There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

natural selection

WE ARE NOT living in an age of subtlety. "Reality" shows abound on television where the most obnoxious, outrageous and gaudy get all the attention. No publicity, is bad publicity anymore, even for State Dinner crashers and sons of reality show wannabe parents that hold the media aloft chasing spaceship balloons for hours on end. Christmas decorations have accordingly become gaudier and gaudier in large part due to florists and department store visual display artists trying to outdo each other in public displays. That's how they sell it—build a gaudy spectacle and they will come. This is not how it should be done at home. Somebody forgot the caveat "DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME" somewhere along the line. I remember hearing the mantra of a very successful florist — "if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing." Not so, when decorating at home.

I CAN CERTAINLY see the m.o. in that credo, and I for one, can appreciate the glee in over-the-top decorations. There's something about gaudy American consumerist spectacle that gives me a particularly sick sort of comfort—it's as if you're not part of the game if you don't participate. More lights in more configurations than you thought humanly possible? The more, the merrier! Commercial-sized plastic blow-up yard ornaments that lie in misshapen piles while the owners are at work during the day? Not so much. It's like getting behind rubbernecking traffic in a 10-car pileup on the interstate. One just hopes they can get by without seeing a crumpled mess, or even worse, a bloody scene, but you're still stuck in the slowed-to-a-standstill traffic. Commerce has overlaid the gentle quietness of nature.

WITHIN ITS ORIGINS, the tradition of the decorated tree began with a simple, some may say, superstitious, hope for the return to spring (as if the turning of the seasons was not a surefire thing). Nevertheless, a reverence for nature is slowly being welcomed back into decorating— bringing the ceremonial symbolism and true meaning of the decorated tree back to its noble origins. A beautiful symbol of the season is a glittery tree shaped from metal "twigs" and adorned with a subdued nod to the natural world in winter whites, tans and grays (above, right). The inclusion of animal ornaments; a polar bear, a mature deer and a small bird are indicative of what can be found in the market which pay homage to endangered species. It's as if we're grasping for an apology to the natural world for what we've done to it. Aside from being visually assaulted at every turn, it is becoming more and more apparent that we are destroying our own natural environment. We have a lot to learn from the pristine natural world (both flora and fauna) in its utter grace and simplicity. No matter how breathtakingly awesome the size of its vista, the natural world, as resilient as it is, is still ultimately fragile when you look at the underlying ecosystem. Nature depends on a complex system of co-habitation and synchronization and it is less and less able to cope with the destruction wrought by humans and the waste and byproducts of industrial "civilization." Pollution comes in too many forms.

MORE AND MORE one can find natural-themed ornaments— made from eco-friendly materials (or at least not plastic or resin). Some of the first ornaments I made as a kid were from a kit my mother bought me made of felt cutouts sewn together and glued with sequins and trim, similar to the felt reindeer ornament here (but much less sophisticated, of course) that seemingly dances among the (wooden, laser-cut) snowflakes (above, left). The Germans are most famous for their glass ornaments, but are also consummate woodcrafters. The two wooden  hand-carved folk art span trees (right) are carved, amazingly enough, from a single piece of linden wood with carefully-cut shavings curled upward to form their branches—works of art in themselves that need no ornamentation. The tableau is rounded out with a couple of hand-blown, metallic-finished glass ornaments, a birch bark folded star ornament, sweetgum tree fruits painted silver (given to me by my friend Julia Neville) and a pewter leaf ornament.

THE IMAGE (at left— click on to enlarge) illustrates my point more succinctly and poignantly as only art can do. I am thrilled to have permission to show the work of a very talented artist named Jaime Zollars. In the description of this piece by Jaime, it is succinctly said: "This image of forest creatures making the best of a bleak situation illustrates hope and the true spirit of the holiday season." In remembering that true spirit, I hope this gives one pause to stop and take time to remember that nature is ultimately responsible for the bounty of the season. Look to it to inspire and inform your holiday decorations. This method to our holiday madness is something we can all hope to achieve. And by doing so, we rejoin nature on a warm wind of change. 

WINTER WISHES |  This metal wire tree from Anthropologie is coated with glittery beads and is hung with a subdued color palette of ornaments: Czechoslovakian beaded ornaments, silvery gray mercury glass baubles and German glass-glittered snowflakes demonstrate the simple composition of this tableau. Beautifully-rendered animal ornaments stand watch and remind us that their environment and ours are essentially one-in-the-same and has to be taken into account for the survival of all. 

SNOWFLAKE DANCER | The artfully, beaded and stitched felt reindeer is from Homegoods. The laser cut wooden snowflakes are from West Elm (large), Target (medium) and Anthropologie (small). 

GERMAN FOLK ART | These wooden folk art span trees are carved from a single piece of linden wood curl by curl and layer by layer with a method developed in the 1930's by talented German craftsmen (these are from Straco and purchased at Homegoods). The two handblown glass ornaments have a beautiful rich crackled "tarnished" silver finish were bought at an arts festival in Atlanta, the birch bark folded star ornament was purchased from Martha by Mail a few years back. The sweetgum tree fruit is spray-painted silver and the pewter leaf ornament came from a shop in the North Georgia mountains. 

collecting and styling by Darryl Moland, 
photography (top, right) Harold Daniels Studio
assisted by Shawn May
(middle, left and bottom, right) Darryl Moland.
Artwork (bottom, left) by Jaime Zollars.

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