Wednesday, December 02, 2009

moab


I.

I'm lying next to you in the back of Nate and Sarah's car, watching through the sunroof as the power lines cut slashes through the twilight sky above us. I roll my head to the side, pillowed by my arm, to look at you. You're already looking straight at me, bright green eyes steadily meeting my gaze.

Your jump was perfect. Your jumps are always perfect. I can hear the rustle of nylon in the stowage beneath us; I can smell the faded minerality of the New River Gorge in the air, still caught in the fabric of your canopy.

You always glow after a jump, as though your blood is running itself ragged with joy through your veins, thrilled to have flipped over the side of a cliff and yet, miraculously, still be contained in your beloved vessel. I want to feel that, too.

I tell you that I wish they'd made good on their threat to prankishly PCA me from Mary's Gash the other afternoon. I say this because want to thrill you with my chutzpah, almost as much as I want to feel my feet swinging over the earth. I say this because I'm almost sure I would have survived.

You're careful.

"Not too fast, babe."

"Why not?"

"I don't want you to get hurt."

"Why not?"

I want you to say it.

I say it with my eyes and my lingering quarter-smile and my fingers on your sweater. I think you may have said it with the kiss you placed, so tenderly, above my brow.

II.

I'm making breakfast for everybody.

There's an assembly line going - a bowl full of cheerily-orange shredded cheese, a stack of steaming tortillas, a chopboard strewn with redolent cilantro, and a little saucepan of spicy vegan potato-and-veg (from which I plan to set aside my own portion).

The yard sale is in full swing. Nathan's dancing on the roof to curry shoppers from the passing cars. I can see you in the street, slinging a ball back and forth to a friend like a ten-year-old. There's a great-dane quality to your bounding strides; an ease to your laugh unlike anything I've ever heard. I smile. My toes curl. I keep fussing with the pots and pans.

I spoon and season and sprinkle and roll. As I work, I suddenly feel strange - like an impostor, almost. I want to earn these new friends. I want to belong here.

As I pad out across the bare wood to the front door, my cat and their dog are standing eerily close, looking up at me. There's no tension. They watch me pass, backlit golden by the morning sun.

As I step outside, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude.

III.

I don't like it.

You're standing at the edge, your canopy spilling over the side of Monkey Lips. There's a ledge below you, and a boulder. Some of the nylon is resting on the boulder. You can't see it from where you're standing.

I don't like it.

The photographer behind me, perched himself on a flaky promontory, sees it too. I ask him. He squints. I call out. You can't hear. I don't want to run to you; maybe you'd exit before I reached you.

Finally, another fella comes over to stand next to me. The minute he sees you, he bellows. You draw up your canopy and move back from the ledge.

My heart falls back down into my chest from where it was lodged in my throat.

This won't be the last time.

IIII.

I'm watching you tell stories at the dinner table.

I'm so lucky that my lips shiver to think about it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

on love, and other superpowers


"I think I need a montage," I said, taking greedy pulls from the weak Utah beer in my hand. It's been a good long time since I was surrounded by people I don't know, doing things I have no idea how to do - and seeping with cover-your-mouth-awful poison oak, at that.

The girl who had never done more than amble up to a higher rock with a beer was suddenly pressed to outrun looming rainclouds by scrabbling up the sheer walls of a slot canyon. The girl who had all but rolled her eyes at the thought of a 30-foot ascent for a prettier view of Joshua Tree was suddenly vaulting up chimneys to a 600-foot-high exit point. The girl who didn't much like the idea is suddenly very, very keen for sticky shoes and a harness and some rope and some clinky things.

My upper body is as sore as my poison-plant rash is itchy, and that's sayin' somethin'. So worth it.

The balance of hand and foot and slide and stone has done interesting things. Commuting back from work on the bike today, I realized an eerily appreciable change in my balance - I perched my bike perfectly over its dead-stopped wheels for a solid few seconds before I realized I was doing it. It was startling. It was good. I want more.

Monday, November 09, 2009

i promise to be perfect


I'm fascinated by our recontextualization.

Over there, despite the off-putting plate tectonics of my vestigial life, we were simplified by the dynamics of the places we moved through. There was a simple poetry in the single backpack shoved in the back of that little blue Citigolf, white dashes flashing by on the pavement below, a hand resting on my knee. Back in the States, the overflow of comforts and options and niceties is almost stifling. We're working so hard, but it's so different.

I always thought I'd have to pay dearly for this. I've never had reason to believe that partnership didn't come with a hefty price tag - financial, emotional, aspirational - and that I'd never find anyone to truly keep pace, anyway. I'd gotten so close to settling, so many times, just-barely saved by part of me that's born to run, despairing at the practical uselessness of love.

