Stillness

photo-44I went skydiving once. I did what is called an accelerated free fall (AFF) from 12,500 feet of altitude with two dive instructors in the Mohave desert in California.

I want to talk about the sound.

I went with my friend, Greg, who is accomplished at everything he touches, and had been sky diving several times before. I trusted (and still would) his judgement that this was an upstanding place. Because, you want to ask these things before you put your life in someone else’s hands and throw yourself out of a plane.

There are a lot of things I could say about the experience of skydiving, but what I want to talk about is the sound.

We had two days of ground school. Two days because it was too windy to jump on the first day. Lots of talking, very social. Our plane was a twin otter. A small-ish two propeller plane, much larger than Cessna, much smaller than every else you might be likely to have flown in. And noisy.

During an AFF, the student jumps with two instructors, one on the right (main), one on the left (reserve), each holding on to the flight suit at shoulder and hip. The rip cord should be pulled at 6000 feet of altitude. One wears an altimeter and does drills during the time in between leaving the plane and pulling the cord.

There is a lot of talking. There is a lot of noise. The wind is rushing and all the talking is yelling and gestures. The main instructor is on the right side because the rip cord for the main chute is on the right. He or she helps the student deploy the main chute. The ripcord for the reserve chute is on the chest, but is pulled with the left hand, so the reserve instructor is on the left. The idea is that if the main chute does not deply, the reserve instructor will stay with the student until the reserve is deployed. In reality, I was told, a partial deployment slows the rate of descent so rapidly that the reserve instructor may not be able to stay.

In any case. During the first half of the dive, the free fall, there was noise, there was company, there was talking, there was wind rushing. Then (with help), I pulled the rip cord, deployed the main chute, and there was silence.

Complete silence.

One minute, there were people, and there was yelling, things were happening, the wind was rushing — and the next minute, complete stillness.

This stillness. This was the feeling after the fight. After the illness was over, the disease had won. I’ve seen it before. It’s the bloody gauze on the floor of the emergency room and the empty wrappers, and everything discarded that hit the ground in the rush. It’s the “Clean that up before the family comes in, and stop that EKG tape from running.” Stillness.

But different, of course. Just the change in state. I loved flying the parachute in. Solo. No faults. Exhilarating.

The similarity is the rituals. Stillness, and then a set of things to check off. To finish. The comparison breaks down as soon as the drogue deploys. One is safety. The other is just…stillness.

I’ll tell you more later.

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3 responses to “Stillness

  1. Pingback: Fighting. Yelling. Dying. | only one thing matters·

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