Why did someone put the sun symbol of the Zia people that’s used on New Mexico’s state flag on a utility box in Tennessee? Maybe they’re from New Mexico and wanted a little touch of home. Maybe they’re fans of Breaking Bad. Maybe they just like the symbol and wanted to brighten up the box a little. Maybe it’s a symbol of the Quartering of the Universe into Active and Passive Principles. Maybe they did it for the same reason Wallace Stevens put a jar on a hill in Tennessee, although he doesn’t really say why he did it, and he’s simply wrong when he says it was “Like nothing else in Tennessee” because we had jars long before some Yankee came tromping through here on his way to Key West and decided to litter, but that’s another story.

Maybe the answer is, all of the above.

Maybe the reason I like art, or one reason, is it fires off completely unexpected thoughts, like this: One summer I worked for a temp agency and got sent around to various job sites. At one place I put together the display stands you see in grocery stores. They’re also called “end caps”. The supervisor told us the stands we were putting together would be shipped out all over the country, and I thought it was interesting that something I helped make would be used by strangers so far away. I felt a sense of connection that made the mundane job and dealing with the supervisor who was a big jerk a little easier.

The utility box’s purpose is to create connections. It was made by someone in another place. Its placement changed the landscape. And then someone decided to paint the sun symbol on it, to change it from a standard, utilitarian object to something with deeper meaning–and larger connections.


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  1. Ann Koplow

    Wonderful connections, Chris, as usual. So glad to network with you here.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad you’ve networked here too. This one was written well in advance but after reading your post about obscure sorrows yesterday and listening to John Koenig’s talk I thought about how words are another form of symbol that connect us. It’s surprising how interconnected everything is.

  2. mydangblog

    I always enjoy how you can take a simple image and find deeper meanings within it, especially the idea of connections that are both literal and metaphorical:-)

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s in part the result of years of studying art, although I sometimes wonder if I’m finding too much meaning. If everything has meaning then nothing does…although that might be a subject for another time.

  3. Allison

    I had the good fortune of having as a customer, the company that makes the plastic bottles they put Coca-Cola in. I am something of a Coke Zero addict, and it was really need to see their factory. It made me appreciate something I had always taken for granted – that I can walk into a convenience store and there will be coolers filled with plastic bottles filled with brown caffeine water. And that a lot of people make that happen.

    I also got to visit a plant that made coffee filters and cupcake liners. Which, if you think about it, are the exact same thing, just at a different scale.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It is mind-boggling to think about how many people go into making everyday items we usually take for granted. Seeing the place that made coffee filters and cupcake liners must have been pretty fun. I wouldn’t be able to resist asking how they get them to keep their shape, and also that a couple of scientists won the Nobel Prize one year when they discovered they could use coffee filters to separate chlorophyll into different parts. True story.


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