Monday, November 23, 2015

peace and light

IT’S HARD to get into the holiday spirit in these uncertain times. Last night, Juan and I attended Atlanta’s lighting of Macy’s Great Tree to try to nudge ourselves into the season. I’m not sure it worked so well. Soon after we got there we saw a brutish police officer hold a guy by his coat in front of him and manhandle him through, and out of the crowd. Everyone looked stunned and I heard nothing said about it. So strange. I wonder what the guy did, who he was and whether he was a victim of racial profiling. 

THIS HAPPENED before the festivities started. And this was on a night when all the local news reports were highlighting the warning from the hacker group called Anonymous that there could be a terrorist attack at a big wrestling event downtown. There was also a football game downtown with tightened security. The Christmas tree lighting event we attended was on the other side of the city and also attracted a large crowd.

P is for P E A C E in this beaded letter.
ONE HAS TO wonder whether all this fear and hysteria (nothing happened at any of the events) is warranted. It is certainly no wonder that everyone is on edge worldwide after the worst terror attack in French history, the Russian airliner that was exploded with a terrorist’s bomb, a double-suicide bombing in Lebanon, and a series of other deadly strikes that are happening one after the other on a weekly basis.

An evergreen wreath has long been a symbol of renewal and everlasting life.
THIS PAST Thursday (November 19th), Pope Francis said “Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen ‘war and hate.’” In his sermon, he said “Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes . . . it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path.” This sermon signaled the start of the holiday season at the Vatican, where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled. 

I’VE ONLY BEEN to the City of Light (Paris) one time in my life. It was a much different world back in 1979, when I visited. I was much younger, more optimistic and full of excitement for the life ahead of me. Not that life has been bad at all—it hasn’t. It just that the human race hasn’t evolved as much as I would have hoped and our effect on our own environment has exponentially grown in such a way that our future is at peril, even without war and hate.

Shiny baubles always brighten the winter holidays.
THE TABLEAU I’ve set for this post is symbolic of the peace, hope and love that I’ve always thought the holiday season brings to all of us, no matter how we celebrate the season. The Eiffel Tower, the symbol of Paris (the City of Light) and a symbol for all the world, is laid with an evergreen wreath to mourn the innocent lives lost to terrorism. The lights at the base represent a gathering of lights from around the world. The banner with the letters forming the word PEACE is prominent in the background. And the presence of glittery baubles in the scene all point to a pause for HOPE that our country and humankind will do right by each other. But none of this will ever truly happen without the LOVE we share through something beyond any of our tiny marks on the world.

GOD is LOVE, no matter what religion is represented. Terrorism is not a religion—it is hate. This holiday season, more than ever, is a time for us to renew our spirits and to find our way forward. This holiday is celebrated worldwide, so now, maybe for once, we can find the grace and humility in understanding that we’re all in this together. Nothing can squander our better selves when we remind ourselves of that.

War of the Gods:
collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland

Friday, October 30, 2015

the all-seeing tree

THERE IS A HALLOW'S EVE tale I'm sure you've never heard before. It is the story of the All-Seeing Tree. You see, there was once a gardener named Mary Ann who lived not long ago. She was introduced to me by my photographer friend Harold. We used to go sit and be entertained by her for hours on end — always enthralled. She would tell us fascinating stories of her life, with her beloved railroad-hobo dog right beside her in her chair.

MARY ANN'S HANDS | My photographer friend Harold Daniels took this photo of Mary Ann's hands placed on a large worn book as a surface and gifted me a digital print of it on watercolor paper. In the years since she died, her hands have taken on a ghostly look, while the colors in the book cover have become more pronounced. I'm convinced her green thumb had something to do with this alchemy, blooming into an even more intriguing and beautiful photograph.
SHE WAS A KINDRED creative soul and wasn't afraid to speak her mind — both Harold and I loved her for her independent spirit. And boy did she have a finely-tuned eye for beautiful things. Our visits with her were mesmerizing and always fun. And there was the usual offering of simple, but sophisticated food, even though she was living on a fixed income. We both delighted in spending time with her. It was certainly not an obligation. And she learned as much from us as we did from her.

TO DESCRIBE HER, you only need look at her time-worn hands and they told most of the story. To describe the rest of her — she was a tall, big-boned woman, the stature of Julia Child — but she was the expert on gardening instead of cooking. Succulents were her favorite plants and she gave me one of her specimen frilly Echeveria plants one time. After that I was hooked on succulents, having had a green thumb myself all my life. She grew all sorts of plants in her greenhouse, but succulents were her thing. And she made her own hypertufa pots for them and sold beautifully-arranged containers to supplement her fixed income.

