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, December 23, 2013

gifted gestures

A GIFT that won't fail to be appreciated is at once personal and unique. You can never go wrong with an ornament as a gift if you match the ornament to the recipient's taste level. Also, if you put consideration into it being something symbolic of your relationship with them or something pertaining to their personality and likes, it becomes an especially thoughtful gesture. Since Matthew Mead has been an ardent supporter of my blog and has included my work in last year's and this year's issue of his holiday magazine, as well as a recent blog post where he named me "King of the Forest,"  I gifted he and his wife a literal tree ornament like the one you see above. Last year, I gave them a different tree ornament, along with a copy my book The Decorated Tree. He's already utilized this year's ornament as a prop in one of his beautiful photographs illustrating how to decorate a mantle.

EVEN IF YOU'RE a last-minute shopper, the variety and abundance of ornaments on the market during the holidays is so vast, you will surely to find something special for everyone on your list—even if they are hard to buy for. Ornaments also make great tie-ons for special gifts. Since I am on the constant lookout for the perfect ornaments to decorate the trees for this blog, I see the best-of-the-best in my collecting pursuit. I've found that selecting ornaments that are neutral in color (or even clear glass like this beautiful heart) are the best way to go when buying one as a gift, because they can be incorporated on almost any tree. And what says "I love you" more than a heart-shaped ornament? I collect heart-shaped ornaments in memory of my mother, as I maintained a yearly tradition of tying one onto a special gift to her every Christmas. The collection still grows in her memory.

THE CHRISTMAS after she passed I had a dream about her in which I gave her a brooch that inspired an entire tree. I'm including the photos of the tree here, but you can read the original post here. This tree is an assemblage of  ornaments that remind me of my mother's spirit and humor. It served as a altar of sorts to her memory. It's still one of my favorite trees because it is so symbolic of a mother's love and was completely inspired by a dream of a gift I never got to give her, except in my dream, which is why I entitled the post "Tree of Dreams."

IF YOU TAKE a closer look at this tree, you'll see a myriad of symbolic and figural ornaments, all brought together by the cohesive color scheme inspired by the brooch. Even though most family trees are a hodge-podge of family memories (and there's nothing else like them), the trees I present in my blog are designed to create a certain theme or mood, which dictates that I usually stick to a predetermined color palette as I have in this post. Still, there is room for a lot of variety within such parameters. Not long after my parents had passed, I gave ornament gifts to my siblings representing my parents (a bluebird and a butterfly). I detail the special packaging in which I presented them in this post.

The Tree of Dreams spread as it appears in my book.
THE BROOCH (or the facsimile I found after having had the dream) inspired the tree above. You'll see it at the top of the photograph above. Another brooch I happened upon this year reminded me of a Christmas tree pin my mother used to wear. The tree brooch caught my eye in a glass cabinet at the checkout of a store that sells soft drinks and snacks, of all things. I saw the brooch as I made my purchase and immediately asked to see it, and I bought it as another memento of my mother's memory. Maybe this tree brooch will inspire another traditionally-colored tree. Maybe it's a message of inspiration from my mother to create one! I think my more sophisticated adult approach is much different than one as seen through a child's eyes. Or maybe it's only a reminder from the universe to rekindle the innocence I've sometimes lost in seeing a tree as a child would see it. Any way you slice it, it's a definite creative challenge to think of a way to create that innocent wonder and magic.

HANDMADE ORNAMENTS are always welcome gifts, such as this polar bear made by my friend David Schump. In his modernized tramp art style, he creates ornaments sold on his website entitled "The Art Tramp". I've bought two ornaments from him this year and have two more on hold that he has made. He makes them in limited quantities, but I'm not sure if he has plans to make multiples of this one-of-a-kind polar bear pictured above. Please check out his site for other beautiful tramp art creations, including beautiful symbolic boxes here. The hand-blown glass deer ornament at the bottom of the photo above, is also quite special. Both ornaments would be a welcome addition to any tree, certainly adding a personality that only animals can. Animals evocative of winter are especially appropriate gifts to celebrate the winter solstice that happens just a few days before Christmas (December 21st this year). They also serve as a reminder for us to be careful stewards of the eroding environment in which such animals live.

MANY ORNAMENTS are commercially available, such as this lettered cardboard butterfly and a sturdy metal peace sign, which looks as if it's made from twigs. I gave the butterfly ornament this year as a gift to a former companion since butterflies represent his sister, who died of cancer much too early. I know how much he loved her and how he cherishes the butterfly symbol his family has adopted to represent her life. Either of these ornaments would be an appropriate gift for your more gentle, peace-loving friends, or as a special memory of one.

STARS ARE THE SHINING symbols of the light of the season. They give us hope for a future filled with the best things life can offer. It's no secret how stars have figured into my world since that special night in Tulum I've written about in posts this year. These two gold stars were gifts for Devin and serve as a reminder that while reaching for the stars in his new life in New York City, he should not forget the stars we saw on that unencumbered beach last November and the love we professed for one another. The light of the stars in such an atmospherically unobscured sky is our gift from the universe, reminding us all how insignificant we are in the big scheme of things and humbling us enough to live our lives with unconditional love.

TODAY WOULD have been my parent's 68th wedding anniversary. They were married December 23rd, 1945 and both lived short of their 60th anniversary in 2005. I feel extremely lucky to have had the bedrock example my parents both set and the real unconditional love they shared with my entire family. Love hasn't worked out so well for me, but I'm in a different situation and unable to legally marry. Maybe one day, that will become a reality wherever I live, as it has already for many in this country and around the world. But until then, I'll keep trying to find the one who will make that sort of unconditional commitment and stick by my side, for better or for worse. I am truly ready for that to happen.

MUCH LIGHT and LOVE to everyone this holiday season. May you and yours find the indefinable magic of the season. And remember those special people in your lives that are less fortunate than you, and include them in your family gatherings to share in the joy of Christmas.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.
Tree photos by Claudia Lopez Photography.

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