I Create Experiences

The leaves were piled high, teetering and tottering like the cocoons of butterflies that have already fluttered away. The park was serene, cloaked in the quiet of a cold spring afternoon, drenched in glittering sunlight, hung around the diamond hard glint of a small lake. The wind made the leaves shiver and twist and shudder and whisper, a susurrus with every cool breeze. Light refracted, split the spaces between objects, and caught the birds in mid movement, cutting them in half. My parents were behind me, only a few steps but far enough that my young brain felt an overwhelming thrill of freedom and I ran, headlong towards the pile of leaves and their shivering, fiery beauty. Two feet leaving the ground and two hands outstretched and a tiny eternity inside a fleeting second, and then I crashed into the insubstantial mountain of fallen leaves. Erupting from the depths of the mountain, I threw my hands up and let the leaves trail before and after them in a glorious display.

The world seemed to freeze, then, and the leaves made constellations in the sky. But it was over too soon, so I piled them up once more, this time adding more, and arranged the pile just so before running headlong into it again. This time I scooped handfuls and threw them as high as I could with a war cry that sent a few birds to the sky. The squawked and flapped through the light, sharp air and the watery sunlight that drenched the day and glittered on the droplets of thawing ice and frost. In the cool autumnal light, they were lit up as they fell, like they were on fire with the very stuff of life. In the spaces between the falling leaves, spears of light pierced the day and brought rainbows to me in prismatic shards.

And in those gems were windows to every possible future I could have had. I could see worlds as the twirled and tumbled back towards the ground. They held everything — everything but the words to tell my parents what I had seen. I held up leaves as if they could help me, and then tucked them into my pockets before they could be thrown back into the pile. Pleas for one last romp were denied; it was time to leave my worlds behind. My parents smiled down, benevolent, and then looked around guiltily to make sure I had not ruined some hard-pressed caretaker’s work. No angry specter appeared, so they gathered me up and hustled me to the car, packing me into my seat as I gabbled and tried to grab at the moments with half-formed, childish words. Nothing worked; I couldn’t speak the moment into life any more than I could turn back time.

So I skittered to my room at the first possible moment and gathered up paper and pens and safety scissors. Cutting and tearing and coloring, I created a pile of paper leaves and shifted and moved them just so… but it wasn’t the same. When I plunged into them, they felt dry and lifeless — more than this, they dropped listlessly to the floor no matter how I threw and scattered them. It was the light, I decided, and the wind — or the lack of them. So I pestered my mother, begged please please please may I have this and that lamp, flashlight, lantern. She gave some, withheld others, and I placed them around my room in varying patterns to get the light I needed. Hours.
Hours passed as I moved the lamps from here to there, opened the windows and doors, found a small hand fan and wedged it in various places. Hours of time.
And then the most magical thing happened — the paper leaves fell in spirals and loops, caught by the light wind. The light pierced them, and they hissed and whispered and the fluttering susurrus took me back to the park. Bird calls slipped through the open window, the prisms were back, and the cold, fresh park so far from my warm, close room… it was with me. I brought it close. I learned that could create things with nothing but paper and my mind. I learned that I could create and re-create experiences for myself, and I did so time and time again until, one day, something clicked. I realized I could create experiences for others.


The towering glass and steel building that rises from the city like a jagged, crystal spike is so far from the back room that I began this work in, and so far from that small, cold park; it is a gleaming chrysalis that holds, within it, the seed of my future. Every day, I create products and experiences for the people who walk through my doors. The excitement is as strong today as it was back then when I was a child… now, however, I work with more than paper and pencils. At the tips of my fingers, there are materials of all kinds, hard and soft, silky and rough — intangible and solid. I can make worlds in a few days, for the right client.

But there is a secret in my office; a captured world, brought with me from those innocent days that have now been lost to time rests, tame, in my quiet fifth floor office.
It is tucked in a small corner, under spotlights which are independently controlled, there is an ever growing model. Within its frame tiny figures are frozen in time near towering attractions. Ferris wheels and roller-coasters, yes, but also booths and attractions, tiny performers hold rigid balloons, a log flume is frozen halfway down the chute. It’s a theme park, a small one, with many of the buildings still unpainted and much of the board unaccounted for. Over the years, it has grown and contracted like a living creature. When it is done, it will be the perfect experience for families with young children.

For every mechanical ride and attraction, there will be space for the wonder of nature. This balance will make it welcoming for all kinds of children. All these other experiences, these little slivers and gems I create for clients are the building blocks that will make this vibrant, living thing a real world presence.
The clients who ask about it smile when I tell them how I plan to buy unloved, damaged land and bring it back to health. To nestle in its heart all the shapes and sounds and sights that made me glow with delight. They nod and smile and give me that sly, sideways look that adults reserve for those who have, in their eyes, exceeded their capabilities with inflated ambitions. Every now and then, however, one of them brings their child with them, and in those eyes, I see a reflection of the feelings and awe that shook me all those years ago. They are all the child in the park.

If every step in the middle hours around lunch is the same as the one before and the one to come, every night is a changeable beast that barely resembles itself, never mind the one that came before or the ones that will follow. In these moments, I can be a child again — the way the street lights can catch sheets of rain in motion, the way steam billows from grates and vents, the way people swirl and laugh and collide before spinning away into the night… these are the moments that fuel my working life.

In the day I am an adult, reminiscing on childhood and making sense of its wonders. At night, I am a child again, and I live in wonderment of the adult world I was locked out of for so long. The gloomy, candlelit restaurants, the sparkle of fairy lights, the hum of a nightclub — it gets under my skin and makes it itch with the need to recreate that ambience, that feeling of promise.The child will be frozen in wonderment; I can see the scene already. I can see a thousand like it. I will begin each morning with music in the park — those who stay in the hotel, living in dreamscapes made real, will experience serenity and joy before ever leaving its confines. Each room will create an experience, the perfect experience for children and adults — on-site childcare staff will make sure that the adults can relax while the children indulge their curiosity and wonder.

In time, they regroup; one rested, the other enchanted, to step out into the amusements of the park. This park will be like all the other parks and yet entirely different. The experiences it offers will be the essence of those enchantments, not the reality. The swirling of snow becomes instead a wonderland, the muddy puddle a series of deep pools connected by floats and channels. A pile of leaves becomes a maze-like ball pit, a pile of foam that catches the body no matter how mighty the jump, how high the flips and kicks.

I will create wonders for the children and restful moments for the parents, and bring them together in a thousand unexpected ways. I can create, for them, joy and love. From a single weekend, I can make an experience that will stay with them forever — this is a magic greater than anything I read about as a child. In those brightly colored books, I was told that magic was about love potions and flight. It’s not. I came to realize quite quickly that the real magic lies in creating happiness. Thankfully, that’s easier than enchanting broomsticks.

When I step out into the world, away from commercial design, I will weave my own enchantments. I will make the world the way it should be for them, even if it’s only for a few moments. And when those little children look around without seeing wonder, I will ask them what they want to see in the world and make it for them. That will be my final wonder — being able to catch those small moments and experiences, being able to catch them and make them real and tangible and so full of enchantment.