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, April 25, 2010

Earth Day, every day

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE has become the mantra of the new generation. Earlier generations touted the three "R's" of  Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmatic, but it seems that these bookish pursuits left out an integral part of our very survival as a living, breathing and carefully balanced part of the ecosystem called Earth. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we have to take care of Mother Nature in order for her to return the favor. It has become painfully obvious everywhere you look. Nobody needs to be reminded about the oil rig explosion and still-continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which could become one of the largest environmental disasters ever. That happened this past Thursday, which was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day first set aside way back in 1970 to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It's hard to believe that it has taken this long to get people used to the idea of infusing a sustainable way of living into everything they do. We have a daunting task ahead to save our environment, so we all must be more vigilant. As much as I consider such things, I'll be the first to admit I'm not always completely conscientious. But every little thing helps. Almost every large corporate entity has jumped on the "green" bandwagon, but it remains to be seen whether commerce can find its art again and arrive at truly sustainable ways to do business instead of the empty promises of "greenwashing" just because it's a good marketing idea. Yeah, the beautifully-designed sunny green and yellow BP logo is a lie.

WHEN  I  discovered the Totem Tree  from the Dutch company Kidsonroof, I thought what a beautiful way to get an environmental message across to anyone, especially the kids that will inherit the environment as it is or worse. (I bought my tree in the U.S. from a mail-order catalog named uncommon goods). The concerns we face in protecting our environment is symbolically like putting together the big "puzzle" that this tree provides. If you take the time to find a place for all the pieces, it will create something new and beautiful. And it will take nothing less than a complete paradigm shift in thinking to find that balance again.

THIS  TREE isn’t just a beautiful "puzzle" made from recycled parts (I've shown the process of putting it together in the photos above). It is a building set for the child in all of us. It is packaged as six flat die cut sheets printed on both sides with a beautiful mix of elements, which when punched out, create a set of over 150 colorful cardboard pieces. There are leaves, birds, a birdhouse, apples and mushrooms. From these pieces, one can assemble a playfully unique tree once the trunk is carefully assembled. Each cardboard piece is intricately printed with natural images such as plants and wood textures. Also in the mix are images of leaves layered with subway maps, crushed cans and other ephemera from our lives. The combination of art, craft and subtle reminders of the garbage we produce, make putting it together an interesting and thought-provoking challenge. The Totem Tree is made from recycled cardboard and (in the unlikely event you will want to discard it) is fully biodegradable. I plan to take mine to the office to liven up my space with it as a "living" sculpture.

EARTHY TOTEMS | (Above) The Totem Tree, when pieced together makes a statement all on its own atop a table by Thomas O'brien Vintage Modern from Target. (Right) At the base of the tree, I placed four small globe ornaments (three are reminiscent of vintage classroom globes) from the Home line at Target; the fourth one being from the 2009 ornament line from Pottery Barn (in tree photo above); a wooden box made from a tree trunk; three mushroom ornaments from my collection (an antique spun cotton mushroom and two newer clip-on ornaments); and a magical garden gnome ornament holding a mushroom. The mushroom ornament has always been considered a symbol of magic and luck. Maybe they're more than in helping in our efforts to save the environment:

Click on this link or click to play the video (below) of an amazing science lecture from mycologist (scientific studier of fungi) Paul Stamets who believes that mushrooms can save our lives, restore our ecosystems and transform other worlds.

photography and styling by Darryl Moland
Totem Tree by Kidsonroof

Friday, April 9, 2010

spring forward

This pale green goose feather tree is abundant with spring-themed ornaments from my collection. Topped with a patterned ceramic bird, the effect is magical.

THE  POLLEN  COUNT  this past Wednesday in Atlanta was 5,733 (particles of pollen per cubic meter of air). The count was more than 2,000 higher than last spring's peak and only 280 below the record reading of 6,013, set on April 12, 1999. The major pollens present are from trees of course (birch, oak, pine and sweetgum), so this is an especially fertile year, which makes one feel like Dorothy must have felt on the yellow brick road crossing the poppy field to find Oz. Nature is having a full-tilt orgy all around (pollen is essentially the "sperm" of trees). While my allergies are not yet going haywire, I do feel a certain edgy lethargy in breathing air heavy with pollen. Everything is dusted with a powdery yellow-green. And the air is thick with the stuff of life.

MAYBE  I'VE  BEEN  too effective in my spring-inducing ritual of decorating trees. The wet and cold winter here (in Atlanta) suddenly gave up the ghost, and everything is blooming at once instead of in stages as it usually does. Everywhere you look, there's something sprouting new life, from the tiny white strawberry blooms in the strawberry pot on my deck to the spring bulbs showing their vibrant colors. The holiday tree I decorated a few years back as a harbinger of spring tells such a story of abundant life. I was thinking of my father when I was creating it, because his favorite season was spring. Down to the white picket fencing around the base and the long ribbons suggesting a summer Maypole dance around the tree, this was a fresh and cheerful presence during the winter holidays that year—a direct representation of the lore of the origins of the decorated tree and a pre-season celebration of the return to brighter and warmer days.

AN  ARTIST  FRIEND,  (Ande Cook), whom I have been fortunate enough to work with in a past job was also commissioned to paint a number of works for Atlanta Botanical Garden a few years ago. I bought a print of one of the paintings pictured (left) which illustrates the mythology of the spring season with a blackbird serving as a canvas for all the life of the season. Like this painting, spring is truly the most forward-looking season of the year—an abundant promise. And I'm loving spring's warmth, despite the lethargic reaction to the pollen. It's a chance to appreciate the surprise of new life in every form, once again.

WINTER INTO SPRING |  (Top and above, right) This pale green goose feather tree (from the defunct Martha by Mail catalog) is abundant with spring-themed ornaments from my collection. Topped with a ceramic bird patterned much like the painting shown above, the effect was winter magic.

HARBINGER OF SPRING |  (Above, left) A blackbird lands on the winter forest floor and spreads her wings with a promise of spring to come. The original painting by talented artist Ande Cook is gouache on panel and one of 16 works commissioned by Atlanta Botanical Garden. You can buy a high-quality digital print like mine in her Etsy shop.

photography by Claudia Lopez, styling by Darryl Moland
painting by Ande Cook