Detail from Analgous

Detail from Analgous

Friday, 14 November 2014

Blue skies

Last weekend was huge. On Saturday I was out teaching beginner free motion machine quilting students at Addicted to Fabric, in Canberra.  Every now and then, you meet a bunch of lovely people who just click together.  It was great seeing new friendships beginning and some great work achieved.  Always puts a huge smile on my face.

After work, I whizzed home for  a quick change of clothes, then whipping across the city to a  terrific birthday party at the National Dinosaur Museum. For adults. With children permitted.  Friends hired the outdoor park area, and we gathered with friends to party, to meet new people, to eat delicious morsels served off the verandah of the Museum, in the park surrounded by life sized model dinosaurs. It was a themed party so there were fantastic steampunk, and dinosaur/ dinosaur hunting/ adventure themed costumes on nearly every attendant. Really good fun! Met some great people there.  We enjoyed a private tour of the museum, which houses far more than dinosaur fossils- all sorts of animals and plants.

Sunday morning: Rolled out of bed at yawn o'clock well before dawn, and with hubby and the kiddies, drove through  beautiful early morning light out to Adrenalin Skydive Goulburn in NSW. 
Hopped onto the first  plane load of skydivers for the day.  With a really awesome instructor, then fell out of it together, at about over 11, 500 Feet. As you do.  

Yes I know...a second jump soon after my initial jump just three weeks earlier. One word: Awesome!
This time, I was briefed for a tandem jump along with other tandem skydivers on the same load, and then met my instructor who filled me in on the extras planned for me to help me overcome sensory overload and give me a little taste of some of the things that happen on the first level AFF course.  A plan the DZ owner and he had come up with for my benefit, good people that they are. I got a good look at an altimeter being strapped to my wrist, learned how it worked, walked me through what I'd be doing up there to start developing altitude awareness, told me I'd be pulling to deploy the canopy, showed me the handle on his rig, ran over the order we'd do things in up there.  Cool!  On the ride up to jump altitude, we talked and he recapped what I'd do again and had me practice. In just a few minutes after we left the runway, it was time to bail out.

Then most unexpected thing happened. Once we moved toward the open door I was hit with an absolutely massive wave of nausea and what I can only describe as primal fear.  Total flight or fight response. That door suddenly looked like an insanely bad option. I was stressed out of my ever loving mind,  and tried really hard not to vomit on our feet! I had not expected this, because last time exit was extremely easy for me. I didn't know at the time why I felt fear, because I'm actually not afraid of skydiving, the open air, heights or falling. It did occur to me what I was about to do was totally unnatural, but that doesn't make it bad.
 I think in hindsight, the cause of the fear was the inability I had to breathe well in freefall last time because I didn't exhale on exit (brain had decided to not bother working well for a while on exit as it was totally overwhelmed on the initial jump)  and the worry it might repeat. I know I'd previously thought about it and rationally decided even if I got another bad freefall, that was still a fair price to pay in order to access the totally awesome time under canopy. But yes,  I really wasn't at all happy at that point,  so my instructor had the door closed again, we did a quick lap around back over the DZ, whilst I  breathed to chill out, and he talked to me. No pressure, he would have respected whatever choice I came to. Gave me a small amount of time to get my head in a better place.  I remembered why I was there, why I wanted to skydive.  Told him even if I had another freefall from hell, I still wanted time under that canopy! He told me not to worry about anything else he'd briefed me on, we could do a normal tandem jump, was really reassuring.  I pushed my fear aside and walked to the door, and  I can tell you, those few steps were about the hardest I've ever taken in my life!  We sat there for a few seconds at the door with our legs dangling out, the fear dropped back to apprehension, it felt peaceful in the doorway, he took some photos, we let rip a couple of huge woo hoo's... then we were gone! 
It was completely amazing. The entire experience was the complete polar opposite of the previous freefall. I am so glad I experienced conquering such intense fear, because I know now what I'm capable of. And I'm proud of what I was able to do, despite feeling intense fear, to learn to manage it.

