The Flying Yogi

I have always been a lover of all things flight, far before the days where I took up skydiving { 20 + years ago }. Even as a child I dreamed of travelling the skies in an airplane, taking up the helm as perhaps the pilot-in-command. Or as a flight attendant … their lives always seemed so glamourous and inviting. Anything to get me places whilst viewing the earth from a different perspective and experiencing the sensation of flight.

The feeling of body control that occurs through yogaFLIGHT and skydiving are inherent reasons behind my passion for unique forms of body movement that reject the claims of gravity, while also offering a new sensation and interpretation of human flight. So you can only imagine how intrigued I was at the thought of suspension / anti-gravity / aerial yoga … a form of yoga that uses a hammock made out of parachute material. Well of course I would be endeared at the prospect, so close to our concept of yogaFLIGHT! And today I had the chance to participate in a 2 hour intro workshop at The Flying Yogi.

What a fabulous way to enhance my yoga practice with effortless inversion poses (not requiring a partner as yogaFLIGHT does) that invoke playful empowerment and creativity through the use of a prop. And a stunning revelation through this class was the ability to pursue not only increased flexibility beyond my normal yoga practice, but reach for an unlimited variety of strength training exercises that I really hadn’t thought of before today. Amazing! If you get the chance to try this sort of suspension yoga, I definitely recommend it. We’ve tried several different ‘methods’ which use various types of proprietary slings. I do like the ‘OmGym’. But I know that there are a few different types and varieties out there. I’m certain that this will become a fitness craze. How could it not, especially considering the incredible benefits of inversion therapy and the fight against gravity and aging?!

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!

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

4-Wheeling on the Outer Banks

What a way to start a week of adventure on the Outer Banks! slaDE and I were in pursuit of finding the Wild Horses of Currituck County. We were super excited to explore Corolla and the surrounding area, 4 wheeling on the beach in search of hidden treasures. Today, unlike Sunday afternoon, we were prepared for the thrills and hazards of driving through the dunes and on the sand. You see, slaDE made a spontaneous attempt at cruising down the beach at Nags Head yesterday.

The tides were mid-way between high and low (aka half-tide) and the sands at the entrance of the beach ramp were loose, piled high and quite steep. Well, you can only imagine what happened … and CAA was not an option for helping us out of our ‘bind’. So after getting stuck quite deeply in the sand and finding an alternate exit point, slaDE and I hastened to learn the techniques and finesse of 4×4 Beach Driving before launching our escapade today. We found this resource to be a terrific gem: twiddy.com. Lessons learned? We discovered the importance of walking the beach access route(s) before entering and exiting with our truck … vitally important in recognizing whether the beach is suitable or not for 4WDing. Also, prior research to the techniques of beach driving is always a good thing :).

Corolla is considered the northernmost town on the Outer Banks (pronounced ‘cor-Aah-lah’ and NOT the Toyota Corolla way :)). This tiny fishing and tourist village is a refuge to both Sea Turtles and wild ponies, the latter which act as mascots around the entire Outer Banks. The horses are descendants of the Spanish Mustangs brought to the North Carolina coastline in the early1600s. Currituck County also houses giant upscale homes (mostly along the outermost stretches of beach) accompanied by a mammoth increase of tourist population during the summer months. This unfortunately is proving to be a threat to the diligently protected horses. Reckless driving and acts of violence in recent years have led to strict and severe penalties upon those who violate these beautiful untamed and rugged animals. Yet the population is shrinking, part of which lies in the inbreeding of these lineally pure Mustangs.

