Juxtapositioning

words are foreplay for the soul
February 28th, 2009

Skydiving

Yeah, so I jumped out of an airplane the other day.

It’s well known than New Zealand is famous for bungy-jumping. When we got here there were countless airport brochures covered with alluring photos of smiling people about to hurl themselves to their doom. I thought about skydiving and it seemed sane by comparison—only a little daring like a walk on the foot-high barrier next to the path instead of on the path itself, rather than bungy-jumping daring of hurling yourself right off the cliff next to the path. I could do that.

“Karen’s going to go skydiving,” Matthew remarked to his mom right after we got here. (He had done it himself once before and felt no need to this time.)

She looked at me. “That’s expensive,” she said dismissively. So I ruled it out. Expensive. Not gonna do it.

We got off on our own finally last week, rented a car and headed northward to Taupo. Had little idea what was there besides a big lake and volcanic stuff underground. It was away and that was enough.  We stayed at a “backpacker’s,” like a hostel with a communal kitchen and gathering area. I chatted up some of the people there, from everywhere, it seemed, except New Zealand: the U.K. Nova Scotia, some Scandinavian country, etc.

“What’s the best thing you did here?” was my question.

“Skydiving!!”

The world tilted a little on its axis, and priorities changed. Plus, I am (apparently) immensely suggestible. Go on, tell me what I will like and I will believe you.

Skydiving.

So we went whitewater river rafting, addressing another of my fears (Fear A = Heights. Fear B = Drowning in Water), and it was fab. A high. Easier than I thought. Plus I did not fall out of the raft, a huge plus in my opinion.

That morning I made the reservation for skydiving later that day, for after the rafting, after consulting everyone else in the hostel. Unanimous. “Were you scared?” I asked them. “Of course! Best thing I ever did!”

Okay then.

This, by the way, was a Skydiving Upselling Moneymaking Machine Industry. In case I missed the point or any of the 12000 opportunities to buy merchandise/photos/videos/memorabilia. They wasted not a moment and had the whole thing choreographed. The process of Sell + Wait Around + Get Nervous Waiting + Can’t Change Your Mind Now + Get Ready + Jump + After Jump + More Selling of Things You Hadn’t Known Were for Sale + Pay for Everything You Agreed to Buy While Under Duress took several hours.

It still involved falling out of a plane though.

The ride up took 20 minutes, they said. It may have been five minutes or it may have been an hour, crammed butt to stomach into a small airplane with about 10 other people. I couldn’t count. I couldn’t think. Every few minutes the guy behind me, to whom I was attached by a system of clips and harnesses that I couldn’t see and only nominally trusted that even existed, would show me his gigantic-dialled wrist altimeter, indicating we were at 1000 feet, then 5000 feet, and on upward to 15000 feet (which didn’t even actually show on his altimeter that ended inconveniently at 10000).

Thousands of feet? Meant nothing. I was in the Zone, the Zone of Not Freaking Out.

Pretty soon—hours? days?—the guy behind me pushed me toward the open door of the airplane. This was not happening. Everyone else had disappeared (where did they go? I never saw them leave, actually). There was nothing else to do but surrender and let him push me out too.

Put your head back and curl your feet back. Banana.

My head is back and I am falling.  There is a reassuring weight behind me, reassuring only in the lightest sense. I am falling.

Falling.

Tap on the shoulder. Let go of the harness that is keeping you from (falling?) dying and put your arms out like you are (falling?) flying.

Can’t make sense of what I am seeing. My ears hurt, cold. My fingertips, cold. I begin to worry about my ears and their reaction to the slightest wind. This is way more than the slightest wind.

Falling.

Clouds? That’s clouds there, the clouds we flew through earlier. There they are.

Now through the clouds and there’s more reassurance. Greenbrownblue, colors swirling, moving so fast.

A tap on the shoulder. Something about a parachute. Suddenly vertical, swinging. Still can’t make sense of what I am seeing. I may have said “fuck.”

Not dead.

Swinging, angling around in stomach-churning circles, over the lake (OVERTHELAKEWATERDROWNING), swinging.

Flying.

“Relax,” the wielder of parachutes behind me says.

Falling.

This part should last longer, but there are parachutes far below, colorblips beneath my dangling feet (were they cold too? I can’t remember now), and there is a race, must catch up.

Hold your legs up, let me see you practice, noooo I just want to fly here forever, slowly, just gliding, enjoy the moment.

No, down.

Then, on the ground (that’s the ground? It feels so … solid), no longer tilting. There is Matthew, two cameras, now I am supposed to smile and look happy to not be dead.

Elation, of a sort.

What just happened?

