When Did We Stop Dreaming, America?

Solutions to bring back creative enjoyment to your life

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Trillium Lake, Oregon circa 2019

At what point did we stop dreaming?

When the mysteries of life felt like possibility and opportunity for great things. When the idea that we could conquer our fears was about growth, exploration, and adventure. Have we lost the mystery to create new worlds?

This time of season, is a time for slowing down, going inward, and letting new ideas germinate before they burst forth into creation when springtime comes. The harvest is mostly over, the birds have flown south and there is a cool, crisp sentiment about the wintertime.

As we enter into what feels like, yet another iteration of hibernation in 2020 I wonder how we can make use of this time. I reckon you are thinking something similar. And what is there that can truly come of this dark, mysterious time anyway? 

For me, looking to other cultural narratives and traditions has helped me adapt to this deep dormant period. Dormancy does not mean NOTHING is happening. It presupposes creativity and renewed vigor on the other end of it (if you are thinking that dormancy is nothing and does nothing please review above sentence). This is precisely why it’s important to look to other (more ancient) cultures for greater wisdom.

Let’s go for a walk!

America is a baby country compared to Italy. I’m rather obsessed with that country, so in my numerous travels to different regions in Italy, I’ve gleaned cultural customs that have impacted my life tremendously. One tradition stands out that can be a source of nourishment during this time. The phrase facciamo una passieggiata is an expression used to talk about going on a walk together.

This is not a fast-paced walk. It’s a stroll with others – family, good friends and loved ones. In Lucca, a tiny walled in city in the Tuscan Region, family members go for a walk in the late-afternoon sometimes to window shop and sometimes to meander on top of the wall that is lined with bucolic trees and mountains in the distance. A tradition that goes back countless generations.

Walking is known for spurring on creative ideas. For those of you who have been to Italy, you get that palpable feeling of creativity surrounding you. It seems like the next Pavarotti is being birthed right next door to you. I mean seriously, there were countless times I’d be walking down some cobble stone road where I’d come across a young woman or man who was bellowing out a song that gave me goosebumps. Italians understand the creative process and they know how to make something out of nothing.

When I suggest that you take up walking, I’m asking you to consider what walking can really be. Walking is healthy, most definitively, but it’s not simply for the body. It’s also for the mind. Walking is connection – to people, to your surroundings and to wildlife. Creative sparks come from letting all your cares go away in order to absorb what is right before you.


Sometimes the simple act of walking and connecting is not enough to relieve stress and anxiety, particularly the kind that comes from living through a pandemic. I know for myself, that if I have a lot of emotion built up, the best antidote for that is to work my body a little harder. This is where the Norwegians come in.

To be invigorated, adopt the 5000 year old tradition of friluftsliv, literally translated as “free-air-life,” expressing the joys of an outdoor lifestyle.  Given that Norway is known for its intense winters, we can follow in their footsteps trusting that developing a mindset of outdoor adventure is a fast way to transform the way we see our inner and outer world.

Do yourself a favor: invest in some cozy, warm winter gear, a colorful toque and a thermos. Grab your favorite journal and pen to track the evolutions of your winter journeys. After a long strenuous snowshoeing excursion with a friend or two, take some time to write down any words, ideas or epiphanies that came through while you were active. These are the purest form of thought, the matters of the heart that are pointing you to your inner longings.

My Suggestion

Dreaming up new visions for this world is not just for the artist or the writer; it’s for everyone. Some of us may be in high-level leadership positions desperately seeking solace this year, badly wanting to connect back to ourselves. Some of us may be unemployed and in a place of question about next steps. Each one of us can cultivate creative insight.

The liminal space between who you knew yourself to be and who you want to be in these coming years needs clarity and introspection. Spend the winter outdoors, see what changes for you. Feel what clarity and vigor comes for you – then act on it!

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