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.

Monday, March 28, 2011

a wish for Japan

EARTHQUAKE, tsunami, meltdown. The three words describing the current series of chain-reaction disasters in Japan can be expanded into describing what is happening worldwide in a broader sense. The Earth is quaking under our not-so-careful stewardship. There are waves of unrest all around the world rising in revolution. Economic upheaval is threatening a way of life we thought could continue unchecked. We are being shaken to the core. The end result of all of this is a disastrous threat of meltdown that will affect lives around the world. The relentless reality of it all is blared in the news every day. How many warning signs will it take? 

ONE HAS TO WONDER what is going on? It seems that we're having to reach for that last hope all-t00-quickly, which comes in good wishes, positive action and movement toward stabilizing our environment. Japan has always been a defiant nation of people—never to be pitied. Many countries of the world are in upheaval, whether it is because of natural disasters or man-made ones—or a combination of both. All I know that positive words and action can change a lot of things for the better. And you don't need an army to do it. The power of one can be multiplied exponentially and be heard around the world. We are all connected in a more profound way than any time in history.

IN OUR WORLD of control and containment of Mother Nature, we have lost sight of her power and the reminders are getting more and more dramatic. What does it take to awaken ourselves to the bleak future we might be creating? A plea written in my post about the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster bears repeating:

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.

THIS TREE is an impassioned and hopeful wish for the speedy recovery of Japan specifically, but for the whole of humanity broadly. It is all about the unity and positive drive we can have to become better versions of ourselves. We are either in-control or out-of-control when it comes to our actions. It is a simple black-and-white choice. ALL of our futures depend on it. No matter what country we call home, we are all the indisputable children of the natural world. And our Mother is crying loudly. Some of the trees I decorate have become miniature altars of sorts—like this one. This is my small way of sending out positive energy from my little corner of the blogosphere.

FULL CIRCLE | (Top) Circles of multi-colored folded cranes were made by my creative friend Jon Chavez who wanted to give me something back from a gift I gave to him that included the singular folded cranes within the gift box (bought from member Origamiyyc on Ebay directly from Japan months before this disaster). The legend goes in Japan that folding a thousand cranes makes a wish come true. It's ironic that these cranes have traveled from around the world, came back to me in a different form and are now coming to you via this post—pretty powerful stuff I would say. The dogwood branch I used is young in bloom. The legend adopted by the Christian religion says that a flowering dogwood tree was used to make the cross of the crucifixion. Whether this is a blessing or a curse depends on your beliefs. The singular crane at the base of the tree can also be seen in this post and was folded by Atlanta artisan Sachiko Kogure. The egg holder is from the Heartwood Creek collection by Jim Shore for Enesco. The egg is from this season's Easter product line at Target and is covered in origami-like paper (washi) in the style of a traditional Japanese egg decorating technique called kirigami, which uses cut paper. Eggs in the Japanese tradition represent creation, new beginnings, life and friendship.

FOLDED WISHES | (Second from top) In the case of this tree, I am using the dogwood branch to symbolize resurrection and regeneration for Japan. The multi-colored cranes represent the people of all nations coming together to assist in this effort.

LOTUS LORE | (Third from top) The lotus flower at the base of the tree is a very good faux stand-in from Michaels. The lotus flower has rich symbolism in Japan and is one of the most poignant representations of Buddhist teachings: The roots of a lotus grow in the mud, the stem rises up through the water, and the flower lies atop above the water's surface, reaching the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.

MUSHROOM LIFE | (Above, bottom) These mushrooms from Pier 1 Imports are reminders of the tenacious and magical quality mushrooms have—existing as symbols of life that pop up in a substrate of decay, adding a smiling element of surprise along with the fresh grass blades "growing" next to them. The antiqued wooden Chinese container from Homegoods stands on "stilts" above the surface of the round wooden table from Marshalls, which also represents the red circle of the Japanese flag.

PASSIONATE POSTERS | (Below) This series of inspired posters were designed by talented Japanese Canadian designer Linda Yuki Nakanishi (Left). They were created as her wish to give something back to her beloved country after realizing the gravity of the news from Japan. The descriptions below are in the artist's own words. All profits from her sale of these posters will go to the Canadian Red Cross efforts for the victims affected by the recent earthquakes and tsunamis. You can purchase one or all of them here.

MELTDOWN | This poster (Left) pays homage to the Fukushima 50 that volunteered their lives to stay behind to control the nuclear reactor. Each hexagonal shape in the Japanese pattern represents one of the Fukushima men. The crane flying up out of the nuclear meltdown represents honour, loyalty and longevity. Honour and loyalty, which was evident by the courage of the volunteers, and longevity as a wish for their safe return and health.

