Friday, October 24, 2014

Autumn Ambivalence

There is fire in death
A fiery goodbye
A celebration of life
Under stoney grey skies
A bittersweet passing
A graceful letting go
To a long crucial rest
Beneath blankets of snow

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lessons From a One-Legged Elk Hunter

Seasoned hunters learn to pack a few essentials: a good, sharp knife; long johns, hat and gloves;  toilet paper . . . that sort of thing. This year, Gary Edinger brought along a spare leg – one with a bugling bull elk painted on the knee.  

When I first met Gary ten years ago he had both of his legs (the ones he was born with) and he put them to good use, scrambling and traipsing through wild, remote country in pursuit of elk. Which is where I made his acquaintance. It was a warm September afternoon and I was hurrying down a gated, overgrown logging road-turned trail, toward the wilderness boundary where I planned to drop down into a narrow, granite-walled basin of spruce, fir and meadow to pursue elk with my bow. But before I reached the end of the road, I came across a hunter headed out. I was discouraged and selfishly bitter. I figured the tiny basin I was headed into wasn’t big enough for more than one ambitious bowhunter trying to fool rutting bulls—and now it was tainted. But it is public wilderness, belonging to us all, so I feigned a smile and greeted the man with my best attempt at pleasantries.

He was tall and lanky, perhaps in his late 50s, unshaven and sweating from a steep uphill climb. From his looks and the amount of gear he carried I figured he had been in the backcountry for weeks. The pack on his back was the size of a military footlocker, bulging at all sides as if it could burst open any moment, with a canvas tent the size of a duffle bag tied to the top. I’d be reluctant to burden a mule with the load he carried. But I’ve long had an aversion to heavy rucks, which is why I carried a backpack the size of a pillow, probably lighter than the full-sized axe and saw he had lashed to his pack frame.

To my initial chagrin, he was eager to drop his pack, take a break and chat. So I reluctantly obliged. And soon we were sitting on the ground swapping elk yarns, laughing and enjoying our shared passion for elk and wild country. He’s a logger from Wisconsin, travels West most years, packs in by himself, and enjoys the solitude of backcountry elk haunts. It seemed we share lots in common; except for our notion of elk camp.  

“You just out for the day?” he asked, looking inquisitively at my pack. “Five or six, depending on the elk,” I said. “And you? Have you been out here long?” “Four days,” he replied. We looked at each other as if we’d both met a fool.

He normally packs in with horses and mules. He likes comfort, he explained, returning each evening from a hard day’s hunt to a fire, a warm tent a hot meal. I don’t return anywhere, I told him, but sleep where I am—near the elk – sustained by energy bars, jerky and the hopes of fresh elk tenderloin.

We kept in touch, on and off, for several years, but he eventually faded to a distant memory. Until last September. He got my number from a friend and invited me to come along on an elk hunt. He needed help. Turns out he had recently lost his leg in a logging accident when a maple he was felling barber-chaired off its stump, violently jumped out and severed his left leg below the knee. He lost so much blood he barely survived, but managed to crawl to his skidder, drive his skidder to his truck, drive his truck to within cell phone range, and call 9-1-1. When the medical helicopter arrived he was unconscious. 

But now he was ready to get back into elk country, and wanted company and help. With not much else to do I decided to tag along and see what it would be like to do things his way – horses, mules, wall tent, wood stove and big, hot meals. So he picked me up in Missoula in a large truck, hauling a trailer full of stock, and we drove to a trailhead on the Idaho side of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness where he had an early rifle-season tag.

It wasn’t as easy as I thought, packing and loading a half dozen mules and horses and riding for nearly 13 hours – much of it in the dark – at first on main trails, then off onto some outfitter trails, and eventually what seemed like bushwhacking – riding up the bottom of a creek through and over thick blowdown, stopping often to cut out trees and re-establishing an old trail Gary had helped cut out years before. Though I came to appreciate the skill, knowledge and traditions of horsepacking, it seemed a lot of work. I could have hiked in faster. Sure, you can carry a lot of comfort on the back of livestock, but is it worth it? 

