New Years in Zephyrhills

After a day of jumping with our New York skydiving friends, I was whisked away in an RV6 aerobatic home-built plane, twirling around the skies performing barrel rolls and loop-de-loops with ’Spoon’, a resident pilot friend also from NY. What a way to catch sunset on the last day of the year!

Ringing in 2011 with amazing fireworks from DJ TK-Explosive, night jumps a-plenty, hard-core drum beats, and slaDE~ at my side was a fabulous beginning to an exciting New Year. Big plans ahead. We’ll see how they gO. 🙂 In the interim, loving the pirate life thus faR!

Aircraft a.go-go

One of the novelty aspects to skydiving is the ability to jump out of different types of aircraft. As long as the flying apparatus can get to altitude safely, skydivers are pretty happy campers.

Of all the vehicles to altitude that I have been blessed with the opportunity to leap from, my favourite to date I think has been the Lockheed Super Constellation. Doors on both sides at the rear of the plane, exiting at the speed of a small jet. My first skydive (a static line round parachute jump made on October 6, 1991) was made out of a Skyliner — like a Skyvan, but with the exit being a side door rather than a rear ramp.

Here at Zephyrhills during the Christmas boogie, they have 3 Otters (a left hand wide door to exit from), 2 Skyvans (a rear-facing ramp that one can run and dive like superman from) and a local visiting helicopter that takes jumpers to an exit point of 5,000 feet for $58 . Wow, what a selection! Spoiled skydivers we are :).

Talent Contest

slaDE came in to the Airstream today, grinning from ear to ear, mentioning the idea of entering in to tonight’s annual Skydive City talent contest with a little demo of yogaFLIGHT. I was thrilled at the prospect …. why not get the yogaFLIGHT word out there?? Little did I know that there would be prizes for such an event.

With only 6 acts, some of them strange and skydiver funny, I was actually quite shocked to hear that we had won first place. BONUS!

The booty?

  • 3 jump tickets
  • 3 pack jobs
  • 3 drinks from the bar
  • a Skydive City t-shirt

Way to spread the love!

Cutting It Close

slaDE and I went in to Tampa to pick up our friend Boz from the airport, after which we had dinner with our Alumapalooza friends. What an interesting experience that was, driving through the airport parking garage. On entrance, the clearance bar claimed that the garage was only available to vehicles that were 6’8″ or lower. slaDE and I have never measured the height of our truck, but apparently we fit just under the specified measurement – barely (as slaDE surmises whilst driving slowly and hanging 3/4’s of his body out the window). It was kind of freaky driving around … it looked as if we would scrape the roof at every moment, and I prayed that we wouldn’t hit a bump of any sort that would have us cringing at the sounds of roof paint kissing concrete.

A good lesson in height management, especially when towing a trailer behind us that might navigate poorly under certain covered bridges across America. No need to worry about parking garage height though. We’d be nuts trying to tow and park a trailer through any closed parking area. 🙂 Walmart parking lots are a good spot for us, and a whole lot less nerve-wracking!

Skydive City on Fire!

It was an extremely windy and warm Florida afternoon. A good day for me to be sitting on the ground. There is no need to jump in stupid air currents. Been there, done that. 4 years of a skydiving layoff, because I made a poor decision to jump in high gusty winds, has taught me a valuable lesson. Nowadays, I tend to be a bit over-cautious when it comes to the weather conditions. I need to get my nerve back a bit, I think. Yet my aching shoulder is a persistent reminder of past choices.

As with many windy days here at the drop zone, I find numerous things to keep myself occupied. Today, whilst sitting in the trailer reading, I saw several fire trucks pull in to the parking lot. How strange! No sirens or flashing lights to alert me, no distress signals from fellow skydivers. Rather, it was the sound of the large diesel engine which caused me to look up in time. Of course, curiosity peaked my interest and I grabbed our beautiful 300mm telephoto lens to see what interesting images I could capture.