TSUNAMI | This is the second poster (Left) in my Japan Earthquake series. In this design I wanted to pay homage to Mother Nature. As destructive and powerful as the tsunami was, it was still an act of nature that was non-discriminating. If anything, the sheer impact of the earthquake that triggered the tsunami should be a reminder to everyone that unexpected things happen every day. Be prepared for what comes and more importantly maintaining grace under fire, like the Japanese people, when it does.

EARTHQUAKE | This poster (Left) represents the resilience of the Japanese people. The lotus symbolizes birth and rebirth, and the red lotus in particular represents love, compassion and passion (much of which is needed for the people of Japan).
The lotus is a flower that is born from the mud of the earth, fights its way through the depths of the water to bloom into the air and sunlight. This is how I view Japan, as a country that teaches their people to be strong and to endure. This is also what my parents taught me, even though we live an ocean away in Canada.

Collecting and styling by Darryl Moland, 
Poster art (and accompanying text) courtesy of Linda Yuki Nakanishi.

Monday, March 7, 2011

freedom and magic

IN  A  SCENE  in a subtitled movie I watched this past weekend named "The Secret in their Eyes," you see the letter "a" added to the Spanish word temo ("fear") to form the phrase te amo ("I love you"). It was an ephiphany for me in the context of the movie and in the context of life and love in general. "Fear and love" are closely tied, even when "fear and loathing" are the words that are usually put together. Finding love again after loosing it is a fearful and arduous process. 

I  DECORATED  this tree during the Christmas holidays last year as a gift for my cousin Angela at her apartment. She had ended a long relationship with her husband a few months before and this was my way of brightening her spirit. I wanted it to represent freedom and magic—the things you possess in abundance when love is new. I wanted her to be reminded to look toward that again. When I found the carousel horse clip-on ornaments with the bright pink feather plumes, I knew I had a basis for the tree. What could be better than the freedom and magic a circus horse represents? Even though such horses are usually acting within predetermined path formed in training, one knows they are spirited animals that might just run free at any moment.

THIS  IS  THE  first tree I've put together in a long while for someone besides myself or my blog readers. Even though the bright pink feather plumes had already set me into motion, I came up with the color scheme, later finding out that hot pink and baby blue was one of Angela's favorite color combinations. She told me this when I called her up and let her know what I was thinking for her tree. I could tell the tree was going to do what I set out for it to do. Hearing from her that it made her happy was all I needed to hear. I was more than glad to help her bring that bright, glittery spot back to the forefront in her life.

HAVING  LOVED  and lost several times in my life, Angela conversely had married her high school sweetheart and was suddenly back in the world again as a single person after a very long relationship. She's quite strong and resourceful, but I knew it was a hard time for her. Realizing that love can dim over time is a huge lesson in life. It seems so natural and free (and abundant) when you're falling in love, but falling out of love is a time of reflection and soul-searching. It's a hard thing to do—to learn to love yourself enough again to engage the world in that free and magical way—the way one does when your heart is open.

IT  SHOULD  BE  a lesson for all of us that fear and love have the similar fine line between them as fear and loathing do. They both bring about the quickening of the pulse and breath and elevate all sorts of physical/chemical reactions. In each scenario though, flight is two different things. One can either run away from or run toward love. And "fight or flight" is a commonly known reaction. Sometimes it's not easy to determine just which path you're taking, or which way you have conditioned your actions. We all know actions speak louder than words.

BUT  IF  ONE  remembers the freedom found in the pure place found at the heart of things, then it's easy to gallop or fly toward the stuff of freedom and magic.

SHIMMER AND SHINE | (Top) This ice blue retro metallic tree is set in a heavy alabaster tree stand from the short-lived product catalog “Martha by Mail” a few years back. With hues of sage green, pink, blue and silver, a whimsical circus-like look is achieved, representing finding your bliss in freedom and magic.

HORSING AROUND | (2nd from top) The unusual leather-clad hand-painted zebra (I found left on a park bench without an owner) adds a fun element at the base of the tree in combination with an array of Indian mercury glass ornaments. A blue glass dish of salt water taffy completes the childlike mood.

PURITY OF HEART | (3rd from top) The German-made heart is a direct nod to the freedom found in the purity of action in opening your heart for love. The hot pink-plumed plastic clip on circus horse busts are from an inexpensive ornament 2010 line from Target. The pink, blue and sage green baubles in varying sizes are a playful way to carry out the color scheme.

FREEDOM AND WISDOM | (Bottom) Mercury glass German bird ornaments with proud silvery tails were the find of the 2010 holiday season at Homegoods. The pink owl is from the 2009 season at Urban Outfitters and is a reminder that freedom only lasts if tempered with a certain amount of wisdom.

Collecting and styling by Darryl Moland, 
Photography by Troy Farina.