Gorgeous sunset, wanting to celebrate life with just my hubby, remembering my brother on the 22nd anniversary of his death. A simple feel good skydive, just the two of us: that’s what I wanted. I was kinda thrown by the spot … we were in freefall over Lake Erie, and for me, quite the eery feeling to be skirting the shores edge, the drop zone at least 3 miles away. The winds had been super strong all day and I had chosen to stand down because of it, grateful to have survived an injury in too windy conditions 4 years ago — lessons learned. However, thinking that at the end of the day, the uppers would have died down was a silly assumption to make for our skydive. Under canopy at 5000 feet, savouring the gorgeous sunset, I wasn’t too concerned about my positioning, other than facing in to the wind with lots of clear space and open fields behind me to make it back. At 3000 feet I realized how far east I had been blown, off the wind line, and in an attempt to make it back too soon, was blown over the dense trees below, going ‘Oh shit, better start looking for an alternate landing area amidst those trees’. Each field and backyard kept disappearing below me as I continued to be pushed backwards.
At a 1.2 wing loading (exit weight vs load-bearing ratio to my canopy), I wasn’t having much luck in gaining any forward drive. Dang, trees, trees everywhere. Not good. Winds + trees = turbulence at best. But luckily, closer to the ground, the wind slowed and I was able to ‘hook’ a 180 degree turn at tree top level in to a small postage stamp area (can you say 200 by 200 feet with 70 foot trees all around?). Within the confines of the trees, there was no wind which made for much forward movement. Having at least been on top of my game for this, I landed mid-field. I could have been the lone hero, ready to run it out, if necessary, but instead decided to slide it in gently, not wanting to injure myself for the long anticipated walk back. One never knows what holes etc lie there amidst the grassy knolls. Landing out in the middle of a forest isn’t the smartest thing in the world. One, had I been seriously injured, the chances of someone finding me before dark would have been next to nil. Two, if a helicopter had to fly in to airlift me out, that would have been tricky trying in such a small area plus to find me with no clear markers anywhere, stupid. Three, I got caught behind the power curve and didn’t anticipate the forces of Mother Nature. Silly, silly, lucky girl.
After 10 minutes of meandering through fields which I hoped to take me to a road somewhere, I ended up crawling over a barbed wire fence, leading me to a cemetery and thus a road. Go figure! Was this a sign or what? My dear brother had certainly been looking out for me, alongside me the whole jump, from exit to landing and beyond. Walking between the graves with my canopy slung over my shoulder had me seriously thinking about spirit and life and the choices we make. Whether they be stupid not well-thought out decisions or meticulously planned intentions, life doesn’t always go as one expects or hopes much of the time. Having a backup Plan B, C and D is always a good idea, and going with the flow when none of the above options are available is what life is all about. Hopefully in instances like this, I can walk away without injury and head held high, knowing that I have to live with the consequences, even in the face of death and reality. Makes for an exciting day and valuable lessons learned. Next time, I hope to make better choices. Thankfully, there will be a next time!