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, May 30, 2010

keys of life

THIS  HAS  BEEN  a weekend for soul-searching. I have had a lot going in my life the past few years and it's good to take some time for quiet contemplation. Sometimes life forces you to do such a thing. It's far too easy to get distracted by all the stuff of everyday life, which makes one forget to attend to the stuff of life that really matters—what's inside. It's scary to be alone with yourself sometimes, but a more meditative approach to life seems to always help me find direction. The older I get, the easier it is to find this kind of silence it seems. Maybe I've had enough practice. Maybe it's like riding a bike. Or finding a key to turn:

THE  INCREDIBLY  beautiful keys in the photo (above) were found at a crafts supply store several months ago (part of the aptly-named idea-ology line by Tim Holtz (a new discovery of amazing products). Being constantly on the lookout for new ways to express the decorated tree, I thought they would make beautiful ornaments by themselves or in some sort of wire construction—like an ornament I bought years ago which encased an old key within a crudely-made wire "globe." (I need to find it!). Although that's how these keys are marketed, they're not the usual scrapbooker fare. They have a heft and construction just like real keys. I loved them for the "engraved" words that associate with beautifully rendered shapes from the past. Who knows what they will become from here. I guess that's the point.

IN  THINKING  about how to use these keys (both literally and figuratively), I associated them with a book that my cousin Angela found at an antique store a few years ago and shared with me. I loved it so much that I searched for one and found a copy of my own on Ebay. The book (literary essay) is titled As a Man Thinketh by James Allen and was first published in 1902. I had never heard of it before, but it is one of those timeless jewels that you'll want to read and re-read (my copy is hand-sized and only 76 pages). You can read a copy online, but I'm a bit old-fashioned and like to have a book to hold in my hand—especially the beautiful copy I found.

A PHILOSOPHY  like James Allen's became possible when liberal Protestantism discarded the stern dogma that man is sinful by nature, substituting instead an optimistic belief in man's innate goodness and divine rationality. This reversal of doctrine was one of the great revolutions of the 19th Century. It was a move toward a reconciliation of science and religion, which is still in hot debate even today. As A Man Thinketh was Allen's second book of nineteen he wrote and was his most concise and eloquent work that best embodied his thought. The book opens with this statement:
Mind is the Master-power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:—
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.
TO  GIVE a broader idea of the infinitely quotable Mr. Allen, I have found quotes from him that pertain to the words on the seven keys in the photo above:

MEMORY: We clothe events with the drapery of our own thoughts. . . .

LOVE: And you . . . will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you will gravitate toward that which you, secretly, most love.

SECRET: And herein lies the secret of true power. Learn, by constant practice, how to husband your resources, and concentrate them, at any moment, upon a given point.

DREAMS: The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.

LIFE: Our life is what our thoughts make it. A man will find that as he alters his thoughts toward things and other people, things and other people will alter towards him.

HEART: The vision that you glorify in your mind, the Ideal that you enthrone in your heart — this you will build your life by, this you will become.

JOURNEY: Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your Vision, your Ideal. You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.

WORD KEYS | (Top) These seven "word keys" from the Tim Holtz idea-ology line were a great find at Michaels craft store. The keys are displayed on the beautiful "leopard spot" marbleized endpapers binding my copy of James Allen's 1902 literary tome As a Man Thinketh.

LITERARY CLASSIC | (Middle and bottom) My vintage copy of As a Man Thinketh was found on Ebay and is exquisitely bound in green silk cloth back and corners with "leopard spot" marbleized endpapers with handset type inside—a beautiful addition to my treasured books. Published in 1908 by The Progress Company, Chicago.

photography and styling by Darryl Moland 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

home to birds

BIRDS ARE FREE  to fly about. They make their homes in trees. They navigate thin air. They eat, well, like a bird. They sing songs whenever they like. Direct ascendants from the dinosaur, they hold the wisdom of the ages. They are gifts of hope and happiness.

