Viva tonto, Viva Pam, Viva Kliptown, Viva Ubuntu!

Viva tonto, Viva Pam, Viva Kliptown, Viva Ubuntu!

Today I went to Kliptown with Jeannie, a skydiving friend who never knew tonto but is touched by his memory. Together, we drove through a rapidly developing Soweto, towards people and places that remain part of the fabric of my life; where what I have given continues to flow in the form of love, understanding, friendship, compassion, and memory.

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Blue Skies with Zach Lewis

Blue Skies with Zach Lewis

"Taya is a pioneer in many ways, and pushes the limits with the best of them. The sky has brought love to her life—and also taken away more than one of her significant others and many of her friends. She calls the summer “reaping season,” and with uncanny timing I saw a new post that one of her close friends died in Europe wingsuiting, just moments before we walked into the studio to take her pictures."

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Safe Place to Sleep Tonight

Safe Place to Sleep Tonight

I see ghosts drinking Jack Daniels and kicking the rope swing out around the corner of the big porch. They turn to look at me, the dead skydivers. People I’ve held hands with in freefall. Wyat is there, and Elle. And with them is Eric, the love of my life, smiling at me and swilling his drink with a sideways look that says, “You know I hate this stuff but I’m trying to be social.”

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Edgeington

Edgeington

We became the first women to do XRW, but we hadn’t even met until we were on the verge of attempting what then seemed nearly impossible (or at least, very dangerous). It’s a hell of a way to meet your future best friend, midair at high speed wearing various forms of nylon and trying to hold hands.

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Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust

I walk to the plane with the handmade red pouch strapped to my left wrist. At boarding point, I sit with my head down. This is a solo mission. I look up once, opening my eyes to a view of our friend Raymond’s pants leg as he stands near me protectively. The embroidery reads, “Martin’s Funerals! 011-672-8104”. New sponsor. I start to crack, giggling hysterically.

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Blue Skies

Blue Skies

Freedom. The whole world looks soft from this far up. We’re over the Carletonville mine dumps. From the air, they look like zen gardens, their arsenic-laced sand combed methodically. Even the one shaped like a coffin has somewhat rounded edges from altitude. The township shacks, the dumps, the roads, the railroad tracks, the grassy fields with cows, are draped today in fluffy white distractions.

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The Meaning of Death (If Any)

The Meaning of Death (If Any)

Here’s my weakness: I want every death to mean something, and I’m starting to understand that maybe that’s not the way this works. I want every loss to create space for thinking about who we are and what we’re doing with our magical nylon.But something else is going on. I keep running up against an existential wall because by sheer volume, it’s becoming difficult to honor and meditate on each life.

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Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday

Skydiver Eric "tonto" Stephenson died on October 28, 2007. Today is his birthday. He was my life partner and my best friend, and the father of two girls he loved to the ends of the earth. I came home to him every day for the years we lived together. We held hands a lot, cooked dinner, cuddled while watching Isidingo on television, practiced kung fu, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, flew wingsuits, and had long talks sitting at the end of the runway at the Johannesburg Skydiving Club. It's more than five years now since he left, and most of the people I spend time with these days didn't know him.

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Canopy Collision and Cat-Like Reflexes

As I came out of the off-heading opening, I was faced head-on with the other jumper. We were flying directly towards each other at high speed. He immediately grabbed his rear risers with brakes still stowed. I initially thought I would try to steer with my rear risers as well, but ascertaining that the collision was imminent, I grabbed my cutaway handle and released my main parachute as the jumper impacted it.

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