Sunday, October 6, 2013

Orange Elephants and Treasure

Being a self-professed crazy college kid, I live with four other girls. Two of them just so happen to be photographers. Perhaps the art trapped deep in me tries to display itself in the people with whom I surround myself. While my major is generally confined to traditional academic spaces - classrooms (of higher education and elementary schools), libraries, and the proverbial "home" of homework - the photography major is required to do the majority her work deliberately outside of those traditional confines. On my luckier days, my nomad soul is allowed to drift alongside the photographer. Photography suits me well, as long as I need not take photographs.

Today's adventure winded towards Lake Monroe, eager to use  the Indiana State Parks Pass of which I am so proud. However, when an abandoned gas station boasts three giant, orange, plastic animals, as well as a reclining giraffe of more realistic coloring, a photographer and her sidekick do not simply pass on by. (Perhaps they do, but assume they turn around in a nearby driveway.) We wandered around the property. Though the gas pumps displayed yellow stickers verifying that 2007 found them perfectly suitable, it looked like ages had passed since any car had stopped there. 

We meandered to the field across the road and I pretended to talk on a pay phone that reminded me kindly to hang up and try again. Its functionally seemed oddly out of place. After Caitlin shot several light-themed photos, we walked back over to the giant cow, elephant, and giraffes. They stared at us as we stared at them, knowing that we couldn't leave without using them, but not knowing how. 

The bright red building behind them, which had previously been shut off from the world, revealed an office inside a door swung open wide. A car then pulled up, and an older gentleman got out, watching us watching the animals. What would he assume? What good could we possibly be up to? Then again, what bad?

He took a few steps towards us, as we backed away from plastic zoo. "Do you want one of these?" he asked amiably. "YES! DO I EVER!" I screamed in my head. Oh! How cool we would be! What excellent pranks we could pull! "I wish," we expressed verbally. "We have no place to put it." He was disappointed, but no doubt understood our quandary. 

This semester, I'm taking a class on museums and artifacts. We study objects, which in itself is a reflection of culture. This giant elephant is an object of great interest to me. Why was it made? Where was it used? What was it used for? Why did it end up by an abandoned gas station? What will become of it?

This class has prompted me not only to ask questions about objects, but about my relation to them. At first, and yes, this is probably just me, adopting the elephant sounded like the best idea that had ever crossed my path. Realistically, the elephant would become a burden. How would I transport it? Where would I put it? When I broaden my scope, I realize just how many elephants are in this very room with me. Objects that seem like a great deal. A 99 cent sweater may not take as much room as a life-sized elephant, but things add up.

Here I am, 20, and in danger of becoming weighed down by the things I possess. At what point does it all flip upside down, allowing my things to possess me? I left the elephant with just a picture on my phone. Even that photo occupies storage space, but the space is small. I need to be a collector of things that occupy less physical space - of photos and memories and words and writings and friendships - and occupy more of my heart. It reminds me of the wise words of my Savior:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Jesus
I hope I grow in strength and wisdom to leave behind all kinds of elephants and to take up spirit of freedom and adventure and meaning.

Much love,