Looking Forward: Dream On

There’s a pivotal moment in The Wizard of Oz, in which a bewildered Dorothy, clutching Toto and gazing wide-eyed around the kaleidoscopic world of Oz, exclaims breathlessly to the dog, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Then, with a big smile: “We must be over the rainbow!”

I had an experience like this a few years ago, waking up my first morning in Warkworth, New Zealand. I had just arrived to work on a small, family-run organic farm as part of a month-long solo excursion that occurred during the year I spent between New York and Los Angeles—the one rife with wondering, worrying, and flailing, that I referenced in last week’s post.

I slept in a tiny wooden cabin tucked away in a corner of the farm, heavy with trees. Outside my window were acres of rolling green fields—the sort I thought only existed in movies. Cows meandered in distant pastures; nearby, a flock of chickens awaited breakfast, chattering affably in their pen. Sitting up in bed, taking it all in, I felt worlds away from the smoggy, sun-bleached haze of LA, the crowded sidewalks of New York City.

It was heaven. I may as well have been over the rainbow.

I spent my days cleaning chicken coops, weeding the vegetable garden, hanging laundry to dry in the sun. I learned to make jam from the bruised flesh of overripe strawberries. Bake bread from scratch. Milk goats. I discovered the joys of pavlova, feijoa wine, and a curiously sweet breed of lemon called a “lemonade”.

I spent seven days living in a trailer in the front yard of a family whose diet consisted solely of raw foods. I flew in a tiny plane to Great Barrier Island, where, in exchange for washing dishes in the kitchen of a local inn, I accompanied the resident fishermen on afternoon sailing trips and ate crayfish with bread and butter by the sea at sunset.

I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t working. I rarely had access to a phone or computer.

But in between the planting and the cleaning and the fishing and the cooking, I was doing something.

I was collecting stories. And I was dreaming.

The disappointment of the previous months behind me, I spent many nights awake—in my cabin, in my trailer, in my bunk—making lists of things I wanted to do when I got home, places I wanted to visit, goals I hoped to achieve. I made plans. I thought about what I needed in life to be happy. I was alone (and sometimes lonely), but the quiet gave me space to think, and the time to prepare for resuming life on my own back in the U.S.

“It’s important to give yourself time to dream,” my dad said to me once, when I fretted over the fact that many of my friends were moving ahead with their careers, starting grad school, living in new cities.

These days, while I don’t have the time or the money to leave the country to do so, I find myself slipping into daydreams frequently—on the train, on the bus, on walks home at the end of the day. Focus, I often tell myself in instances like this. Don’t get distracted. There’s no time; you’re too busy. 

But sometimes what I need most, I think, is time to be distracted. Time to dream. It isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. Dorothy’s dreams took her to Oz, over chimney tops, past the rainbow. Who knows where I’ll wake up next?

Thinking about that is my favorite daydream of all.

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