doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Tag: vacation

The theme of my summer break: exploring the integration of art and nature

Today marks the beginning of a new clerkship, surgery. I’m sure I will have plenty to say about that in the coming 8 weeks. But right now, I want to write about the marvelous summer break that just came to a close. Without intending this, my vacation decidedly had a theme: art, nature, and their integration. I explored this three-part theme both in New York City with a dear friend who came to visit, as well as during a brief trip to Chicago to see my family.

Taking a break to hug a tree at the Morton Arboretum.

It all started while I was in Chicago, with a visit to the Morton Arboretum. The weather was perfect for seeing this outdoor plant sanctuary, a favorite of my mom’s, and I had never been there. When my mom and I arrived, we discovered there was an origami exhibit underway. The beautiful arboretum grounds were sprinkled with immense metal sculptures, precise replications of miniature folded paper creations. We oohed and aahed as we walked around, both at the plants and the intricate folds of the sculptures, and took lots of fun photos. At the end of our visit, we stopped by the gift shop. I came across a craft kit on how to make origami flowers. It had everything you needed: instruction booklet, paper, and a DVD showing how to make the folds.

“This would be fun,” I told my mom.

Ever the supportive homeschooler, she replied, “I’ll buy it!”

An orchid bouquet that my mom and I crafted together.

So she did. We learned how to make orchids, plumerias, and leaves. I bought floral tape and wire, and we made bouquets. We found YouTube videos detailing how to make cards. We did all this not from the paper included in the kit, though — that paper was plain and boring, so we used it for practice only. But I’d left dozens of sheets of fancy paper at my mom’s apartment, the remnants of my decoupage days. They were still in her basement. I lugged them up the stairs, thankful that most art supplies find use in multiple projects.

I had so much fun that I mailed all my paper (in poster tubes) back to me in New York, and on my plane ride home checked an extra suitcase full of other art paraphernalia. Now I’ve got another way to express my creativity — one that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen.

I told my dad one morning a day or two later about the Morton Arboretum and our origami adventures. Along the lines of Japanese culture … he asked whether I’d ever visited the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford. I hadn’t. The afternoon forecast called for rain, so we hurriedly got ready and hopped into his Corvette for the drive to Rockford. Our walk among the Japanese maples and other carefully cultivated plants was sublime.

Enjoying the falling water and beautiful foliage at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Ill.

Posing with one of the Chihuly sculptures at the New York Botanical Garden.

Back home in New York,  a good friend of mine came for a brief visit. We headed to The Met, of course, at her request. At my suggestion, we also visited the New York Botanical Garden to see the Chihuly exhibition. I’d seen a similar show at Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory several years prior, and had been blown away. His immense blown glass sculptures, which have an unmistakable signature, dotted the garden’s landscape. Some stood alone; others were mixed into the actual plant beds or flowing fountains. For those of you in New York City, I highly recommend going to the botanical garden before this show ends on Oct. 29. Pay the extra few bucks to see not only the outdoor sculptures, but the indoor ones too. It’s totally worth it.

Below are additional photos of my art and nature adventures. Click on any of the photo galleries to see a slide show version with larger images.

Morton Arboretum:

My origami:

Anderson Japanese Gardens:

Beautiful blooming dogwood tree on the grounds of the Japanese garden

New York Botanical Garden / Chihuly:

A refreshing spring break

Last week was my much-welcomed spring break. I spent a few days of it in Chicago visiting my much-missed family. As usual, we talked, laughed, played games, watched movies, ate wonderful food, and drank beer and sparkling wine (not simultaneously, of course).

I also made a trek back to the Garfield Park Conservatory. I’ve been visiting this gigantic, tropical greenhouse since before I can remember, and posted about my time there at Christmas. One reason I love Garfield Park is that every time I go, I discover something new. Sometimes, it’s at a seasonal flower show. Other times, I come across something that’s always been there and I simply see it in a new way. Both happened during this most recent visit.

When I went last Friday, the spring flower show was underway. I’ve never seen such vibrant azaleas or Persian buttercups.

Brilliant azaleas at the Garfield Park Conservatory’s spring flower show.

In the fern room, a childhood favorite for games of hide-and-seek, I noticed unusual patterns of fern spores. Usually, fern spores aggregate in little round, brown balls that line the underside of the leaves. But I discovered that they arrange themselves in other beautiful ways — in straight lines and in zig-zags, for example.

Schismatoglottis — parasite or plant?

Part of how you see things depends on your perspective. And I was looking at the plants as a medical student. So when I saw a plant called Schismatoglottis (pictured at left), I immediately thought the placard read “Schistosomiasis” — a nasty parasitic worm you contract by exposure to infected water.

And looking at the miniature silver nerve plant, I had flashbacks to our brain and behavior unit last fall. The veins in the leaves do bear resemblance to axons and dendrites.

Miniature silver nerve plant

I found unexpected humor at the conservatory too. In the same room where my sisters and I had run amok as kids, I saw this gardener’s bin. I’m glad to see childhood playfulness is still welcomed — even encouraged.

And now, after such a refreshing spring break, it’s time to get ready for my next clerkship: primary care.

Recharged and ready to go after winter break

Playing with my dad's cats, Regina and Ismael, was such a treat.

Playing with my dad’s cats, Regina and Ismael, was such a treat.

It’s always hard to get back into the swing of things after vacation. As I got up this morning, inwardly I groaned, thinking about the weeks of intense studying that lie ahead. (I’ve been studying for only five days so far, and already I’m exhausted … only five weeks to go.) But looking back on some of the wonderful memories made over the two weeks I was in Chicago raised my spirits:

  • Spending much-needed time with my parents, sisters, and future brother-in-law. We talked, laughed, ate, drank, played cards, watched movies. I only wish we could do it more often. But since we can’t, our time together is all the more precious.
  • Visiting with some (but not all) of my lovely Chicago-area friends — what a treat!
  • Going to the Garfield Park Conservatory to get a chlorophyll hit as winter raged outside.
  • Watching a Blackhwaks game at the United Center. The Blackhawks lost, but did score so we got to do the goal dance thing. If you’ve been to a Hawks game, you know what I’m talking about.
  • Reading a whole novel — I hadn’t read for fun in months and months.
  • Seeing Rogue One in 3-D IMAX (I hadn’t been in a theater in ages) and then following that up with three more Star Wars movies over the next two weeks in my dad’s man cave.
  • Driving a car.
  • Creating things with my hands.
  • Eating Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza not once, but twice — giardiniera and sausage, yum.
  • Playing with my dad’s two cats.

These next five weeks, post-vacation, will be intense as I study for my board exam. But this two-week break was exactly what I needed to recharge after such an intense semester. This time off put me in a better frame of mind to start my study period.

I’m ready. Bring it on.

Spring break: Just in time

Upenuf: It’s an apropos street name for the hilly roads surrounding San Francisco. It’s also an apropos phrase for my life. The months since starting medical school last August have felt very much like an uphill climb. Thankfully, just as I was muttering “upenuf” to myself, we got a week off for spring break. I headed to San Francisco to visit my middle sister, Sarah. What a magical few days! We visited a winery, hiked on the hilly paths of Pacifica, waded in the frigid ocean, walked among the redwoods of Muir Forest, and gazed up (and then down) at the Golden Gate Bridge. We also drank a fair amount of prosecco while eating goat cheese and crackers. I feel rested, relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready for the last push to finish my first year of medical school. Onward … and upward.

Here are more photos from my trip: