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, February 13, 2011

valentine mythology

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.

Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland.


  1. Beautiful and love your story to go with ti.

  2. LOVE your blog site Darryl! Everything you do is so inventive & beautiful! You truly capture the essence of trees and bring the simplest limb a graceful splendor. The photography is spectacular and evokes a quiet, peacefull beauty like none other!

    What a relief I stumbled upon your blog site, for I was just trying to justify letting go of some of my Christmas/ general tree collection. We just moved to AZ from NC and my movers made fun of me and the # of trees they had to move! I think it is somewhere in the neighborhood of 16? but who's counting!

    You have inspired me and make me long for the abundance of tree limbs I had access to back home in NC. Here (AZ) I am a bit challenged/ limited, there are few trees and many of their limbs are full of thorns. I guess I will just have to get inventive! Sorry to carry on so long but I just love what you do! I cannot wait to unpack all my Easter goodies and get to work. Maybe I will even blog about it!

    Overall, Thank you for inspiring me!

  3. Thank you so much for your wonderfully effusive comments. This blog is a labor of love. Thank you for the love!

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