Somebody's running with me - right next to me, on his own. In the same direction.

He's inspiring. He's brilliant. He never implies that I oughta put on the brakes and wait for him. He twists back his very own throttle and flashes me a great big smile.

C'mon, babe. No time to waste.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

the envelope, please


I'm finally allowed to talk about it.

I've been invited to join an expedition in the spring of next year. It's not a trip. It's absolutely, positively nothing like a vacation. It's a BASE expedition to the arctic. It comes complete with a world-class, awe-inspiring group of co-travelers and some delightfully resonant environmental aspects. And there's me, bio number nine on the 'team' tab, managing the base camp.

I won't be jumping; I'll be doing much the same job that I do in production, helping out with the logistical heavy lifting. I'll be using my WFR (with any luck, quite lightly). I'll be learning a metric shitton. And I'll be having the time of my life.

...which will then segue into the next time of my life, and the time of my life after that, and after that.

Polar bears, me and some guys in flying squirrel suits are comin' to save you. Hang in there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

no return


"Skydiving is addictive," he said.

I believed him, but he hadn't told the whole truth.

"Better start a timer when you leave the drop zone," he should have said, "'cause you'll start to go slowly crazy over the course of days you're not wearing a parachute."

I'm chasing myself in circles around the room today, clearly in need of a fix.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

inertia, joy, and boundlessness


I feel so light.

I'm moving so quickly under my own power. I'm busier than I've been in years, which is funny because my capacity for productive work has always been high. These days, when my energy peaks it's like sticking a finger into a light socket and, when I recharge, I recharge quickly.

This goal-laden calendar in front of me is playing testament to how solidly this is clicking into place - it's as though I'm an electromagnet, and I just figured out how to turn myself on.

Monday, September 28, 2009

learning curve


I.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it felt great to spend a long day at the DZ with absolutely no intention of jumping out of anything. Instead, I spent the day crawling around with the lead packer, learning how to convince my slippery behemoth of a canopy that it really, really wanted to squoosh down into the little d-bag. I packed it three times after I nailed it, just to be sure.

I'm fascinated by the design of my parachute. It's poetry. Despite the rawness of my fingers from the stows and the grouchiness of my knees from the crawling, I discovered that I really like to pack. I like to manipulate the individual parts of the thing, because I find them generally miraculous - and I like to have my hands full of little miracles.

After the class, I had the singular treat of being perched on a picnic table, congratulatory beer in hand. Three of us alternately swung from the low branches of a nearby tree and watched video of freefliers catapulting each other into the wild blue yonder. I learned about the Horny Gorilla and the See Ya Later, Mr. Bill. As the sun settled lazily down behind the Ortegas, we were howling with glee.

Pretty great day, actually.

II.

What's on tap (other than skydiving, Spanish, shootin', and my professional pursuits, of course):
* Keith Code school, for extra vroom
* WFR Certification, so's I can convince folks to let me ground crew for 'em
* Get my PADI OWD, because if I get eaten by a shark it'll be gorgeously foreshadowed in the narrative of my life

The goal? Every day, be awesomer.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

the nights are to get through


I.

I'm holed up at the DZ again. I think I might be hiding. It's as good a place as any to hide.

Uncertainty is exciting. It's *the* exciting thing, as a matter of fact. Certainty is the death of interest.

Even so, a bit of encouragement would be nice. I'm ready to gnaw off my own arm.

II.

Someone compared me favourably to "the redheadeded girl" on the TV show 'Mad Men' today. As I'm TVless, I hadn't seen it - so I googled it, and whaddaya know. It's Saffron, from my favourite episode of Firefly.

Best. Compliment. Ever. I'm the new mayor of blushtopolis.

III.

I've made the same mistake so many times. This time is different. If I'm making a mistake, it's going to be a brand-new one.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

aim high


Yesterday's jumping was a delight. Being packed into a plane with a grip of Air Force flyboys was like suddenly being surrounded by tussling, hilarious brothers. I felt so at home in there, sardined in with a bunch of khaki camo, showered in affectionate razzing and gear checks.

I'm so glad for my Air Force roots, as ephemeral as they are. It's good blood to have in my veins. I'll always like blue uniforms best, and I'll always tear up at that damn Lee Greenwood song.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

snapshot


Things I know to be true:

1. The heart of darkness is where all the light is.
2. I'm hurtling forward at top speed around totally blind corners, and I've never had so much fun.
3. My heart and my head are finally in agreement. It's flabbergasting what magic happens when they're working on the same projects.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

the princess and the skygod

I.

My dreams have been incredibly lucid, of late.

There’s a level of realism there that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. For the past three days, I’ve woken up a bit tired; I’m living a second life.

