(A rare piece of descriptive writing, done as a demonstration for a Humanities course assignment – and a record of what I did on my fortieth birthday…)





I stretched out my arms, my legs, bowed my torso, and quickly enough proved Newton right... falling at thirty-two feet per-second squared, from a height of 13,000 feet, I stopped flipping head over heels and leveled out. Green earth below, blue sky above, just the way it's supposed to be... God--what a view!

The way it’s supposed to be? If I stuck with 'the way it's supposed to be' I would have kept my feet on the ground! Altimeter? check. I looked right--sure enough, there he was, hangin' onto my jumpsuit, just as he said he'd be, my brother Steve. "12,000 feet!" I shouted. He just nodded, his helmet temporarily blocking that goofy grin of his. I looked left--there was Rob, my instructor, in symmetrical formation to Steve. "12,000 feet!" He nodded in return. So far so good. Everything going according to plan. Shit! whatamisupposed to do next???!

My heart must have been pounding then, but I'll be damned if I was aware of it. Less than twenty minutes before I was slightly anxious and mostly perturbed; over six hours of training the night before (including the first time I've ever taken a test after midnight), and more drill bright and early that stunning, crisp May morning. Happy birthday. Let's get on with this already. I thought we were supposed to leave before noon. Good lord, if the other novice goes first I might not get out of here until three or four o'clock...

Minutes after that thought I was on board the huge plane that carried about twenty other sky-divers. Experienced parachutists. Men and women, all ages, all who bore the confidence of those who know what the hell they are doing. What the hell was I doing? Over the hill and taking a leap of faith all in one day. "You're gonna' love it," Steve assured me as the plane made its steady ascent. "Finally someone else in my family is going to know firsthand what's been driving me all these years!" Steve has been "jumping" nearly every available weekend since he left the armed services, half a lifetime ago.

7,000 ft. 6,000 ft. "Five-five!" I shouted, "Five-five!" I don't know when they let go of me, I just went and pulled the ripcord... wherethehellsthat 'chute? I panicked. wherethehellstha... sweet Jesus, there it is. Oh, that's right I wasn't supposed to look for it right away--it's right on time, I was too early. ohmigod, it's not deploying properly -- where are the rizors? pull the rizors! I could hear the foil unfold, felt the tug on my harness, and suddenly I was suspended...

no longer falling, fairly well floating, wind no longer roaring past my ears. Silently coasting... what a RUSH! Such an incredible shift of speed, and now the reward for such folly--a view of the land below, and the aerial ballet of the other parachutes, dancing to the silent melody of the gentle breeze. Not too much time for soaking it all in though... I still had to land that sucker!