Day 2 in Auckland, New Zealand
As my body is dangling outside the plane and the air is rushing towards me, I can see nothing but the blue yonder gingerly adorned with hundreds of tufted clouds. Oh yes…and two bodies ahead of me hurling towards the earth like asteroids from space. My heart is beating rapidly as I attempt to breathe in the thinning oxygen, but as this is not meant to be a moment of zen I sway to-and-fro then dive into the cold New Zealand sky (literally throwing caution to the wind).
Plummeting from 16,000 feet in the air I am still somehow able to gain my bearings: like the fact that we are racing rapidly towards the cloud sheet below, unable to see land clearly as of yet. Yet the phrase "free-falling" does not sufficiently explain what it is that I am doing for the first 75 seconds in the air. "Flying" feels to be a far more fitting term. That's right Amelia Earhart…jealous?. Even though from this height it is impossible to comprehend the speed at which I am descending, but once I have leapt from the comforts of the plane - somehow my nervousness dissipates completely.
Not once does the thought, "Please God, don't let me die," cross my mind; something I find largely surprising as I have whispered this prayer hundreds if not thousands of times when facing chancy or treacherous scenarios (e.g. turbulent flights, unsavory carnival rides, swims in the ocean where man-eating sharks have been spotted on numerous occasions). I quickly reflect back on my previous skydive of 9,000 feet: realizing that both then and now I am wholly enjoying the experience, regardless of the overwhelming fears and physical manifestations of anxiety which had been controlling me during the flight up.
Though I had hoped to make some impressive facial expressions and/or gestures towards the cameraman who jumped along with me - the forces of the wind make it near impossible to have substantial control over my movements. My attempt to blow a kiss at the camera looks more akin to an infant learning the use her extremities than a 22-year-old former wimp conquering her fears in the most ostentatious of ways. I am at the will of the sky and at this moment it is impossible for my mind to concentrate on anything other than the sensations occurring around and to my body. Yogis and spiritual seekers alike may rejoice - I have discovered the speedy solution to reaching a true state of meditation - skydiving.
Coming through the clouds is beyond surreal. It is the manifestation of my childhood curiosity: what it would feel like to be within the clouds sans the protection of an airplane or other transport vehicle. My yen to touch and go through them has now been satisfied. Another item from my Bucket List is complete - √ (check).
The parachute opens up and we come down towards the hilly green landscape doing 360 degree spins whilst I am at the helm (a.k.a. steering the parachute). Soon we land and the feeling of hard earth under my feet does not bring a sense of relief, but rather a touch of nostalgia since I have just finished the highest skydive now possible (without supplemental oxygen). It is a feat I had never hoped or thought to accomplish for the majority of my life, but today am more than proud that I have.