by The Q
So. The Jump.
I’ve always wanted to skydive, and my friend Eman Ghanem proposed that we take advantage of a Groupon earlier this year and go around our birthdays. (We’re both March babies). We recruited the fearless Fatima Nidali-levens to come with us and brought along Saadia Larouz, my daugher and Eman’s son.
Up until the day of the jump everyone was asking me if I was nervous about it. Honestly, I wasn’t. Maybe because it’s just something that is impossible to wrap your head around if you’ve never done it before. Also, I have recurring dreams about flying which are always wonderful so I went into this with a positive frame of mind.
We drove out to this skydiving ranch a few dozen miles past Elgin. I tell you, it was the perfect day. The entire countryside was springtime green, and multicolored flowers were everywhere. We had a blue, cloudless sky and a light, cool breeze. It was the kind of day that reminds me just exactly why I live in Texas. When we arrived there were lots of other people there preparing to jump and the planes were back in a huge open area next to a little farm that had chickens, guinea hens, donkeys, llamas, and pigs.
Anyway, we got to the skydiving place in a fine mood but got serious when it was time to fill out the forms and sign away our liability. Once that business was taken care of we had lots of time to wait. We spent a good hour just watching others jump, checking out the farm animals and chatting.
Once they strapped us in our harnesses and introduced us to our jump partners, pilots and videographer (Fatima opted to have a video made of her jump), we were pretty much ready to go and the anticipation started. Fatima went first and she did amazing…she landed with a big smile, so I knew it was going to be fine.
Eman and I both went up in the plane together with our jump partners. The plane was small and very sketchy. It rattled down the dirt runway and felt like it would fall apart at any minute. Eman grinned at me and said, “Well, at least we have parachutes!”
Once we were in the air we were all silent. It was too loud in the plane to really hear each other and besides, the scene was magnificent: green fields as far as the eye could see, dotted with little ponds and lakes that reflected the sun like mirrors. The view stretched all the way to meet the curve of the earth.
When it came time to jump, I was to go first. My jump partner moved me into position and attached his harness to mine. Then he opened the door of the plane and I looked down 10,000 feet and saw the ground. The way it works is that I put my feet out first on a little platform and he sits behind me in the plane and pushes me out. I felt a rocking – 1, 2, 3 and then we were out.
We somersaulted through the air before opening up into a double arch with our arms spread wide. We were falling at 120 MPH, and my face was flapping in the wind, but it was all so big and wide open it felt like we were going in slow motion. The air was cold, and I felt awake and alive kind of like the feeling you get jumping into a cold lake. Just falling and looking at the sky and the ground and the horizon was truly, truly magnificent. I was completely unafraid. I know that sounds like a line of BS, but I swear it felt like the most natural thing in the world.
Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a jolt and a sudden upward pull when then parachute opened. After that it was quiet. The wind was not whipping past us so we could talk and hear each other perfectly as we floated down. My partner let me take the ‘handles’ of the chute and I was amazed how much control I had over it. I turned us left and right, and then did a 180 degree turn.
After he took back control of the chute, he talked me through the landing procedure. Then we spent the remainder of the jump in silence, taking in the sights. Watching the ground come up close as we gently floated out of space was not scary. It was lovely. I tucked my knees up and his feet touched ground first–then mine. A standing landing.
This was probably one of the most beautiful and deeply moving experiences of my life. I am actually having a hard time coming up with the words to describe it. The perspective of seeing the world from a distance; the lack of control as I initially fell; the trust I had in a total stranger who was holding the chute; the camaraderie of doing this with friends; the exhilaration of my body moving so fast; and the feeling of wonder I had as I gently came down to earth is unmatched by anything I’ve ever done. I said it before, and I’ll say it again. It was the most natural thing. Nothing about it seemed scary, even though all logic says it should have been.
Yes. I will go again.