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.
(The cord in the first shots is a drogue to slow us down enough for us to not, y'know, die. We fell at a rate of 120 miles per hour. In the last picture, you can see him deploying the chute.)
To be continued...