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.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

footsteps into the future

EARTH DAY was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Twenty-million people came together on that date to protest environmental destruction and raise awareness for a healthier, more sustainable planet. Since then, Earth Day has grown into an annual global event with one billion people around the world joining together to draw attention to environmental issues. Paraphrasing the Earth Day site linked above: "On this 42nd Anniversary of Earth Day in a fiscal environment of global recession our planet (our home) is being neglected. Climate change continues unabated in the continued failure of governments to take any steps towards protecting and preserving the environment. There's a new ecological disaster happening almost daily. This Earth Day it's time to mobilize the planet from the ground up to send a message that the Earth won't wait! The Earth Day 2012 campaign is designed to provide people with the opportunity to unite their voices in a call for a sustainable future and direct them towards quantifiable outcomes."

BUTTERFLIES AND BOOTIES | (photos above) Crepe paper butterflies were made from an old Martha by Mail craft kit using crepe paper, clothespins, wire, Czech glass beads and German Glass Glitter. The small pink mercury glass baby bootie ornaments are from Crate & Barrel and tied with metallic ribbon from Martha Stewart Crafts.
WHEN I THINK about future generations and what they have to inherit from thousands of years of mankind wrecking our environment and using up the Earth's resources—I have to be honest—at first I am a bit pessimistic with what lies in their future. But then you see the hope in the face of a child and it reminds you that everything that new and unformed is an agent of change. Future generations need to be taught to develop a much lighter step and more compassion than ever before for our natural surroundings. It is now at the point of our very survival and best interest to do so and it is an issue of economics. We can no longer ignore the warnings from mistakes made in living the way we have in the past in the name of big business. We must also look to past voices to remind us of a more sustainable mode of living. This quote from a mostly forgotten indian chief was sent to me from Lisa Cummings Edwards (a blog follower and owner of a copy of my book, The Decorated Tree):

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."
—Chief Seattle, 1855

LITTLE GRASSHOPPER | (above) The tree branch is placed in a "quilted" ceramic container from a local gardening store, while a wire and mercury glass grasshopper from West Elm stands watch. Grasshoppers can only leap forward, not sideways or backwards. Symbolically, they have the ability to leap through time and into space where the true mysteries of life exist. The flowers behind the grasshopper are from one of the tallest deciduous trees in North America. The tulip tree (tulip popular) is related to the prehistoric magnolia and only produces flowers after it is about ten years old. The tulip tree flowers and bud are interspersed with white buds from a springtime nandina bush, which will eventually become red berries in the winter.
THIS TREE was a collaboration with a very special person in my life, Devin Borden. We made it to decorate his coworker's new nursery. Amanda Hickham and her husband Jeff are expecting a little baby girl soon, whom they have already named Jane Harris. In thinking about what the future holds for their little girl, Amanda says "It seems that over time, people have become more aware of the environment in general and increasingly more respectful of our planet. I can only hope that our baby girl will feel even more of a sense of responsibility once she is grown. It is important to me to be a part of sustaining and bettering an environment that will be safe for her not only as a baby, but for generations to come."

FACE THE FUTURE | (above, clockwise from top left) There are quite a few young ones in my life right now, some of which are shown here: My coworker Gianna Adams recently gave birth to Zander, shown with his mother in this beautifully poetic photo of mother and child; reaching for my face, Sian, former coworker Justine Chung's daughter is a complete delight; Atlas Bunda, the son of Kandace and Rob Walker-Bunda is understandably the happiest boy I know since both of his parents are extremely creative "Renaissance" parents; another photo of Sian with Devin Borden and I (who collaborated on the tree in this post); Mira is the beautiful daughter of my coworker Akiko Wilson; and another photo of Sian as a newborn.
INDEED, WE ARE ALL CONNECTED as humankind, but we sometimes forget that we are not removed from the natural world. We are products of every breath we take, every resource we consume and everything we eat. We are viscerally connected to every living thing in nature. 

THERE SEEMS to be a lot of children in my life right now. In looking for the face of the future, you only have to look into the face of a child as a source of hope. My friend Justine sent me a beautiful quote which she says pretty much sums up her new life in New York City. It really applies to all of us: "A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for." Our mothers know best — especially Mother Nature.

AS A SIDE NOTE, Caine, a 9 year old boy — who built an elaborate cardboard arcade inside his dad's used auto part store — shows that do-it-yourself creativity and persistence can pay off. Caine's Arcade became a success after getting the attention of indie filmaker Nirvan Mullick (Caine's first and only customer until then). Mullick made a short film about Caine (see YouTube video below). The short film went viral through the filmmaker's efforts. It is the most heartwarming story I have seen in recent years and will give you hope for the future like nothing else. Please visit this website and donate a dollar or two (the price of a fun pass) to his college fund as I have. 100% of my donation of $2.00, minus the PayPal transaction fee (0.36), will be put toward creating a Scholarship Fund that will be held for Caine to further his education. The filmmaker will be working with Caine's dad George to make sure a Trust gets set up properly. Also, due to the overwhelming support, and the spark of inspiration that Caine's Arcade has ignited, Caine's Arcade Foundation is being built to help more kids! The Foundation will help discover, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in young kids like Caine. The Goldhirsh Foundation is generously matching your donations to Caine's Scholarship Fund dollar-for-dollar (up to $250,000) to help them get the Foundation off the ground.