So in pursuit of witnessing these ethereal creatures, we drove the full length of the Carova Beach (about 8 miles), marvelling at the deep but smooth rutted ‘highway’ this beach has become. We both took turns driving, enjoying the ability to navigate with ease, after having let out our tire pressure to 20 psi. The gas mileage went down quite quickly (from 25 mpg to 20.1 mpg) during our experiment with beach driving. The traffic was blissfully light (compared to the horror stories experienced by locals during the summer season) and made for an incredible experience. Even driving up over the heavily sanded dune in to the home access road was disarmingly easy. I was awestruck by the number and size of monolithic mansions that created a suburbia along the water’s edge. We were told that 90% of the properties are unoccupied outside of the tourist season and major holidays. I can’t imagine the cost of heating one of those places during the winter. So I’m thinking that most are rental properties (with 10 bedrooms, one can only imagine the rent!). Once we reached the end of the occupied beach, bordered by a boundary marker to the Virginia State Park, we decided to walk along the beaches edge looking for the Wild Horses. We saw big stinking evidence of their recent residency :), but there were no sighting on any ponies carousing through the Atlantic. Still with hope in our heart, we skirted beyond the perimeter road about a ½ mile back from the waters edge. Coming around one of the dunes, we slowed and witnessed a herd of 6 horses quietly mowing the fields of their neighbour. They didn’t even stir as we approached in our truck, as close as 50 feet away. It was stunning to see them feed. One of the mares appeared to be heavily pregnant, due any day. The light was gorgeous and made for an astounding photo shoot, both of us excited at having stumbled across the only horses we were to witness today (apart from the winged statue we saw earlier) :). Although my Father boards quite a few horses, the sight of these wild untamed beauties had me holding my breath at the wonder of nature, and the history behind their lineage. After an hour of sitting silently whilst they fed,  and photographing up a storm, we made our way back to the village of Corolla, as it was vital that we refill the air in our tires. A flat tire would have marred the calm of our day, and we weren’t ready for that.

Before heading south to our overtly expensive RV park, we wanted to take advantage of the setting sun and thus quickly headed towards the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, for a few final photos of our incredible Corolla adventure. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse stands 165 feet tall and was built in 1875. It is the northernmost of the North Carolina Lighthouses.

Hope you enjoy all the pictures! We certainly enjoyed taking them. A photographer’s delight, to be certain, with such a beautiful canvas such as this . . . .

The Gift of Flight

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.
Quotation of Leonardo Da Vinci

Flight is a huge part of my life and has been for over 19 years (for those who know me, you’d never guess!). Being both a licensed Private Pilot (1999) and a D-Licensed Skydiver (D18185, October 6, 1991), it’s always been a fascination and dream of mine to visit the site of where man made free, controlled, and sustained flight in the world’s first power-driven heavier-than-air machine. That date in history: December 17, 1903 near the Kill Devil Hills, about four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina —  the historic launching grounds of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s The Wright Flyer. Although I thought I had known a fair bit of the historical events behind their first flight, I actually discovered today that I knew very little. The history is rich and steeped with amazing FAQs. So much so that the curator of the visitor center spent an hour telling the story of the history of flight, followed by a 40 minute film on the Wright and Tate families. Fascinating info that had us scrambling to try and fit in everything in in just one day. For me, it was compelling and relevant to also walk the grounds, from where each flight was launched onwards to the landing marker of each successful flight — 4 in total on that glorious day. This day was similar in weather to December 17, 1903. The winds howled, the temperatures were extraordinarily low and the visibility was clear with scattered clouds fringing the deep blue skies. Orville’s account of that fourth flight is as follows:

Wilbur started the fourth and last flight at just about 12 o’clock. The first few hundred feet were up and down, as before, but by the time three hundred ft had been covered, the machine was under much better control. The course for the next four or five hundred feet had but little undulation. However, when out about eight hundred feet the machine began pitching again, and, in one of its darts downward, struck the ground. The distance over the ground was measured to be 852 feet; the time of the flight was 59 seconds. The frame supporting the front rudder was badly broken, but the main part of the machine was not injured at all. We estimated that the machine could be put in condition for flight again in about a day or two.