Ten minutes later my whole body began to shake, and it took two days to hear properly again.  Every night since I have dreamed about the open door of that airplane.  I still don’t know what it looked like to fall out of it (eyesclosedeyesclosed) so I see it now in my dreams.

Still a blur in my mind, I don’t know what’s real. I have a line item to look at on my credit card statement. I have photos of me, so tiny, still swinging from brightyellow parachute in a red jumpsuit.

I have dreams.

Falling.

Fear, and moving through the fear.

Part of me suspects I made this up.

February 21st, 2009

Spider dance

The room where we’re staying here in New Zealand is teeming with life. That sounds so positive and lovely stated like that, “teeming with life,” doesn’t it?  Like we’re in some fabulous wildlife sanctuary filled with tiny playful monkeys and exotic butterflies and mysterious yet-to-be-discovered species.  Or that maybe we’re in a magical underwater world where each teaspoonful of this watery bedroom contains an entire ecosystem.

Nope.

We’re talking flies and spiders and tiny worms.

Ew.

One night I counted twelve spiders hanging from the ceiling corners.  And why wouldn’t they be?  There are at least 20 flies in the house at any one time; surely one must stumble into a web from time to time.

I made a deal with the spiders.  I am deathly afraid of being bitten by one because spider bites on me swell to hard hot red welts the size of grapefruit.  But I also don’t like killing.  At home I liberate spiders and take them outside.  I figure that even if it’s below freezing it’s not killing them (is it? no wait, don’t tell me), and they are creatures of nature and know what to do to survive.  It’s not like the mice that used to snack on the peanut butter smeared inside the humane traps in the pantry; I’m not sure whatever happened to those because I refused to be the one setting them free in faraway cornfields, leaving behind a faint mousy scent in the car.

The deal was this:  I would love the spiders if they didn’t come down and bite me.

One night I lay in bed, the lights still on.  There were two spiders hanging just a few feet above me, but we had made our deal and I was (relatively) peaceful about their presence.  I lay looking upward and noticed a fly flying around up there near the spiders.  At least, I thought that there were two spiders up there; now it was hard to tell.  One of the darkish blobs my contact lenseless eyes thought was a spider now looked more like a smallish flying insect.  It flitted about here and there near the fly.   I could tell the fly felt comforted by the nearness of another creature so like it.

I watched them dance.

That was the fly’s undoing, the dancing.  It was lured in by the dancing spider and became caught in the web.  I watched the spider, now acting very much like a spider again and no longer dancing at all, as it busily approached the fly, still buzzing helplessly in the web, and then stung it and wrapped it more securely.  Everything I knew about spiders from reading “The Hobbit” was true.  They do stun their prey and wrap them up.  I watched the spider attach the fly-package more securely to the ceiling corner above me, and then I fell asleep.

February 11th, 2009

Notes from down under

So, we’re in New Zealand. Once what I imagined as a rather exotic faraway place, one not all that high up on the List of Places I Might (Hopefully) Go One Day, now it’s mundane. Almost. Here are some things I have noticed:

Pies. Every small shop/bakery/grocery stocks pies. Savory pies. With meat in them. Delicious, actually.

Coffee. Kiwis are almost as serious about coffee as Portlanders are about theirs, though I am still not quite clear as to what either a “flat white” or “long black” is. I settled for a mochaccino because a) I always order a mocha when I order coffee out (about once every 3 months, and b) I happened to know that here it’s pronounced “mock-a” instead of “moe-ka.” Score.

Money. Colorful. Looks a lot like Canadian money, though the pic of the Queen needs updating. Also flossing. Two-dollar coins? Yes, please! (When will the U.S catch up on this?)

Accent. I can’t imitate it. We did fly in an “ear”plane to get here, though. Haven’t quite got the rest of how the vowels flow.

Drive left. Unless you like driving into oncoming traffic. I’ve driven left in Ireland and Scotland, and it’s somehow much easier on those two-lane lanes than it is navigating the endless roundabouts here, but as I have yet to actually get behind the wheel it’s hard to say.

Weather. It’s summer here. I am liking that very much. Not too hot, either.

Potato chip flavors. Chicken. Lamb and mint. Prosciutto and Brie (that last sounds good but I am definitely trying Chicken because it’s so popular here).

Bikes. There’s a place that sells bikes for $20, and you can sell it back to them for $20 when you’re done with it. The pedal fell off of Matthew’s bike and my rear tyre is flat again this morning and my hands were black when they left the handlebars and only maybe 3 of the 10 gears work, but $20!

Economy. The kiwi dollar is a little more than fifty cents for me, which makes those $8 bottles of wine look pretty good.

Sheep. Yes.

Work. And yes, I am still very much working over at Super Eco while we are here (for 24 days!). Go see!