I think it’s about anticipation. Impatience. A wanderlust so strong (and so, well, lusty) that I don’t have enough time in the day to see to it.

We’re driving in a borrowed van conversion, windows rolled down. I’ve perched one foot on the side mirror outside, and I’m enjoying the feeling of the warm, humid air washing over it. I’m singing to myself, as per usual.

There’s a jungle on one side of us. There’s a cliff on the other. The road’s rough, but you’re somehow managing to keep a hand on my knee as you drive it. My hair is tied into pigtails. Your cheeks are scruffy with two-week-old growth, and you’re laughing.

We lurch to the top of the pass. The jungle is thrown like a nubby green blanket over everything we can see from up here. The canyon slithers through it, the sun slashing down the rocks as far as it can manage before the shadows take over. The sky is scattered liberally with the signature silver-bottomed billows of the tropics. It smells like greenstuff and petrichor and our sweat, salty and slightly sour from last night’s carousing.

I perch on the hood with a water bottle, scanning the endless wideness all around us. You parked close to the edge, but I’m at peace with edges now. I can hear the scratch of radio in the van behind me, static splashing over a man rattling on in Spanish.

You hop up next to me and playfully pin me to the metal beneath. I lose a sandal in the scuffle and it cuts a beautiful arc through the air, sailing down into the maw of the canyon.

Your lips find mine. I hold tight to your wide shoulders, and your pendant taps the space over my heart.

II.

Los Angeles, I don’t love you anymore.

We’ve been together so long, and I know you so well – but we both knew from the start that it wasn’t going to be forever. I was just a kid when we met. I didn’t know who I was.

I know you, sugar. I know you really, really well. I’ve seen you ugly, and I’ve seen you beautiful. I’ve seen you wake up, and I’ve heard your voice as you toss and turn. I’ve suckled at your teat, and I’ve laughed at your ridiculous posturing, and I’ve told so many of your secrets, and I’ve dabbled noncommitally in plans to stay with you for always. Those plans always rang so hollow. I knew it was a futile exercise.

I find the devotion of your other lovers hilarious. If they knew you like I did, they wouldn’t chase you. They wouldn’t bleed themselves out in the hopes that you’ll love them. After all, the only reason you took such good care of me is that I stopped caring what you thought years ago.

Ten years is a long time, honey. I did love you. Some part of me always will. You’ll come up in conversation – so many lunatic anecdotes – and I’ll laugh, and people will wonder why I left you.

You know. And I know.

Good luck with your next one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

glide


I'm still thinking about it.

It was this past Sunday, on my second jump. I'd just done six perfect flips, popped a perfect canopy, and had settled in for a sweet swoop down.

Suddenly, I noticed I wasn't alone.

A red-tailed hawk was slipping through the wind perhaps ten feet off to my right. From where I was, hanging in the sky directly next to him, I was able to watch the air moving through his flight feathers as he rode it.

He caught me staring and shot me a look. I glanced away, bashful.

He gave me an up-and-down onceover, tossed his head, and spiralled effortlessly down.

One day, I'll be able to give playful chase.

Friday, September 11, 2009

try this trick and spin it


I.

I was Tyler Durden last night.

Somewhere in a black-sangria dreamland, I found myself standing at the window next to Marla. She and I were calmly watching everything explode.

It was a symphony of twisting, shivering steel. It was orange against black. It was beautiful.

II.

I got into the tunnel yesterday afternoon for my weekly training and, due to a titch of a miscommunication with my coach about what I was working on, ended up doing backflying work. Despite the surprise and total lack of any briefing, I managed to figure it out and get bouncin' around. I didn't feel any impacts in the tunnel, but I noticed some funky bruising when I hopped out of the shower later that evening: a bloom of purple in the middle of my spine, and a spill of blue around one elbow.

Rubbing arnica into my arm before drifting off, surrounded by the rosemary piquancy of the oil, I smiled to myself. My body shifts and bruises and tightens around this cage of bones, and my heart grows bigger every day.

III.

How will I stay here until February? It's like trying to hold a wave on the sand.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

relative wind


When I was a baby in the Philippines, my dad would pass my room as he went off to work in the mornings and hear me singing to myself in my crib. Even now, when I have a little too much inside to safely hold there, I'll sing to let the valve open a bit.

Today, I sang myself from canopy check all the way to the ground. Twice.

So much has changed, so quickly.

It's amazing to me how different the door looks, first of all. On that very first jump, shoved back against my tandem pilot with my fingers grazing the good Doctor's shoulder in a silent, slightly embarrassed bid for encouragement, the door looked like the period at the end of a sentence. I mused on the apparent flimsiness of its scuffed-but-rather-clear plastic. I watched smoke curling up from the hundreds of little fires on the far-below African landscape, felt the unfamiliar tug of webbing around my legs, and nudged myself forward like a woman possessed. I remember watching the etched quietude of my companion's face as he glanced behind him to check our position in the plane, and the not-quite-half-smile he flashed me as he rolled out into the void. I watched the wind take him. I followed.

