Learning to FLY

21 12 2014

The northern Cardinal can leave it’s nest and start flying as early as NINE days after hatching. NINE days. The slackers can take longer – more like 12 days. That’s amazing!

So here I am, 30 years old. That’s 10,950 days that I’ve been alive, and I just now decided to test the wings. Man am I a late bloomer. (Good thing I’m not a Cardinal – I’d be the loser bird still living in mom’s nest-basement as an old spinster….)

Sure, I flew the coop at 18 to go to college (that’s 6570 days old – still ridiculous in bird standards), but that was nothing. And yes, I sort of spread my wings and moved all over the place, tried out various jobs to support myself, and chased a dream here and there.

But I never FLEW. 

Until the day after Thanksgiving 2014. With a little nudge from J.

We hit the road and drove down to the L.A. area to spend Thanksgiving with J’s family. After a wonderful week and a wonderful Thanksgiving, Friday was GO TIME. J and his mom both went with me, and we drove down to Perris Airfield all a-buzz with excitement.

I got to test out my wings in the wind tunnel first. It gives you the same feeling of skydiving without the actual jumping-out-of-the-plane part. You get your super-hot suit on, go through a quick tutorial, then walk into the 12×12 room thing and lay on the mesh net. The wind comes on and up you go!

The instructor dude was in there with me, pulling me around to help out. (I had an issue with crashing in to the wall.) J and his mom were just on the other side of the glass, watching, laughing. I didn’t do too awful, smiled the whole time, and had a pretty good time. You only get a minute in there, so by the time I was figuring out how to make the micro-movements that steered my direction, it was time to jump out the door.

Here’s a little preview of my first tunnel attempt – trying so hard to smile with my cheeks flapping furiously!

Then I got a second minute and moved around a bit more. I kept thinking, “Yeah, ok, this isn’t bad, not too hard, I can totally do this while falling from 13000 feet. Piece of cake!” Then I was done again, and it was time for Step 2: leap from a perfectly good airplane while strapped to a complete stranger. Yay!

I soon discovered that unlike a fledgling cardinal, one does not simply jump. That’s actually Step 3. Step 2 is The Wait. You fill out an incredible mountain of liability paperwork, watch liability videos, record your liability statement that you are willingly taking the risk of skydiving and won’t sue should something go wrong. They really cover their legal bases! And between everything, you sit. And wait. And sit and wait some more.

F.I.N.A.L.L.Y. they called my name and sent me to gear up. I met my tandem partner – a tall joker named Josh with a beard and a great sense of humor – and was given my sexy suit and harness:

skydiving Perris California

Feeling really good about this, guys!

Then we marched towards the airstrip, purpose in every stride. The sky was full of color, a nearly constant parade of parachutes dropping from the planes overhead, dancing the winds as they circled the landing zone. It was quite a sight – a celebration of adrenalin I was so pumped to join.

Our plane was painted like a shark, and was impressively tiny. We crammed in like sardines, overlapping legs and arms and trying to pretend we weren’t nervous. My dude and I were first in, last out. During out flight, we chatted about what we doing, how great it would be, and how much we would want to do it again.

At long last, we reached altitude and the door opened. I was strapped to TandemJosh, clipped in to his harness like a baby strapped to her mother in one of those sling things. If he had been able to stand up, my feet would have just dangled.

Then there was no more thinking. Looking into the vast sky on the other side of the door, my brain finally registered what was about to happen and my stomach filled with butterflies. But it was go time – no room for pondering now! We knealt on the edge, 13,000 feet between us and the ground, and Josh pushed offffffffff


All my internal organs tried to exit out my throat and a strange, high-pitched scream let loose from who-knows-where. I somehow managed to keep my eyes open and screamed for all the new sensations of falling and flying and being free – free in the sky, free in the universe, free from everything except that moment, the wind, the rush of the blood in my veins.

Then Josh gave me the signal to pull the chute. I think I tried to grab the pully thing (I’m not totally sure…) and then WHAM! He pulled it for me and we shot back up as the chute filled above us. As I regained my breath, the world became calmer, quiet, lovely. We could talk to each other and Josh told me to grab the straps that would steer us. He interrupted my stream of “OHMYGOSH THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER I WANT TO DO THIS ALL DAY EVERY DAY DO YOU SEE THAT I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS I LOVE IT THIS IS THE MOST INCREDIBLE THING” to tell me to yank the left strap to my shoe as hard as I could. He yanked with me and we banked up to the right, our legs almost parallel to the ground, swinging in huge circle and causing more screams of delight from me. Then we did the same with the right strap and swung up the other direction. Both of us whooped and hollered as we spun, the world no longer making sense.

skydiving circles, Perris CA

J managed to get a shot of us sideways in one of our circles!

Way too soon, Josh took the steering straps back and explained how we would land. I finally looked down and saw how close the end of my adventure was. It felt like we came in really fast, and Josh yelled “Landing gear UP!” I pulled my knees to my chest and we slid in on our legs, Josh’s rear taking the impact. I lay there laughing, catching my breath, until Josh nudged me. “You can stand up now…and get off me.”

I jumped to my feet, pink rising in my cheeks, and found my legs shaky and weak. Josh and I high-fived about 6 times, hugged, and even did an awkward chest-bump. I think I was still laughing, too, unable to stop myself. He rolled up our pretty parachute and we headed back to the building with the gear and where J and his mom were waiting. I tried not to skip but only half succeeded. I’ve never felt such….elation. 

finished jump, skydive Perris

I DID IT! Can we go again?!

Josh had videoed the jump with a camera attached to his wrist, so we watched it. The look on my face as we left the plane was priceless – pure terror. The rest of it was just us screaming while my neck and face flapped like a dog’s jowls hanging out a window. I told him I wasn’t getting the video, so he turned it off after the chute opened, and despite the hilarious facial expressions, we still didn’t buy. Sorry you’re missing out. It couldn’t capture the jump the way I experienced it, so I didn’t see the point.

But the drive back, and a quick visit with the family, I couldn’t shut up about it. J, his sister, his mom, and one of his cousins have all jumped there too, so we swapped stories.

It took me a really long time to calm down. We met friends of mine for a fun evening in West Hollywood, and I still couldn’t vanquish the grin from my lips. Thankfully we went to a comedy show, so it worked out well. The high lasted through much of our long trek back north, and I felt a motivation and fire that I haven’t felt in a long time. Like spreading my arms and falling through the air gave me a new perspective – a kick in the pants to get back to living life like it should be.

Is that how the cardinal feels when she takes the frightening plunge from her safe nest? She leaves the comforts of the only world she knows, risking it all to leave behind the security of her mother and her home. But in doing so, she gains a new life – a new world! – as she takes flight and discovers the excitement and adventure to be had.

High-five, cardinal. I think we’re on to something here….





4 responses

22 12 2014
Trudie Denney

Kalista, you amaze me. My Susan would have been so much like you. Very adventurous.

22 12 2014

Thank you, Miss Trudie!

22 12 2014
Stacie Chadwick

That suit is awesome. Congratulations on finding your wings. =)

22 12 2014

Thanks! I was a little sad they didn’t let me keep the sexy suit… 🙂

Give it to me straight -

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: