Mr. Burns’ Mouse

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promised joy.”      

— Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse, 1786.


How depressing!!

How often have people quoted from this poem?  How many have ever actually read the poem though or understood it?  Aside from the old English and therefore unfamiliar phases used (i.e. Gang aft agley….say what?), if it wasn’t for the truth that lies in Mr. Burns’ poem and John Steinbeck’s book, Of Mice and Men I don’t know that the quote above would be readily recognized by anyone today.

In case, you don’t know the background of this poem, let me give you a brief synopsis.  Mr. Burns supposedly plowed through a mouse’s nest in his field one day and wrote this poem as an apology to the mouse.

Basically, the event got him thinking about how things fall apart and don’t always work out like we plan.  He ends the poem with lamenting about how the mouse is better off than himself, because at least the mouse doesn’t carry the memories of past failures nor is the mouse fearful of the uncertain future.  Mr. Burns must have been a really depressed young man when he wrote this.

We all have had plans that didn’t work out and I certainly have spent my fair share of time being depressed and lamenting over things that haven’t gone the way I had hoped throughout the years.  I understand how Mr. Burns could feel so hopeless and scared about the future, but he missed the key lesson of this event while he was wallowing in his misery.  The lesson was staring him right in the face and he even touched upon it, but didn’t embrace it.

Look at the mouse.

The mouse didn’t waste time lamenting over the home destroyed.  The mouse didn’t sit there paralyzed with fear because it didn’t know what the future might bring. The mouse didn’t suffer from a lack of confidence in its abilities because circumstances beyond its control destroyed what it had already accomplished.  No, the mouse went right back to work building another home.

The mouse had something Mr. Burns was lacking…determination!


Yes, we all suffer disappointments and we all experience plans that go awry, but that’s when it’s time to re-assess the goal and the plans to reach that goal.  You have to ask yourself many questions during that process.

Is this goal still important for me to achieve?

Is there a better way to achieve it?

Am I being realistic about this goal?

Is it time to seek a new goal or new direction?

I have been asking myself a lot of questions over these last couple weeks and re-assessing my plans and goals.  And I’m here to announce that I am still determined to complete the trail this year and with the advice of my doctor taken into consideration and with her help, I should be able to continue toward my goal in just a couple more weeks.

This has resulted in a major change in the way that I will complete the mileage, but nonetheless, the entire trail will be covered.  I will be returning to the trail at Harpers Ferry, WV and heading north following the spring into New England.  Then hopefully near the end of August or in early September, I will return to Harpers Ferry and head south with the fall season and end my hike in the area of Hiawassee, GA near the beginning of November.

The A.T.C. calls this alternative hiking plan, Head Start – May.

A head start, hmm, that has a hopeful ring to it, doesn’t it?

If you’d like to read more details about the how’s, why’s and what frogs have to do with my change in plans, check out my Hopping the Hills to Harpers Ferry article at

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