My Footsteps on the Floating Dock


Michael Parchman, MD1

Accompanying artwork: Ayla Leisure

Perm J 2020;24:15.056 [Full Citation]
E-pub: 03/18/2020

This is a story and illustration from the upcoming book 100 Little Stories of Big Moments published by The Permanente Press.

Most of the stories and poems were written by clinicians in 15 minutes in writing workshops about meaningful moments in their work and life of practicing medicine. Professional artists were asked to create a visual representation of the story.

The sun came up, illuminating the tops of the peaks in a rose-colored glow, as wisps of clouds scuttled along their snow-covered highways. The mountains seemed impossibly high, brooding over green-clad hills, reflected in the iron-grey water that lapped at my feet. Seagulls circled, some landing and cracking shellfish open along the shore. A fresh wind rippled the surface of the water, where mere inches to feet below the surface, the bed was covered in mussels, clams, and oysters, thick on top of each other.

A mountain stream rushed between the cabins and emptied out onto the rock-strewn tidal flat, its flow disappearing among the rocks, shells, and seaweed until it trickled into the water. Boats tied to the long dock bobbed in the water, tugging at their mooring lines as if wishing to be free. My footsteps on the floating dock sent ripples across the surface of the water from underneath the dock as I walked. I peered into the crystal-clear water, certain that I had earlier seen the circular ripple of fish rising to the surface to feed, looking for their movement, but none were to be found, perhaps so well camouflaged by their color against the background of shellfish that they were unnoticable.

The fresh evergreen scent was on the wind, along with a faint smell of smoke from some distant fireplace chimney. I examined the rocks on the beach, thinking about how much my wife would love to fill our car with them for her garden in the backyard. I walked back to the waterfall, noting the careful placement of stones, rocks, and plants at odd angles, thinking about how this might look in our yard.


How to Cite this Article

Parchman M. My footsteps on the floating dock. Perm J 2020;24:15.056 DOI:

Author Affiliation

1 Health Research Institute, Kaiser Permanente Washington, Seattle

Corresponding Author

Michael Parchman, MD (

Artist Information

Ayla Leisure is a mixed media artist creating and dreaming in Portland, OR. More of her work may be seen at:

The story “My Footsteps on the Floating Dock” was originally published in leaflet, 2016;5(1). Available from:


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