I also struggled philosophically. I’ve often gotten angry when I discover cut-out trails in remote wildlands that – as the wilderness act succinctly puts it – should be “untrammeled” by man. I resented helping Gary cut a trail into such a wild canyon. I didn’t keep my thoughts to myself, and before we even arrived to camp we became irritated and frustrated with each other over differing values, principles, beliefs, and views on many things. Gary thinks wilderness should be less restrictive and more accessible; I think we need to keep some places as wild as we can. He thinks the wolves are eating most of the elk; I think the return of wolves is a wonderful success story in the restoration of wildness. He’s glad few if any grizzlies still roam the Selway; I wish they came back with the wolves. I’m not so sure we should be hunting elk with rifles during the rut when mature bulls can be overly-vulnerable; he was out there to bugle them into rifle range and thrilled to be doing so.  And so on.

In sum: he is a rather conservative logger from northern Wisconsin; I am a fairly liberal tree-hugger from Missoula, Montana. Let’s just say during eight long days sharing a small wall tent together, things got rather tense at times. I spent two long days by myself, roaming the mountains, just to get away from him. The weather was warm, the country was drought-like dry, and we found no fresh elk sign nor heard a bugle or a grunt for days. Gary blamed the wolves; I think the elk were hanging mostly on the Montana side of the divide where there was more moisture this year, and where smart bulls seem to learn there is no early rifle season. I even ventured to the Montana side one afternoon by myself, and got some elk talking to me around some lush, green, wet meadows.

Then one afternoon, after not even speaking to each other for hours, an elk answered one of my calls. It snapped us both out of our doldrums and we both got pretty excited. We spent the next hour or so playing cat and mouse with the bull, sometimes him moving towards us, sometimes us sneaking in closer, me staying several yards behind Gary bugling and grunting while he impressively and adeptly climbed up and over and around brush and blowdown, rifle at the ready, as gracefully as anyone with two legs could do.  We worked together well, bonded by our common passion for the adrenaline of the hunt. And it eventually all came together. The bull came in silently, wearing an impressive 6x6 rack, while Gary and I waited behind a big, thick spruce log maybe 40 yards away. For me, the hunt was tainted when Gary  wounded the bull. We had to track it down several times and it eventually took Gary six shots to kill the elk.

Soon after the kill we fell back to disagreement (Gary doesn't think animals suffer). But we made relatively smooth, quick work of the boning out and packing meat to camp, and I was happy for his success. Then I thought of this: Despite our differences; despite our lack of compatibility; despite our differing views of the world, we both love elk and elk country and the notion of securing our own meat from the wilds. Though Gary and I will unlikely spend time in the mountains again, I have tremendous respect for him.

I found the entire hunt symbolic of us hunters as a whole; we’re all different, of course, and we have what can sometimes be bitter, contentious disagreements. But when we need to, we come together for common causes. It’s what I love most about groups like the Montana Wildlife Federation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, with their diverse membership interests. Yes, there’s sometimes tension and disagreement amongst us. But as we have proved over and over again, we work together when we need to, setting aside our differences to protect our common interests – a passion for the wildness, wildlife and the hunt.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Arduous Pursuit: What we Understand, we can Honor and Sustain

Photo by Bob Knoebel
America’s hunting and wildlife heritage teeters on a precarious perch. There are those who would lead us towards a more European model of animal husbandry and privileged hunting in which hunted wildlife are treated as a commodity, artificially manipulated to produce large-antlered, easy-to-kill animals for the highest bidders to shoot. Others defend our hard-won, uniquely American system. It is a system in which wildlife belongs to all, is managed as a public trust with equal opportunities for all Americans, and which fuels the conservation, protection and enhancement of wildlife and the wild places that sustain them.   

There’s no doubt where Jim Posewitz stands. Since retiring in 1993 from a distinguished 32-year career as a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Jim has been a fierce, untiring advocate of America’s distinct wildlife and hunting heritage – showing us where we came from, where we’ve gone astray, and what we need to do to get back on track.

His first book, Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting, has become the bible on proper and ethical conduct for hunters, influencing thousands of young hunters in hunting education classes across the continent. His next book, Inherit the Hunt: A journey into the Heart of Hunting, outlines the history of North America’s hunting and wildlife heritage, its democratic roots, and the growing, dire threats of privatization and commercialization of wildlife and hunting. His third book, Rifle in Hand: How Wild America Was Saved, delves even deeper into the history of North America’s conservation movement, led primarily by hunters, and makes for the perfect follow up – the final in a must-read trilogy for anyone who hunts, desires to hunt or just want to understand hunting.  And as a bonus, check out Jim's latest: Taking a Bullet for Conservation: The Bull Moose Party - A Centennial Reflection 1912-2012. 

