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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

ring in the new year

THE PHRASE "ring in the New Year" has a new resonance for 2015. Literally, Juan and I have new rings. He surprised me with one for Christmas and I, of course returned the favor as an engagement promise. Since we live in Georgia, the legal significance of these rings is yet to be determined, but in our hearts they mean what they always mean when any couple wears them. Mr. and Mr. will soon (hopefully) become a real possibility, now that 35 states, plus the District of Columbia have marriage equality laws in the books for same-sex couples.

MR. & MR. | This bottle bag from Crate & Barrel contains the bubbly for a sparking new year.
THE NEW YEAR is always about change. It's about leaving the past behind and embracing the future. Just the fact that products are appearing in the market that tout same sex togetherness such as this linen mr. and mr. bottle bag from a forward-thinking business (Crate and Barrel). These products make a toast to a reality that we are embracing ahead of the fact. We are using it here to hold our New Year champagne.

RINGING TOGETHER | This ring dish from Crate & Barrel will give our rings a resting place that we can always find as we are both constantly misplacing things (especially cell phones and remote controls).
THIS MEANS A LOT to both of our futures. And we have begun building this future together in earnest. It's exciting to know that our partnership might one day soon be recognized by the world we live in . . . just like everyone else. Our rings are the only tangible commitment we have to that right now, aside from what we hold in our hearts. As soon as we got our rings, we talked about a centralized place to keep them when we weren't wearing them. Crate and Barrel also helped us out with that dilemma with this Mr. & Mr. ring dish.

DEER IN THE FOREST | Made in Germany by Ino Schaller Bayern, a family tradition since 1894, is famous for their paper mache candy containers. The company also makes glittery bottle brush trees and the doe figurine seen here (as well as the stags).
IT HAS BEEN and eventful 2014 for both Juan and I. And we are looking forward to a long future together. We don't really need a marriage contract for that, but it will greatly help us in the eyes of the law. All of the benefits that most people take for granted with a legal marriage will be rightfully ours . . . finally. As an animal totem the deer symbolizes Juan and I exploring our own magical and spiritual nature together. The deer is a definitive symbol of grace and an appreciation for the beauty of balance.

BRUSH, BUBBLY, AND POP | Champagne served in these Edge Champagne Glasses from Crate & Barrel have a decidedly modern sensibility. Confetti Mini Crackers from West Elm pop apart to reveal surprise gifts.
OUR TOAST FOR 2015 is to continue along our trail to a future we can only dream of together. The crackers included in these photos are traditionally a Christmas favorite in the United Kingdom. Since we're planning on spending Christmas in London in 2015, that future is looking bright already! Happy New Year!

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

past. present. future . . .

FROM A DISTANCE, this tree appears classically composed of antique decorations because of its traditional and old-fashioned look, but when you get closer, you'll see that all (except for a few) of the ornaments are modern, or only reproductions of vintage styles.

ALL THE REFLECTION contained in this blog has led me to here. There's no escaping the past. It's sometimes hard to live in the present. And the future doesn't always seem bright. But the string of holidays leading up to Christmas each year have a way of coalescing years of the best memories and pushing one forward into the New Year anew. Could it be 2015 already? How did this happen?

TIME AND AGAIN | This pocket watch ornament sets the tone for past, present and future.
AFTER MORE THAN a year of profound catharsis in my life, I think I've finally learned to listen to the present. To live in it. And to embrace the future with the brightest hopes and dreams. A large part of that is having someone in my life that is living a different phase of their lives, but wants to live it with me, even though I've already been through all of that (and maybe because of it). At 53 years old, I feel like I have a brand new chance for the life I have always imagined. It's amazing how much things can change in a year's time.

FLEETING MOMENTS | Life can catch you by surprise and change directions only when you are intent on listening to the smallest, quietest, but most profound moments.
IT ALL STARTED when Juan Fonseca joined me in life this past summer. I haven't shared a home with a partner in quite a long time. This forced me to restructure my life in ways I knew I needed to and provided the impetus to do it—all with someone I love dearly. This also took me away from this blog for a while. In preparation for Thanksgiving this year, when we hosted Juan's mother and stepfather, we have been reworking our home to make it ours. And, at last, Ive begun sorting through the ephemera of my past life, letting go of things I neither want or need anymore, both physically and in-turn, psychically.

