On Being A Romantic Dreamer

****** This is not about bashing Montana, my home and a place I have loved all my life. This is about a tiny portion of my experiences there, nothing more… it’s about how some small, rural areas can sometimes affect a person. ******

I’ve recently become interested in those folk who are tagged “romantics” and “dreamers,” largely because I’ve often been accused of being one of them, and have, from time to time, tried to dispel that perception with certain friends. The perception that dreamers and romantics are weaklings and sissies was fairly prevalent in the Montana culture I grew up in. I’ve been told I should become more practical, more grounded. I’ve been told to get my head out of the clouds. (And out of my ass) It was in my best interest to do the “manly man” necessities, not only to maintain my few friends, but even to stay healthy.

Along with all that, I was often accused of being over-emotional, too sensitive. I would learn years later that all those things were acceptable in polite society… you know, the society that exists outside Montana. Of course I wished I had learned those things years earlier and stuck to my sissy guns, but as we like to say, better late than never.

Strangely enough it was the big cities back East that kept hinting to me that being a dreamer or a romantic might be an okay way to be. A few people must have seen it in me, and actually began coaxing it out of me. Finding myself in a safe haven of sorts, I was finally able to be myself, and it felt great! I’d known for a long time that I was a little “weird,” but never considered that it might be acceptable to actually be myself! The longer I was accepted with my new persona, the clearer it became that I wasn’t all that weird, but maybe just a little different… a “different” that was acceptable, at least to city folk!

Finally being able to embrace the romantic and the dreamer in me, I was free to express myself in a new, and comfortable way. At first I went too far occasionally, but soon realized the limits of tolerance for romantic dreamers in the outside world. I found the comfort zone, and lived happily in that wonderful zone for about 13 years. Then I got married.

But What Is A Romantic, Really?

characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality.
“a romantic attitude toward the past”

a person who is romantic, as in being idealistic, amorous, or soulful.
a person whose tastes in art, literature, etc, lie mainly in romanticism; romanticist.
a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations.

You’re an optimist. …
You tend to ignore red flags. …
You’ve been labeled “emotional” before. …

And What Is A Dreamer?

: One who dreams. (duh)
: one who lives in a world of fancy and imagination
: one who has ideas or conceives projects regarded as impractical : visionary
Hell, that doesn’t sound like much of a bad person

And while we’re at it, What Is An Idealist?

A person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations.
“they were idealists and visionaries, in love with the work they had undertaken”

So you know, I Googled the above quotes as representative of a neutral party.

I’ve cherry-picked a few quotes of Noah Joseph Wolf on the matter –
“Being a romantic dreamer is a philosophy that determines how one views life and the world which one lives in. They aren’t just at times romantic dreamers, they are eternally romantic dreamers.”
“They’re ones that believe that little things matter. And not only that they matter, but that they are the only things that matter.”
“They’re the truest of all introverts, not because they aren’t extroverts or can’t be, but because only being an introvert truly enables one to dream within. Left alone to themselves, they’ll design life in a way that none could have even dreamed of.”
“To realize the impossible, to maybe somehow understand one that’s a romantic dreamer, read “White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. A short story about a romantic dreamer. A book that’s to be read in one sitting, of an hour or so.”

These guys below might not be the kind of dreamers I’m talking about, but you get the idea…
Some famous dreamers –
• Our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, attributed the philosophy contained within the Declaration of Independence to their dreams
• Albert Einstein ascribed the theory of relativity to a dream he had as a young boy
• Thomas Edison credited his discovery of electricity to his dreams
• Stravinsky, Wagner, and Beethoven heard musical compositions, from fragments to entire canons, in their dreams
• Bob Dylan composed music from his dreams
• Paul McCartney praised his dreams for his multi-platinum song, Yesterday
• The movie, Avatar, was dreamed in vivid detail by director, James Cameron

Some famous romantics –

The British poets, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, and John Keats, and the novelist, Mary Shelley, whose masterpiece, Frankenstein, is an icon of the Romantic movement. American writers also played a leading role in the Romantic movement. Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman.

And what about any famous idealists? Well, there’s Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Bertrand Russell, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian philosopher and orator. Not bad company to be in, right? Try as I might, I cannot see a single name on these lists who illicits a negative response for me. Well okay, maybe Karl Marx, but even he was an advocate of Hegel…

But these lists beg the question – if these famous names are respected and accepted as dreamers, romantics and idealists, then I have to wonder why a car mechanic who also happens to be a dreamer, a romantic, doesn’t at least garner some acknowledgement for being different in a positive way. After all, it was years before I realized it was okay to be thought of as a dreamer, a romantic. For so long the Montana culture actually herded me into respecting and trying to be macho. I actually believed, for quite awhile, that being creative, imaginative were perceived as being delicate, and being “delicate” was not American male. Sad but true.

I thrived beautifully in the big, fairly liberal city of Atlanta for 31 years. I felt safe, accepted, even often encouraged to be creative. It’s true, never was heard a discouraging word. To be a dreamer, to have and to access an imagination that reached beyond the reality of the moment… that was okay, even promoted, in Atlanta in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

One of my favorite lines back in those years  came from a half dozen ad producers and directors, who would hire me to do a jingle for their latest commercial. “Have fun with it,” they’d tell me. It was an innocent-sounding phrase, asking me to be playful, creative, different with the music. While hinting to be imaginative with their project, the underlying theme of their simple little direction might be, “Just do what feels good, you can’t hurt it.” Or, more probably, “Have the music get this spot to a place it can’t get on its own,” or “Please polish this turd for me,” or “Be crazy brilliant for me on this one… you might be saving my job here. I need to hold onto it one more year until my kid gets out of college…”  Yes. it was good to be a romantic dreamer there for awhile.

