Pandora’s Box of Hope

pandora's box of hope 3-D artbox by Janet Fox with colorful encaustic surface black trim beads lament poem hope stone
Pandora’s Box of Hope | encaustic mixed media

What a Year it’s Been!

Hard to believe, but what has felt like the longest year has passed since the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 disease came into our lives and turned our world upside-down. We’ve faced so much – together but also alone: the unknown, fear, panic, confusion, isolation, sickness, lingering symptoms, deaths of loved ones. More than half a million people have died – and that’s just in the U.S. Those lost were individuals – someone’s child, sibling, parent, spouse, grandparent, friend. The total loss is too much to really comprehend.

It’s also been a huge struggle and so much work to address job, business, school, and social losses and changes. And these are just a few of the impacts due to the virus. The years of built-up social and racial inequities have been laid bare for all to see. Add the heated, divisive rhetoric and politics. Top it off with the chaotic destructive attack on our nation’s Capitol in early January and its aftermath.

“What a Year It’s Been” feels like such an understatement. We’ve been forced to individually and collectively witness, experience, endure. How do we process all of this and re-create a better world?

A “Buggie” Dream Metaphor to Explore

Sometime late last summer, I awoke from an unusual dream…

Once upon a dreamscape… I am at my children’s elementary school, talking with an old friend in a work room. My friend’s child started playing on the custodian’s computer. Before long, I begin to see flies, bees, wasps, moths, mosquitos, and all sort of other insects flying and multi-sized bugs crawling around. At first there were just a few. But then there are more, and more, and more! It is so odd, I know something is not quite right. I walk through the building and find the custodian. As I explained what’s been happening, the custodian knows exactly what to do to fix it. We walked into the work room and the custodian makes a few keystrokes at the computer. Immediately, the bugs turn around and start flying and crawling towards the computer and into the screen. As it turns out, my friend’s child had accidentally opened up the portal and let all of these bugs out. I am amazed at how easy it is to put those insects back into the virtual world where they belonged. I wake up.

As I considered this dream, I was reminded of Pandora’s Box, an ancient story with which I was only vaguely familiar.

Pandora and the Gift Box

As it goes, in the Greek myth, Pandora was the first woman created and the gods gave her many amazing gifts. These included intelligence, curiosity, beauty, compassion, and many more wonderful attributes. But Zeus’ gift, which was the last one to be given, was a small box. It had chains and a lock around it. When giving the box to Pandora, Zeus instructed her to never open the box.

At first, this wasn’t a problem for Pandora. She had so many other things to explore around her. But as the time passed, she began thinking about the box. At first these thoughts came now and then. But later on, these thoughts grew stronger and more frequent. Pandora wondered what could possibly be in the box? Why wouldn’t Zeus want her to see it? These occasional thoughts became an obsession gnawing at her. Overall, what a crazy-making gift! Perhaps if she just peeked once, she would be able to relieve her great curiosity and go on with life as usual.

The harder she tried to resist, the more she thought about what might be in the box. At long last, Pandora just couldn’t focus on anything else, so she decided to just go ahead and open the box! And what did she find? All thing disastrous, disgusting, ugly, evil, deadly pushed and screamed their way out. Such horrors she could have never imagined. She was shocked and stunned.

After seeing these awful things emerge, Pandora tried with all her might to gather them all up to put back into the box. She tried and tried and tried. But it was too late. Pandora was struck with panic, grief, fear, regret, remorse. How can this grave mistake ever be repaired? Could she ever be forgiven? Could she ever forgive herself?

Between her wailing sobs, she heard one more sound from inside the box. As she crept near and took a closer look into the box, “hope” came pouring out to her, and into the world. In all of her darkness and despair, hope’s light was the one last gift to get her through.

COVID as a Pandora’s Box Metaphor

Just as Pandora faced a different world after she opened the box, we have all also been forced to face a new world due to the virus. Have we taken the time to process these losses?

Many people process life-changing events by recognizing and learning about the stages of grief described in the pioneering work of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. These stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance typical swirl through us as we grieve our losses. Understanding these stages can also be helpful while experiencing life-altering illnesses, broken relationships, and losses of all kinds. And as we come through the other side, with hope we can re-invent ourselves in our “new normal”.

I’m also reminded that Mr. Rogers said that when he was little and would see horrible news stories, his mom always said to look for the helpers. Then you’ll know that there’s hope. Although COVID has taken so much from us, countless people have also pitched in to help in so many ways. Their generosity, compassion, and hard work has given us so much hope that we can make it through and reinvent ourselves, our families, communities, and beyond.

And a friend just sent me this thoughtful reflection on hope, titled: Disturbing the Peace, from a series of interviews in 1985-86 conducted by the The Vaclav Havel Library Foundation with Czech journal Karel Hvížd’ala.

About Pandora’s Box of Hope

It’s been a year of many laments, many passionate expressions of grief or sorrow. I’ve intentionally taken a year to make this art as a way to process the emotions and feelings from everything lost due to COVID. Although no one can put the darkness of the virus back “into its locked box”, I’ve discovered hope for our future demonstrated by the many acts of care, compassion, kindness, hard work, and love that I’ve witnessed.

This encaustic-covered box has many layers of colorful paper and pastel colored wax on the outside, with a black velvet lining inside. Black onyx bead chains make up the ties broken open. A small scroll penned with “Pandora’s Lament,” an original imagined poem, partners with a stone engraved with “HOPE.”

Pandora’s Lament


Oh, no! What have I done? What is this horror I’ve unleashed? I can’t bear to look at it. It is so awful, dreadful, horrible! Stupid, pitiful me. I have no tears left.

