VALENTINE'S DAY is ripe with symbolism. A lot of people think that it's just a day dreamed up by greeting card companies to sell cards or by florists to sell flowers. It may have very well become that in modern times, but the storied mythology behind the holiday goes deeper and is richer than chocolate, roses (along with their dangerous thorns), and all the inherent saccharine sweetness of the modern holiday combined.
THIS DAY MEANT for lovers has direct ties to Greek Mythology. In one such mythological tale, it seems that Apollo (Phoebus) insults Cupid (Eros) for playing with bows and arrows, boastfully asking him "What, wanton boy, are mighty arm to thee, great weapons suited to the needs of war?" Cupid was an impishly coy god of Love though, and took out his arrow and shoots Apollo with an arrow poisoning him with love for an unsuspecting wood nymph named Daphne, while also poisoning Daphne with an opposite, but equal revulsion for Apollo. Smitten with new love for Daphne, he pursues her. Of course Daphne wants no part of it and flees until her father, a river god, takes pity on her and turns her into a laurel tree, where she becomes rooted to the ground and sprouts the qualities of a tree. Apollo is undaunted and ceremoniously wears a branch that he broke from the newly transformed Daphne-as-a-tree, consecrating the tree to himself and declaring a certain victory in his plight.
IN AN AGE of ecological crisis, one might assign an allegorical importance to this story by having Apollo stand in as mankind, while Daphne becomes the natural world. Our relationship with nature becomes predatory and when we fail to find harmony with it, we break off a piece of it to symbolically herald our dominion over it—wearing the laurel wreath like a champion—all the while forgetting that Mother Nature rules us, not the other way around.
THIS VALENTINE tree with its crumpled paper/discarded love letter background is adorned with fragile glass hearts. The beaded wire tree itself stoically rises from a faux stone. Stone hearts and chocolate heart confections vie for attention. Green roses are combined with rosemary sprigs to hold the memory of the simplest truths of love. Victory is not inherent in such a tableau, but if the ingredients are measured carefully, the combined chemistry might grow into something amazing.
ONE MIGHT also remember that love isn't blind and bent on a path of "having," but with finding a certain harmony in our relationships (whether it be with a person, animal or something in nature). It all happens organically, literally and figuratively. It's easy to forget that when we are consumed with an unhealthy desire to "hold" something that is constantly changing and growing. Love in its truest form helps position our deepest natural longings with a certain tempered understanding of our place within it. In this scenario, love truly does conquer all.
TREE OF HEARTS | (Top) A beaded wire tree anchored in a cement faux stone from Sundance is simply decorated with small mercury glass heart ornaments in shades of silver, violet, pink and red. Roses and rosemary sprigs in a Hotel silver trumpet bud vase stand in for the natural world.
APOLLO CONSUMED | (Painting, 2nd from top) Apollo Chasing Daphne by Carlo Maratti, oil on canvas, circa 1681. In this painting Daphne's hands are changing into a Laurel tree while Apollo is in hot pursuit after Cupid slings arrows of love and revulsion to Apollo and Daphne respectively. Click on the portion of the painting shown here to see it in its entirety.
CONFECTIONERY HEARTS | (Third photo) I've tied this pleated foil-wrapped chocolate heart (made by Madelaine Chocolate Company) with a horizontally-striped ribbon in hues of pink and tan. The heart-shaped key lime truffle with a pink heart decal in the white chocolate coating is distributed by CVS Pharmacy, Inc. as part of a box of Absolutely Divine label premium truffles.
LOVE ON A PLATE | (Bottom) This melamine vintage graphic-printed dessert plate is by John Derian for Target. The stone hearts appearing in all of the photos are handmade Haitian stone hearts distributed by Pottery Barn, the proceeds of which go to funding the Haitian relief activities of HAND/EYE Funds Artisan Grants Program. HAND/EYE Fund works in Haiti to help artisans recover from the life-challenging loss of shelter, equipment, workshops and income due to the catastrophic earthquake.
©2011 DARRYL MOLAND | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland.