectively.

He loosened my chest strap "so [you] can breathe", and had me slide my leg straps so I was in what was vaguely a sitting position, and... we drifted. Five minutes. Still so high up that, for the first minute or so, it didn't even feel like we were moving down. The wind may have had something to do with that - it was far windier than anticipated. No tricks were performed, and none of us got to help steer - it was a full job just for the tandem guys to get us down into something resembling the landing area!

We talked a little, and I can't even really remember what we talked about. I told him why I was jumping.

I watched the world beneath me for a while.

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It was over too soon. It actually felt like the freefall lasted longer than the drifting! Maybe because my brain was still recovering?

We drifted in for a landing; legs extended, we skidded gently in on our butts, turning slightly onto my right hip. I lay there, gasping, in tall green grass, still slightly dew-wet, flattened like a tiny crop circle, parachute strewn behind me. He unhooked me, and I sat up, managed to stand up, legs wobbly. We'd landed in someone's backyard, near a barn... not far from our videographer, and not far from K-Foo. A car came to pick us up and take us back to our families.



Asked by the videographer to describe the jump, all I could say at first was "Intense!" And when asked if I'd do it again... "Definitely."

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I picked a flower for Elayna, who always brings me flowers when she sees 'em. And... back to base.

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We grabbed Cokes and snacks... my stomach was a bit tumbly! And we watched our souvenir videos as soon as they were given to us, and watched the next group jump, just to see it from the other side. :)

And then we left, hugging tandem guys and videographers. My adrenaline crash hit in the car, where I dozed most of the way to the Majestic... a cheeseburger and the entry of static_eddie, vanuslux, and brendastarr revitalized me for a bit, but it wasn't too long til my body said "Oh, fuck this shit" and crapped out on me entirely. So we went home, exhausted and happy.

Hi. :)

Expect me to continue on this topic for a bit.... I'm still parsing.

This was one of the most intense experiences of my life. And my life has not exactly been devoid of intense experiences. :)

Next year - jump with me!