Featured WordPlayer and Writing Prompt
Thanks to Julie Degni Marr for inspiring this week’s word-of-the-week, “gratefulness.”
Julie Degni Marr is an advertising writer and creative director in Charlotte, NC, where she lives with her husband and three children. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her writing credits include commentaries on NPR affiliate WFAE 90.7 FM as well as two children’s books for Wing Haven Gardens, Elizabeth’s Garden and Elizabeth’s Wish. She writes an ongoing love letter to life at verytrulyjulie.blogspot.com.
Day of Bittersweet
by Julie Degni Marr
If you’ve been to the Farmer’s Market this fall, then you’ve probably seen bunches of bittersweet for sale. A native vine that wraps around trees in the North Carolina mountains, its orange and yellow berries burst open in autumn, providing a feast for songbirds and a cheery glimpse of color against an increasingly spare landscape. You’ll see it coiled into wreaths and around pumpkins at this time of year, too, and mixed with chrysanthemums and yarrow in arrangements that grace the Thanksgiving table.
Come to think of it, what better metaphor for Thanksgiving than bittersweet? Because, if you’ve done any living at all, the holidays are a cumulative feast of memories, both bitter and sweet. And they show up every year, invited or not, along with the stuffing, the pickle tray, the cranberry relish with bits of orange.
Think of pine cone turkey place cards, parades, football rivalry, the baby’s first Thanksgiving, a long distance phone call that always makes your day complete. Swirling like autumn leaves are also memories of when you couldn’t make it home or perhaps didn’t have the heart to be there, the year there wasn’t enough money to fill the grocery basket, relatives who didn’t try hard enough to get along, the achingly empty place at the table.
This may be a year in which it’s difficult for you to muster gratitude. Or maybe your cornucopia runneth over. Either way, when the fourth Thursday in November arrives, rest assured that the memories will, too, their baggage of joy and sorrow and wistfulness in tow.
Especially at Thanksgiving, I remember my husband’s great aunt who lived out in the country near Raleigh. We stayed overnight at Aunt Jane’s ghosty farmhouse that summer he took the bar exam. The first day she taught me how to make a pie crust from scratch and that night we sat in rocking chairs on the front porch, watching for his headlights down the long driveway. Every year, Aunt Jane mailed us a box of pecans gathered from beneath the huge tree in her yard. I can picture her now in a flowered house dress and sweater, stooping to collect nuts that would fill a homemade pie crust. She’s been gone quite some time, but not a Thanksgiving goes by that she doesn’t reappear, as sure as Mom’s china with the turkey pattern.
Just last week there was a knock at my kitchen door and it was Kathy, the wonderful person who helps out next door. “These are from my tree,” she said, holding up a bag of pecans. “I thought you’d like some.”
The kids are going to shell them while I dig out my cousin Kay’s recipe for sugared pecans. And pay homage to another person dearly loved and missed, but with us in memory. They’ll be a perfect complement to our Thanksgiving menu: to the bitter, to the sweet, to the flavors of life.
I’m so grateful to Julie for being willing to share “Day of Bittersweet”, both here i and in my writing handbook, Spinning Words into Gold.
What writer Julie Degni Marr says about WordPlay:
Working one-on-one with Maureen as a writing coach, and also taking several WordPlay classes, had an enormous positive impact on me both as a writer and a person. From Maureen, I learned about intentionality. With her guidance, I experienced the power and joy of getting words from the heart onto the page, and from the page into the hearts of others. She helped me become a more creative thinker, see possibilities, set goals, follow through. Thanks to Maureen, I have completed some special projects that have added lots of life to my life!
You can connect with Julie here:
WordPlay Now! Writing Prompt
This is WordPlay — so why not revel in the power and potential of one good word after another? This week, it’s “gratefulness.”
Watch this two-minute video by Brother David Steindl-Rast of http://www.gratefulness.org on the relationship between gratefulness and thanksgiving. In it, he speaks of opening ourselves to surprise, of the “great fullness” that is present in every moment, of our full response to what is given to us “gratuitously” — as in freely given, without being earned by us in any way:
Then, take a gratefulness inventory by sticking a pen and a small notebook or a few index cards in your pocket. Then, throughout the next several days, stop periodically and ask yourself, “What am I being freely given in this moment that makes it sweet (or bittersweet)?” Jot down the people, places, experiences, and things that grace your day, moment to moment. Stay with the immediate — a hug from a friend, the whistle of your tea kettle, legs that carry you from one room to another, your mother’s cranberry sauce recipe, heat…