Freefall was  bright, beautiful and glorious! An absolutely massive reward for some courage at the doorway. No tunnel vision, no darkness, the wind wasn't overwhelmingly loud or shocking to me, rather than being completely overwhelmed and shutting down, there was only a couple of seconds of disorientation, and no nausea in freefall- Bonus! The air in my face didn't feel nearly so odd.  I let out a few huge Woo Hooo's and squeals of total delight, and grinned madly once we'd cleared the plane. The photos I have show the instructor's grin is easily as wide as my own.
My instructor gave me huge thumbs up, and pointed at my alti, which I read. When I looked at the horizon during my first circle of awareness, and the pale horizon and colours of the sky just blew me away. It was breathtakingly beautiful. There really are no words for how beautiful it is there. Part of my work involved being a writer- words come easily to me most of the time. Except to describe skydiving. The only way to understand truly is to jump, and then no words are necessary, because you will understand. And then be stumped for words yourself to describe it to others.
I kept doing what I'd been asked to do, and noticed we dropped through a couple of thousand feet before we did a practice pull,  and then I watched my alti like a hawk between 7000 and 6000 feet.  I swear, those alti's shrink,  the moment you're out the doorway.  What covered most of the back of my hand and looked comfortingly super sized when we were on the ground or in the plane, suddenly looked about  the size of a 50 cent piece in the air! 

 My instructor tapped my alti as a prompt for me to pull when we got to 6000 feet, I reached back for the handle on his rig with help, fished around for it, but couldn't feel it quickly.  I'd been tense in the arm apparently when he'd guided my hand further back onto to the handle,  and being tense makes it harder to do anything when you're in freefall. I felt his hand beneath mine at the same time I grabbed the handle, and we pulled together. That was incredibly satisfying.  Looking up and seeing a beautiful shaped canopy above my head made me grin and yell in utter delight- loudly. I was told as we descended down  further, that I could be heard on the ground. That level of joy was just impossible to contain and I think would be totally wrong to try to restrain.
 I flew us some of the way down and loved it just as much, if not more than before. Felt what its like to fly in some rather persistent wind. I learnt how to orient the canopy into the wind as we got close to the landing area - and then my instructor landed us in a most civilised fashion, sliding in on our backsides. I just laughed my head off and felt absolutely fantastic, for pretty much the rest of the day. Couldn't stop smiling…
My instructor rocked.  He really went above and beyond.  I am so appreciative of the opportunity my instructor and the owner gave me as its helped me understand some things I needed to understand clearly in order to make some decisions that needed to be made.

Lots of people have said to me they'd never jump because they think they'd be too scared. Here's the thing: People who skydive are not devoid of fear. Or apprehension, or whatever else you want to call it.   Its not that they are some special breed who can skydive because they feel no fear.  They do it despite of that,  because they realise that the rewards of skydiving far, far outstrip any feeling of fear or apprehension they experience on the plane or at the door.  I talked to some guys at my DZ and some of them play mind games or use strategies to take themselves to the doorway and negotiate their way out.  Not everyone loves that doorway. Some don't madly love freefall, but they love being under canopy so much that they keep going back for more. Everyone is different and they all jump for their own reasons.
I think that the difference between skydivers and people who say they would like to try it but won't, because they might be scared, is that skydivers don't allow their lives to be ruled by fear.  They may well feel it, but they jump anyway.  Having experienced how that feels first hand myself, there is an enormous sense of freedom in choosing that path. Its a very good way to live. Its truly living.  Skydiving really challenges me on a personal level beyond any other sport I've ever done, and I love that. I love all of it.

So folks, who has jumped? How did you like it? Who wants to try it? This curious quilter wants to know.


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Skydiving: 14,000 feet of AMAZING!

Its been far too long, I know…life has been interesting, at times frantically busy, and I have enjoyed every second of it. And blogged none of it. The biggest thing lately for me is huge:
I jumped out of a more or less perfectly good airplane. And I loved it!  
Discovered a really awesome Dropzone within easy drive, set in beautiful countryside, 
Adrenalin Skydive Goulburn  They have skilled, friendly staff who know their business, well maintained modern gear,  spectacular views to enjoy on the way down, a purpose built facility with the only twin turboprop aircraft used for skydiving in this country.  I jumped out of their shiny Embraer Bandeirante, stripped of the usual passenger seating, and remodelled for skydiving with bench seating. I'm told this skydiving, business class style. It was certainly comfortable. Some other aircraft will have you seated on your backside on the floor. The Bandeirante's affectionate nick name is the bandit, and I have a huge soft spot for this aircraft, because I used to fly in one quite often when I was younger.  They have smaller Cessnas too.  

When I decided I should go skydiving for deeply personal reasons, in conjunction with an upcoming birthday, I invited a bunch of my friends along. What resulted was a VERY good time! Images were taken by Adrenalin Skydive Goulburn, in a package hubby purchased for me.

 (We were missing one of our friends in the above photo. She did jump though.)
 Check out his fingers!!!!

My jump was a tandem with a skilled instructor, who made it really easy to experience skydiving and took care of all the crucial stuff so I could just enjoy it. On the ground, you meet your instructor, get briefed, geared up, hop on the plane, have your harness tightened down very firmly a few minutes before you jump, and are attached to your instructor at both shoulders and hips. They wear the rig containing all the useful stuff that'll get you down to the ground in one piece. Then before you know it, the green light to jump lights up and they open the door. In the bandit, that was only 15-20 minutes to 14,000 feet. The views around the drop zone were gorgeous, with canola fields in bloom, and a lot of very green pasture.

I'm still there… just tucked out of sight under my recently acquired new best buddy. I was pretty out of it, I don't remember all that much of freefall. Mostly just some sensations and sounds and a swirling vortex of colour after the horizon flipped on exit, some low level nausea for a few seconds.  That might have been the result of not eating a very big breakfast because I'd been in a hurry getting out the door that morning,  combined with a huge adrenalin hit. Next jump I do will be on a full tummy. 
Less fun was the rapidly growing  tunnel vision and what I saw seemed quite dark and spotty to me for most of freefall.  I most remember having a really hard time breathing, not feeling good about that during freefall (as in feeling total terror) and was told afterward it was likely because I hadn't exhaled on exit,  that looked the case from the video. Breathing isn't really any harder up there,  than on the ground, although the air is a bit thinner. What we think happened was my brain was so overwhelmed a couple of seconds into freefall, that when I tried to breathe in, that didn't work so well because my lungs were  already full, but my scrambled brain didn't realise I hadn't exhaled. If I'd screamed on my way out, there wouldn't have been an issue at all because I would have just then been able to breathe in easily.  I hadn't been scared, so I didn't scream or even yell.
 So, my advice if you'd like to try a tandem jump is to take a few slow deep breaths in and out whilst you are waiting to go to the door, to get some oxygen to your brain, and then whilst you are in the door dangling there about to leave, let out an enormous Wooo Hoo, or scream as you leave. Really empty your lungs.  Once you're into freefall you'll breathe in automatically if your lungs are empty, and it will be easy. 
On balance I loved the feel of wind on my body and sense of freedom up there but have large gaps in my memory.  I'm told sketchy memory from sensory overload is  not that uncommon for an initial experience. I was so glad I had a video taken so I had an idea of what really went on!  My experience of sensory overload during freefall doesn't happen to everyone. My friends had none at all or minimal levels. There is no way to know if you'll have it or not. And if you do, you're totally safe, because you're with an instructor.  It certainly won't stop me jumping again, because the less pleasant things I felt in freefall were only such a short part of the entire experience that was otherwise overwhelmingly incredible- and I am told my body will adjust and sensory overload will disappear, with additional jumps.
One of the best things was the sensation of air on my body. It feels like flying and floating- not at all like falling. Its the most incredible, confronting, amazing experience.  You cannot come close to even imagine what it is really like, until you experience it for yourself. I'm sorry, but there it is! I just don't have the words to properly describe it. 
Maybe the best I can manage is to say that freefall was intense. Freefall is FAST. It is LOUD.  As you start to fall, you accelerate rapidly, and within around 12 seconds you reach about 200km/ hr in a belly to earth position. Going that fast is really, really fun!  
When I came back into this post to edit and add a couple of extra thoughts about my experience I wanted to say for those who are afraid of heights and that's all that is stopping you trying this, skydiving feels different to when you stand on a tall building and look down. Different to being on a ladder or stairs looking out or down. There isn't the dizzy feeling from an aircraft door that you think you might feel, as you might when you are say, peering down the side of a very tall building with a viewing platform or hanging off a ladder somehow.  I have stood high up in tall buildings and watched the earth spin beneath disconcertingly beneath me, looking between my feet on clear  safety glass floor. It messed with my head.  Noticed that in New Zealand last year when I was up a very, very tall tower in Auckland. Its kinda freaky.  It doesn't frighten me, but I observed those strange sensations.  But here is the thing:  when I sit in the doorway and look down between my feet to the earth such a long way below, its completely different. Really. When I look out into the sky and then look down, the earth stays exactly where it belongs. I think that depth perception is very different up there in an aircraft doorway, or in freefall, or under canopy, to how it feels when you are on the ground.  Maybe this has something to do with buildings and structures that can  mess with how some perceive the world. I saw and felt  how different it is when you skydive.  So I came back in here,  and edited this post to add a few other things I remembered later, and about heights,  because I think it would be a shame for those who are afraid of heights, to miss out on the experience of skydiving, if they otherwise might want to try it. Give this some thought if you are one of those people. I have heard others say the same thing who are afraid of heights AND who are skydivers. Got to be something to it.

