I was heading back from med school today when I paused to snap some photos at Memorial Church. It was a bright afternoon, and the alcoves were boldly patterned with shadow and dashes of afternoon sunlight.
On an impulse, I switched the filter on my iPhone to the tonal setting and peered around, catching the interplay of light and dark.
I have long loved the concept of chiaroscuro, the dance of light and shadow in photography and other forms of art. More often, though, I focus on the palette of colors around me–the different shades of green in the sunlit leaves, the heaven-sent blue of the sky, or even the dull black of the asphalt beneath my shoes.
In the absence of color, however, my eyes were instinctively drawn to the patterns and textures around me. Rough stone, shadow-ink, arches of light.
Even an anonymous bicyclist passing by me became a whirling dance of shapes and shadows.
Later this evening, after watching an instructional video on placing IVs, I paused to examine the snaking paths of my own veins. We’ll be practicing on each other, and I’ve never had an IV before. It looks like it’ll be more complicated than drawing blood, and I’m mainly nervous about having one of my valves get in the way of the thin plastic catheter we’ll be threading into my vein.
Yes, I’m a little nervous. But this is an essential part of my training and a skill that will enable me to help others.
Maybe my stethoscope will be a bit like my camera filter…it provides a new lens, teaching me to see with my ears, to notice things I might miss otherwise. Reminding me to pause and listen, which is a good thing to do any day, regardless of whether or not I’m in the hospital or classroom or clinic.
It’s easy to let life and others slip by. It’s like how my heart is always beating; blood is always pulsing through my veins, but I rarely stop to think about it and appreciate this rushing gift of life. It’s only when I see my blood flashing into the hub of a needle that I really remember it’s there, or when I have to palpate for a vein, or bandage my finger after a mishap in the kitchen. But it’s always there, just like everything around us.
I can hear the pulse of this life in the footsteps around me as I cross the med school sidewalks, or in the rhythm of voices lost in dialogue. And with a clock to my ear, I can almost hear the heartbeat of time.