building my cardboard dreams

I was a race car driver, soaring down the tracks, the rushing wind swirling my hair into a little chaotic frenzy. The engines purred powerfully beneath me as we headed off the road down little unknown valleys, between the mountains, stopping somewhere beneath the vast open skies.

I was a cat, curled in her tiny home, seeking refuge and comfort from the cacophony of a busy world. My resting place was the eye of the storm and in it, I was invisible as I watched people quarrel, bodies passing by in a frenzy to meet their personal deadlines. All that mattered to me in that tiny house was the now.

I was a robot, looking through tiny pinhole eyes, my entire body a wall of protection against anyone who tried to get inside. But they would never find me as I was a robot, an unfeeling machine, immune to hurt, rejection and sadly, laughter.

I was a princess who just received a parcel from a prince who admired me, the gift filled with treasures from his land, a trumpet call to the man he was, and what he could provide. Riches? Glory? Magic? The parcel held secrets untold, passed down through the generations. What delight lay inside the parcel? With intense patience, I slowly peeled back it’s covers.

All I needed was a cardboard box. And the world of imagination unfolded whichever way I wanted it to.

The humble material of my early dreaming which today, was made tangible, thrilled me to bits. I’ve always wanted to do something in tribute to Michel Gondry’s Science Of Sleep and Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Both the movie and book impacted me deeply with its childlike perspective… something I lost when I grew up.

“Would it be possible for me to see something from up there?” asked Milo politely.

“You could,” said Alec, “but only if you try very hard to look at things as an adult does.”

Milo tried as hard as he could, and, as he did, his feet floated slowly off the ground until he was standing in the air next to Alex Bings. He looked around very quickly and, an instant later, crashed back down to the earth again.

“Interesting, wasn’t it?” asked Alex.

“Yes, it was,” agreed Milo, rubbing his head and dusting himself off, “but I think I’ll continue to see things as a child. It’s not so far to fall.”

– Norton Juster

We laboured over every element of our cardboard world – adults seeking play as children would, with the added finesse of skill that maturity brings. Every moment was gloriously relished because isn’t that what growing up is all about? We get to let our imaginations run wild with aplomb.


I cried a little today. Silly things but they got to me. I think I was worn thin with trying to look happy over the past few weeks and the more I tried to look like it didn’t matter, the truth ate me up from inside. I felt wretched.

The week was finally over but for me, the challenges have just begun. It’s going to be one long week. I am however, looking forward to playing with my cardboard world and fantastical characters. In them, even when I am weary with pulling together my damning emotions into a solid state of ‘okay-ness‘, I have fun… and in that fun, hope is strengthened. I resurface from the imaginary with new belief that it can all be good.

‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could build an entire building with cardboard?’ someone said today.

‘Yeah, but would happen when it rains?’ came someone else’s reply.

‘We’d just build another one,’ I replied quietly.

Which is pretty much what I’m doing with my life now. Every single day, I build a new dream. The days are filled with both accomplishments and disappointments but I carry none of them with me to bed. Like what Michel Gondry once said, ‘I’ve dreamed a lot, but I’m not a very good sleeper.

Instead, I search out for that place in my cardboard box where I once hid in a corner, alone for a while, the silence punctuated only by the sound of my rhythmic breathing…

‘Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.’

– Norton Juster

In that silence of my cardboard box, I am satisfied. For a moment.

And sometimes… that’s all I need at the end of a long, long day.


One thought on “building my cardboard dreams

  1. Toddlers and kids … how much do we envy them? Christmases, birthdays, we, as adults spend loads in the hope that the presents that we buy would be the ones they treasure the most. Yet, with all the pretty, shiny things, these young personalities, enjoy the wrapping paper, the packaging and yes, the cardboard boxes … their presents cast aside. Imagination takes over and that cardboard box is the most versatile present to ever exist. Simplicity is the key. So let’s go back to when our eyes were fresh, inquisitive to the mundane. Long live the cardboard box!

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