By Dr. Jim Ferguson

When I had a full time medical practice, snow-days were relaxing. My office was closed and hospital rounds were not dictated by a waiting room full of patients. How times have changed for me. Now, snow-days mean school closures and we get the “cute-ones” for the day and often more. All my married life, Becky ran our home and did more child nurturing than me. Now, there is a more equitable relationship on Thistle Farm. I wash clothes, dress grandkids for the snow and even clean toilets.

We were desperate last week, having run out of entertainment for a five and a half and a two and a half year old. As we awaited the predicted snow storm we became so desperate we piled in the car and became “storm chasers” like the crazies who chase tornadoes. Doppler radar showed the storm moving slowly, so we headed to McKay’s to buy children’s books and then lunch at Krystal. When you “gotta have a Krystal,” you go and they have the best dip dogs this side of the Midway. Unlike the “drive-by media,” we don’t believe a hamburger or a hotdog will kill us or the President. How telling that the “drive-bys” weren’t interested in Hillary Clinton’s obviously poor health, but seem obsessed with Trump’s Diet Coke consumption, weight and cholesterol level.

I have always been a lover of books; I’m a bibliophile. One of my sayings or “Fergisms” is that “He who dies with the most books wins.” Becky and I moved last year and realized you collect a lot of stuff over time. A friend of mine says you should move every eight years and take nothing with you. Of course that’s hyperbole, but in a way serious. A famous book about western culture was written some years ago by Jared Diamond called “Guns, Germs and Steel.” The premise came from Diamond’s conversation with an aboriginal chief who observed that the author, as representative of western culture, had “too much cargo.”

Recently, my Mother moved and we helped box her treasures and then dispose of decades of cargo and clutter. Since I love books, I was tasked with her library, and since my Mom was moving to a much smaller space without lots of bookshelves, I filled the bed of my truck with boxes of books destined for McKay’s. As I emptied shelf after shelf, I thought about all the words written in all those books which may never be read again. As a writer who actually pens his own words rather than putting his name on the cover like Bill O’Reilly, Hillary Clinton or Andre Agassi, I know what it takes to write a book. A friend gave me the Agassi book. Perhaps I’ll read his story some day, but I have less interest now that I no longer play tennis. Another of my observations (Fergisms) is that all gifts are worthy and good for the giver as well as the receiver. So, just graciously say “Thank you,” for any gift and move on.

Despite snow and ice and cute-ones, I stay connected to my patients with the new technologies of Skype, FaceTime, email, text and iPhone. Within the last week, I’ve managed colds, influenza, diverticulitis, rashes, diabetes and a black-ice induced fall. I’ve discussed patient management with other doctors and made house calls in my four wheel drive truck. Admittedly, I’m responsible for fewer patients in my semi-retired concierge practice rather than the thousands I once cared for in my traditional medical practice. However, my patients and I are closer now than ever before. These observations challenge the present day industrial practice of medicine.

It’s supposed to be warmer by the time you read this essay, but as I write it’s seven degrees Fahrenheit, and way too cold for me. Down Under they’re having insufferable heat measured as 102°F at the Australian Open tennis tournament. (Several of my patients with the flu have recently had internal temperatures of 102°.) Years ago we visited Australia and discovered that Sydney is equal distance from the equator as Knoxville, so if you point at your toes you’ll be pointing at Sydney, Australia.

There are many causes of local weather beyond just latitude. The Pilgrims on the Mayflower didn’t realize that the Gulf Stream did not warm the Plymouth Massachusetts area as it did England, whose latitude was comparable. Do you know the major factor of temperature on earth? It’s the sun of course. Without the colossal energy output of the sun, the earth would quickly freeze solid. Winter occurs in the northern latitude because the earth is tilted on its axis causing the sun’s energy to strike Knoxville tangentially in January and straight on in Sydney.

We are currently in a cyclical low activity of sun spots which are eruptions through the sun’s photosphere. With fewer eruptions smaller amounts of energy stream across space to warm the earth. But, like local weather, it’s more far more complex. Some years ago, Henrik Svensmark wrote “The Chilling Stars” book chronicling his research. The Danish physicist found that electromagnetic fluctuations of our sun are correlated with the sun’s surface appearance, earth’s temperature and even historical weather events like the Medieval Warm Period when Greenland became green and the Little Ice Age when winter wheat crops in France failed and people starved, sowing the seeds of the French Revolution. I realize it’s complicated, but decreased solar wind (sun) allows greater cosmic radiation to strike the dust in earth’s atmosphere causing increased cloud cover and cooling temperatures. Someone should tell Al Gore that our sun is the principle cause of the earth’s climate rather than CO2.

Christmas is over, we’ve had a snow and I’m tired of winter. In fact, the only thing I can say positive about February is that it’s short. I’m ready for our currently “quiet” sun to get back to work and bring on spring.