Dream Boxes and Finding the Light in Your Darkness

March 18th, 2009

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
~Charles Austin Beard

nightmare box 3

A few years ago, during Art Every Day Month, I used dreams as the inspiration for a series of 3 boxes. I wanted to share them again since they fit so nicely with the dream theme this month for CED!

I made them to be a set of 3 nesting boxes. The sides and tops of the first two boxes are covered with images of vivid dreams I remembered, some recent, some from childhood. The smallest box is painted in black paint, covered with words of warning and closed with a latch. But inside it's all glittery and gold.

nightmare box 3 open

A lot of the dream images I collected were nightmares. They span from a recent dream of trying to hold all four kitties as I escape a burning house...

nightmare box fire

...to the first dream I can remember having, at about age 3. In that dream, I went to a friend's house and saw a large clay alligator on the couch. I sat on it and it came to life, chasing me out the door. As I ran down the street, more and more animals came out the woods chasing me. And then I crossed the finish line to a race and realized they hadn't been chasing me at all, they were just racing, but I won! I woke up scared anyways.

Other dreams on that box include being on a ship with insanely large spiders that could grab you through the wall and swim after you in the ocean. And another dream was about getting a cookie and thinking it was chocolate chip but on closer inspection it was oatmeal raisin...ok, that wasn't a scary dream, but it was funny cause the morning after I had that dream a friend offered me a granola bar that I thought was chocolate chip and turned out to be full of raisins. The dream helped me take a closer look and saved me a from a big bit of raisins! (I hate raisins if you hadn't gathered that.)

In the second box, the dreams get a little darker. There's a nightmare about my former boss asking me to cut open her dog to make dinner and then sew him up again, another dream about a wolf, and a particularly spooky dream of pulling a large slug from my body.

nightmare box together

Then box 3 is very dark, enscribed with words of caution to stay away, and other words of hurt, sadness, loss, and so forth. But inside, if you peel back all the layers, if you take the time, pass through the distractions and don't listen to the negativity, inside all of that is something golden, something hopeful.

nightmare box 3 closed

I think the general essence of the golden interior is true for so many things in our lives. Inside our darkness, is often our brightest light. If we can open up to the possiblity of this and not be so quick to push away, avoid, and stuff our seemingly scary, dark visions out of sight, perhaps we can gently invite them to open and see what glitters beneath the layers?

nightmare box3 open

Have you had the experience of finding your light tucked inside your darkness?

13 Responses

I have experienced “light inside your darkness”, in real life. Many times. I haven’t experienced it in my dreams, as yet. I love the whole concept of the boxes, especially the dark one with the light inside. Maybe I can take some of my worse dreams, put them on the outside of the box and then paint a happy result in the inside. Especially for dreams that reoccur.

Yes, I have too. In fact, my darkest darknesses have contributed the most to my writing and art. There are some wonderful points here.

I love this idea, and the boxes are really beautiful.

What an interesting idea, representing your dreams with boxes. I must ponder on this :) I especially like the dark one. That was an OH! moment for me. Genius, Leah. :)

Loved reading about your dreams and nightmares.Lovely idea to turn them into art.

Whilst I was looking for a theme for an altered book I seriously considered doing a book within a book within a book… the outer book I bought last Friday was a dream encyclopedia… but I’m finding it hard to want to cut that up just yet!

Maybe boxes would be a good variation for the idea…

An on the light in the dark… oh yes…

Hi Leah,
I have finally posted my dream on my blog. It has taken me some time because I was stuck scanning my painting. I’m going to photograph it and up load it today.
Thank you,

Hi Leah- This post was just what I needed today so thank you.I’ve been stuck in some kind of dark creative space lately and I loved how you used that fear of our darkness and turned it into these lovely boxes with a profound message. Inspiring, as always.

I don’t know why, but I rarely get nightmares. Even the scary dreams don’t end up being nightmares, usually. They almost always transform into something else.

Is it because I really subscribe to your theory of light in the darkness? Because I am always looking for the light, so the dark isn’t that dark?

I have found my brightest light inside my darkest darkness many times. I hope one day that I will learn to trust that the darkness is just a pass-through to the light rather than a well too deep to reach the light from.

I think your boxes and this post are magical, Leah. Thanks for the inspiration!

I love your boxes. Your posts are always inspiring!

I love the light within the darkness box. I’ve learned many times that out of the darkest darks often comes the brightest light – and in the end, there’s really no difference, without one, we don’t have the other.

Very neat. The seminary I attend had a dream/spirituality workshop for free last night, so I attended. It was super interesting. I’ve always been plagued by nightmares, so I was curious what the instructors might have to say about bad dreams. It was helpful; basically they said that we never need to be afraid of our dreams because the point of dreams is to bring wholeness and healing into our lives.


Wow! Those are some crazy dreams, girl! And you may not think the raisin/choc. chip dream is scary – but I sure do! Wow! Makes me kinda glad I rarely remember my dreams.

I really like the descriptions of your art and how you used these crazy dream images in your work. That’s a great idea! Although the fear is definitely uncomfortable, I love the art of the woman fleeing with her 4 kitties. I really really like how her hair mirrors the flames on the house – that is a neat artistic move.

Thanks for inspiring and leading us all!

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