In all my 20 years of skydiving, I’ve never been witness to a landing area set ablaze as it was here in Zhills. With drier than dry grass and exorbitant gusting northerlys, a spark had somehow managed to set ablaze 1/4 of the landing area, rapidly making it’s way towards the dz trailers and surrounding tree-line. Five fire trucks were actively drenching the burnt areas in the hopes of distinguishing small potential flare-ups due to the strong winds. I somehow had missed the high flames as they roared across the landing area. Instead, I was observing the last remaining flashes of flame. Still pretty impressive!

The acrid smell of charred grass enveloped my senses. It smelled like a gigantic bonfire! So happy we weren’t downwind of the rampant flames. Thankfully, the fires didn’t create any other damage than to the grass. I can only imagine the visuals in freefall of the charcoal area. Luckily, the trailers and forest were protected from harm’s way. Considering the wind gusts, this is but a small miracle!

A Season of Change – Are We There Yet?

The clock ticks ever-closer to the dawn of the calendar changeover — December in to January, another year, another 12 months alive on this planet.

What are you going to do to welcome in this New Season and New Year?? Are you able to fully embrace what 2011 will hold? The unexpected, the change, the fabulous, the good, the bad and the ugly? It’s all about choice. Rolling with the flow and accepting our fate as we set out to conquer the world, communicating honestly and with integrity. We have control only over our present moment and thoughts, and how we perceive the world and the situations we might find ourselves in. Can you breath through the chaos, laugh through the insanity, feel through the pain and sorrow, and embrace the happiness which might alight itself upon you? Easier said than done, you say!

Truly. Madly. Deeply. I feel and experience it, along with my weaknesses, my imperfections, my stumblings. Hoping to be responsible for / to it. I live it, daily. Not even close to perfection. But in the end, I keep breathing, hoping, praying.

  • Learn, Live, Love, Breath ……………………….. Redo. (and hopefully add a few laughs and yoga asanas mixed in with the equation)

My wish for you through this season of change:

  • embracing the unknown and changes of 2011,
  • finding freedom and independence in your strengths, successes and joys,
  • finding a clear vision of oneself that looks authentically at both what you are doing and how you are doing it every day,
  • accepting defeats with wisdom, patience and desire to overcome, shining a light on the deep corners inside of you,
  • sharing love to all, spreading peace and good fortune, and
  • asking for help when you might need it most.

Wishing you much joy and moments of happiness through out the holidays, and always, in all ways.

Christmas in Florida

I find it so interesting, waking up to Florida sunshine and warmth on this day of holiday celebration, instead of the traditional cold snowy wintry mornings of a Canadian Christmas. I feel blessed to share this day with friends and my husband, lucky enough to have the opportunity to jump out of an airplane as a breath of release and gratitude in celebrating the holiday season.

Have a wonderful beautiful Christmas my friends …. hoping that the holidays are filled with blessings and joy, wherever you may be!

No excuses

In the 19+ years that I have been sport parachuting, I hear people come up with reasons of why NOT to skydive. “Never, in a million years”; “Over my dead body’; “It’s too dangerous”; “I’m afraid of heights”; “It’s not the right time to jump”; “I’m too afraid to die”; “What if the parachute doesn’t open?”; “What if I can’t breathe?”; “I’m too old”. These are just a few totally justifiable excuses. We all make excuses (especially when it comes to making choices that go beyond our own control or comfort level); we learn to make them as a defense mechanism in this short and precious life. I understand completely, truly and totally. The thought of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane seems insane to most, and is considered a death-wish by many non-skydivers. I GET it. It’s scary as hell, and mortality is staring one in the face at a speed of 120mph. Catapulting one’s body towards the earth goes against every survival instinct known to man. Believe it or not, I’m afraid of heights, when that sense of imminent death appears to be a real threat to my survival (i.e. standing at a cliff’s edge, or positioned on the glass floor of the CN Tower, and at one time, jumping out of a plane above 2000 feet).

