Deep Breath

Langston Hughes wrote a famous poem about a dream deferred. I’ve been reciting it in my head a lot during the past month, ever since reality hit in Scotland and it became clear that the pursuit of my sheep farm dream was ending up far unlike I had, well, dreamed it would.


I spent a lot more time shredding tree branches than tending sheep. Really quite meditative, as jobs go.

But this poem—a brilliant piece of art, go read it if you don’t know it—is about putting off a dream. As Hughes writes, when we put off our dreams, they can dry up, fester, or even explode. It’s scary to put off dreams. But we do it anyway.


Because if we pursue them, we’re risking everything. What if the dream doesn’t turn out the way you want? Then you no longer have a dream to fall back on and dream about when things in “real life” are getting rough.

I had fallen back on my dream of herding sheep in Scotland for half my life. When senior year of college was overwhelming, I told everyone I would just become a sheep farmer. When my dad passed away, I dreamed myself onto a remote pasture where only peace and docile woolly beasts reigned. When Old Job got overwhelming, I set pictures of sheep grazing in breathtaking landscapes as my desktop background.

So when I was on a farm in Scotland that had sheep, and I needed to escape, what happened to a dream disillusioned?

I don’t have an answer. I might never. I know I still have plenty of dreams—it’s not like this one bad experience has given me nothing to live for—and I know that this one experience, though ill-suited to my skills and personality in just about every possible way, had, after all, very little to do with raising sheep. So in a sense, I still have that dream to fall back on.

But do I want to? And that’s what’s hard to answer.

What I do know is that Germany delivered, as it always does. I know that I love independence, ease of getting from one place to another without feeling trapped by unwalkability or someone else’s schedule.


I know that there’s deep, spiritual Truth in friends who love you even at your worst. And I know that Pennsylvania is just as beautiful as Moray, Scotland, if less architecturally pleasing. (Seriously, PA, get your act together.)

What happens to a dream deferred? Langston Hughes, if I knew that, your poem would not have such resonating power today all these years since you penned it.

What happens to a dream disillusioned? Maybe someday I’ll have an answer. But in the meantime, I’m not going to worry about it.

I came back to Pennsylvania more stunned by these mountains than ever; more ready for fulfilling, paid work that I’m good at than I can describe; more excited for the little joys in life than I could ever manage to muster on the croft.

And for this kind of True, deep-seated Joy, I would have been glad to give much more than one silly old dream.



4 thoughts on “Deep Breath

  1. Some scientists believe the Appalachian Mountains are the oldest on earth. In my opinion, that makes PA potentially extra special.

    Some scientists believe that the earth was once covered by one big land mass and that all of today’s continents were once connected…

    PA and Germany are pretty similar in latitude…

    While unwalkabilty between the two is a problem, I have no problem convincing myself that PA is the American Germany and Deutschland is the Euro PA.

    Welcome back.


    • I never knew that about the age of the Appalachians. But I’ve always been convinced PA peeled off from Germany somewhere along the way. I love the details you add to my blog posts.

      It’s (so) good to be back.


  2. Great post! When times were hard in NoVA, we kept talking about how life would be easier once we got to small-town PA. Life has a way of changing dreams and keeping us moving.

    On the other side, our trip to Iceland was a total fulfillment of a travel dream. It was everything we thought it would be and more.


    • It’s so much fun when things we don’t expect to love turn out to fill dreams we never knew we had. But I guess if we’re going to enjoy those, we need to be ready for the converse. I hope your next dream is completely fulfilled and more!


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