I can’t talk about my day without acknowledging what happened in Connecticut. It’s impossible to imagine anything more sad. As I’ve encountered people from all over the world today, when they learn I’m American, they have offered their condolences. It’s amazing how connected we all are. People can debate the question of gun control legislation (I’ve got my thoughts, which are inappropriate for this forum), but one lesson is that life is terribly tentative. We must live each day to its fullest.

So, that’s what I did today.

The day was fraught with anticipation. Milford Sound was on my agenda. The views, I’d been told, were incredible.

Image courtesy of the good, ole Googler.

I set my alarm clock for 6:30 a.m., woke up, and waited for my ride. Along it came and away we went. About two hours into the drive, we got some bad news. The road to Milford Sound was closed because they were worried about rock slides.

Many of the roads in this part of the country were hand-built with picks in the mid-nineteenth century (that’s the 1800s, folks) to reach backcountry gold mines. They were designed as half-lane gravel jobs that hug cliff edges. Not much has changed in the last century-and-a-half. Dangerous doesn’t begin to describe them. If the authorities close a road, it’s some serious business.

Okay. Two things. First, not getting to Milford was really disappointing. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it for the entire trip. But, second, I don’t want to get plowed down a cliff by a boulder. That doesn’t sound like a fitting end to this trip. So I think the right call was made.

I filled my now-free afternoon the only way a sane person would.

I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.

The feeling was truly indescribable. The rush was unbelievable. The fear was palpable. The experience can never be topped. Even so, I can’t wait to do it again. It’s the closest we can get to flying like the birds.

Probably the most unnatural thing a human being can do is to be flying along in a nice airplane with a tank full of fuel and suddenly, at 15,000 feet, say…

“Hmm. I don’t really want to wait for this thing to land. Let’s just jump.”

It’s foolish. It’s idiotic. Saying it’s insane is not a stretch. It’s simply not what we do.

But I did it.

60 seconds of free-falling is a long time. Especially when your body is hurtling toward earth — even a beautiful part of it here in Queenstown — at more than 120 miles per hour.

The grin that’s still on my face will probably stay there for a full two weeks.

That’s an airplane. It’s not on the ground, but I’m leaving it.

As strange as it sounds, I’ve always wanted to touch a cloud.

I considered Lake Wakatipu “insurance” in case we missed the landing.

Graceful? No. But the good news was that the parachute worked!! Thank you, Jesus.

If this blog post isn’t enough proof, here’s a photo. I did land. Well, Kras, landed. I just stuck my legs out.

My new close friends, and fellow jumpers, Amar and Sonar. They’re from India. Jumping out of an airplane together makes you very close. Sonar told me Milford wasn’t worth my time, anyway

As I was leaving, a Sky Diver said,

“Welcome to the Sky.”

Well, sir, I’ll be back! And I can’t wait.

Milford Sound, what?

Oh, and don’t worry, I got a DVD, which I’ll be very happy to show you at any time I’m already planning dinner parties where it will play prominently.