Now, the door becomes a picture frame for an expressionist portrait of myself. When I leap and arch, I'm looking at the feathered tips of wings that only I can see; wings that spring strong from my shoulderblades. As I slide down to press the softness of my stomach into the breath of the earth, I feel her reaching for me - snaking fingers along my neck to rustle my hair, curling around my waist and thighs, tickling my palms. When I flip, I feel her catch me. When I turn, she grabs my hands and dances along. When I pull, she plays with me like a marionette, and I'm a beautiful doll spinning in a sky full of beautiful dolls, spinning.

Other people seem to enjoy jumping with each other. I see them planning complicated manouevers, rolling kiddishly around on their boards, grabbing and releasing and skidding to and fro.

Where I am right now, the complicated games seem needless - I have so little time with her, and I don't want to share it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

stifling


It's too damned hot here.

I'm sitting alone in an empty drop zone waiting area, watching the scorched air wash through the sparse forest of windsocks. John Lennon is singing to me over the speakers, softly begging me to shoot him. A tiny plane hustles quietly, almost furtively, down the dirt runway. Its dust forms long fingers to comb the landing grass. My skin prickles with the ovenish breeze; my eyes burn.

I'm not here because it's fun. Not now, anyway. It's much like motorcycling in that way; it took ride after ride after ride for me to feel the way the tires catch the road, for the throttle to have an easy conversation with my hand, for the heavy gear to feel more safe than awkward. Now, to nestle down over the bike and click through the gears, it's hard to remember being perched so insecurely. Sitting here today by the flightline, I remember so very well.

This place will fill with people tomorrow - most of them to be strapped into tandem harnesses, their first-time nervousness zinging through the space. I'll fill my head with counting and gestures and procedures, feeling the parachute like a pair of reassuring hands on my shoulders. I'll know where all my pins and handles and cables are. I'll remember to arch beautifully and pull cleanly. I'll fly. I'll flare. I'll keep my eyes on the horizon and settle gently to earth. I'll be just fine. And, for a few delicious moments in space, I'll be released from myself.

The fact remains, though, that I don't want to be here alone.

I'm in purgatory, and I know it. I'm grounded here, my six-month calendar showing a carefully-plotted course for a solid armful of actionable goals, and I'm chipping steadfastly away at them in a typically Annetteish way.

My heart, however? My heart is the Hound of the Baskervilles. It's on a long leash that's tied to my waist, and I'm wearing rollerskates.

I try to grab hold of something solid. I try to calm it down. I try to steer. I can't stop my heart from chasing every blissful little lark; from diving into the gaping maw of every insecurity. The solution to the problem, of course, is to cut the leash. I can't.

This is about so much more than blue eyes. This is, first and foremost, about diving headfirst into the world.

Still, I know that I wouldn't want it nearly this much without them.

The vulnerability of that unnerves me. Nothing is promised, and nothing is sure, and I'm unaccustomed to the nakedness of faith.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

walkabout


My little orange book is full, now, as is my heart. Logic is huffing and puffing to catch up.

It's sad. It's complicated. It's joyful. It's RIGHT. It's fair and it's unfair and it would be much better for the narrative structure of this thing if the plane didn't make it back to LAX. Cleaner. Nicer denouement.

I don't know how I failed to notice that the room was on fire, but now the sensors are melted and the room is full of rain.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

gravity


I wonder how an astronaut feels, down here. Walking through city streets, heels hitting sidewalk, the occasional jostle of crossed paths, a mumbled apology. Fork scraping plate. Flopping into the driver's seat, a moment listening to the key's-in-door's-open dinging sound, the rumble as the key turns. Television voices, radio voices, a thousand overheard conversations from lovemaking to argument. The moment right after jumping into a pool - everything suspended, and the blood remembers - and then there's the surface, and air.

I wonder if they look at someone over the table and think about what they look like floating. I wonder if they want to tell them - I've been somewhere so different. I want to take you there. I want you to know it, too, and to feel these sandpaper feelings at this all-around-us-world, so that I may be less alone.

I wonder if it's at all like this.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

queen of culver studios


There were so many of us there, listening for each other in a forest of swinging china balls, the orbs bouncing off our arms and shoulders as we muscled the frame through the narrow studio alley. Wending and weaving through an obstable course of parked cars, trucks, and forklifts, we began in anger and ended in howling laughter, our shouts echoing from the high stage walls.