“This hunting tradition and the conservation ethic within that tradition covered a lot of ground before it got to us,” Jim wrote in Inherit the Hunt. “This legacy did not come to our generation to die. To keep it alive, we must learn the stories, we must appreciate their significance, and we must teach each successive generation how this heritage was delivered into our custody.”

Jim tell lots of stories, significant stories, stories that all of us who hunt and care about wildlife should read and share and learn and pass onto to others. In Jim’s words: “Stories that helped me understand the value of hunting in America.” Through his stories, Jim takes people along on a notable journey of recurrent, important connections to George Perkins Marsh, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Jay “‘D’ing” Darling and many others. More importantly, he shows us that we all have such connections, we all have similar stories – we are all part of this remarkable legacy.

Until I met Jim Posewitz, I never paid much attention to such connections.  Like how I spent a childhood, and then some, chasing striped bass along the shores and islands of Connecticut’s coast – just a short boat ride away from where, in 1842, a common oysterman helped define the public ownership of wildlife in America; or how I grew up in the same state where, 1896, there initiated a Supreme Court case firmly establishing the notion of wildlife being held “as a public trust for the benefit of all people.” I developed a love for wildness playing in tidal estuaries just down the coast from estuaries where Theodore Roosevelt once roamed and developed his notable fondness for wild things. Like Aldo Leopold, I studies forestry and moved West. Like Roosevelt, I developed a passion for chasing wild elk through truly wild country and became, like him, a wilderness hunter. Like Roosevelt and Leopold and George Perkins Marsh and Alfred Aldrich Richardson and Jay “Ding” Darling and Jim Posewitz . . . and hundreds and thousands of other hunters through the course of our Nation’s history, all across North America, whose conservation ethic derived from appreciation gained through arduous pursuit of fish and game. 

Jim sums it up nicely: “Hunting was the passion driving people who committed themselves to the task.”

Like Jim, “I took to the hunt because somewhere within my nature throbbed the rhythm of the chase . . . to satisfy the urge I wandered wild places . . . I killed and savored the gift of wild things.” And in the countless hours and miles of unpredictable wild adventures chasing magnificent creatures such as stripers and elk and deer, I’ve come to deeply cherish the animals and the places they roam. Kindled by the chase, my devotion to wildlife sparked my concern their well-being and their habitat.
These are our roots. This is our legacy. These are the primeval connections that bind our heritage – vital connections between predator and prey, between wild things and humans, between conservationists past and present. We abandon these connections at our peril; we must come to nurture and understand this heritage because, as Jim Posewitz says, “What we understand we can honor and sustain.”

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I’ve come to understand from Jim is the crucial importance of the arduous pursuit – the “doctrine of the strenuous life,“ as Roosevelt put it, “skill and patience, and the capacity to endure fatigue and exposure, must be shown by the successful hunter.” 

Unfortunately, there is an ongoing quest to make hunting easier, quicker, with more sure-fire results, changing the fundamental relationship between predator and prey. A look through most any hunting-equipment catalog shows a plethora of technology available to the modern-day hunter, including trail-monitoring devices to photograph, record and store animal movements; game scanners; hearing enhancers; night-vision goggles; range finders; animal scents; ATVS with gun mounts and thousands of other gadgets designed to increase our chances of finding and killing wildlife. Several years ago, hunters in Idaho were shooting elk from a half-mile away using .50-caliber rifles mounted on off-road vehicles. A game warden from Wyoming once told me that every year, more and more hunters use airplanes to locate elk, radioing their sightings to friends on the ground. Some so-called hunters simply pay to kill fenced, domesticated animals on game farms. In Texas, hunters commonly lure deer into automated bait stations and then shoot them from luxurious towers. More recently, some hunters started using drones to. (Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is leading the charge to ban the use of drones for hunting and scouting.)  

When hunters seek easier ways, focusing only on results and skipping the process (or, as Roosevelt put it, those who are “content to buy what they have not the skill to get by their own exertions”), they fail to gain the intimacy, knowledge, appreciation and respect for the prey, for the habitat, and for other wildlife that is gained through arduous pursuit. The connections are shattered. I suspect this growing disconnect is, in large part, why some hunters are either apathetic or outright opposed to policies that protect and enhance wildlife and wild places; they either ignore, or never really come to understand, our hunting and wildlife heritage.

Several years ago, over a beer or two, I shared with Jim a story of frustration. While working to protect wild places, some fellow wilderness advocates often chastise me for being a hunter. At the same time, some fellow hunters deride me for advocating for wilderness. “I don’t feel a part of either group,” I told Jim. “I just don’t know where I fit in.”  He laughed. “You know why?” he asked, smiling, leaning in close as if to let me in on some great secret. “Because you and I, we’re Leopoldians, and there aren’t many of us around.”

Of course he might just as well said “Rooseveltians” or even “Posewitzians.” Thanks, in large part, to Jim’s persistent efforts  there are, everyday, more and more of us Leopoldians around.

In his 1949 classic, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold wrote:

"I have the impression that the American sportsman is puzzled; he doesn't understand what is happening to him. Bigger and better gadgets are are good for industry, so why not for outdoor recreation?  It has not dawned on him that outdoor recreations are essentially primitive, atavistic; that their value is a contrast-value; that excessive mechanization destroys contrasts by moving the factory to the woods or to the marsh. The Sportsman has no leaders to tell him what is wrong. The sporting press no longer represents sport; it has turned billboard for the gadgeteer. Wildlife administrators are too busy producing something to shoot at to worry much about cultural value of the shooting. Because everybody from Xenophon to Teddy Roosevelt has said sport has value, it is assumed that this value must be indestructible.”

Fortunately, Jim Posewitz has emerged as a leader – gently telling us what is wrong, wisely showing us how to get back on track, helping us understand where we’ve been and where we need to go.

Jim’s books are packed with wonderful stories of our past, present and future. Here’s a short one of my own:

In the fall of 1999, my friend Bill Hanlon was hunting Dall sheep with two of his friends in the spectacularly wild 2.5-million acre Tatshenshini Wilderness of northwest British Columbia. Six days into their hunt, walking along the face of a 20-foot wall of ice, they found the 550-year old. Well-preserved  remains of a human hunter, recently exposed on a receding glacier, replete with a knife-like tool called a tugwat and an atlatl, an ancient hunting tool used to hurl spears into prey. The body was recovered by the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, who dubbed the man Kwaday Dan Sinchi, or “long ago person found.” Researchers say the person was male, in his 20s, and most likely fell into a crevasse and died. The country he once hunted and died in is probably not much different today – still wild and home to the same species of wildlife.

“I think of how tough and rugged he must have been,” Bill says. “Wearing just a skin cloak, carrying tools he probably made himself.”

Bill is pretty rough and rugged himself, and avid and passionate hunter. A Sparwood, British Columbia schoolteacher, he hunts elk in the East Kootenay region, in the same country where, in the early 1900s, one of his (and our Continent’s) conservation heroes, William T. Hornaday, used to hunt. With a love for the wilds gained through hunting, Bill helped found the Hornaday Wilderness Society, serves as the first chair of the British Columbia Chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and is working to protect and conserve the same wildlands that he, and Hornaday, and many others have hunted, or currently hunt, or will (we hope) hunt in the future. 

As Bill told me about Kwaday Dan Sinchi, imagining that long ago hunter’s plunge into oblivion, he said, “If I should fall and die in the wilds, God forbid, I would only hope that if my remains are found long into the future, they would be found by fellow hunters still pursuing wild animals in country still wild.”  

These are our roots. This is our legacy. These are the primeval connections that bind our heritage – vital connections between predator and prey, between wild things and humans, between conservationists past and present. We abandon these connections at our peril; we must come to nurture and understand this heritage because, as Jim Posewitz says: “What we understand we can honor and sustain.”

Note: A version of this essay was published as the forward to "Rifle in Hand: How Wild America Was Saved," by Jim Posewitz, Riverbend Publishing, 2004.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

GO GRIZ! A Return to the Gridiron with Coach to Cure

I suspect I am one of only a handful of Missoulians who have never uttered “Go Griz!” – at least not in reference to the football team.

