By Brian W. Christman, professor and vice chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Medicine as well as chief of medical service at the Veteran Affairs’ Tennessee Valley Health Care System
It is always a bit of a challenge to explain why a physician, a person so intensely interested in the well-being of other people, would move away from the world and craft a few lines about a scene, an observation, or a thought. Sometimes it comes from a sense of obligation, the feeling that someone should think a bit longer about a solitary widow taking a shaving bag home, or a veteran patient smoking and telling stories at sunset, or the obvious but unspoken respect of a granddaughter for the recuperating patriarch. It seems to me that doctors are privileged to be with people during critical episodes in their lives and should not remain unmoved by events and interactions.
Occasionally there is just a snatch of nature, like the endlessly erasing shoreline at sunrise, begging in an undescribed language for translation. Often there is just a phrase, or part of a story, that resonates with a previous experience and sculpts a partial memory into something new.
But this explanation claims too much high ground. Sometimes I just like to noodle around with words and phrases about a topic until something comes together with its own rhythm, rhyme, and silence. It feels good to distill.