SPOOKY TREAT | A green thumb extends beyond the grave. Life is continually recycled and there is a definite collective consciousness at work even after someone is gone.
SPIDER INDUSTRY | This wire-webbed glass cloche filled with balls of moss is a perfect home for a very industrious army of spiders.
IN MAKING THIS All-Seeing Tree come to life, I invoke the memory of Mary Ann and create the following fictional tale that was surely inspired by the afterlife: You see, after Mary Ann died, her greenhouse was left shut tight with the plants remaining there to fend for themselves. The spiders played a big role in gathering water to nourish the plants by slipping to and fro through the cracks in the doors, bringing as many droplets of water as they could. As their army grew and the greenhouse soon became as self-sufficient and as lush as a terrarium.

CANDY STOP | This pedestal container of licorice in the shape of tiny skulls is a delectible treat for a Halloween that is spooky, yet fun.
ON ONE HALLOW'S EVE night, this tree miraculously sprung up in a beautiful gothic pot left in the greenhouse, It quickly produced "fruit" that looked back at you. Even though you weren't entirely convinced that the fruit could see, you knew it connected you with something. Even if it seemed a bit spooky, it left you with a certain knowing that our connection with the spirits beyond this realm is surely real, and gives you a real sense of satisfaction that our loved ones live on.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY is that what we see isn't always real, but what we don't see can be very real. Mary Ann would be sure to let it be known that life is what you make it. And there's nothing spooky about that at all. In fact, it's a real treat.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland

Saturday, April 4, 2015

eggs in a basket

EGGS ARE perfect symbols for spring. Long before being associated with Easter and the resurrection of Christ, the Chinese, Egyptians, Gauls, Persians and Romans used eggs to bless the season in their rites-of-spring festivals.

EGG BASKETS | These diminuative wire baskets from Terrain hold an array of candy-coated chocolate truffle eggs from Saxon Chocolates. The golden wire ornament tree was found in this year's Easter collection from Pottery Barn.
A NEW EASTER Sunday suit is an enduring memory of my church-going childhood, along with the candy-filled and cellophane-wrapped Easter basket left by a mythical bunny.

BUNNIES WITH BASKETS | These matte ceramic bunnies have been in my collection of Easter decorations for several years have finally found a perfect home under this tree. The wooden eggs add warmth to the tableau.
OF COURSE there are also memories of the gleeful Easter egg hunt in the cool and fresh unmown grass. The confectioner's scent from jelly beans, marshmallow Peeps® and chocolate bunnies permeated the air inside and mixed with the fresh smells of tulip trees and other early blooming flowers outside. All were stirred together in a heady mix by the brisk winds of spring.

EGG HUNT | This bunny carrying an egg in an Easter basket on his back, is peering into the holiday's symbolic dogwood flowers to find more.
WITH EASTER, spring has fully sprung, and summer is carried in on the rays of the sun. Change and new life are in the air. And a cleansing of our souls takes place. And the light, it seems, is warmly beamed directly from heaven, coaxing things back to life again. 

FANCIFUL FUN | Since this tree is simply-decorated, wire-edged ribbon adds presence and movement to the tiny wire Easter baskets.
THAT'S WHAT every spring becomes . . . a rebirth, however you choose to believe, it's an undeniably intoxicating and life-giving affirmation. 
When we live in darkness, our human life is a constant want.
When we live in Light, our divine life is a constant achievement.
Light in the physical is beauty.
Light in the vital is capacity.
Light in the mind is glory.
Light in the heart is victory.

                      —Talk on the Inner Light by Sri Chinmoy
The text from this post was adapted and updated from past Easter blog posts and from my book, The Decorated Tree: Celebrating the Seasons available at by clicking on this link or pasting into your browser.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland

Thursday, February 12, 2015

pure of heart

HEART TO HEART | These bright and lively "decoupaged" metal heart ornaments were found at World Market, as well as the glittery heart card with the apt sentiment: "It was, it is, it always will be..." on the front. Inside, it simply states "you" "Happy Valentine's Day".
MY SWEETHEART told me recently that the reason he loved me is that I had a pure heart. I certainly didn't expect to hear that, but when you love someone for exactly who they are and are completely comfortable to just be yourself with them, I guess that's what comes through.