Yet long before the innovations and accomplishments of non-powered flight (the Montgolfier brother’s balloon in 1783 and Leonardo Da Vinci sketches centuries earlier), human flight has captured the dreams and fancy of many a visionary. Myself included, from my wee early years, before I even knew what the term parachute and skydive meant (and well before my fear of high places had been formed): I dreamed of flight, and the freedom it evoked. Kind of like the movie ‘Avatar’ and its effect on me, stoking my desire and daydreams of morphing into a Na’vi, living in the jungles of Pandora with my own personal airborne Toruk :).

Today, with 1350+ skydives under my belt, jumping out of an airplane is the ultimate thrill and pursuit in living vibrantly, fully and with a life wish. Living life to the fullest, no excuses.

Our friend Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen is one such person who lives on the edge of existence and reality, no excuses necessary for life’s subtle and obvious obstacles. Imagine jumping out of a plane, hampered by the inability to fully control ones body. Trust me when I say that this ‘disability’ [def: a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities] elevates sky-jumping to a whole other level. One that inspires me beyond words and pride. If you’ve jumped out of a plane, you’ll understand what I mean. Minna has courage beyond the imaginable (being a base jumper on top of her brave skydiving accomplishments). Having ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) has only inspired her to live without reservation, appreciating each and every day that her body is able to physically jump.

With each passing day here in Zephyrhills, I resolve to embody the spirit of Minna. Such a brave and courageous woman. No excuses. Zip. Zero. None. Can you say the same?? Can you resolve to become braver in your everyday existence, whether it be jumping out of airplanes or conquering a niggling fear??

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
    ~ Oscar Wilde

Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Today on 12/21/10, the longest day of the year, I felt very blessed to experience the first full moon total lunar eclipse in 456 years that has fallen on the Winter Solstice. The last lunar eclipse (which I was also lucky enough to witness) fell on February 21, 2008. Tonight, the Moon appeared to glow subtly red as it passed through the penumbral and umbral shadows of the Earth. Once it emerged, it then vibrated with flares of light. What incredible beauty on this most notable full mooned Solstice Winter’s day.

Despite the damp cold which had settled heavily amidst us, I was superbly excited at having the ability to photograph the moment with an awesome far-reaching telephoto lens and fabulous camera. The 55-300mm zoom lens we had invested in was going to prove its worth a million-fold. In rustling up the necessities for capturing the moment, both slaDE and I found ourselves at a loss to the whereabouts of our tiny handheld tripod. The effect of photographing such a distant object was proving to be challenging without a tripod, when zoomed in to such distance in the darkness. However, our generous neighbour Wizard came to our rescue and gifted us with a tripod that he rarely used. With this final piece of the puzzle, I was able to capture some stunning shots that still have me in awe at their magnificence.

Creating New Beginnings

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
~ Isaac Newton

“Love builds bridges where there are none.”
~ R. H. Delaney

Who said that you had to build just bridges in order to create new beginnings?? Today, slaDE and Michael built a ramp for our newly-minted Canadian friend Minna. It was incredible to witness these men creating a harmonious and accessible living environment for a brave woman in a wheel chair. We actually met Minna in a covert moving operation this summer, but it was a brief encounter focused on achieving a goal for a friend. However, our time here in Florida brought us together again, and for this I am forever grateful!

Minna is awesome. And incredibly inspirational. Her story? She has been in a wheelchair since 2005 and on August 6, 2007, Minna made her first skydive EVER. Since then, she has become an active base jumper, sprint kayaker, road racer, adaptive rower and sponsored athlete with a fantastic story and vision to convey. To me, this is a pretty impressive feat which displays much courage and determination. And to think that Minna has ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease) is unbelievable. This disease apparently neither slows Minna down, nor does it hamper her enthusiasm, vitality and persistence in and for life. From what I’ve witnessed thus far, the slightest bit of fear that Minna may have towards any aspect of her life is quickly overcome with belief in herself, in her passions, persistence and drive to be the best that she can be, for her two children and for herself.

I have much to learn from Minna. I’m very grateful to be here in Florida for another 3 weeks to get to know her better, exploring the depths of compassion and friendship, delving in to understanding my own believed limitations and fears in life.

“Every life has a story, every story has a lesson.” ~ Oprah