If you can’t fit what you need to say on a tiny slip of paper, then, I suggest, you are not ready to say it. Fortune cookies challenge and entertain—both the writing of the fortunes and unwrapping and reading that comes once their cookie shells cool.
I use this recipe, and suggest working with a buddy (it’s easier to handle all the doughy gymnastics with more hands): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L604ik9IA8k&feature=youtu.be
My 9-year-old niece recently reminded me, “they don’t all have to be encouraging!” She was elated that I included this fortune from her: The end is near!
I know she meant to be ominous and funny, but she has several points. This fortune could be incredibly encouraging to someone who is wishing for something wrong to fall away, for something arduous to end. How do we know? How do we ever know if our words appeal or appall?
This exchange reminded me to remain open to instincts, to unlikely sources of inspiration, and to—sometimes—doing things a little differently as a writer. In this, I may invite surprises, magic, and maybe even a life-bending message from little girl who has something to say.
I see more clearly in the dark
As daylight dwindles, I take time to see—not just what’s in front of me, but what’s all around. And most importantly, what’s within. I write a Winter Newsletter to send to friends and family each December. Many of them write back! Over the years, these newsletters have come to mark time, and to make way for what’s still to come.
Leaves crunch beneath me
The air in my lungs
Dances as I see
Light licking surfaces
My heart thuds
Remembering the way
The tiny trees
Have been waiting for me all year!
That first time, I was 8. I pulled on my jacket and left the house, heading for the garage. Hot on my heels, my sister Katie panted her concerns. “Are you sure? Mom and Dad will know.” She was right—how would I hide a Christmas tree in my room? They would sniff out even a small one, especially if I decorated it the way I wanted. With rainbow lights glowing and glittery things hung in all the right places.
“They will know, but they won’t care. Probably.” I shook my head. “There is something that we can use to chop here somewhere…”
Ah! An axe. A small one, at that! Just my size. I positioned it just so in my hand. So that if I fell, I would stay safe.
Katie followed me all the way into the woods, and so did her reservations, but she watched as I bent over the tiny tree I had picked out. I held the trunk down with a foot, and braced the other foot firmly beneath me. I bent and—with both hands gripping the smooth axe handle—chopped at the bend in the tiny tree. I made it through, and the tree sighed as it gave way to the ground.
“I did it!” I cheered, and Katie beamed. I did it without chopping either one of us, and without any struggle whatsoever.
“Whew! Now we have to carry it to the house.” I positioned the axe just so again, then bent and picked up the severed end of the little tree. We made our way slowly across the field, taking breaks here and there when things felt heavy.
By the time my parents were home and working on dinner, my tree was installed and glowing in my room!
Mom gasped. “Where did you put the axe?”
“Back where it came from. On the shelf. In the garage.”
Mom looked at Dad. They furrowed their brows and asked a few more questions. But I got to keep my little tree!
When I moved back to North Carolina in 2017 after 15 years of living elsewhere, my first Christmas was hard. I hadn’t found a job or made many friends in Winston-Salem, and I was learning to live with a health challenge. I hadn’t found my way. One Sunday afternoon my parents came to visit, surprising me with a tiny tree from their woods, arranged in a smooth gray flower pot. We set it on the end of my kitchen counter, and plugged in the strand of lights. We glowed. My heart thudded, remembering.
For Bill So Loved the Land
remarks at the funeral of someone I love dearly
Yesterday evening as I sat down to write, I opened the Bible in search of a verse about farming or hard work or creation and cultivation of life. Something that speaks to what Bill did, how he served, how his very being was in sync with the soil beneath us and the skies above.
My search took me in a different direction, however, when the first page I landed on contained a bookmark quoting John 3:16.
This was it—what I was looking for. Perhaps what many of us are looking for. The verse in the King James Version reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
For God so loved the world that he reminded me in that moment that life is not just this. That there is more in store. For God so loved the world.
And Bill. Bill so loved the land. Bill so loved the land that though he retired 15 years ago, he still faithfully showed up to the shop day after day. He was there the day I visited 2 weeks ago, confirming my watermelon selection. He was there Thursday.
Bill so loved the land that some of my first and favorite memories are of him on the farm. When I watched the shearing of sheep. Sheep that were taller than I was at the time. When I was a little bigger and helped with planting, he directed me as I loaded tomato trays onto trucks from the greenhouse. I still remember how good it felt to squish through the freshly-turned Earth to pick up the empty trays behind the planters as the sun softened toward the horizon.
And when I was a teenager working in the packing shed, in what is still—to this day—my very favorite job, if we ever graded so fast that we ran low on tomatoes, Bill would dart to the field on the four-wheeler to check on the status of our next load. For Bill so loved the land.
And Bill. Bill so loved the people. He gracefully and generously engaged with each customer who came in or called, often dropping an extra item or two in their bags as they left. He urged anyone buying a melon that “if it isn’t good, just let us know, and we’ll make sure you get a good one next time.” Only the best for his customers. For Bill so loved the people.
Many of the workers at Wetmore Farms have moved here from elsewhere in the world. Their families have grown up beside ours, and they ache with us in Bill’s absence. He was not their boss. He was so much more to them, as he has been to so many. For Bill so loved the people.
Of all that I’ve seen, Bill’s smile was the happiest. It seemed to reach into every corner of his face, to the edge of his hat and even beyond. I believe that today he is shining that smile down on each one of us as we sit here honoring him. May we remember Bill’s smile—and the good-heartedness it represents, as we go about our lives. As we tend the land and touch the people.