SOMETHING IN THE AIR | A close-up of the bird-embellished heart ornament, paired with bright red primitive wooden heart ornaments and golden heart lockets would make even a simple branch come alive with Valentine wishes.

IT WAS, IT IS, IT always will be like that when you find someone with whom you are completely compatible. Life becomes an adventure together. Juan has been that, and so much more. I miss him during the day when we're at work and I look forward to seeing him every evening, night and weekend . . . to do nothing more than just be . . . together. Happy Valentine's to me . . . to us, as he always corrects me to say.

LIFE IS | A box of chocolates from London's Charbonnel et Walker, heart ornaments and a love note for your sweetheart.
NO VALENTINE'S DAY would be complete without chocolate. I always will remember when the fancy boxes of chocolate appeared at the drugstore down the street from where I grew up. It signaled a special time. Back then, the boxes were decorated with ruffles and ribbons—much more elaborate than most are today. This special Valentine box of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates is utterly simple, but the cardboard dividers within are an unexpected package detail that gives them an old-world provenance. That, and the fact that the company was established as Britain's Master Chocolatiers (by Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen) since 1875. King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) encouraged Mme. Charbonnel to leave the chocolate house of Maison Boissier in Paris to join Mrs. Walker to establish a chocolatier and confectionery house on London's Bond Street. And the rest is history.

RICH TAPESTRY | This heart ornament is decorated with a colorful tapestry of flowers and would brighten the heart of any Valentine.
MAKING HISTORY (and memories while eating fancy chocolates) with someone you love clearly is the best Valentine anyone can hope for. It was, it is, and it always will be the reason we fall in love . . . for the companionship and joy in this life we live . . . together.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

ring in the new year

THE PHRASE "ring in the New Year" has a new resonance for 2015. Literally, Juan and I have new rings. He surprised me with one for Christmas and I, of course returned the favor as an engagement promise. Since we live in Georgia, the legal significance of these rings is yet to be determined, but in our hearts they mean what they always mean when any couple wears them. Mr. and Mr. will soon (hopefully) become a real possibility, now that 35 states, plus the District of Columbia have marriage equality laws in the books for same-sex couples.

MR. & MR. | This bottle bag from Crate & Barrel contains the bubbly for a sparking new year.
THE NEW YEAR is always about change. It's about leaving the past behind and embracing the future. Just the fact that products are appearing in the market that tout same sex togetherness such as this linen mr. and mr. bottle bag from a forward-thinking business (Crate and Barrel). These products make a toast to a reality that we are embracing ahead of the fact. We are using it here to hold our New Year champagne.

RINGING TOGETHER | This ring dish from Crate & Barrel will give our rings a resting place that we can always find as we are both constantly misplacing things (especially cell phones and remote controls).
THIS MEANS A LOT to both of our futures. And we have begun building this future together in earnest. It's exciting to know that our partnership might one day soon be recognized by the world we live in . . . just like everyone else. Our rings are the only tangible commitment we have to that right now, aside from what we hold in our hearts. As soon as we got our rings, we talked about a centralized place to keep them when we weren't wearing them. Crate and Barrel also helped us out with that dilemma with this Mr. & Mr. ring dish.

DEER IN THE FOREST | Made in Germany by Ino Schaller Bayern, a family tradition since 1894, is famous for their paper mache candy containers. The company also makes glittery bottle brush trees and the doe figurine seen here (as well as the stags).
IT HAS BEEN and eventful 2014 for both Juan and I. And we are looking forward to a long future together. We don't really need a marriage contract for that, but it will greatly help us in the eyes of the law. All of the benefits that most people take for granted with a legal marriage will be rightfully ours . . . finally. As an animal totem the deer symbolizes Juan and I exploring our own magical and spiritual nature together. The deer is a definitive symbol of grace and an appreciation for the beauty of balance.

BRUSH, BUBBLY, AND POP | Champagne served in these Edge Champagne Glasses from Crate & Barrel have a decidedly modern sensibility. Confetti Mini Crackers from West Elm pop apart to reveal surprise gifts.
OUR TOAST FOR 2015 is to continue along our trail to a future we can only dream of together. The crackers included in these photos are traditionally a Christmas favorite in the United Kingdom. Since we're planning on spending Christmas in London in 2015, that future is looking bright already! Happy New Year!

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

past. present. future . . .

