White Coat at Midnight

–Richard M. Berlin

This morning my best friend

will come with his chain saw

and ax, and we’ll cut down

the ash where a barred owl

perched last night and hooted

his four note song. We’ll split it

and stack it into cords, and I’ll be

thinking about midnight

in January when the air is twenty

below zero and the northern

lights shimmer purple and blue.

My Defiant woodstove will be

burning today’s work at 700,

and I’ll be warm enough to open

a window wide and listen

again for owls and the calls

of coyotes yipping at the moon,

my monogrammed white coat

draped on a peg, washed

whiter by the moonlight,

hanging around for the next

moment of healing, like winter

waiting for the earth’s heart to thaw.

 (Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

Dr. Berlin, a western Massachusetts psychiatrist, is a gifted poet and observer of nature. Many of us who practice rural share the same love of the land as our patients. Watching the changes of nature both restores us and reminds us of the constancy of change in our lives. This careful attention to detail, much like mindfulness practice where you appreciate each moment and don’t get too far ahead or behind yourself, is in itself healing.

Learn more about Dr. Berlin’s writing

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