Volume III, No. 2, Winter 1975




BITTERSWEET VINE

SYMBOLISM AND REALITY

by Teresa Reed

As members of our staff talk with groups that are interested in Bittersweet we are constantly asked, "What is bittersweet?" and "Why did you choose that name?" We answer...

Bittersweet is a vine native to many areas of the United States that can grow to heights of sixty feet and if not disturbed will spread profusely. Its appeal is its unmistakable red berries. They are in clustered orange colored pods until the pod opens in October to reveal the scarlet berry. These berries and pods last for many weeks into the winter after all other color is gone. In May and June the flowers are in small green clusters. Before that the small pointed buds are sharply set at right angles from the stem. No other plant has the buds arranged like those on the bittersweet vine. The fruit is eaten by songbirds, ruffled grouse, pheasant, bobwhite, and fox squirrel. Cottontail rabbits eat the twigs and bark. Because the colorful berries last so long when picked for arrangements, collection of bittersweet for commercial sale has greatly reduced the supply, completely exterminating it in some areas.

Bittersweet is also the name of our magazine. It was the unanimous decision of the original staff members to name the magazine after the vine.

The question that is more difficult to answer is, "Why did you name it Bittersweet?" It is very appropriate. The word bittersweet--meaning both bitter and sweet--depicts the way of life we are trying to write about. An Ozark farmer spends months in his fields. If a drought should come, he could be ruined and there would surely be bitter times. But if rains were plentiful, harvest would be a sweet time when the farmer could feel proud of his work. Other bitter happenings such as babies dying in childbirth or the death of old friends were evened out by the sweet moments. When a neighbor came over for a visit or the monthly square dance was held in a barn, Ozark people could relax and enjoy their lifestyle.

Though we didn't realize it at first our name is very appropriate for the actual production of the magazine. To have a story turned back for the seventh time because it still doesn't have the right "feel" to it, to have a photograph not turn out for the third time, to try transcribing a tape that is hardly audible, these are some of the bitter moments. But when the finished magazine comes back from the printer and we see that a new effect we used is really effective, when we get a letter of appreciation from one of our new friends who was featured in a story, or when a college English professor gives us praise, these are the sweet moments.

It takes bitter and sweet to keep things in balance.The unpleasant and pleasant combined can compliment each other, so we are Bittersweet.

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Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.


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