I just finished a little book recently called Bluets by Maggie Nelson that my daughter suggested I read. It’s a collection of 240 prose poems (or what the author calls propositions) written over a three year period while she was recovering from a heartbreak. I know, I know. Perfect for me, right? 240 snippets on love and loss, my favorite subjects. It is true that I tend to gravitate towards them, but it’s not because I’m a particularly melancholy person. In fact, I think most people who know me would say that I’m quite the opposite. I am capable, however, of a major amount of empathy. If you tell me your story, I not only hear it, I feel it too. Rather intensely. And I will carry it with me and help to share your burden if I can. I think that it’s this empathetic aspect of my personality that attracts me to the subject of loss so much. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another. We’ve all felt that terrible emptiness, and there’s something about it that makes us want to sit down next to a person, take their hand in ours and say, “Tell me. I’m here. I know.” It just doesn’t happen in the same way as when a person has joyful news. We’re happy for them, and we’re willing to share in their celebration, but it doesn’t tug at our hearts and make us feel quite the same human connection that loss does.
In proposition #199, Nelson says, “For to wish to forget how much you loved someone – and then, to actually forget – can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a residence of your heart.” Amazing, right? Just wow. When I saw this, I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever read about love, and the loss thereof. And it feels like the perfect metaphor to me. If we can think back to when we first realized we loved someone, it really did feel like something had taken up residence in our hearts, right? It’s a physical sensation, a fluttering or a presence that’s so incredible that it must be brought to us by the grace of God or some karmic energy of the universe. And when we know we have to let it go, it truly is our first inclination to try to forget how much love we felt. It’s the only way to begin to ease the pain. I can even remember feeling this way when I lost each of my parents. In both cases, I threw myself into what needed to be done in an effort to momentarily forget the overwhelming loss I was feeling. But it was only temporary, and of course it came back with resounding force. The same thing occurs when we lose anyone that we loved in any capacity, especially right afterwards, but then as time goes on and we face the inevitability of having to let that love go, we really do begin to forget. We have to. What a sad moment that is. The fluttering grows quiet, the presence in our hearts is gone, the beautiful bird goes still. But if you’ve read my Illuminate Me post, then you know my theory about what happens once the grief begins to ease. A day will come when the love and loss are no longer intertwined and we’re able to think of one without the other. We’ll be able to remember the love without the intense heartache. We’ll heal and we’ll recover, and there will be room in our hearts for yet another beautiful bird to make its nest.
For today’s cocktail, I had to choose ingredients that all had a certain level of intensity. I started with mezcal as my base for its deep, smoky, almost mysterious flavor, and added the chile liqueur next to bump up the spice and add some heat. That all makes you think of love, right? I then used the blueberry rosemary shrub from Element, both for its wonderful flavor and for the fact that the blueberry component echoed Maggie Nelson’s title, and the rosemary called to mind the theme of remembrance for me. Since shrubs always feel like they are contributing both a sweet and a sour part to a cocktail, I like to build around them and intensify each. Today I used a rosemary agave syrup on one side and lime juice on the other. The end result was a smoky and spicy drink that hits you with multiple flavors at the start, and then cleans up nicely with the lime juice at the end. It’s like navigating that journey through grief and all the profound sadness it can bring. In the end we return to clarity and hope.
And My Heart Goes Still
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a rosemary sprig. Sit. Think. Remember. It will all be ok.
*Gently heat some agave syrup in a saucepan until almost boiling. Pour into a mason jar, add some rosemary sprigs and steep until cool. Strain and store in the fridge for about 2 weeks.