In bed the other night, late, I listened to the rain. There was pattering on tin somewhere, not my roof, maybe someone's shed or the printing office across the parking lot. The sound was beautiful. Harry The Dog lay sighing nearby. We were content.
Then, for no particular reason, I thought about going out to the yard and sprawling face-up and spread-eagle on the grass. I wanted to feel the rain on my face and look up at the marbled sky. There were smells out there I wanted to experience: half-open peonies, maybe the whiff of scallions and tomato plants I'd stuck in the ground a few days before. I wanted to feel the wet earth through my cotton nightgown. Then I thought about what a neighbor might think if one happened to be making a middle-of-the-night trip to an upstairs bathroom and looked down over my fence to see me there. Would they decide I was crazy, or would they come running, thinking I'd keeled over while outside in my bed clothes on an inexplicable midnight stroll in the storm?
I've been thinking about my bucket list, what I might do if I got bad news about my health. What haven't I done, I've pondered just lately, that I would want to do if I had only a year to live? Some people say they'd travel. I wouldn't, because I already have and with great pleasure; but that desire is behind me. Some people might be daring and skydive. Considering a walk through an airplane door takes every bit of my courage in the first place, a late-life decision to jump out that door seems unlikely. I've heard some say they'd "take it all with them," maxing credit cards to buy diamonds or fast cars. Heaven knows I don't need more stuff. My reverie has netted curious results: no grand end-of-days' adventure comes to mind. Is that possible? Can it be my life has been so full? Or is it that when we get the mysterious summons to move on to the next place we realize how big the small things really are?
In the end, my bucket list answers were surprisingly ordinary. I'd spend more time with people I love. I'd play more golf and keep writing, two joyful skills I like to think I'm pretty good at and that, when accomplished proficiently, make me happy. I'd find some baby animals whose innocent eyes and newborn tumblings would make me laugh. I'd fight less with my sister and snuggle more with my dog, and maybe even track down a horse whose neck I'd hug and who I'd ride really fast bareback, feeling wind in my hair. And I'd bury my face in newly-mown grass as often as I could. There's something about that lush smell that takes me back to a simple childhood when musings about death are decades away and when a whole and fabulous life is out there in front, whispering come on girl, come get me. Let's see what you've got.
So the other night, in my dark and peaceful town, my bucket list sparse and humble, I decided I didn't care what the neighbors thought. I slipped out the back door and flopped onto the grass, letting scents of flowers and loamy soil swirl around me. Just as I'd imagined, the sky's portrait of clouds eased by overhead, flinging rain like splatters of jewels and carrying me away without benefit of steel wings. By the time my nightgown was soaked through I was crying, knowing that not Paris nor parachutes nor meaningless manufactured tidbits could ever compare with this.
For now, God willing, I can tuck my bucket list into a dusty drawer where it will stay until my invitation to the next leg of the journey arrives. Meanwhile I'll watch the sky, and never again bemoan the rain.