Although I am an alumnus of the University of Montana, and have lived in Missoula (on and off) for nearly 30 years, I have never been to a Grizzly game. I loved playing football – I was a decent offensive guard and linebacker in high school, and played a season for a community college -- but have never been much of a spectator. Besides, football season coincides with elk season and I’ve long felt more at home in the wilds among real grizzlies.  
The Griz are big in Missoula, particularly in the fall. It seems most every restaurant, bar and store in town has “Go GRIZ!” signs and merchandize. On game days half the town wears maroon and silver-colored shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, hats, socks, underwear and most anything else you might imagine adorned with the iconic grizzly bear or griz paw prints. When the griz win a home game, downtown can be insane with inebriated celebration; if they lose, downtown can be insane with inebriated drownings of sorrow.

Missoula can be obnoxiously Griz crazy.

Fortunately, not far from the outskirts of town, I often see real grizzly tracks and am occasionally lucky enough to get a glimpse of the Great Bear. I’ve always directed my “go griz” towards them.

When the gridiron Grizzlies won their first national championship in 1995 I had been in the backcountry for a week hunting. When I came out of the mountains I read a story about two grizzly bears that had been killed by hunters who mistook them for black bears. The next morning, when I arrived at the gym I worked out in, one of the other regulars greeted me and said,

“How about them griz?”
“Yeah, that pisses me off,” I replied. “Pretty fucked up.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked. “They won.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.

I can be obnoxiously crazy about real grizzlies.

Today, Saturday, Sept. 27, I am going to my first Griz game. The homecoming game. The battle of the bruins! Montana Grizzlies vs Northern Colorado Bears. And I’ll be going onto the field. Not with helmet and shoulder pads, but with my 14-year-old son Cory.

Cory has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive, genetic, muscular-degenerative fatal disease for which there is currently no cure. There is, however, hope. Clinical trials are underway with promising results. But more awareness and money is urgently needed to turn hope into reality. That’s where the “Coach to Cure MD” effort comes into play.

With more than 600 college teams participating all over the nation, Coach to Cure MD is a one-day event sponsored by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and the American Football Coaches Association. The stated purpose is “to raise awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a devastating disorder that robs young men of their mobility, their independence, and sadly their life; Generate new financial support for Duchenne research through donations, grassroots fundraising, and text donations; and demonstrate college coaches’ commitment to the betterment of young men and the core academic research missions of their universities.”

Cory will be the Grizzlies' honorary co-captain for the day and will be present at the coin toss. He’s pretty excited. I think I’m even more excited. And not just for Cory. It’s been a long time since I’ve stepped onto a football field. It’s already bringing back a lot of deeply buried memories. Good memories. I look forward to once agan hearing, seeing, smelling, feeling and experiencing the unique sounds, smells, adrenaline and excitement of a football game. 

I won’t be doing any blocking or tackling, but I might just slap a few players on the ass.

Go Griz!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Freefall: The Last 2,500 Feet?

In 2003 depression, related substance abuse and thoughts of suicide led me to load my backpack, toss my wallet in the garbage, step off my front porch in Missoula, head north, and spend the next 10-weeks by myself hiking through the most remote, wild country left in the continental United States. It saved my life. Here's how it began: 

  “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
                                                                              -- Helen Keller              

              As a Force Recon Marine I dove out of planes from altitudes as high as 32,000 feet, night and day, sometimes with full combat gear sometimes without (sometimes right into the ocean, with SCUBA gear attached) from the swamps of coastal North Carolina to the deserts of southeast California, in the scorching heat and humidity of Puerto Rico to the brutally-frigid tundra of northern Norway -- or, as the Marine Corps hymn simply states: in every clime and place.
And I would tumble, fall, and fly. At least it feels like flying, falling at terminal velocity, speeds of 180 miles-per-hour; a slight tilt of the right hand would turn me quickly right, the left hand would turn me that direction, or I could cuff both hands inward to go forward, or outward to slow my descent. I could hunch up to slow down, or pull hands and legs in to speed up. Place hands and legs together and a missile-like nosedive results, or do flips, or spin, and so on.  By maneuvering in such a manner, a team of Marines can remain together in the sky, and even approach each other and “link up” by locking arms. I once kissed my friend Jim at 10,000-feet above the Earth. 

And as the ground gets bigger and closer, I would check my altimeter on my wrist until reaching a point to “wave off” (a flagging of the hands to warn those above me that I was about to open my chute, so they could move and not crash into me), move my right hand in to the “rip cord” at my chest (making a counter move in and over my head with the left hand, so as to remain in a stable fall and not spin out of control), then pull, rapidly thrusting both hands and arms out, up and forward, like a referee’s signal for a touchdown, tightly gripping the ripcord handle that pulls out the long, thin wire that releases the nylon flaps on the pack, allowing the small spring-loaded pilot parachute to burst free, like a jack-in-the-box, catching wind and pulling the main chute out behind by a cord. The rest, if all went well, happened rapidly – the main chute blossoms open, bringing acceleration to what seems a sudden halt, with such shock at times it once literally jerked me out of my boots over northern Norway  (I got frost bit toes after landing in socks on snow in minus-40 temperatures). And then everything would seem calm, compared to the previous rushing of wind in the ears, and I would gradually steer my way down to the ground, pull down hard on toggles to flare, pause, and land sometimes softly, sometimes hard, depending on the wind, skills and luck.

At other times, the pilot chute might get caught in the wind pocket in the small of my back (a “snivel” we called it), so I would bang away with my elbow until it caught wind and deployed. Or the main might malfunction, which never happened to me, but if it did, I was trained to “cut away,” or release the main and open the reserve. (“No worries,” my instructor said, “If your main doesn’t open, you have the rest of your life to deploy your reserve.”)  It could sometimes take 1,000 feet or so for the main to open, if everything worked right, and another 1,000 or more to try and rectify things if it didn’t. For this reason, we had a general rule to open at 4,000 to 3,000 feet, and always, always before reaching 2,500 feet; an altitude that shows on the altimeter as red, danger zone – like the “low on gas” signal in a car, only with more severe consequences. 

About the time I was doing lots of jumps, I had a reoccurring dream: I am freefalling, enjoying the ride, when I look at my altimeter and it’s in the red zone, 2,500 feet! I wave off, reach to pull, but I have no parachute on my back. Nothing. At first I am terrified, but quickly calm down. It’s my last 2,500 feet, I figure, I may as well enjoy it. So I smile, and begin doing front flips, and back flips, and then I wake up to the dark silence of the night.

Twenty years later I felt like I finally slammed into hard-packed earth.  My father died. My wife of 14-years filed for divorce. I could no longer focus on the work I used to love, nor any of the activities I used to enjoy. I had spent much of my life feeding secret shadows of shame, guilt, anger and fear until they finally loomed large, like the monsters I imagined in my closet as a kid. I lost all desire and passion to go on and thought, maybe sometimes it okay to quit, perhaps best to quit. I drove late one drunken night to a trailhead a few miles from my home in Missoula, Montana, to the edge of the Rattlesnake Wilderness, with a shotgun I used to hunt ducks and geese. My plan was to walk a few miles in and blow my head off. Instead, I sat in my car and cried. I thought of my son, then only three, and wondered how he would turn out. I thought of my family. I thought of my friends. I even had the twisted thought; I can hardly hit ducks with this thing. Then I thought of my dream, the last 2,500 feet.  And I thought of my maps. The maps. Maps of the wild country surrounding my home.

For years I had studied the maps, intrigued by the notion that I could walk off my front porch in town and walk all the way to Alberta through the most remote, wild country left in the continental U.S. and only cross three main (paved) roads. It was a fantasy, a journey of the mind, until that inebriated night I drove to the trailhead with a 12-guage. At that point I thought:  

What the hell. It’s the last 2,500 feet; what do I have to lose?  

by Dave Stalling

For years
I fed illusions
Of flying high
Until the ground grew frightenly close
Terrified, I suddenly realize
I am falling

Leaving the womb
Like leaping from a plane
Begins a tumultuous freefall
There are choices:
Remain frightened, out of control
Or get stable, and enjoy the ride
Until we meet the end
(And we will)
As sure as sky meets earth

Best to see it all now
Long before impact
While there is still time
Precious time
To enjoy an exhilarating ride
And make the most
Of the last 2,500 feet

So I will flare, flip and tumble
Through clouds and clear skies
And pretend I am flying, sometimes
Though I know better
But it still brings me joy

It’s my jump, my journey, my fall
I’ll do it as me, not to please others
Critics and skeptics be damned!
Who cares what they think?
They don’t even know
That they too
Are falling fast