MY FASCINATION with birds continues to grow. Aside from the real ones, I see birds in art everywhere I look—Twitter's logo (follow me here), the symbol of the country where I live and even the name of one of my favorite local places to eat, Ria's Bluebird.

FITTINGLY, I met my friend David Schump at Ria's for a delicious brunch this weekend and he graciously brought along a piece from his folk art collection for me to photograph. I had long admired his bird tree—a natural limb decorated with a flock of nine unique birds. Hand-carved and painted (circa 2004) by American folk artist John Carlton (in Delaware), this celebration of birds is quite a beautiful work of art.

ARTISTS CELEBRATE birds in their artwork in every discipline it seems. Two other artist's works I'm picturing here are an illustrated book by Australian artist Jeffrey Fisher and hand-turned birdhouse ornaments by local Georgia woodworker Betty Fugate.

ACKNOWLEDGED as having influenced a generation of designers and illustrators world wide, with birds being his preferred muses, Jeffrey Fisher's book offers up 46 different bird species in illustrated portraits. Each bird is painted in his unique style—unexpected, colorful and beautiful—and paired with quirky musings by his wife, Christine Fisher on each species' history and lore. Jeffrey states in the preface of Birds: "This book is nothing but an enthusiasm for birds. There being a bevy of collective terms for our winged friends—a murmuration of starlings, a ubiquity of sparrows, an unkindness of ravens, an exultation of larks, a pandemonium of parrots—here be an enthusiasm for birds."

WOODWORKER, Betty Fugate of Whirlingwood Studio in Georgia made the birdhouse ornaments pictured alongside the book. A crafter with a myriad of materials from embroidery to pyrography since childhood, Betty hand-turned these ornaments out of exotic woods. They will be beautiful and fun additions to a decorated tree. I've long thought of designing a tree with nothing but birds, and since trees are homes to many types of birds, it only makes sense. What better way to celebrate nature than to celebrate a home in nature?

FOLK ART FLOCK | (Above, top) This tree of birds was crafted by American folk artist John Carlton in 2004. The bird vase is from Target several seasons ago. The cast iron basket (filled with moss) was purchased in the Garden Gift Shop at Atlanta Botanical Garden.

FOR THE BIRDS | (Above, bottom) The illustrated book simply titled Birds is by Australian artist/illustrator Jeffrey Fisher (Chronicle Books) contains some of the most unique celebrations of birds in art I've seen. The hand-turned wooden birdhouse ornaments were made by woodworker Betty Fugate who resides locally in Georgia.

photography and styling by Darryl Moland, 
folk art bird tree by John Carlton, 
birdhouse ornaments by Betty Fugate

BEYOND WORDS | A heartbreaking scenario played out all-too-often because of Big Oil's unbridled greed, corruption and self-regulation: An oil-soaked bird against the side of the HOS, an Iron Horse supply vessel, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on May 9.

Monday, May 17, 2010

oil and water

THE  IDIOM "oil and water don't mix" is a way of saying two beings or characteristics don't go together. So true in many ways with the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil spill—literally and figuratively. The Gulf Coast beaches of Alabama and Florida have long been a late spring and summer getaway of mine since college. I go there for the pristine beauty—the clear emerald/blue water, the rejuvenating salty breezes so deftly maneuvered by calling seagulls, and the pristine white sands. All this has lulled me time-and-again to a paradise that is irreplaceable. I haven't visited in a few years, but now the Gulf beaches are threatened with an environmental disaster of crisis proportions. The damage has already been done in the ocean. Already endangered sea turtles and other marine creatures are dying and washing ashore. The shellfish population can't swim away from the spill and could be wiped out for a generation or more because they are poisoned by the oil (this decimates one of the largest populations of shellfish in the world). Our dolphin friends and other seafaring mammals are coming up to the surface of the water for a breath of what? Oil? 

WHAT  A  PARABLE  this has become. When the Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded, eleven people (oil rig workers) were killed and the site is still spewing oil into the water which has reached shore in Louisiana and Mississippi, threatening one of the richest wildlife areas of the world. And this is not the beginning. There are oil spills all over the world. This one just happens to be in my "backyard." Look at the ever growing list of (major) oil spills here.

FOR  THOSE  OF  US  who consider our relationship with the natural world as something sacred, we have reached a point of no return—a point where we consider just how sacred it is to us. We are all complicit in the civilization we have created, whether it is having out-of-season produce shipped to us from continents far away or driving our cars to work. Our planet is in distress because of our actions—human actions—and the other inhabitants of this Earth, who we call "wildlife," are left unwittingly to the destruction and havoc we have wrought. At what point do the economics of a situation not matter? At what point do we shift into a collaboration with Mother Earth, instead of a war with her? We, as humans do not hold dominion over the natural world, except in its destruction.

THE  BEACH-INSPIRED  TREE  above was planned for a later post as purely a celebration of the beautiful beaches of the Emerald Coast I hold so dearly in my memory, but now it has become a poignant reminder. It has become an urgent call to find alternative sources of energy—to "think globally" and "act locally." I am truly at a loss for more words about how I feel about this. Words are no longer enough. We must really hold sacred our relationship with nature. It is lamentable that it has come to our own survival to force our hand.

BEACHED TREE | (Above, top) This "tree" is entirely fabricated and made from wire, rubberized plastic (a petroleum product), fabric leaves and who knows what else; is from Pottery Barn Kids (and is entirely unsustainable). But the decorations are mostly made from metal wire, willow, glass, starfish and natural shells (the jewels of the sea). It is held in a container from the defunct Smith and Hawken. The blue/teal pot was found at Marshalls. The silver starfish is made from polymer resin (another petroleum product) and is from Ross. The fisherman's floats (from Pottery Barn) are a reminder of what a struggle fishermen will have because of the spill for years to come.

COLLECTED  TREASURES | (Above, right) Seashells are the jewels of the sea as well as the  sea glass (see below), along with seeds, pods and other natural items are ironically the basis for this season's decorative trends . . . evident in many stores like Pottery Barn, West Elm and Anthropologie. The bag holding part of what I "collected" is made from brown plastic netting (a petroleum product). The round mat is woven of dyed paper "grass" from the 2005 Contemporary Home Collection at Target. Last, but certainly not least, a gorgeous porcelain ceramic bowl (interior is glazed a light teal color) is entirely handmade by local potter named Cara Gilbert.

THIS  WAY  TO  THE  BEACH | (Above) Assembled with wire, most of the ornaments are made from shells, starfish, glass beads and tumbled "sea glass." Sea glass actually tumbled and worn smooth by the sea is harder to find than what you usually see sold in bags in the market. It is a poignant re-offering of glass litter that ends up in the sea, and only one way nature has recycled some of our trash to remind us of the beauty and importance of our coexistence with it.

photography and styling by Darryl Moland

Many of us have been wringing our hands. Cursing. Pacing. And praying about what’s happening to our beloved Gulf Coast. Wishing we could just do something.

This is the something a few friends and I decided to do (below).

These stickers will help spread the word. After all, the coast belongs to all of us. Blame, fury and responsibility do too.

My friends and I hope that this sticker will represent all of us as a people united by heartbreak—as well as determination.

And we hope the dollars collected and contributed will help rescue, rebuild. And restore.

It’s a drop in the ocean. 
But it’s something. 

CRUDE AWAKENING | It's CRUDE how our oceans  and our coastlines have been treated by Big Oil (ultimately, the mirror reflects back to all of us as long as we're not moving to change our dependence on oil). Buy 5 stickers for $10 and we'll donate a minimum of 50% to Gulf Coast restoration efforts. Or look to our site for at least 4 ways to contribute your time and effort to care 4 our coast. All here.