SEEDING THE FUTURE | Pinecone ornaments always figure into the symbology of a tree and are present on nearly every one I decorate.
WHEN THINKING BACK on other Thanksgivings, I remember some amazingly bright spots in my life. It was Thanksgiving day in 1984 when I got the call from the art director of Southern Living magazine announcing that they would like me to join them as a staff artist. This was my career launch after college. And it has affected my life more profoundly than I could ever imagine. This job set the course of my career at that company (most of which were at another magazine it published). It was ten years of working with a warm, creative, family of friends, a large number of whom I am still in touch with. And I learned the skills that have enabled me to create this blog and give me a creative attention to detail that is lost in a quite a lot of modern publishing. I need to tell a story. I need to have resonance in what I'm doing. It's much more than a pretty picture. Publishers these days seem to only be looking at the bottom line and forgetting their real assets.—namely readers. Back then, that seemed to be the most important lifeline for magazines.

GLOBAL RESPONSE | A heirloom glittered globe spins hope for the future. Globe designed by Elliot Raffit.
AND NOW, it begins again. The past does repeat itself. The only difference is all the lessons learned during long-gone times are much more readily available and are viscerally informing my future. And emotionally, it finally feels as if the planets are aligned just right for something better than before. Besides, it was on this day in 1945 that my parents were married. Both lived until just before their 60th anniversary. I can't believe that's been almost 9 years ago. Where does the time go?

BIG PICTURE | Sometimes disparate elements combine themselves into a whole in surprising ways. This tree is a natural-cut tree grown by Cale Smith of G&S Trees Inc. in the Appalachian farms in Elk Park, North Carolina.
THIS TREE is different from a lot of the trees on this blog. Namely because it wasn't begun to be a really fussed-over tree with a cohesive theme. Then there's the full-sized realness of it. When I let go and decided to decorate the tree with regard to how life comes at you—what happened was a lot of disparate pieces coming together and making a beautiful, but imperfect whole. I honestly bought the tree bundled, with only looking at its top. That never happens. Somehow over the years, I've learned to trust my gut. but when the tree farmer said it was a natural-cut tree, that had me. I've grown quite weary of trees that have been coerced into perfect dense cones all their life. You can truly tell the difference a tree makes.

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE | Everybody knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and how he finally found the Christmas spirit. This book is a Barnes & Noble special edition of The Christmas Carol, beautifully bound.
AND IN MY AMAZEMENT, that is just what is happening in my life. We already have added a new family member. We've adopted a "schnoodle", whom we have named Halston. He walked into our home from the Atlanta Humane Society as if he had always been here--even without too much protest from the two cats (Abella and Frida) that already lived here (Frida is crouched under the tree in the photo at top). 

THE PIECES FALL TOGETHER quite perfectly in their imperfection. All you have to do is have a keen eye for balance, be able to take a leap of faith, and understand; just as Ebenezer Scrooge finally did in Dicken's The Christmas Carol, that where you have been affects many more people than you can ever imagine. And what footprints we have left behind profoundly inform our steps into the future.

HERE'S WISHING everyone who reads this a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

SANTA'S BOOT | Robert Brawley's Twinkles and Treats handmade delight is front and center on the tree. A self-proclaimed Halloween Fanatic, OOAK ornaments for all seasons are available on his Etsy site.

CHILDLIKE WONDER | This kitch figurine found this past summer on the clearance table at the Savannah Urban Outfitters, when Juan and I were on our first vacation together, captures the essence of a child at Christmas and became part of our decor this year.
PRESERVING SANTA | The timeless quality of Santa's story captures new hearts and minds every season if you just choose to believe.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

(un)conventional wisdom

ATHENA, the Greek goddess of wisdom was represented or accompanied by an owl in mythology. 'Little Owl' (Athene noctua) was her ever-watching "mascot." Large numbers of owls were said to nest in the Acropolis in Athens, which is the temple dedicated to Athena. As her symbol, the owl accompanied Greek armies to war, gaining the mystique of being seen as a protector.

FLIP SIDES | Rather than being emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge, much traditional folklore places the owl as a messenger between the living and the dead—or even as death's messenger-in-chief. A less morbidly superstitious belief has them simply representing a metaphorical shift in perception, providing insight and wisdom to something we haven't seen or considered before—an (un)conventional wisdom, as it were. In ancient Greece, this coin (right) was the most influential of its time. The Athenian Owl featured Athena on one side and an owl on the other (shown). Nicknamed "Owls", these coins were in circulation for well over 300 years (c. 430 B.C. to c. 99 B.C). It is also the first widely minted coin that placed a 'head' on the front and a 'tail' (an animal image) on the back.

SOME CULTURES associate owls with sorcery and evil (Aztecs and Maya), while others consider owls as bad omens (Arab mythology), but the association with wisdom, art and scholarship (which all have their roots in Greek mythology) is the most resonant in Western culture.

PART OF THE MYSTERY surrounding the interpretation of the owl as an animal symbol lies with the longevity of the species. Dating back as much as 60 million years, the owl has been found in prehistoric cave paintings as well as ancient fossils. This span of time over millennia, no doubt, contributes to the owl's mysterious nature and is further amplified by its nocturnal habits and eerie call, giving its nighttime appearances an otherworldly demeanor.

SYMBOLIC MESSENGERS | This fantastic Owl Totem tree topper inspired this tree and was found last season at Star Provisions in Atlanta, but you might find one online at Terrain (or not). They seem to be very popular and hard to find. 

OWLS HAVE BEEN represented in the market—more and more the past few years as decorative items and ornaments. You can find them everywhere if you haven't noticed. This paper tree displays the collection of owl ornaments I've gathered, lending a mysterious quality perfect for Halloween. The owl totem topping this Halloween tree is a paean celebrating the owl's mystery and the good and bad of its generational (as well as cultural) history. In Indian American traditions, the owl is referred to as the Night Eagle. The owl totem has a special connection with the night and the moon which is a perfect symbol for the change in the airspace that mysteriously blows in with the autumn season.

THIS HALLOWEEN (and first days of autumn) signal the return of my blog after a much-needed hiatus. Taking time for the important things in life, I have found an amazing new partner, a new job and a new lease on life (as well as a new camera). Just as the owl represents transformation and change, my intuition tells me that this renewed creative flight is a protective symbol of what's to come. The owl has played a diverse and fascinating cross-cultural role in myth and folklore and its intuitive wisdom surely holds lessons for all of us. It allows us to explore the unknown in such a way that can uncover the magic that we might otherwise miss in keeping a watchful eye and listening for the eerie call of "whooo."

CANDLELIT MYSTERY | This owl and tree branch candlestick sits atop a frog which sits atop its base—very witchy indeed. The crown-shaped candle bases denote the nobility of the mysterious owl. Velvet fabric stuffed pumpkins sit amongst real ones and a diminuitive brass candleholder with curvy legs looks as if it could animate and walk amongst the pumpkin patch.
PUMPKIN GLITZ | This monogrammed and glittered faux pumpkin sets the tone for a real grey/green pumpkin with a glittered stem, alongside another velvet stuffed pumpkin and a small white pumpkin.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

mother's work

A MOTHER'S WORK is never done. I've heard this all my life, and it still applies after she's gone. It's hard to believe it has been almost nine years since my mother died. Still, I feel her constant presence in my life. This year has been especially active with serendipitous happenings. This lets me know that there is only a thin veil of consciousness separating my day-to-day life from her undying spirit. My mother's handiwork continues to weave itself into my life's fabric in surprising ways, so I persevere in honor of her yearly preserving.

BELLES OF BALL | Last year, replicas of Ball's blue 1913 Perfect Mason Jar were released, selling eight times what the company projected; this year it reissued the brand's green 1914 Perfection line.
MY MOTHER WAS industrious to say the least—from putting up her famous dill pickles, icicle pickles, bread and butter pickles and sometimes, green tomato pickles every year—to canning and freezing almost every uneaten vegetable that was produced from our family garden. Those perfect pickles are all gone now (my nephew Kris still tries his hand at making them), but this year I found a commercially available version that came as close as my memory can get to how those divine garlicky-dill cucumber spears tasted.

FITTED FOR FLOWERS | The sealing lids that come with the jars have been replaced with flower frog lid inserts to create this floral tree (made by Ashland and distributed by Michaels).
THIS "TREE" celebrates all this by using blue and green retro canning jars as vases for a lush flower display. Although my mother's jars were always clear glass (produced much later), she always saved and reused the rings and jars, only buying new inner lids every year to ensure a proper seal for the joys of next season's pickle and relish tray. The tiered wire stand is reminiscent of the canning and sterilizing process used to prepare the jars for the careful alchemy of preserving.

