Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Both Bitter and Sweet

by Kelly

Over the weekend, I was at the garden center picking up a couple of flats of pansies for my garden.  And on my way to check out, I couldn’t help but notice the bright, red berries of the bittersweet vines they had for sale.  Which of course I had to put in my basket as well.

Thank you in advance for not asking me how much I spent on this bittersweet vine.  And if you live in the northeast, thank you also for not telling me how bittersweet grows wild along the roadside.

At any rate, I was excited to get home to photograph this bunch of bittersweet.  The vermillion berries against the bright, golden seed pods are such a classic fall color combination and the berries themselves are extremely photogenic.  Not to mention the enjoyment factor from having a few minutes to “play” on Sunday.

I got curious about where bittersweet gets its name so I did a bit of research.  Bittersweet, or more specifically Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), is a climbing, perennial, woody vine that grows in northern and eastern parts of North America.  A native to Eastern Asia, it was introduced to the US in the mid-1800’s where it has spread throughout the region. Small green flowers in the spring give way to the distinctive red seeds in the fall which, along with the rest of the plant, are poisonous to humans and other animals.  In addition, Oriental bittersweet is considered an invasive species for the way its aggressive growth smothers and strangles other native, herbaceous plants, shrubs, and/or trees.

It seems to me this aggressive vine is quite aptly named…beauty with a dark side.  I mean isn’t that the basic definition of bittersweet?

I’ve been pondering this for a couple of days.  And because I am a self-described chocoholic, whenever I think of something bittersweet, I instantly think of chocolate…dark chocolate is my favorite.  Less sweet than most, bittersweet chocolate has a complex flavor with a fruity, almost earthy quality.  It is an acquired taste, for sure, but I find it to be a deep, rich, satisfying experience.

Similarly, the older I get, the more I am learning to appreciate the ‘bitter’ and complexities in my own life.  The dark and difficult days living side-by-side with the sweetness of joy and delight.  Because the dark days teach us lessons that we might not otherwise learn.  The difficult days stretch our faith and give us an opportunity to grow in wisdom.  The bitter softens our hearts and moves us to be more empathetic and compassionate.

As we move closer to November, the month traditionally set aside for gratitude, I want to keep this mind…the blessings in my life, both bitter and sweet.

Until next time,



Carol said...

Beautiful thoughts to start my day with. and beautiful photographs too Thank you Kelly.

Dotti said...

What a lovely correlation between the meaning of this beautiful berry with the everyday joys and struggles of our lives. It's so true - without the hard days, we would not recognize the good days. Your photo settings are stunning and you've started my day with something to ponder.

diane said...

Wow.....what gorgeous shots and wonderful words of wisdom.
November around the corner you say?
How can that be?
Have an amazing bittersweet week.
diane @ thoughts&shots

heyjudephotography said...

Such wise words Kelly, and as always, such beautiful photos.

terriporter said...

Well, now you've done it! I thought I was going to make it through fall without succumbing to buying some very expensive but beautiful bittersweet of my own. But, of course, your beautiful photos make me long for a bunch of my own, to decorate the house and to take photos of. Your style is perfect for this time of year and captures all the glorious colors and textures. Ah, yes, the bitter and the sweet of life. So beautifully said, Kelly!

Cathy H. said...

Beautiful post, Kelly. My daughter and I were just talking about this tonight. How the bad and hard times allows us to be able to comfort others. And, as always, gorgeous photos! My favorite is the second one with all that bittersweet bokeh in the background!

Beverly said...

This post is a highlight of the week for me! The words and the photos of bittersweet. I love this vine, though never knew the story behind it. I see a lot of bittersweet berries on trees in Michigan in the fall...not the same as the vine, which makes such gorgeous fall decorations. Now I want some also. This is a "Five Star" post for me. Thanks so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post, much to think about. I realized long ago that without the bitter times in my life, I would not be the person I am. It was those painful things that cultivated in me some of the parts of myself that I like the best. I had no idea bittersweet was sold by florists and was expensive to buy! I guess I should go outside and harvest some. It is beautiful, but yes, crazy-invasive. I'm with you on bittersweet chocolate. Even as a child, I preferred bittersweet chocolate chips over the milk chocolate ones.

kelly said...

ladies, thank you all so much for your kind words. photography and nature teach me so much about life. and nothing makes me happier than having you as friends on this journey. xoxo

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