What I do remember from my initial freefall was the horizon flipped,  I saw green where there is usually blue, and blue where there is usually green, just for a brief moment.  There is nothing around you except a whole lot of blue, a lot of fresh air, your trusty instructor, and the system you're strapped into.  Its total freedom.  I have never felt a closer connection to the earth than when I was so far above it,  as I was waiting in the door for those couple of seconds before we exited. I could hardly wait to get out into all that beautiful blue sky. 

About a minute after leaving the aircraft,  my instructor tapped on the arm to let me know he was about to deploy the canopy.  I felt a couple of bumps and then the canopy opened before I was hanging vertically beneath it. 

Skydiving was 14,000 feet of AMAZING! We had almost a full minute in free fall. And then 5 or 6 minutes under canopy, an astonishing contrast of quiet after the noise level of freefall. Just the sound of the canopy in the wind.  The level of joy, peace and magic I felt under canopy - there are no words for how it feels. Its also easily the most fun I've had in, oh, ever! 

Its cool being able to pull the toggles, get a taste of what its like to turn and fly the canopy,   I just really loved it so much. 
When we came in to land,  it was a gentle slide-you-in-onto-your-butt deal, with your knees and legs well up.  You're not going to trip or fall. The DZ I use supplies pants with a reinforced seat that you slide in on, so your clothes don't get trashed. They supply gloves in cooler weather, as the air up there is colder than on the ground.  The day I jumped would easily have been - 5 degrees C up there, if not a little colder. Yep, I wore thermals under a wind resistant jacket, and it was no problem.

My face best describes how I feel about skydiving.  Awesome!

If you think you'd like to skydive, do your due diligence - research your Dropzone options, find out as much as you can about them, their background and history, the background of the instructors, ask around about them, ask whatever questions you need to feel comfortable and read the fine print. Adrenalin Skydive Goulburn rocked. All of my friends had a great experience and most of us are itching and planning to jump again, either as tandems or as students in the Accelerated Free Fall course. 
The Australian Parachute Federation has links to affiliated drop zones around the country, and some resources and  interesting things to see on their site. Check them out too.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Still here! And Aussie Heroes...

Hi everyone!
I'm still here, since I've had a few enquiries.
All is well- just have been extremely busy with moving house, settling in (which involves me pretty much solo unpacking the entire household. We are not finished yet but not far off it!) , the start of the new school year with additional commitments with the children, who are learning trumpet and percussion (imagine our homes at practice times, which is most days for a good 20 minutes!) and into soccer in a huge way.  Plus  getting my sewing room up and running more or less. Still a few more boxes left to unpack.  I have been  whipping up a bunch of bags and currently, a quilt for Aussie Heroes Quilts and Laundry Bags to support those serving in the ADF.  I'm very happy to contribute to this project for personal reasons but also because it is a very practical way to say thankyou to those who serve this country. It has also served to keep me sane during the move from one place to another. Some days whipping up a laundry bag has saved my sanity!
You can check out photos of some of the work I've contributed plus from the volunteers and recipients on the website, and read about just what these laundry bags and quilts mean to those who receive them.  Check it all out:
Scroll back a few posts and also check out the galleries at the top banner- you will probably be amazed at just how many bags and quilts have been made.  I know the project can always do with more helpers so if this interests you or you want to support it in other ways apart from sewing, contact Jan-Maree through the contacts button on her site.

And oh yes on top of all that, I've been working around that, writing for Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine with my regular monthly column and out teaching.  Tomorrow is the second installement of a two day workshop I run at Rosemont The Patchwork Shop in Canberra.
Will see if I can grab some photos during class, its always a busy time and often I simply forget!

Happy Quilting!


