Preflight is a sort of necessary ritual observance, checking over the plane to make sure it is safe to fly.
There always seems to be a strong wind in one direction or another on the airfield, scented of fuel and smoke and pine and freedom. Pacing around the plane, fingertips upon touchstone bolts, along the silksmooth edge of the prop, rattling guide rods for the ailerons, becomes a sort of dance with the wind, accompanied by the arcs swallows spiraling lazily upward over the tarmac cut in the air. Wind in hair and trenchcoat and along my curved fingers, seductive.
There is fuel to check for quality and color - it should be a very faint blue, like the color of the summer sky pressed thin between plates of glass. Check the engine, check the oil. And by now the wind is singing impatiently, or I am singing impatiently - 'come, dance with me, fly. leave all this behind and know, even for an hour, freedom.'
Pull down on the flaps to make sure they move freely, and the wind changes, more hollow and echoing thrum. The plane is a harp of gull's-wing metal, strung in climb and bank and glide and stall. The wind is a harp of a thousand voices, of the scent of smoke and the harsh cold metallic taste the air has above ground, needle strings of tension and sunlight and the intricate and beautiful eddies the wind spirals itself into.
So that by the time you scramble into the cockpit and check fuses and oil pressure and the master electrical switch, and switch on the transponder, fingers fumbling a bit in your haste to be flying, you are guided by a song every pilot hears, and maybe they all think of it differently, but I've watched them, and it's always there.
And then you are flying, and there is nothing else like it.
The moral of the story, I think, is that next time I am going to do my own preflight, even though I'm still slooooow. I felt so disconnected from that blasted plane, and I really wasn't in the mood to fly at that point, and if I'd preflighted it and felt the wind cold on the back of my neck, I would have been in the Zen pilot mindspace, which would have helped a lot.