Truly amazing to walk those steps … 852 feet may not seem like a lot, but in those days when no man or woman had ever lifted off of the earth via a manned powered vehicle, 59 seconds was truly a spectacular feat, I believe.

Following the path of the Wright Flyer’s trajectory, we strolled up the Kill Devil Hill to the centenary monument of where a behemoth rudder made of granite, sand, gravel and cement stands tall and proud, witness to the historical importance of Kitty Hawk and aviation. A stunning view of the area and an impressive memorial to the Wright Brothers. So breathtaking and a memory that both slaDE~ and myself will treasure forever!

Weekend fuN!

Lake ErieJump 100 pieIt was a gorgeous weekend, with unending blue skies and fabulous skydives! I managed to fly in the right seat of the Twin Otter twice at Skydive Burnaby, and both times were reminiscent of the days when I would fly as co-pilot with my dear friend Randy Goken. lucky girl was I! The views of Lake Erie are spectacular. And on the ground and in the air, much fun was had by all, including the rights of initiations to two fellow skydivers — at 100 jumps, all lucky skydivers are baptized with a creme pie :). I had one both at my 100 and 1000 jump landmark. Double blessed!

Awakening.

sunset blissBack in the land of the online living.

Away for 7 days, and much longer from the blog.

So much to share! In due time.

But now it’s time to count the clouds I’ve danced upon, singing swooping melodies of body flight dreams.

Ah, hoping sleep comes quick to me tonight ….

Tears of Sadness

At 2:20pm today, my dear friends at Frontier Skydivers were in a horrific plane crash carrying a total of 6 people. On takeoff, at 300 feet (end of the runway, surrounded by tall trees), the door on the Cessna 185 popped open and a skydiver onboard lunged to close it. Unfortunately, the plane was uncontrollable with the sudden change in the plane’s CG (centre of gravity), and an inevitable stall occurred, sending it crashing into the trees. Not much can be done at 300 feet, although the pilot in command performed a miracle in bleeding off as much excess speed as possible, bringing the plane in as best as he could.

I can’t imagine what a horrific feeling that would be, knowing that they were about to crash land from that altitude into obstacles as looming as the forest below them. 5 skydivers were released that very night from the hospital. Toma sadly is still in a coma. Prayers for them all. Kudos to both: Mike Maly, the medic hero who maintained control of the accident scene (he was also in the plane crash, suffering from a dramatic facial laceration), and to the pilot Paul, who performed a miracle on this day.

The above video can be found at: http://www.wivb.com/dpp/news/niagara/Skydiver-tells-harrowing-survival-tale

Back to summer camp

16 WayI haven’t been to summer camp in many many years. But memories of those times are priceless.

Debriefing at the 16 way camp

As was this weekend’s camp. However, you see, this wasn’t your average weekend getaway.Rather, both slaDE and I enrolled in Doug Forth’s 16 way Camp. Yes, that’s correct. A camp for skydivers wanting to learn the subtleties and nuances of big-way skydives.

Saturday started out beautifully, with clear blue azure skies and ZERO winds. For Skydive Burnaby, this is a strange pairing and anomaly. Normally, the winds are howling with such beautiful weather. Yet, the whole weekend was forecast to be just that. Beautiful, calm and sunny. SWEET!

Apart from a strained shoulder (setting me down for three jumps), I was still pleased to fit in 6 skydives for the day. What an incredible learning curve! I’ve jumped many a big way, but have never had the opportunity to participate in an actual camp.

Gotta love those exceptional learning experiences, especially when they push me outside of my ‘comfort zone’ at times :).

Flight … it’s an Attitude

Twin OtterFor me this past week, returning to Frontier was an emotional state of coming home. Arriving with a different mindset than from my last abrupt departure of flight. A walk down memory lane, a throw back to both the familiar and the pain, the gifts given to me and to my family of friends, both new and old. I’ve jumped at many a drop zone, savouring the freedom of flight as I know it, belly to earth, relative to the wind and others. Breathing in the joys of canopy flight. Graceful and grateful in my safe return to earth.