FROM A DISTANCE, this tree appears classically composed of antique decorations because of its traditional and old-fashioned look, but when you get closer, you'll see that all (except for a few) of the ornaments are modern, or only reproductions of vintage styles.

ALL THE REFLECTION contained in this blog has led me to here. There's no escaping the past. It's sometimes hard to live in the present. And the future doesn't always seem bright. But the string of holidays leading up to Christmas each year have a way of coalescing years of the best memories and pushing one forward into the New Year anew. Could it be 2015 already? How did this happen?

TIME AND AGAIN | This pocket watch ornament sets the tone for past, present and future.
AFTER MORE THAN a year of profound catharsis in my life, I think I've finally learned to listen to the present. To live in it. And to embrace the future with the brightest hopes and dreams. A large part of that is having someone in my life that is living a different phase of their lives, but wants to live it with me, even though I've already been through all of that (and maybe because of it). At 53 years old, I feel like I have a brand new chance for the life I have always imagined. It's amazing how much things can change in a year's time.

FLEETING MOMENTS | Life can catch you by surprise and change directions only when you are intent on listening to the smallest, quietest, but most profound moments.
IT ALL STARTED when Juan Fonseca joined me in life this past summer. I haven't shared a home with a partner in quite a long time. This forced me to restructure my life in ways I knew I needed to and provided the impetus to do it—all with someone I love dearly. This also took me away from this blog for a while. In preparation for Thanksgiving this year, when we hosted Juan's mother and stepfather, we have been reworking our home to make it ours. And, at last, Ive begun sorting through the ephemera of my past life, letting go of things I neither want or need anymore, both physically and in-turn, psychically.

SEEDING THE FUTURE | Pinecone ornaments always figure into the symbology of a tree and are present on nearly every one I decorate.
WHEN THINKING BACK on other Thanksgivings, I remember some amazingly bright spots in my life. It was Thanksgiving day in 1984 when I got the call from the art director of Southern Living magazine announcing that they would like me to join them as a staff artist. This was my career launch after college. And it has affected my life more profoundly than I could ever imagine. This job set the course of my career at that company (most of which were at another magazine it published). It was ten years of working with a warm, creative, family of friends, a large number of whom I am still in touch with. And I learned the skills that have enabled me to create this blog and give me a creative attention to detail that is lost in a quite a lot of modern publishing. I need to tell a story. I need to have resonance in what I'm doing. It's much more than a pretty picture. Publishers these days seem to only be looking at the bottom line and forgetting their real assets.—namely readers. Back then, that seemed to be the most important lifeline for magazines.

GLOBAL RESPONSE | A heirloom glittered globe spins hope for the future. Globe designed by Elliot Raffit.
AND NOW, it begins again. The past does repeat itself. The only difference is all the lessons learned during long-gone times are much more readily available and are viscerally informing my future. And emotionally, it finally feels as if the planets are aligned just right for something better than before. Besides, it was on this day in 1945 that my parents were married. Both lived until just before their 60th anniversary. I can't believe that's been almost 9 years ago. Where does the time go?

BIG PICTURE | Sometimes disparate elements combine themselves into a whole in surprising ways. This tree is a natural-cut tree grown by Cale Smith of G&S Trees Inc. in the Appalachian farms in Elk Park, North Carolina.
THIS TREE is different from a lot of the trees on this blog. Namely because it wasn't begun to be a really fussed-over tree with a cohesive theme. Then there's the full-sized realness of it. When I let go and decided to decorate the tree with regard to how life comes at you—what happened was a lot of disparate pieces coming together and making a beautiful, but imperfect whole. I honestly bought the tree bundled, with only looking at its top. That never happens. Somehow over the years, I've learned to trust my gut. but when the tree farmer said it was a natural-cut tree, that had me. I've grown quite weary of trees that have been coerced into perfect dense cones all their life. You can truly tell the difference a tree makes.

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE | Everybody knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and how he finally found the Christmas spirit. This book is a Barnes & Noble special edition of The Christmas Carol, beautifully bound.
AND IN MY AMAZEMENT, that is just what is happening in my life. We already have added a new family member. We've adopted a "schnoodle", whom we have named Halston. He walked into our home from the Atlanta Humane Society as if he had always been here--even without too much protest from the two cats (Abella and Frida) that already lived here (Frida is crouched under the tree in the photo at top). 