I MISS THOSE DAYS of being able to run to the hall closet to fetch another jar of pickles, German vegetable soup, pickled okra, or canned stewed tomatoes. I miss our bountiful family garden we grew every year, sharing a large garden plot and responsiblity with the neighbors who lived across the street and next door. The garden was luxuriously large by many standards today. We grew at least 10 football-field-length rows of Silver Queen corn, several rows of snap beans with bamboo teepees for them to entwine, a half row of carrots, a couple of rows of potatoes, squash, radishes, purple-hulled peas, butter beans . . . the list goes on-and-on, and only changed slightly from year-to-year.

LOCAL TREASURES | These truly incredible artisan chocolates are handmade by Adam Turoni of Chocolat by Adam Turoni, based in Savannah, Georgia—a richly tasty way to celebrate the sweet times.
THIS IS A SYMBOLIC celebration of that yearly harvest that continued into the fall with a second late summer planting of turnip greens, mustard greens and collards. Life will never be the same for this boy that has chosen to live in the city, but I will always have the memories of the fruits of mother's work of preserving the bounty from my father's carefully-planted and tended crops. I am lucky to know what it took to make all of this happen, as well as having had a hand in it. To have gotten my hands dirty in the soil, helped me learn that we truly reap what we sow in life, even symbolically. This exuberant and bountiful crop of flowers (the peach-colored roses I grew in a container garden) are a living metaphor for a life well-lived, under the tutelage of a mother (and a father) that taught me how to love. This is a happy Mother's Day because her work is still not done. And this is my way of remembering.

collecting, growing, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Friday, April 18, 2014

east meets Easter

ALTHOUGH THE EASTER holiday is celebrated mainly in the West as a Christian holiday, its message of love is universal. The overarching message of the religious version of the holiday might be summed up with two words: forgiveness and rebirth. 

THE RABBIT is the secular symbol of Easter as a symbol of fertility, as well as eggs. Both symbols date back to pre-13th century Pagan traditions.

CHRISTIAN HOLIDAYS aren't celebrated in the East (unless you're a Christian or simply like the secular aspects of the holiday), but this Japanese magnolia Bonsai tree hung with blue and white china eggs has a decidedly "East meets Easter" feel. Underneath lies a large golden egg for luck and prosperity.

CULTURES ARE FUSING all over the world with the connectedness of modern technology. Indicative of the recognition of the universal truths of love, no matter what their belief system may be, many religions and beliefs have developed a more global world-view. And as we enter into some really significant astrological times with Pluto, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus forming a Cardinal Grand Cross, the apex of which happens on April 23 of this year, there is sure to be a breaking (or turning) point in the way the collective consciousness of the world behaves.

FORGIVENESS is the step we all must take to make room for new love. Although sometimes extremely hard to do sometimes, we must forgive (and sometimes forget) the people who have squandered our love and find a place (or a person) with which it will thrive and prosper. I've been very lucky to have found just such a person and am excited about the quickly unfolding prospects ahead of us!

LOVE is the grandest of all our emotions. It is entirely based on our faith (in any aspect) and being in tune with ourselves and others around us. It can come in the most unexpected of places. And for it to be received fully and without trepidation, our intent has to be pure when asking the universe what to do with it. Being ready to receive this kind of love no less than a spiritual rebirth. And I, for one, am ready!

REBIRTH is a serious matter, even in spiritually metaphorical terms,  as it is a visceral recognition of renewed life. So put on a pair of fuzzy pink bunny ears to bring levity to such a weighty transition. This Easter and the spring days ahead are full  of the promise of an untold life of joy and purpose. The message is there, any way you look at it—religious or secular, north or south, east or west. It's up to you what to do with it. The message, pure and simple, is all about love.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

hearts and arrows

CUPID CAN BE quite a trickster. One need look no further than his choice of weapon to know that something is amiss. Arrows? Aimed at the heart? Sounds like a dangerous proposition. 

LOVE IS most certainly the finely-drawn target that we are all after, but unless the correct balance of grace, light, and levity are found in just the right proportions, it's easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we've found the love worthy of our noblest aims.

