Ya Think?

Hickey

Current front-runner for ‘line of the week’ at my house;

“I think her dad liked me a little better before the hickey!”

Ha, ya think?

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Butterfly Girl

PAPILIO MACHAON

The wooden window frame creaks gently at the caress of the breeze.  Dew drops tremble on the laden blades of grass running from the mailbox to the front steps.  Sunglow shines at the edge of the world, kissing the brickwork of the sleepy cottage, built long ago for someone’s profit, filled this day mostly with love.  In the kitchen, the faintest click signals the release of water, soon to be steam, then to become the rich black elixir that she loves with just a dash of cream.

As always the alarm is set but unneeded.  Her long lashes flutter open to the glow of this new day.  Most mornings her first thoughts are steeped in gratitude…for all of it.  For her life, her child, her present moment, and still with some difficulty she embraces and acknowledges her gratitude for the past.  Every day has lead to this moment, the aroma of coffee, the faint light filling the skylights, the peace that once seemed a phantom now seems a life.

“Mom”

“Yes, my darling one.”

“Can I have some coffee?”  Her son Jonah asks.

“Certainly, but no sugar please.”

“Nevermind.”

“Joey, have you noticed what an amazing gift this morning is?”

“Yes mom, I said my gratitudes,” his words wander naturally down this well-worn path.

“Excellent! I love you!”

“Love you too.”

Three paintings hang on the wall, across the room from her king size bed.  The painting on the left is of an intricately patterned caterpillar making its way across a birch branch in what looks to be late Summer.  The next is of a delicate chrysalis suspended from a similar branch in the Fall.  The painting on the right is of a magnificent butterfly taking wing in the Spring.  So it goes that not every day has been this day, full of comfort, and love.  But today, a few before, and many after will be very much like this one.

Discomfort, I’ve heard tell, is the price of admission to a meaningful life.  Knowing the Butterfly Girl’s story, I believe that to be true.

#fiction

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Let Go Of The Plane

16th Jump 11_20_15 With J Ivey

I gripped the frame of the exit door with Hulk-like strength, except for the Hulk-like, and strength bits.  Suffice it to say I used everything I had to hold on.  In my experience, there’s no greater motivating force within a human being than fear.  The jump light turned from “two minutes” yellow to green.  Time to go.  I don’t know if I remembered to take a breath.  Forgetting to breathe in everyday terrestrial life is an issue for me as it is, no doubt at the moment of exit I had accidentally become nearly ‘oxygen free.’  Air starved brain notwithstanding I did remember to lean out, lean in, then launch, and let go of the plane.

My body tumbled in the wind wash created by my earthward trajectory coupled with the rapid westward bearing of the Twin Otter aircraft.

“Breathe, and calm the fuck down,” I said to myself.

After a bit more negotiating my body finally arched into a V shape.  Legs up, head up, plummeting toward earth in gravity’s firm embrace.  With the flight of my person finally stabilized I could take a moment to connect with this singular experience; moving through space at over 120 miles per hours without mechanical assistance.  The sensation is indescribable, and not commonly known.  Why?  Fear? The result of good decision making?  You decide.

I can’t speak for others who choose to jump from 14,000 feet with no more than a nylon lifeline, but I have to believe that some of them leap, or at least made their first jump for the same reason I did; to slay a dragon.  To confront fear in the now, or never.  To stand over it, perhaps for the first time with a triumphant smile.  If only a smile of sweet relief once we’ed reconnected with mother earth.

One’s inaugural exit, that first jump is exponentially more mind-blowing than any of the next hundred, thousand, or infinity and beyond.  It’s a threshold that cannot be recrossed.  On my very first solo jump, I experience a minor equipment malfunction.  I say minor because in hindsight everything worked out.  However, as it was all going down, I thought I might have a one jump career, and be remembered as the most unlucky skydiver of all time.

On a first AFF jump, (Accelerated Free Fall, Category A) one exits the aircraft at 14,000 feet gripped by two instructors.  At 6000 feet the ‘pull’ sequence is initiated.  If you the student have freaked out, one of the instructors, assuming you haven’t shaken them loose in a wild tumble, pulls for you.  As for the “wild tumble” bit, youtube.com offers an endless supply of “oh shit” scenarios @AFF SKYDIVE GOES BAD.  On my first AFF jump, I pulled the ripcord, at which point I was on my own.  Thankfully the chute deployed.  I dialed my freak from 11 to 9.  Next order of business, fly the thing.  I reached for the control toggles, gripped and pulled hard to free them.  One complied, the other did not.  Suddenly I was in a death spiral; corkscrew spinning under canopy plummeting from 5000 feet.  I distinctly remember thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me???”

The six hours of ground school that morning had scared the shit out of me.  Videos and anecdotes had elaborated on everything that could go wrong, and there I was starring in a new episode.  Somehow I found clarity in this “now or never moment.”  I let go of the left control toggle and went after the right ‘stuck’ one with both desperate hands.  Eventually, it came free at which point the ocean blue Saber II canopy leveled out.  Just like that, I survived.

It’s a numbers game, skydiving.  I’ve known jumpers burned severely when their path crossed a set of power lines.  I’ve known jumpers who are dead now due to equipment malfunction.  I’ve jumped a mere fifty-five times, mostly without incident, a total novice.   I know the odds are that if I keep jumping one day I’ll end up taking “reserve ride.”  Also known as a ‘cutaway,’ a reserve ride occurs when one’s main chute fails at which point that panicked soul pulls a handle to cut/release the bad chute, and pulls another to deploy the reserve canopy.