I thought I was so smart. I thought I was so noble. I thought I knew the world, but I was so naive! I didn’t now such evil could even exist.

I was so, so very wrong. I regret my actions. I am so ashamed. I am so very, very sorry. How can I ever repair this? I can only hope to be forgiven some day.

All I have left is hope.

The box is 5″ wide X 6″ tall X 5″ deep.

 For information about viewing or purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox. Check out my Encaustic Portfolio for other pieces.

Ode to Scarlet

3D encaustic mixed media art asplecius staff coiled scarlet snake turquoise beads copper wire red feathers
Ode to Scarlet | 3D encaustic mixed media (NFS)

Ode to Scarlet Created for Dance of Dreams Exhibit

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the “Dance of Dreams” Art Exhibit Reception on September 27, 2019. The show ended October 31, 2019.

As part of the reception, Special Guest Dancer May Kesler performed interpretive dances focused on two of my 12 dream art paintings. It was a wonderful treat to collaborate with May on this creative art and dance adventure.

The first dance, “Journey of Dreams” focused on the many places, situations, and feelings we experience when we close our eyes and sleep. This dance companioned the painting, Dreamtime Journey.

Ode to Scarlet, the second dance, wove the story of a series of dreams over the past 30 or so years. A scarlet snake appeared in each dream, and over the years, my relationship to and with it changed. At first, it startled and scared me. Over the years, we eventually found a way to co-exist into a deep friendship, before it died in my arms! This duet dance companioned the painting, Shedding Fear.

Finally, we honored this entire dream series by symbolically transitioning the Scarlet snake image to its new life as a symbol of healing. This new 3D artwork was unveiled and fastened to the top of a walking staff, becoming a Staff of Asclepius. The Asclepius symbol takes its name from the Greek diety associated with healing and medicinal arts in Greek Mythology.

Thank you to Shauna Simon and the Simon Says Yoga family for hosting this exhibit of my dream-inspired artworks, and most of all, for their welcoming spirit, enthusiasm, and support for local artists!

– Janet

Turn a Dream Journal Page

Image of a encaustic, mixed media 3-D journal art by Janet Fox titled "Turn the Page."
Turn the Page | encaustic, mixed media 3-D journal art

Dream energy in a journal

Looking around, I see countless things created by people. Everyday items, clothing, furnishings, vehicles, buildings, highways, technology and so much more… all human made. Starting with an idea or inspiration, people collaborate to develop the materials, tools and processes to translate ideas into physical objects. As a society, we invest much in our human creations.

Likewise on a personal level, I’ve worked hard and invested time, money and energy on the things that enliven my life, experiencing the creative process and learning along the way. For example, I’ve filled many a dream journal, capturing decades of dreamtime stories along with the wake-time reflections from my individual study and within dream groups.

When is it time to let go?

After I finish a creative project, I enjoy the fruits of my labor for some period of time. At some point, though, my focus drifts and shifts to something new. And after a while, I wonder what to do with all of the things I’ve accumulated, especially those things I no longer need?

Many items, like photos, school mementos and art I created back when, I’ve stored away. I rarely look at them but when I do, they help me remember special parts of my life journey. I suppose that is why I’ve found them valuable enough to keep.

With other accumulated things that don’t rise to that level of meaning, I feel that my closets and living space are too crowded. And, no, I don’t want to find a bigger space to grow into.

When I feel too crowded, I sometimes teeter back-and-forth thinking of how much I’ve invested in those things versus my desire to simplify. Do I have the time and energy now to sort through them? How do I prioritize my time? Do I procrastinate or fall into the mode of when something is out-of-sight, it is also out-of-mind.

In my art studio, when it’s too crowded, I have a hard time starting something new.

Cleaning, sorting, reusing, recycling, recreating

Growing up, my mom taught my siblings and me to clean out our dresser drawers, closets and desks several times a year. We often did these house-cleaning rituals over school breaks when seasons changed and as we outgrew our cloths. We didn’t have the luxury of a big house, so we learned to let go of outdated and outgrown things. It usually felt great after the clean-out, as we were also creating space for new things.

I also worked professionally for many years in the recycling field. I thought a lot about ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the materials of daily life. Whenever a new technology became popular, recyclers received the outdated discards to be reused or re-created into something else. Or if there wasn’t a market for the items, they were disposed of.

And how do I manage my personal things? Am I a pack-rack, sentimental, procrastinating or too busy to sort through things I no longer need (or all of the above)? I’ve invested much of my energy creating, but it also takes energy to hold onto things. In a desire to simplify, I know I need to let go of things.

I’ve found joy in giving items to friends and family. I’m thankful to live in a neighborhood with a very active list serve; people daily post items to give away or ask to borrow infrequently used things. I’m also thankful for the many charities that make it super easy to schedule donation pick-ups.

In my art studio, it’s time to go through my stash of dream journals. I’m revisiting especially vivid dreams. Other more ordinary dreams, I turn the page over.

About Turn the Page

My dreams represent a chunk of my life and a bit of my creative energy… first the dream, then the writing of it, then thoughts and discussion. I especially enjoy creating art inspired by my more vivid dreams.

Having studied my dreams for almost 20 years, I’ve accumulated a large shelf full of dream journals. In them, I’ve written many dreams and wake-time reflection from on my own or from others in a dream group.

This 3-dimensional art, Turn the Page, was once a dream journal covering 99 days of my life from back when. I re-read the pages and saved the ones I wanted to work on again. After, I folded in the remaining pages, inserted colorful papers with encaustic, and sewed the folded edges together using my favorite color of embroidery floss. This piece is the first in a series of dream journals I’m letting go of. Somehow, this feels really good to re-create.

How do you part with personal things you no longer need?

  For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.