“You have a nice view.” I say that often to patients at our hospital because it really is a beautiful view. Built in the late 1800s, the hospital has some perspectives which overlook the Brandywine creek and its bank of trees. But the view I am always talking about is of the quiet greenery and unmistakeable hodgepodge of stones marking the cemetery.
A year ago I remember driving to the same hospital through a cityscape transformed almost overnight into something foreign through nothing more than the abrupt absence of people. The concrete parking garage with parking on the first level, the rerouted lobby entrance, the quietness of the hallways on what were ordinarily bustling and busy days… they were all subtle signs that the world was being transformed by the deceptively simple act of being still and of being alone.
One day about a year ago I found myself sitting quietly in a hospital office. It was a temporary space for me but luxurious in the simple details that would seem enigmatic any other year. There was a single chair. There was a drawer for my personal stash of Clorox wipes. There was a cardboard box for my goggles and even a paper bag to hold my N95. There was a bare wooden table I could wipe before first laying down a fresh paper towel and then lay (outside facing down) my surgical mask. There was a door I could close before taking a deep breath and beginning to call the families of patients, other doctors, my own family, my friends to ask about which lawyers they’d recommend to write a will. And there was a tall and wide window whose blinds I could open up to see the nice view of daylight fading on silent stones.