And so it was that when I returned to my beloved Montana in 2005, after being unceremoniously retired from the same city that supported me for so many years, I found Montana to be largely the same state that it was 50 years ago. Culture shock? Oh yeah! Still semi-tough, independent and occasionally mean-spirited, it once more reminded me that it was truly not a place for old men, or for dreamers and romantics, and after seven years of trying to make Montana be the Montana that I remembered, I gave up on it, with the help of my wonderful lady, Betty, who lived in Seattle. With her I found a fantastic new relationship…  a relationship that quietly encouraged me further westward, away from  Montana.

After visiting Betty in Seattle a few times, meeting her family and cruising around Washington state together, we found a beautiful little cottage on Whidbey Island. I sold my Montana cabin and cut my ties with Montana, except for a few dear friends who remain.

Our view of the cove, just a long block from our cottage.

What does it say about a culture that shuns its artists, its dreamers? Quite a few famous American jazz musicians moved to Paris in the latter part of the 20th century, because the Parisian culture was so much more inviting and friendly to jazz musicians and artists in general. But Paris has been an artist haven forever, notably the center of the Romantic Period of art.

Robert Service, one of my favorite poets, once included some writings from a diary he kept during his time in Paris. In his diary he often wrote about the other artists, writers and painters he spent hours with at the boulevard sidewalk cafes. Seems that whenever one of their group sold a poem, a painting or a sculpture, that person would pay for wine and dinner for them all, as a celebration.

And that right there is another time and place I would have loved to spend my career, even my life. From roughly 1865 to 1925, which is the Impressionistic Period for art, music, painting and literature, I would have absolutely loved to be a part of the creativity and camaraderie of the Parisian artists of the period. Oh god, how I would have loved to hang with Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Faure, (whose Pavane is my all-time favorite piece) and Eric Satie. A glass of wine with Gabriel Faure? Be still, my heart.


Claude Monet

All that because I’m familiar with much of the art and music of the French Impressionists, and I strongly relate to nearly all of it. Much of my feeling for life in Paris during that time period comes from Service’s poetry and diary, because in 1913 Service moved to Paris, and remained there for the next 15 years. His poetry during that period was so fresh and creative. Even if you didn’t like his particular style and rhythmic repetition, you would have to agree that his subject material and development was always fresh and unique, with a lingering essence of what life in France was like for him. Who he was, how and where he lived, his friend base… those things remain incredibly attractive to me.

Yes, I’ve been to Paris. I visited there for two days in 1986. Notre Dame was incredible, I had lunch at a sidewalk cafe two blocks from the Arc de Triomphe. The Eiffel Tower was wonderful. Matter of fact, I was standing on the second deck of the tower right after dark on my first night, looking out over Paris, with the Seine winding through the beautiful lights of the city. I was just up there to experience the place and the tower, but standing there, looking down on all of it, my heart opened up and my eyes got watery.

I realized that Paris was truly the magical place I’d read about and heard about. It beckoned to me in the softness of its sparkling beauty, and I felt what thousands of artists, dreamers and romantics must have felt for hundreds of years past… the bosom of art, the safe haven for dreaming, for creating. Of course the Impressionists would settle here, of course they would change the direction of painting, of music, of writing and sculpture. For this was art’s real home, and those dreamers and romantics knew it.

Atlanta was my artistic home for 31 years. I would not change that for anything… except for a life in Paris from 1875 to 1935. Yes, I would have thrived there nicely, and yes, I am finally proud of being a romantic and a dreamer.

Steve Hulse







M J Williams &  me playing in Helena, MT

Impressionism was a radical art movement that began in the late 1800s, centered primarily around Parisian painters. Impressionists rebelled against classical subject matter and embraced modernity, desiring to create works that reflected the world in which they lived. I asked chatGPT, the artificial intelligence app, this question – “Were the French Impressionist artists dreamers, romantics?”
And it responded – “While the Impressionists were not exactly dreamers or romantics in the traditional sense, their work did represent a departure from the more rigid academic traditions of their time and a move toward a more modern and innovative approach to art.”

Some of the Great French Impressionist artists were –
Claude Monet – The Visionary.
Edouard Manet – The Rebel.
Auguste Renoir – The Social-Climber.
Edgar Degas – The Observer.
Camille Pissarro – The Experimenter.
Paul Cezanne – The Neo-Impressionist.
Berthe Morisot – The Psychologist.

The great impressionists in music, the composers and pianists, were –
Claude Debussy
Maurice Ravel
Frederic Chopin
Franz Liszt
Richard Wagner
Even Charles ives, Bela Bartok, George Gershwin and Gustav Holst


2 Replies to “On Being A Romantic Dreamer”

  1. Really interesting! Your attraction to Impressionist France makes sense (aside from the pesky wars that happened there during some of that era.)

    Having, like you, lived in various parts of the US, I tend to think that the divide of macho vs. sensitive in terms less of a Montana vs. East Coast thing, but rather more of a country vs. city thing. (Especially cities with colleges.) I can’t think of many rural areas that are overwhelmingly sensitive/creative/romantic. Maybe Vermont. Plenty rural folks are idealistic in the modern political sense, but not in the way you (and I) would mean it.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking piece.


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