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, December 25, 2016

a long winter's night

"I don't know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself. I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

SQUIRRELING AWAY | We all know what squirrels do when getting ready for winter in gathering nuts, but this squirrel is saving a for abundance—the fertile pinecone. This sets the tone for the whole idea behind the tree.
FINDING THE EXQUISITE in my quest to adorn a tree that inspires me, and in the process, others, is a sometimes a formidable process of searching and seeking. As an art director, this is my modus operandi—my particular way or method of doing things.

COLLECTOR'S PALETTE | Once I decide on a theme for a tree, I hunt and sort through years of my collection to find the perfect combination of color and texture—sometimes buying a few new ornaments. While decorating the tree, I edit further as I carefully place each ornament in relation to the others around it.
THIS TREE brings together many pieces of many years of collecting, as I dug deep into my storage space this year to find the perfect palette of baubles to achieve the effect of a long winter's night, after I found a wintry flocked tree that spoke to me.

STAR SIGNS | The constellations in the night sky inspired Martin Luther to place the first lights on a tree in the way of small candles as legend would have it. A candlelit tree is like no other, but safety and convenience rule the day.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE has always been a ritual to conjure the following spring, just in case there has been an upheaval in the natural order of things, as it has this year. By Christmas day, we're several days past Winter Solstice and the nights are already becoming shorter and the days longer.

WINTRY MIX | Glass beaded Czechoslovakian stars, glass icicles and milky glass orbs combine to form a cool textural mix.
WINTER MAY BE the most unnerving season of them all because everything seems to seemingly die all around us. But the light of the universe keeps luring and coaxing life to burst forth again every year as spring arrives. This is why we celebrate Christmas the way we do. Whether it's the Christ Child, or just the human spirit, it matters not.

WINTER INTO SPRING | Starry winter nights become shorter as the spring encroaches with longer days.
IT'S QUITE MIRACULOUS how this happens, but we, still as mortal beings, feel the need to find a ritual that somehow seems a necessary process to usher things forward, even though we know we are not always the better for it in the short term. It's necessary to push through the bad, and to rediscover the good in the long term.

FUN FOREST | The proliferation of newer iterations of vintage-style bottlebrush trees in the past few years has been a welcome sight. Playfully-gathered on a cake stand, they create quite a presence.
THAT'S WHAT the Christmas holiday means to me and why The Decorated Tree has become an exquisite ritual for me—one that can "excite intense delight or admiration," as explained in The Oxford English Dictionary. My winter tree is always a meditation and an actual physical altar that represents the will to keep hope alive.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland
 SPECIAL NOTE | This real silver tip tree has been flocked with an environmentally safe flocking material made from corn starch, boron, and wood pulp and is safe enough to compost after the holidays are over. (From Pike Nurseries in Atlanta).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

tree in the city

I GREW UP in a small town near Gadsden, Alabama (where I was born) called Hokes Bluff. I spent my formative years there — childhood, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, and high school. It was a small close-knit community and I still have many lifetime friends that have known me since I knew me. To get an idea how small, there were only 104 people in my high school graduating class. 

I WOULDN'T  TRADE my small town upbringing for anything. I learned a sense of belonging and comfort that fewer and fewer people experience. Since my zodiac sign is Taurus, this sense of stability was even more important to me because we Taureans like such predictability. The "tin soldier" in this photo, standing guard under the tree reminds me of a song we played in high school band called One Tin Soldier. The chorus goes like this:

Go ahead and hate your neighbor, 
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowing,
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away.

One Tin Soldier is a 1960s counterculture era anti-war song that tells the story of a hidden treasure and two neighboring tribes; the peaceful Mountain Kingdom and the warlike Valley Kingdom. Coveting the treasure of the mountains, the Valley People ultimately invade and slaughter the Mountain People. The treasure turns out to be simply three words —"Peace On Earth" — inscribed on the underside of a rock.

I've probably never really digested those lyrics until now. And after all this time, life has such a weird way of leading you to things that help you figure out why you've taken certain paths, when others are satisfied with the status quo. It helps when you're looking from the outside in.

CITY LIFE: The Atlanta skyline beckoned me from safe environs in Birmingham, Alabama way back in 1994 (just before the Centennial Olympic Games were held here).
I HAVEN'T MOVED FAR in my life from where I began, physically, at least. First, after high school, I got a visual design degree at Auburn University in Alabama. My love of magazines led me to my first job out of college in Birmingham, Alabama at Southern Living magazine and then Cooking Light magazine (which was born from a column in Southern Living). I worked at that company for 10 years before I made the "jump" to Atlanta in late 1994  — just before the Centennial Olympic Games here in 1996 — I've never really looked back. A large part of it was being queer and trying to find an accepting family far away from the family of relatives and friends who didn't quite get who I became, not by choice, but by innate preference.

MY PARENTS WERE both blue collar workers. My mother worked at the high school lunchroom and my father had a job operating a crane at the local steel plant, which is now shuttered. It's no wonder the people who stayed behind in small towns feel marginalized now. There are fewer jobs and what was once a bustling town has fallen into decay. They rely on what is left of what was and the future looks bleaker by the day.

IT REMAINS A mystery to me how we got here. How could our new Twitter Troll In Chief be forming, against his claims of helping the forgotten middle class in small towns, a billionaire's club of contemptuous and out of touch cronies?

PRECIOUS METAL: WWII ornaments were made with bits of silver tinsel pushed inside unsilvered glass globes to save metal for the war efforts.
THE COUNTRY my father fought for in WWII is in trouble in facing the same dangers he fought against in Nazi Germany. It is truly frightening.

My father was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne that occupied Hitler's Headquarters (The Eagle's Nest) and was renowned for its role in the Battle of the Bulge around the city of Bastogne, Belgium that was finally rescued by General Patton. This battle effectively ended the war.

When I see members of the new Alt Right (Neo Nazis) emboldened to raise their hands in a Hitler salute for Trump, it
lets me know that tyranny like this can happen here. It scares me also because as a gay man that just recently was afforded the right to marry, we have an extremely anti-gay Vice President calling the shots with an inept clown at the helm. 

I find it very hard to accept that the scourge my father fought to eliminate in WWII is in a very real way, upon us again. It is my only hope that we all realize the treasure that we all are looking for is simply "Peace on Earth" and we finally, once-and-for-all get the message that love trumps hate.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland,
German-style goose feather tree designed by me and made by 
Dennis Bauer is available for sale at Home Traditions