Though I’ve not had the pleasure, I assume this operation is accompanied by increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and a healthy dose of holy FU#K style “oh shits!”  The beauty of a reserve chute is that, well, it’s available.  It’s a second chance to survive the day.  Your day.  Your kid’s day, assuming you have kids. Your parent’s day if they happen to still be with you, your friend’s day, and your life insurance company’s day.  If the reserve fails, someone’s looking at a lot of paperwork!

I’m currently on hiatus from the sky life.  That said, I know that learning to skydive has been one of the most transformational experiences of my seemingly endless life.  Seemingly endless?  Yes!  Once I entered the red zone known as midlife, time while flying by seems to have been doing so for eons.  I will go back to jumping when the time is right because the experience is life-affirming, and it gives me something I just can’t get inside “a perfectly good airplane.”

If we have roadblocks in our lives, they are most likely made of fear.  If they are in fact made of fear, they are most likely difficult, if not seemingly impossible to surmount.  We as a culture have a fair amount of shame attached to fear, and so we bury it, deny it, negotiate with it, and finally relegate it to the ego basement.  Avoiding fear is comfortable, useful, life-saving …or is it?  Nowadays when I find myself in a place of deep fear, I remember my time in the sky.  The only way forward, the only way through, is to let go of the plane.

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Perspective

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Morning coffee with my sons is one of my favorite things. Time to talk, and listen.  Most days I take them to school, high school. I love being with them, and the trip allows for an extra bit of connection each day. This week due to unfortunate circumstances the boys will have to drive themselves. The parking lot is a good bit more than a stone’s hurl from the school entrance, a euphemistic ‘hike’ if you will.

“What does your week look like?” I asked, after a sip of very black coffee.

“A lot of walking,” said my youngest with a hint of “ugh!”

“Trade ya!” Said I, glancing at my bandaged foot, clutching my shiny new crutches. Ah, perspective.

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Aren’t You Too Old To Wear a Fireball Whiskey T-shirt?

Fireball T

Oh, millennials, how you see things for what they appear to be…to you!  The exact exchange went something like this.

Millennial: “Aren’t you too old to wear a Fireball Whiskey T-shirt?  As they say, If you’re old enough to buy Fireball, you’re too old to drink Fireball.”

Me: “Whatever.”

Good point though in some respects.  That cinnamon-laced antifreeze is probably not a good nutritional choice at any age.  What struck me as funny was that until that moment ageism had gone missing in my world.  I, no longer being concerned with “fitting in” in the same way that most of us were so obsessed with in high school, didn’t register the ‘age issue’ as it related to “the shirt.”  Whatever…really, again with the “whatever?”  Joking aside, the reality of the conversation ran deeper than cotton.  People divide the value of another individual’s input into categories.  If you’re too old, or too young, too Red or too Blue, to this ethnic background or too that, male or female, you may not be able to connect with an alternate demographic.  To that, I say…maybe.

Seems to me that we as humans have the option to transcend all manner of barriers; be they related to race, socio-economic status, age, gender, etc.  The question is, will we?  If we are willing to open our minds to the circumstances of others can we not then remain pertinent and more importantly in ‘learning mode’ until the day we clock out?  Even if those with whom we attempt to connect are as yet unable to open their minds to our way of thinking?  I’d like to think so.

Pre-industrial revolution cultures valued the accumulation of wisdom.  Hence the term “wise men…and women.”  That wisdom was acquired most commonly by those who had lived long enough, and processed enough life experience to know more than the average sixteen-year-old.  Nowadays said sixteen-year-old can web surf their way to information over the course of a summer that would have formerly taken a lifetime to gather.  Knowledge is power…but is it wisdom?

Back to the ‘Fireball Whiskey T-shirt.”  Yes, I get that the shirt is a marketing tool used by the creators of said elixir, but I really liked the art on the “T” so I bought it.  A fire-breathing lion-ish creature in a majestic, upright pose appealed to me at the moment.  Art, be it’s simple, or rich in complexity is just that…art.  All art is timeless if we, the viewers allow ourselves to join in the concept of timelessness.  We don’t have to love it.  We can even hate it.  Either way, we can choose to allow it.  We can choose to coexist with it without feeling threatened.

I started going grey around the time of my fortieth birthday.  As a lifetime wannabe rock star that did not sit well.  Enter my hair salon phase.  As a fortieth birthday self-gifting experiment I saloned up and had my hair dyed.  I liked it!  So much so that I continued the practice for over a decade.  I didn’t want to be judged by my age; not by peers, not by clients, not by me.  Of course, I realize that my reaction is unique and that everyone else wants to become and, more importantly, look older…ha!  Age is wisdom after all so who doesn’t want to look wise right?

Nowadays I have let nature take its course with my physical being.  Long silver hair spills over my shoulders and as a result, I garner an equal dose of both disapproving looks, and comments along the lines of “I love your hair, do you hear that a lot?”  I do.  But I’ve also heard from colleagues, “Hey, have you ever thought about cutting your hair man” and/or aren’t you too old to be wearing that shirt?”  Whatever, part three!

With any luck, you find being yourself fun.  I know I do.  With the end game in mind, I no longer concern myself with being accessed from afar.  I know that within a few minutes of conversation, value can be transmitted, established, and solidified.  It’s conversation, honest interaction, that allows a person’s value to be understood.  It is connection, human, face to face, that creates the opportunity for transcendence.  It’s the combined powers of wisdom and patience that allow any ‘shirt’ to bear no weight in the outcome of one’s ability to bring gifts to the world.  Going softly into that dark night… in my opinion is a “no.”  “Roar till the end like the lion guy on my T-shirt,” say I.

So I’ll wear that dumb shirt, not cut the hair, give at every opportunity and smile on my way out!  Oh millennials, how our conversations will be different a decade or two from now; when life has had it’s way with you.  And so, with a grin, I raise a shot of fireball to you all while wishing you the absolute best of times!