IF WE DARE open our hearts again after having them shattered, we had better be sure this time around that our little buddy cupid hasn't been off flying in the clouds for far too long. Being a romantic fool, I'm often right there with him, flitting around looking for suspects without planting my feet firmly on the ground.

LOVE IS quite a heady affair, but only becomes substantive once our arrows are sharpened and our aim is sure. It's not an easy sport at all. And it's certainly not for the faint of heart.

BUT WE KEEP getting up, brushing ourselves off and finding a way, lessons learned, to move in that direction again. A sure-fire direction of love. Because nothing else compares, and nothing else will do. After all—true love, if you've ever had it . . . well, you know the drill. And our hearts know the way.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.

Friday, January 31, 2014

chinese lunar new year

LUNAR NEW YEAR or Spring Festival in China is not just one day of celebration as it is in the United States. The Lunar new year is, of course determined by the lunar calendar. The festivities starting on January 31st extend for 15 days. Other Asian countries (including Korea, Vietnam and Japan) get in on the celebration.

THE NEW MOON starting the night of January 30th this year is also known as the Black Moon. In addition, it's the second Supermoon of the month. This is similar to the Blue Moon where there are two Full Moons in a calendar month. Some Pagan cultures imbue such a lunation a lot of power. This raises the stakes with regard to any ritual celebration of the lunar cycle (such as the Chinese Lunar New Year). It is a particularly auspicious time in the months ahead to devise a new way of being. It's a time to revise old habits with a goal toward a better future.
THE CHINESE ZODIAC, known as Sheng Xiao is based on a 12-year cycle with each year being related to an animal sign. This year's trip around the sun will be the Year of the Horse. Each year is designated by an animal that interacts with one of five "earthly branches," (earth, water, fire, wood and metal), with this year being a "yang wood" year—defining the mood and direction of the world.

THE YEAR OF THE HORSE contains a great deal of fire energy. Along with wood, the flames are stoked. In a "yang wood" year people are said to stand firmly by their principles, making it harder to negotiate or compromise. The combination of a Horse year and a "yang wood" year only happens every 60 years and is historically marked by regional warfare.

THIS TREE branch is guarded by a Chinese-style horse and held upright in a faux bois container in front of a faux bois background, both representing "yang wood." Incense is a common tradition at altar rituals throughout the holiday and represents the fiery energy of 2014. The tree is hung with pleated paper disks and glass lanterns. The paper disks represent fireworks; the noise from which is to scare away the half-dragon, half-lion monster "Nian" who comes out of hiding during the Lunar New Year. By scaring away Nian, the Chinese wish that the coming year will be full of opportunities and prosperity. The glass lanterns symbolize the lantern festival which marks the conclusion of the celebrations (this year on Valentine's Day). The "forced branch" with flowers represents spring. And displaying and eating tangerines and oranges is said to bring wealth and luck. The tradition stems from the way the Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, while the word for tangerine echoes luck.

RED ENVELOPES are handed out to younger generations by their parents, grandparents, relatives, and even close neighbors and friends during Chinese New Year and usually contain "lucky" money. Giving and receiving red envelopes, gifts, and business cards is a solemn act. They are usually presented and received with both hands, although the culture has become less formal about such things.

MANY FOLKTALES are also shared among families and friends during the Lunar New Year. This year the Story of the Taoist Farmer (The Horse that Ran Away) will surely be one of many parables that is repeated:

This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss. The farmer said, "What makes you think it is so terrible?"

A month later, the horse came home—this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer's good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, "What makes you think this is good fortune?"

The farmer's son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, "What makes you think it is bad?"

A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer's son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. "What makes you think this is good?" said the farmer.*

THIS STORY is an example of an ancient Chinese philosophy known as Taoism. This Taoist farmer believed in accepting events as they come, without becoming too elated by the highs, or too saddened by the lows. The Taoist principle of living in harmony with nature and what it brings, serves as a metaphor for life. It is an understanding that difficult and stressful events can turn out to have a long-run positive effect on your life. It's a bold reminder that everything happens for a reason (or maybe only for a season).

IN CELEBRATING the lunar new year, it is good to remember that bit of Taoist philosophy and apply it to all the ups and downs we all inevitably face during the course of a year.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland.
*The Horse that Ran Away as told by Executive editor, Elise Hancock, in the Johns Hopkins Magazine, November 1993.