So you might have noticed there hasn’t been much news from the ranch lately and I have some explaining to do. See, in the last week the world has kept turning out here, the steers have been grazing, the trees have been budding, the crocuses have been blooming and the dogs have been running away…and so have we. All the way to South Padre Island to meet up with some of my favorite people on the planet.
Sometimes after months of dangling from ladders, chasing the damn dogs, climbing around in the hills, cooking casseroles, trudging through the mud in muck boots and waiting for spring you just have to throw your hands in the air and go find a place where summer never leaves.
So we closed up the house and pointed our car toward the plane that would take us to South Padre Island, TX. A place where the ocean crashes on white sand, the air is just the right type of damp, leaving my hair in that scary place between chia pet and Bride of Frankenstein, and our friends were waiting for us with open arms and giant glasses full of tequila.
I have been planning this trip for months, looking forward to the warm sunshine and an ocean swim, but mostly anxious to wrap my arms around this group of friends who squeezed their way into my heart six years ago with their crazy sense of humor, open-minds, open arms, and just the right amount of grace and intelligence mixed in with a willingness to look and act absolutely ridiculous for the sake of a good belly laugh.
The truth is, I could go anywhere with these people, we could do anything, from scaling the tallest mountains to grinding out paperwork in a cubicle, and we have always have fun…as long as someone has the sense to provide appropriate hats.
And on this agenda we would need them because our days were filled with things like ocean swimming,
Yup. You heard me.
Sky. Dive. Ing.
This landlocked woman from the prairie who gets woozy from looking over the edge of an anthill, who just a week ago was hyperventilating about her husband’s location on the top of a ladder signed up for an activity that sent me flinging my body out of a questionable airplane and plummeting to my inevitable death at 150 miles per hour strapped to a laid back man with bad-ass tattoos and even more bad-ass dreadlocks.
I don’t know what was going through my mind when I responded “Yes, Yes, Yes!” to my friend’s email request for company as he attempted this death-defying activity. I am not sure what compelled me to make the decision to be his companion on this adventure except I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather jump out of an airplane with. This friend, he’s always made me feel like I could do anything. And I believe him.
So we greeted one another with hugs and tequila and made our plan to face death.
Friday at noon.
It only took a nod of my head to get husband on board with the idea. Skydiving? Why the hell not?
And so we were off. I contemplated my outfit carefully that morning, wondering what would look best on me as a flattened corpse on the beaches of the island. Wondering what would be less appetizing to the sharks if I were to land in the ocean. I chose a pair of blue shorts and an unassuming black tank top. A classic and easy look for someone looking death in the face, and all of the paperwork that goes with it.
It turns out though, that when you are harnessed up and huddled at the back of an airplane that reminds you of a really loud VW bus, the last thing you are thinking about is your wardrobe.
No. As you stare into the face of the adventurous friend who got you into this predicament just moments before he launches his body out of the buzzing and bouncing aircraft, you wonder if maybe you should have peed first.
And as the VW plane reaches the inevitable 11,000 feet, you think about your husband who just moments before you was sent spirling through the air. You think how pissed you will be if he became a sand pancake…you wonder who will unclog the drain and finish fixing the deck…
then you think of how pissed his momma will be when you explain to her whose idea this was…
Your mind snaps back to your immediate situation when your instructor pulls you toward his lap, the plane bouncing well above the fluffy clouds. You notice that you can see the curvature of the earth. You think you might be able to see the ranch from here. You wonder if you’ve gone crazy. You remember that you belong down there, on the prairie, with the animals that graze the grass, the ones who don’t swim or fly or launch themselves out of the sky.
As your traveling companion latches up and secures your body to his own, connecting the two of you together by only a few, in your opinion, inadequate straps and hooks, the thought enters your mind that this man’s instructions to arch your back and lift your arms could be the last voice you will ever hear. Then you ask him if maybe you should have had dinner or coffee first…you know, to get to know one another…
But it’s too late, he laughs as the door of the plane flies open and a rush of air hits you like a slap across the face. He feels your body tense up and tremble as you watch your most adventurous and lovely friend swing his legs over the side of the plane and then drop out of sight.
You wonder if you’ll ever see him again.
You wonder if you ever told him that you liked his new haircut.
You hope he peed before he got in the plane.
You wish again, that you would have done the same…
Then suddenly the man who strapped himself to you is moving toward that very same door and you discover you are moving too. You think, “Wait, I don’t even know your last name!” but before you can ask what it is, or what his tattoos mean, or what his father does for a living, where he’s from, what is his favorite food, animal, plant, color, he is sitting in the doorway of the plane at 11,000 fricking feet above the tiny strip of island surrounded by ocean and really tall, sharp buildings and he is telling you to put your left leg out there on the ledge. And because you’re strapped to this man and your life is literally in his hands dangling out of an airplane you are compelled to listen. The air coming into the open door of the plane is so strong that you have to help your leg move with your hand.
You think about this for a second, about how the universe might be telling you something, that maybe, maybe…may…
I supposed you guessed the outcome, that I survived and so did my two companions. I have never been so happy to feel the sand between my toes, to hear the cheers of my best friends in the world screaming my name, to see the sparkling ocean and finally catch my damn breath already.
And I’ve never been in love with another man, but I think I might now be in love with this guy, the dreadlocked, tattooed, hero from South Padre Island that nearly killed me and saved my life all in the matter of ten minutes.
When they asked me about my favorite part of jumping out of a plane, I am pretty sure I said “when it was over.”
And then I breathed “I’m alive!” and ran into the arms of my friends, the friends who make me feel more alive in their presence, more capable, more free and loved and hilarious and beautiful than I will ever feel jumping from a plane.
But I wouldn’t have anyone else there waiting for my crazy ass to touch down. And for them I would jump out of a plane, climb a cactus, sing in an opera, climb Mt. Everest, run a marathon, swim with the sharks, dance like Lady Gaga, backflip off a cliff, and grow wings and fly…because they make me believe it’s possible.
Peace and love from the solid ground of the ranch!
*All photos from Skydive South Padre Island. Thanks for the adventure guys! And thanks for bringing us safely to earth!