When I woke up this morning, I saw through a slit in the curtains a gray veil of sky. Then heard the rousing of the house, the creaking of the stairs, my nephew turning in his sleep upstairs in the loft, the coffee grinder. I wanted to savor the moment before I waded into the thick of it: these last three days before my oldest stepdaughter's wedding, our house full of Craig's family. It's to be a big Alaskan outdoor wedding in a hayfield on a bluff overlooking Kachemak Bay, on the homestead where Eve's husband-to-be grew up, about ten mile from our house. Yesterday, Craig's brothers, sisters-in-law and I raked freshly mowed timothy grass as Craig ran the mower round and round the meadow under the two ancient birch trees, two trunks diverging from one thick base. Because it's an outdoor wedding, because it's in a hay meadow, we've been checking the weather forecast for, well, I hate to admit it, weeks. So this morning, before dressing, while still under the comforter, as the gray sky lowered, I checked the weather forecast. Today: continuous rain, some wind. Tomorrow: more rain. Saturday: well, chance of rain 80%. But at that moment, none of that had happened. Not one drop had fallen. I got up, finally, and wandered downstairs, breathed the smell of fresh coffee in the press. Last night, Misook, Sandra (my sisters-in-law) and I hung laundry on the line and draped it over racks and porch railings to dry. The sky was gray, a gauze of rain out over the bay, approaching from Kodiak. I went out to the porch in sock feet and started gathering in the laundry. Still damp, so I hung jeans from the bannister, carried the racks to the woodstove, built a fire. Still, no rain. I walked back outside for another armload. I listened to bird song. I pressed my nose into the laundry, one of my favorite smells. I built a fire in the stove. When Misook and Sandra walked out to get the last clothes, a fine rain had begun. And now it's falling steadily, through windless air, more water than air, actually. The sky's hidden the mountains across the bay, the bay itself. Now I'm back up in my bedroom writing, listening to that rain through the open window. Listening to Craig talking on the phone, some logistical snarl about the wedding. All I hear is his end of the conversation with Eve's younger sister: "Oh my God. Oh my God. I won't say anything." It has to do with the hay bales Eve wanted her wedding guests to sit on. The rain falls now on the freshly mowed meadow. The meadow just itself, without people, where nothing yet has occurred.
Where is all this going? I've been thinking about all the moments in life we live before the big thing happens. In yoga yesterday, in shivasana, fear overtook me like a fast, Cook Inlet tide. Any ache or pain in my body, especially around the surgery site, under my arm, along my ribs, near the scar, twinges and tinglings and aches I feel every single day, especially before sleep, and just after waking, any strange physical sensation triggers fear: Is it coming back? Am I okay? Sends my mind to reeling, seeing in front of my mind's eye the pathology report, analyzing it again. Sometimes fear as big as a 986 millibar low. Sometimes fear as big as a mountain. Bigger fear than I have ever known, a fear that seems to come from the earth itself. Maybe it's the archetypal fear we all share, the fear of death. All from one tiny twinge. A fear big enough to swallow this moment, the next. In shivasana, corpse pose, yesterday, a phrase entered my mind, on the swell of that big fear: No matter what's going on inside my body, at this moment, right now, lying here, nothing has happened yet. It's the moment before the first drop of rain, the moment before the first daily crisis, the moment before the life-changing phone call, the moment before the big news, the big disappointment, the shock, the surprise, the jolt, the accident, the award. It's the moment before I write the last word in my book. This is the moment, the only moment, in which I live, in which I take my next breath. It's mine.
So here goes the day, soon driving up the hill to help cut meat for the wedding into strips so my Korean sister-in-law can soak it in her special marinade. Soon driving into town with my big shopping list. Soon calling Eve's sister back to talk about our big to-do lists. But right now, just one more second here, listening to the rain, the voices from downstairs muffled so I can't hear any individual words. Fear again calmed down to a little cold creak always running through me now, always there, just below the surface of my life. The next flash flood will come. But that hasn't happened yet. Never before has meditation, something I worked at for many years, made so much sense.