THE PIECES FALL TOGETHER quite perfectly in their imperfection. All you have to do is have a keen eye for balance, be able to take a leap of faith, and understand; just as Ebenezer Scrooge finally did in Dicken's The Christmas Carol, that where you have been affects many more people than you can ever imagine. And what footprints we have left behind profoundly inform our steps into the future.

HERE'S WISHING everyone who reads this a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

SANTA'S BOOT | Robert Brawley's Twinkles and Treats handmade delight is front and center on the tree. A self-proclaimed Halloween Fanatic, OOAK ornaments for all seasons are available on his Etsy site.

CHILDLIKE WONDER | This kitch figurine found this past summer on the clearance table at the Savannah Urban Outfitters, when Juan and I were on our first vacation together, captures the essence of a child at Christmas and became part of our decor this year.
PRESERVING SANTA | The timeless quality of Santa's story captures new hearts and minds every season if you just choose to believe.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

(un)conventional wisdom

ATHENA, the Greek goddess of wisdom was represented or accompanied by an owl in mythology. 'Little Owl' (Athene noctua) was her ever-watching "mascot." Large numbers of owls were said to nest in the Acropolis in Athens, which is the temple dedicated to Athena. As her symbol, the owl accompanied Greek armies to war, gaining the mystique of being seen as a protector.

FLIP SIDES | Rather than being emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge, much traditional folklore places the owl as a messenger between the living and the dead—or even as death's messenger-in-chief. A less morbidly superstitious belief has them simply representing a metaphorical shift in perception, providing insight and wisdom to something we haven't seen or considered before—an (un)conventional wisdom, as it were. In ancient Greece, this coin (right) was the most influential of its time. The Athenian Owl featured Athena on one side and an owl on the other (shown). Nicknamed "Owls", these coins were in circulation for well over 300 years (c. 430 B.C. to c. 99 B.C). It is also the first widely minted coin that placed a 'head' on the front and a 'tail' (an animal image) on the back.

SOME CULTURES associate owls with sorcery and evil (Aztecs and Maya), while others consider owls as bad omens (Arab mythology), but the association with wisdom, art and scholarship (which all have their roots in Greek mythology) is the most resonant in Western culture.

PART OF THE MYSTERY surrounding the interpretation of the owl as an animal symbol lies with the longevity of the species. Dating back as much as 60 million years, the owl has been found in prehistoric cave paintings as well as ancient fossils. This span of time over millennia, no doubt, contributes to the owl's mysterious nature and is further amplified by its nocturnal habits and eerie call, giving its nighttime appearances an otherworldly demeanor.

SYMBOLIC MESSENGERS | This fantastic Owl Totem tree topper inspired this tree and was found last season at Star Provisions in Atlanta, but you might find one online at Terrain (or not). They seem to be very popular and hard to find. 

OWLS HAVE BEEN represented in the market—more and more the past few years as decorative items and ornaments. You can find them everywhere if you haven't noticed. This paper tree displays the collection of owl ornaments I've gathered, lending a mysterious quality perfect for Halloween. The owl totem topping this Halloween tree is a paean celebrating the owl's mystery and the good and bad of its generational (as well as cultural) history. In Indian American traditions, the owl is referred to as the Night Eagle. The owl totem has a special connection with the night and the moon which is a perfect symbol for the change in the airspace that mysteriously blows in with the autumn season.

THIS HALLOWEEN (and first days of autumn) signal the return of my blog after a much-needed hiatus. Taking time for the important things in life, I have found an amazing new partner, a new job and a new lease on life (as well as a new camera). Just as the owl represents transformation and change, my intuition tells me that this renewed creative flight is a protective symbol of what's to come. The owl has played a diverse and fascinating cross-cultural role in myth and folklore and its intuitive wisdom surely holds lessons for all of us. It allows us to explore the unknown in such a way that can uncover the magic that we might otherwise miss in keeping a watchful eye and listening for the eerie call of "whooo."

CANDLELIT MYSTERY | This owl and tree branch candlestick sits atop a frog which sits atop its base—very witchy indeed. The crown-shaped candle bases denote the nobility of the mysterious owl. Velvet fabric stuffed pumpkins sit amongst real ones and a diminuitive brass candleholder with curvy legs looks as if it could animate and walk amongst the pumpkin patch.
PUMPKIN GLITZ | This monogrammed and glittered faux pumpkin sets the tone for a real grey/green pumpkin with a glittered stem, alongside another velvet stuffed pumpkin and a small white pumpkin.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.