On a brutal night in the depth of winter, I traveled through the wilderness to reach a village in desperate need of my services. Under clear skies, I felt myself lifted despite the cold by the meaning behind each poke and stroke of my skis. Yet, even with the effort I could feel the cold creeping into my bones.
What luck I had then when rounding a bend to find a small fire crackling in the trees not far from the track. I approached carefully not wanting to surprise any woodsman there, but I needn’t have worried for the man tending the fire saw me from afar and had been waiting.
“What are you doing out here and not in your hut?” I asked.
“I might ask you the same,” said the woodsman, “but instead I will tell you I am burning for my dreams.”
As a physician, I naturally worried about the man’s health and told him so, but his reply shocked me all the more.
“Everyone burns for their dreams in some way,” said the woodman. “Those settle, more often I have met them in villages in towns, are singed by the memory of the dreams they’ve abandoned. Though here in the wilderness, where dreams as much as wit might keep a man alive, he smolders in anticipation of days to come or he may do as I am doing which is stoking the fire of my first dream.”
“And just what are your dreams?” I asked.
“My dreams?” asked the woodman. “One dream is to see the sun rise tomorrow and then perhaps the day after that. Another dream is to see Spring on the river and for my sons to do the same.”
After the woodsman’s first statements, I was taken back by the simplicity of his reply.
“But surely,” I said, “these are same dreams that most men share and not worth the danger of exposing yourself on a night like this.”
“Oh to be sure,” replied the woodsman. “However, there is the first dream I mentioned which is far more important.”
“Which is?” I asked.
The woodman looked across the fire with eyes as bright as the stars. He flashed a grin and tossed another branch on the fire.
“Why of course to make sure the doctor reaches the village where my sons lie ill without the fool freezing himself to death.”