Some food for thought from jazz pianist and teacher Kenny Werner: “Once I was asked, ‘What is the next stage of evolution in music…?’ My answer was that the evolution of music is not the issue. It is the evolution of the musician that’s most important. The artist must take his rightful place in society as a teacher, metaphysician and visionary.”
How does that apply to those of us who practice the art of writing? I can speak for myself. My early poems and essays told stories of my patients and my own experiences as a nurse clinician. Later, I began to write on themes that recurred in my work: birth and death of course, but also subjects ranging from guilt over poor clinical outcomes to the presence of computers in the exam room. These days, I’m taken with what I think of as heresies, my deviations from orthodoxy. I approach heresy as a health professional but also as a rational and spiritual being. My poem, “Reference Range,” questioning the value we place on lab tests and screening exams is one example.
Reflecting on my decades as a nurse, family caregiver and writer, I can see how my thinking and practice have evolved. Hindsight doesn’t make me a visionary but it does help me appreciate my journey through this life and the occasional clearings I stumble into where I can stop, catch my breath, and ready myself to take the next step along my path.