Like a slew of different lovers, each airport has its own seductive qualities, enticing me with its vast breadth of skills, knowledge, provocative lifts to altitude and playful tempestuous political philanderings. A love / hate relationship at times, but nonetheless, a necessary deliverance to my addiction for altitude and flight. A drop zone is a subculture. Frontier happens to be a club rather than a business per se. Member run and lovingly nurtured by those inclined to steer the course, for yet another year in its life.

Why would we return now, you might ask? For this sole reason: Frontierfest, an annual Boogie and odyssey — a time for vacation time accrued to be spent by many, with the return of the Twin Otter, the spaceship with a 21 jumper lift capacity. Our last time jumping here in Newfane New York? In 2005: slaDE~ and I headed west towards the Rocky Mountains (Calgary) and this happened to coincide with the time when our beloved Termin-Otter also left, for bluer skies and greener financial pastures. Since then, Frontier has been a Cessna 180 drop zone, (5 jumpers maximum) losing many of the familiar jumpers addicted to the convenience, lift capacity and efficiency of a twin engine plane.

So as you can imagine, the Otter would draw many a jumper from the woodwork. A family reunion of sorts. It was glorious and spectacular. As if time had stood still, I slipped on my packing hat and spent many an hour enveloped in canopy and lines, swaddled by the love of my trade. A packing fool I became, with a twist. I made the time to jump and coach and fly with my friends, opting out of the camera-wielding role of videographer. What a shift!

I truly believe that Flight is a gift, a tool, a passion and an attitude. I feel so blessed to soar from the wings of an aircraft with my own ability to cloud surf and soar. It’s an incredible blessing that I am so grateful to gift myself each leap into the unknown.

Flight indeed is an attitude. Here’s a perfect true story that is bound to tug at your heartstrings, penned by the author Roger Dean Kiser Senior (Roger is the little orphan boy in the story who carries his friend through the wind.).

Flying

Once upon a time there was a little boy who was raised in a orphanage. The little boy had always wished that he could fly like a bird. It was very difficult for him to understand why he could not fly. There were birds at the zoo that were much bigger than he, and they could fly. “Why can’t I?” he thought. “Is there something wrong with me?” he wondered.

There was another little boy who was crippled. He had always wished that he could walk and run like other little boys and girls. “Why can’t I be like them?” he thought.

One day the little orphan boy who had wanted to fly like a bird ran away from the orphanage. He came upon a park where he saw the little boy who could not walk or run playing in the sandbox.

He ran over to the little boy and asked him if he had ever wanted to fly like a bird.

“No,” said the little boy who could not walk or run. “But I have wondered what it would be like to walk and run like other boys and  girls.”

“That is very sad.” said the little boy who wanted to fly. “Do you think we could be friends?” he said to the little boy in the sandbox. “Sure.” said the little boy.

The two little boys played for hours. They made sand castles and made really funny sounds with their mouths. Sounds which made them laugh  real hard. Then the little boy’s father came with a wheelchair to pick up his son. The little boy who had always wanted to fly ran over to the boy’s father and whispered something into his ear.

“That would be OK,” said the man.

The little boy who had always wanted to fly like a bird ran over to his new friend and said, “You are my only friend and I wish that there was something that I could do to make you walk and run like other little boys and girls. But I can’t. But there is something that I can do for you.” The little orphan boy turned around and told his new friend to slide up onto his back. He then began to run across the grass. Faster and faster he ran, carrying the little crippled boy on his back. Faster and harder he ran across the park. Harder and harder he made his legs travel.

Soon the wind just whistled across the two little boys’ faces. The little boy’s father began to cry as he watched his beautiful little crippled son flapping his arms up and down in the wind, all the while yelling at the top of his voice,

“I’M FLYING, DADDY. I’M FLYING!”

~ Roger Dean Kiser, Sr., Florida
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