Today the morning sun defines the brilliant autumn colors of the foliage in our backyard. The remnants of my wife’s flower garden rest in muted shadows below the overhanging branches of the maple tree in the southwest corner. Earlier this morning you could see the burning fires of the tiny wild red roses perched in the white flower pot hanging amidst the gnarled grapevine runners by the back fence. Monet could have done them justice on canvas.
Last week I had a different view outside my window. Through parallel pine branches that bobbed in the morning breeze you could see the far mountains dressed in swaths of fall colors rising up from the far shore of the lake. The lake always mirrored the color of the sky. At first light the lake reflected the grayness overhead; later in the day you could see tiny ripples of puffy white cumulus clouds dancing among the commas of fall colors on the surface of the water. This was the view from my hospital bed on the second floor of the medical center in Saranac Lake.
The anesthesiologist who lived in that area told me that a pair of bald eagles had nested in a tall pine on the shores of the lake the previous spring. If I watched closely, he said, I might catch a glimpse of one of the parent birds hunting high in the air above the lake. Although I had no way of knowing if this were true or not, I had no reason to doubt his word.
The surgeon who put the fractured bones in my right leg and hand back together did not talk about the eagles or the lake. He merely described the surgical procedure known as open reduction pin fixation while I lay flat on my back in the hospital bed. He named the pieces of surgical hardware individually and explained where they would be placed to stabilize the fractures. Like a good mechanic, he practiced his trade well. I was very grateful for his expertise and skill.
But now, looking back with my mind’s eye from where I sit in a chair by the window of my second story bedroom back home—my right leg and arm in bulky casts—I suddenly realize that it was the anesthesiologist who was the poet.