Idaho Origami

Andrew Christensen folds his B.A.S.E. jumping parachute with the same precision and concentration as an oriental origami master, each fold taken to a precise spot and carefully creased. Instead of a paper crane, his folded chute will whoosh out with a snap when he pulls the ripcord. The beauty of the folds will be in the safe and smooth ride they provide.

B.A.S.E. (short for bridge, antenna, span, and earth) jumping requires an odd melding of exactitude and derring-do. It is the same combination of skills possessed by the spymaster or the Navy Seal: patience, care, and preparation wedded to the desire for adrenaline-inducing, heart-pumping action.

The jumpers who fold their chutes on the lawn of the Visitor’s Center by the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, spend 40 painstaking minutes folding their chutes before walking out to the middle of the bridge where they step over the railing, free fall for four seconds, and float for about 20 seconds under the canopy before landing on a grassy strip at the bottom of the Snake River Canyon.

Preparing to base jump is a little like cooking Thanksgiving dinner. The sumptuous turkey dinner requires three to four days of intense preparation and culminates in a 20-minute feeding frenzy, which is followed by an hour of cleanup. For the base jumper, folding is not the only investment. The jumper must also get to Twin Falls, a small farming community in southern Idaho,  the only place in the U.S. where it’s legal to jump any day of the year. And, of course, there’s always the chance that it will be too windy or too stormy to  jump. If all goes well, then he can enjoy a 20-second adrenaline high followed by a 30-minute hike out of the canyon, unless he is lucky enough to have a boat waiting in the river below.

The difference between base jumping and life is that base jumpers choose their poison, but in life we step off bridges unknowingly—sometimes it may seem that we are thrown off. Our careful preparation must be made daily because we do not know when we will need to act decisively in only four seconds or when we will need to trust our parachute of preparation.

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About Judy Grigg Hansen
I write poetry and nonfiction, and I am passionate about the people, places, and wildflowers of Idaho and the Northwest.

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