IN THE FUTURE, entrepreneurship will truly "get off the ground" if tempered with a good solid education about the environment and its protection, which will ultimately turn into action for saving our Earth. Happy and Hopeful Earth Day!

crafting by Devin Borden and Darryl Moland,
photography/styling by Darryl Moland

Sunday, April 1, 2012

the bunny and the egg

A COUPLE OF EASTER Sundays in my childhood, my parents surprised me with an actual real-life Peter Cottontail instead of a chocolate bunny. We kept the bunny in a specially-constructed pen in our back yard. Even though I quickly figured out my bunny was never going to lay an egg, I always hoped it would happen. Magical things are happening all around in spring, so why not a bit of magical thinking? Much to my disappointment, the only thing that ever popped out of the bunnies were those little brown pellets that looked like cat kibble—not quite a wish come true. 

EVEN IF my fluffy bunny was never going to lay eggs, Easter was always a highly anticipated welcome to springtime. I love watching the grass get green again with the daffodils appearing in the un-mown freshness. With everything coming to life after a winter slumber, the pollen from the flowers and trees tint the air like a childhood Technicolor® dream.

BUNNIES AND EGGS | (Both photos above) These roundly-formed glazed porcelain bunny ornaments from Pier 1 Imports were re-tied with a pale-striped yellow ribbon to match the yellow and white of the dogwood flower. Brown eggs were simply wrapped with Flake Cotton yarn (made in Brazil) from Ironstone and placed in an egg-shaped deviled egg platter.

THE DOGWOOD flower became another symbol for spring, as explained in Sunday school at the local Baptist church where we attended—as a manifestation of the crucifixion of Jesus. I studied those flowers with their stigmata petals scared at each end and forming a cross radiating from a golden “crown of thorns” in the middle and it seemed like a plausible explanation that the cross Jesus was crucified on was made of a Dogwood tree and this is how they appeared thereafter. But there was never an explanation for why my bunny wasn't laying eggs! The reasons for both might be from man-made sources that are less than reliable than an explanation taken directly from Mother Nature's lessons. In myth and religion, things have been cross-pollinated so much that the result is a hybrid of ideas that have something for everyone to latch onto. The short answer is bunnies and eggs are closely associated because they are both symbols of fertility, new life and rebirth/renewal.

EGGS AND FLOWERS | Nestled amongst sunny daffodil flowers and leaves, these lettered eggs from Pottery Barn spell out a Happy Easter greeting.

NATURAL LIFE CYCLES in the spring are the focus of any spring celebration. What has become today's Easter Bunny is actually a surviving remnant of Pagan traditions celebrated in pre-Christian days, and still practiced today by surviving Pagans and Christians alike, but with different source meanings. In the Pagan view, Bunnies, rabbits and hares are fertility symbols, sacred to the Goddess of the Dawn, once known as Ostarra or Eostara, which is the origin of the word Easter. Due to the the well-known procreational ability of rabbits, they are a perfect symbol for fertility. Another more direct symbol for fertility is the egg for obvious reasons. Spring Equinox celebrations—both past and present—focus on Spring growth. All the newly reborn flora and fauna, including the ever-producing rabbit, are a sure sign the Spring season has begun and nature continues its yearly cycle.

WHEN CHRISTIANITY first began to spread, there was an artful overlapping of Christian values and ideas with much loved Pagan customs, which attracted people to the church and pulled them away from their ways of honoring and living within nature. The Easter Bunny and egg hunts of the Old World were carried over to modern day celebrations. In the beginning, they had nothing to do with the Christian faith or belief in Jesus' resurrection. Because the Christian church celebrates the Resurrection of Christ in the spring, it made perfect sense to "borrow" from Pagan Spring rites in order to make the attraction to the newer religion plausible.

EGGS AND A CHICK | This tough chick with a cracked shell around its feet is laying claim to her future eggs. German paper mache candy containers borrow the perfect shape of an egg as an elegant container in which to give Easter treats. These modern versions are made by the German company Nestler.
THE POPULARIZED candy form of the Easter Bunny probably emerged around the 1800’s when manufacturers in Germany created bunnies from bread and candy. German children were taught about Osterhase, an Easter bunny that hid eggs and chocolates carried in a woven basket backpack for children to find on Easter Sunday. Easter eggs became a commonplace way to exchange gifts in Springtime. Easter treats were concealed in paper mache candy containers. Those made in an original mold, by some of the same German family workshops that began their businesses more than 100 years ago have become highly collectible. Modern versions such as the ones in the photo above are an elegant way to present Easter gifts and treats.

NO NONSENSE EGGS | Unadorned, but decorative natural wooden eggs are nestled within a blooming Japanese magnolia branch and a ceramic egg crate.

THE TRADITION of the egg tree (see The Decorated Tree version here) was also popularized in Germany. The eggs used in cooking Easter meals in Germany (and elsewhere) are not broken, but are emptied by blowing the contents out into a container, through pinholes at either end of the egg. The hollowed eggshells are then decorated and dyed and hung from trees during spring.

NO MATTER how or why you celebrate springtime, there is no doubt that this is a season of rebirth. Flowering trees and flowers rise from dormancy and show their prettiest spring colors, much like church-goers do in their Easter Sunday best. Nature and faith are in a constant cycle of renewal and both are reaffirmed simultaneously in a sweet melding of ideas and beliefs. It's definitely a time to take a deep breath of life.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland