For the Love of Layers

Moravian Star

Moravian Star

As I decorate the Christmas tree in the family room, I am suddenly struck by the process.  Coming off of a semester that was a roller coaster ride of depths and heights, accompanied by occasional screams of fear and exhilaration, I finally have time to return to quiet moments and friendly celebrations. A little weary, but still smiling, I turn to welcome the rituals of the season.

As if I were doing this for the first time, I had to ask myself how to dress the tree – where to start? how to proceed? Oh, of course, start with the lights. Take time to test each strand and then drape it through the tree boughs. As I was tying in the strings of tiny white lights, they reminded me of pattering percussion – suddenly I realized that decorating a Christmas tree was really about the art of layering. And the art of layering has been an aesthetic pursuit in my garden, my music, and my everyday life.

The coffee table held the treasures, shiny and dull, textured and glossy, a cornucopia of collected bits and pieces that state a theme, a color palette, and my own take on how they fit together. I have thought more than once that my deep affection for Christmas and the decorations that go with it are really the deep need of the gardener deprived of her living palette, finding winter surcease in filling the house with faint echoes of summer’s bounty.

This particular tree has a woodland theme, all green and brown and copper. The tree itself is a firm structure with a defined shape, a good starting place from which to build. The lights spread throughout it to form the first layer, carefully distributed throughout the green branches. The next layer is the shiny reflective surfaces of simple round balls, hung deep inside the branches to reflect the light without drawing undue attention to themselves.

Now the stars come on stage – those collected whimsies of fuzzy bears and raccoons, glass owls and foxes, ceramic and feathered birds, copper birdhouses, and benevolent woodland Santas. They get first pick on advantageous branches that showcase their unique appearance. The supporting cast comes next, dark metal dragonflies, hammered stars, dried mushrooms and pinecones, to fill in the open places like the lower brass of the orchestra with their deep hum and supporting presence. The final layers spiral around the tree in the winding lengths of feather and glitter garlands, topped in the end by a metal Moravian star, perched like the cherry on a sundae. I step back, seeing each layer contribute to the whole, a panoply of rich muted color, texture, and shine – a gestalt of glitter and gladness.

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I think of how often I create music and gardens in much the same way – starting with the permanent anchors that give structure, painting soft washes of color around them, then playing and experimenting with shifting points of colors, texture, and sparkle, layering  combinations that spiral into a larger whole. It evolves into a creation that is bigger than the sum of its parts but which is still composed of all those little parts nonetheless.

As I begin to celebrate the season, I reflect that this is just one more lesson to learn, one more construct to understand. I step back and look on the tree, now fully dressed in its finery, and realize that it is an expression of a love of layers and the magical way in which they hide and reveal themselves when seen from various points of view. Perhaps the crowded and seemingly chaotic past few months in my life will reveal this same spiral of layers, hiding and unveiling new beauty and new insights if I can step back far enough to see the whole structure.  For today, I am simply inspired by a tree of lights and color and content to enjoy the coming weeks of joy and celebration. Peace.

32 thoughts on “For the Love of Layers

  1. Your ornaments are beautiful, and I imagine the final product, with all its layers, is stunning. Wonderful post, Lynn. I’ve never given a lot of thought to how we decorate the tree. Interesting. 🙂

    • Robin, decorating for Christmas for me is an extension of working in the garden, extending the season in a different format 🙂 But everything I do in the creative realm is all a matter of layers, that beautiful possibility of connecting from multiple strengths and talents, drawing on possibilities and creating a singular vision. Robin, I think that this is something that you do all of the time – your thoughts and images consistently reflect this, at least to me. You have created a “space” of beauty and reflection in your blog, not unlike your pond, that the rest of us come to for quenching our inner “thirst” – in expressing your unique point of view, you offer the rest of us a glimpse of beauty and rest. Wishing you a beautiful Christmas holiday.

  2. I love your Woodland Santa! It inspired me to start some decorating around as it’s indeed the time of reflection and of celebration. Have a wonderful Holiday Season and a Merry Christmas!

    • Thank you, Diversifoiius! I love the idea of Santa as a woodland protector – I have several woodland Santas in the house, but the little head on the tree is especially appealing. A wonderful Christmas and New Year to you too!

  3. It’s a beautiful tree. So rich and well composed if I may use such an expression. Being a photographer and working with layers in Photoshop I completely get your approach to decorating that Christmas tree. I wish you a Merry Christmas!

  4. How lovely, Lynn; I, too, have a love of layers and have noticed them in my writing, decorating, gardening, and cooking…I guess it’s an approach to life that loves design as well as depth…the use of music is so fitting. Thank you for this beautiful reflection. Gentle peace to your break from the layering inherent to teaching. The tree looks gorgeous and lush! You have such gifted vision, as well as insight! Merry Christmas!

    • Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Kitty; you can enjoy the tree vicariously, since you are treeless this year 🙂 I do love this time of year; the semester winds down, we do a low-key Christmas here and I find myself enjoying the quiet pace. Even the subtle colors of the sleeping garden seem welcome now. Have a wonderful holiday season full of joy and peace.

  5. Love your tree and decorations–beautiful just like everything you do. 🙂 I hope the coming weeks let you step far enough away to see it all and enjoy the slower pace.

    con molte benedizioni (with many blessings),

  6. The beauty of your pictures! Love the way you describe the construction process, as well as parallel that to composing music and creating other arts. Outstanding.

    An invitation to you and your readers to stop by my holiday party on Christmas Eve.

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