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.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

holiday migration

THE  MONARCH  butterfly is known in North America for its incredible fall migration every year south and northward return home in the summer. This trip spans the life of three or four generations. Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains (most famously) are the ones believed to overwinter and roost in the forested mountaintops within central Mexico’s Transvolcanic Range. The ones east of the Rockies travel to small groves of trees along the southern California coast. They often return to the same trees every year creating an amazingly magical sight. This miracle of nature is expressed by the tree I’ve decorated with their facsimiles for my Thanksgiving post.
JUST  AS  many species of birds migrate south for the winter, the Monarch does also. Unlike birds though, the lifespan of the butterfly during this migration is completed by children and grandchildren of the butterflies that start this incredible journey—done without their elders to show them the way. Unlike most insects, Monarchs cannot survive a long cold winter, so they migrate. Seasons change. But it might not be as simple as that.

DO  THEY  follow magnetic fields or use the sun to guide them? Are they following landforms (rivers, coastlines, mountain ranges) as their navigational tools? The innate nature of this migration has baffled and inspired researchers for decades. There is still a lot of mystery behind this yearly event. What are some of the other reasons for such a distinct migration? How long has this natural pattern been in place?
AS  SUCH, humans migrate and gather with friends and family during the holidays, usually starting with Thanksgiving day every year. Generations join together to share good times and celebratory meals together. This gathering is to celebrate life and abundance. And there is much to be thankful for, even as things change over the years for better or worse.
I  CALLED  my brother Mal yesterday to wish him a happy Thanksgiving. I haven’t been home to Alabama (where he still lives) much since my parents died five years ago. My “bro” is my family touchstone and keeps me informed about the goings-on back home. Now that my parents are gone from this world, I distinctly realize that they were the glue that held our family together as all my sibling's lives went in different directions. I miss those migratory days of going to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas—the home I lived in until I went off to college and for a short time afterward. 

Jason Laferrara's "Viceroy" has the map.
I'LL  NEVER  FORGET  that Thanksgiving day when I got the call confirming my first job as a designer at Southern Living magazine back in 1984. Tom Ford, the art director then, I think saved the news for that special day when my career took flight. That day changed my life forever while linking it to a day of abundance. I remember my mother being thrilled that she had a son working at a magazine that had become an institution in the South. I worked at that company (most as assistant art director at Cooking Light magazine) for ten years before my move to Atlanta. I give thanks for all the familial celebrations of life—family and friends alike. There is a part of me that still fulls the pull homeward.

BUT  MAYBE  you "Can't Go Home Again." That phrase comes from the finale of Thomas Wolfe's novel of the same name. In the end its protagonist realizes, "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."  

THIS  TREE  is a not-so-subtle reminder of the hope that all will come together again. One day we will realize our paths in life are for more than just survival. Our better instincts will inform us—just as it does each generation of the peculiar Monarch.

CRITICAL MASS | (Top, left and below) I've simply covered this Heirloom Ornament Tree from Smith & Hawken (2005) with Monarch butterflies, ironically made from feathers as a tribute to their winter roost far south from home (from Ashland Nature Center, distributed by Michaels). The faux sugared fruit placed below it is a reminder of the abundance celebrated each American Thanksgiving.

BUTTERFLY CONGREGATION | (Middle) This amazing real-life photo of a tree covered with Monarch butterflies is from The Green Children Foundation website. Many organizations are dedicated to the education, conservation and research of the Monarch butterfly and its amazing migration. A good place to start is Monarch Watch.

ART IMITATES LIFE | (Above) Digital artist Jason LaFerra from Mechanicsville, Virginia renders beautiful artwork of insects, birds and animals on historic maps tapped into from online. These giclee prints of his digital collages on watercolor paper (especially "Viceroy" with it's own map) are resonant and beautiful. 

Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what an interesting post Darryl, both about the Monarch and your family! My mum was the glue that held our family together, and when she died, we all headed off in different directions. I sometimes wonder where we would all be, and what we'd be doing had she lived.
    You certainly get plenty of satisfaction and enjoyment from your career! I love your butterfly tree.