Friday, 29 November 2013

Kiwi trails

Hi all!
Nope,  I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth, although I did leave the country for a while to visit Middle Earth,  on the most amazing trip to North Island of New Zealand in late Sept.and early Oct. It was beyond fabulous. I attended the Australasian Sewing Guild convention and had a couple of free days to explore a very beautiful country filled with friendly people and strikingly beautiful natural features. My only complaint is that I did not have enough time to see even a tenth of everything I would liked to have seen.
I visited Auckland for the most part, staying one block from the water front before my convention began.
I jumped onto a bus tour for 13 hours and covered over 620km of road, taking in parts of Rotorua, Te Puia and Waitomo Caves and the stunning greenery between those places. People say Ireland is green, but check out the lush green here!


 Happy, happy dairy cows! The very definition of content.  There are a vast number of animals and food being farmed in the fertile land, from Alpacas to Cows, sheep to Kiwi Fruit, wine to Possums, Fish to Deer, with a lot of ingenuity evident in the way the land is used to support communities.
Also visited Matakana and Pui Hoi Valley.  The ASG tour I took during convention included lovely villages with a focus on Textiles including possum wool silk blended garments, fabulous cheese making facility with associated yummy dairy offerings. I had booked a whale and dolphin watching tour out in the gulf near Auckland but high winds scuttled those plans, no boat tours operating on the only free day I had in my schedule and no change to reschedule whilst I was in the country. So that goes onto the list for next time.

 One word describes New Zealand for me, and that is Impressive.
My travel involved lots of textile based explorations and getting out into nature or into nature. Into caves filled with glow worms and thermal springs heated by volcanoes with stunning vies right onto the beach of Lake Rotorua. I soaked for an hour and half in some rather stinky (think sulphur rotten egg gas)  thermal springs but my skin felt so soft after showering, it was amazing. There were different temperature springs from quite cool to very hot, light head inducing temperatures. So relaxing.

And I found everywhere I went, Australians by the plane load. I could quite easily immigrate to New Zealand, I loved it so much.

Volcanic landscapes dominated, with dramatic geysers, fumaroles, the odd shaped conical little hills that pop up around the rim of the crater's edge near Rotorua often covered in trees or greenery.


 See the rainbow?

Nature has a way of reminding you just how tiny and insignificant you are compared to her. You get a sense here that the Earth is cross.  Speaking to a Maori Guide when I mentioned this to him he said it was an astute observation, and that is exactly what his family believe. They are very connected to the earth and show much respect for what it provides them with, living in harmony with nature.
I loved a Maori cultural performance with stunning art and carving in their meeting hall.

and seeing a Kiwi House. Kiwis now are so endangered due to introduced species that few are ever spotted in the wild. It was great to learn about their life cycle but no photos were allowed inside the viewing area- but I saw a pair of Kiwis. And they did not disappoint.
Neither did the beautiful countryside, the plants, the food (and the wine!) or the people. The locals I found to be incredibly friendly, helpful and relaxed.   I hope to return there sooner than later with the rest of the family...

 I should add that the photos taken have not been processed or enhanced in any way, the colours are exactly as close as my digital Canon camera could replicate as they were in nature at the time and place in which they were taken.  Truly a stunning country.

After that there was a little short trip to Tasmania to retreat with and catch up with some of my old quilting friends and see a couple of old college mates and their families. It was refreshing and restful, and always amazingly good fun.

Between those trips there was fairly frantic packing. And now I'm unpacking box after box after box.
We bought our own place and moved in mid Nov to one of the very lovely suburbs of Canberra, very convenient, very leafy and quiet.  Lovely neighbours.  Its going well but we have some things to do to the house such as installing an oven that works, and an induction cook top (oh happy day, we cannot wait for those) plus a split converter heating/ cooling unit to control the raging heat that Canberra sees in summer.  Hoping for this all by Christmas. House has a great North/ North East perfect orientation for the Southern Hemisphere, and is the most energy efficient home we have ever bought.  So far in the 33 degree C warm days we have had its been pleasantly cool, unlike the last house. But we'll need to be able to cool it when the temperatures are well over 40 degrees C.
Our energies have been concentrated on the house and the prep for moving when it hasn't been devoted to exciting travels interstate and overseas. Which is why you haven't heard from me in quite a while.

Once the house is unpacked I can start on the sewing room unpack and set up. The new room is delightfully well lit and I am so, so happy about this, I can barely wait to get in there and start creating.  I may just have a few new quilts brewing that were inspired by my recent travels...