Although many are shared with family or community, some rituals we must create just for ourselves. This usually involves some inventiveness. To honour our fullness, our desires, our lives and our strengths. What is significant to us, must be witnessed by our own being, to strengthen our desires and serve as fuel for the journey. In this next excerpt, I had come through a time of turmoil and felt the call to begin anew; fresh, begin a new perspective with an eagle's eye view.
SKYSAILING: take one.
Imagine a beautiful sunny, warm September day. A Friday, no less, my favourite day of the week. The agenda of the day, a fun, fun, fun birthday in the sun. Paragliding off of Grouse Mountain, in Vancouver. Massage at 11:00 am. A leisurely lunch to follow. (Although, as it turns out, I couldn't eat. Something about nerves.....) Jump scheduled at 16:00 hours.
A lovely day, yet S't'r'e's's's's's'......set in, about 60 minutes before the departure time. Sentimental goodbyes to Zulu, my sweet cat, hopeful of my safe return. Do I really want to do this? Driving to Grouse seems an eternity. Reminders to myself, with both my inside and outside voice, that this was a voluntary decision.
The tram ride up the mountain, feels uneasy enough. Why am I doing this? The question remains....
My stomach is a churning mess.
Arriving to the appex, I greet a laid back gentleman with a walkie-talkie, 3 days of stubble and a no frills attitude. Sign the waiver. Sign the visa.
For my death and injury, the pilot is now off the hook and I am officially committed.
Next up, I immediately injure myself. In what becomes the most perilous portion of the journey, entering the 4 x 4; I crack my head hard, right off the hop, just climbing into the truck! Well done. Next, a rocky ride up a steep slope to the next highest portion of the mountain; squashed into the back seat, with no control of the window.
“Are you trying to roll down the window?” Mr Charm-school bellows, “you can't. “
Great, the lesson of forfeiting control has already begun (otherwise known as surrender).
So, I am now sitting with five strangers, in the backseat, prone to motion sickness I might add, with
a throbbing head, travelling toward my leap of faith.
Bracketed by two silent women; I think, shouldn't I introduce myself if these are the last people on earth I see? A petite dark haired woman from Berlin, another heavily accented German woman from Ontario and myself of Germanic descent. Hmmm. My very 'rigorous scientific study' sees a slight suicidal tendency in Teutonic women.
"Was this your idea?" she asks me...(who elses' could it be?).
She states for her it was a gift from her husband. Marital problems, I think to myself. Very sneaky.
We arrive at a peak, which now dwarfs the station that I thought was already high enough to launch from!
Three pilots walk ahead with three huge sacks on their backs. They suggest we 'sit and relax on the rocks'......
The para-sails begin to unfold and I witness cords that look no stronger than string licorice. 'Are these at least edible? ' I can only hope, imagining being stranded in the trees, gnawing at the cords for survival.
Waiting for our cue, we are swarmed by buzzing, biting mosquitoes, attracted by our fear induced sweat. If there is one thing that could force me to leap off of a mountain; one thing, more motivating than running from a mad man, a dangerous tiger or snakes, it would be, MOSQUITOES. This, I think, is very, very, cleverly disguised motivation for the jump compliments of mother nature.
We wait; growing ever more anxious, swatting mosquitoes, sharing nervous sighs....
"I am worried about the landing" one of the German's pipes up.
"The landing!!".... 'Good god! I hadn't even begun to consider the landing.....'
Suddenly, we are waved down by the zealous fellas. It is time.
What was earlier referred to as 'ground school' in the brochure, consisted of,
"Hi I'm Gavin, step into this harness”, (no sturdier it seems, than your lunch backpack as a kid).
“Are you sure it's supposed to feel this loose?” I begin my prattle of questions.
He hooks us in with two giant rock climbing caribiners.
“That's it?Two hooks”?
“Okay...well...well, are these stitched on okay”? I pull frantically at the loops.
Ignoring me now, he continues, “Now, here's what you do, I need you to walk fast--
and when I say run, run as fast as you can. Don't look at your feet. Look straight out or you'll lose your balance.”
“What if I freeze up”? (Now, I have made him nervous.)
“The faster you run, the safer the takeoff”.
'Nough said. I decide I will run like the wind.
“Okay walk”, he says,
“Yes' ...go....whoa, now run......RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
And so I run like the wind; like the wind with the drag of a grown man and a wind-sail behind me. Good thing I am built like a Clydesdale. Finally my linebacker shoulders earn their stripes.
And then, my feet no longer touch earth, just like that, I am suspended above terra firma, and flying. Wind in my face. Silence.
The world suddenly falls away.
My mind finally shuts up.
IT is calm. I am calm.
I am flying.
IT is ridiculously amazing, the most tremendous feeling of utter freedom. Emancipation.
IT feels like we are floating for hours. Far below, we soar over forest, mountains, clouds, sea, city, neighbourhoods, other soaring birds, tiny toy cars; suspended in a surreal movie, none of it involves me and yet there I am, a part of it all.
Floating above the altitude of worry, obligation, and fear. It is pure joy and freedom. It is simply awesome.
Bliss as I have never known.
And then........then it comes time to land.
Cognitive Dissonance, take two.
Brain stem: “oh my god, oh my god”,
Pre-frontal cortex: “you are okay, breathe, you are safe”.
Limbic system: “omg, omg”.
........and so it goes.....
Burning off the altitude, involves a corkscrew downward spiral, much like a descent into hell. I start doing Lamaze breathing, 'phew, phew, ' like I am in full on labour, as we plummet rapidly toward the soccer field below. Nausea has joined me as a fierce companion and I desperately hope I do not vomit to sully such a majestic adventure.
I am kneeling on the ground. Then immediately I slump, starfished and immobile. Seriously motion sick. Glamourous, this is not, but I am deeply relieved to be hugging the ground.
"You did great" he says, the usual build up. Although, I believe it to be true, because for the half hour we flew together, I was free as a bird, and floating on the thermals with a peaceful and euphoric smile on my face.
Now however, I refuse to move, grateful for the experience, but no longer able to cooperate. I am still calm and deeply satisfied on the inside, if not a little green. There is no way you could get me back into that truck. Forget it. No more. We shake hands, he gives me the photo disk, and we say “Adios”.
So.......there i lie, under the glorious, expansive sky that graciously accepted and buoyed me; now cradled by the earth that welcomed me safely back, and, I simply wait.
Wait for the nausea to pass, for the brain to catch up to the body, for my spirit to return to me; as I can still sense it high above, flying on a wing and a prayer, playing birthday antics, and sharing my dare.
And I am happy and amazed.
During this longest winter night, another significant time of change and passing; darkness and winter can both serve to remind us that we are enriched by having these contrasts in our lives, lending greater poignancy to the joy of growing light.
New beginnings are relative to our own innate timing as well as the events that shape our lives. On the auspicious winter solstice, I light a single candle to warm the night. Reflections of the passing year and preparations for Christmas are in full swing. Not every beginning is marked by a literal leap off a mountain, yet a leap of faith remains our most prized possession against the darkness and self-doubt, to light the way.
Rituals can be simple and still powerful. Like the lighting of a candle.
Happy Holidays and Peace to you and yours.