Back in September of 2018, I wrote a post about my birthday in which I quoted William Shakespeare: “There was a star [that] danced, and on that day I was born.” Since that star kicked up its heels again this past Wednesday, I decided to reread what I wrote four years ago and consider how much of it still held true for me and how much had changed. I’m finding that birthdays become a funny thing as time goes on. I’ve always loved celebrating mine, and I still do, although the number has become surprising, and I find myself wondering where all the years have gone. What did I spend my time doing? What did I accomplish? Did I live my life well? Yet in those moments of questioning, I realize that I most definitely know the answers. I’ve also noticed that life begins to feel as though it can be divided into three distinct parts. In the first one, we look ahead in excited anticipation, waiting for and wanting what’s next. The days can’t end and begin fast enough. In the middle, we focus on assessing progress and meeting deadlines whether related to kids, or work, or both. The days begin to blur, one into the next. And finally, in later years, we find ourselves wishing for more time and worrying that we won’t have enough. We begin looking backwards on some days and hesitantly forward on others.
I still agree that within the process of getting older we are granted moments when we can revisit certain ages in our lives depending on the emotions we are feeling or the situation we are in. I see friendship as taking us back to kindergarten where we first experience the awareness of another person as suddenly standing out from everyone else. We want to be right next to them, talking and learning about everything they like, and we’re even willing to share our snacks and our lunch. Very little stands in our way at that point, although our level of boldness might be tempered by how shy of a person we are at our core. Some of us are brazen enough to run up and hold hands and passionately say, “I like you. Let’s be friends.” Others of us are more hesitant, but we get there just the same. When a grownup friendship comes along, our inner five year old yearns to takes control and hopefully ends up strong arming the more “mature” self frantically shrieking about the need to be appropriate and careful. In terms of romantic love, we may have first experienced it when we were eleven or sixteen and most certainly remember the big sweeping feeling that came with the realization of its power. The adult version of love feels pretty much the same. It still has the ability to topple us, submerge us, and unravel us, all verbs of surrender that seem questionable until the moment the love we feel is reciprocated, real, and true. Sadness and grief will always cause us to seek out people, places, and times of comfort. I long for my mom to make me tea or my dad to make me a sandwich so that I could sit at their counter and cry. I wish I could lie in my childhood bed and pull the covers over my head. When the comfort for which we yearn is absent from our lives, grief can make us feel hopelessly lost and uncertain, until one day we learn that we have become and now provide the very touchstones we seek.
Despite these opportunities to emotionally time travel, the process of getting older continues, and the issue of how best to navigate the journey looms over us with a shadow that lengthens with each passing year. I came across a poem by W.S. Merwin who died at the age of 91 in March of 2019. He was one of the most profound and prolific poets of his generation who, in his later years, thought quite a bit about the process of aging and believed that we actually gain a certain perspective about it as we grow older.
Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age
In an interview with Terry Gross from NPR’s Fresh Air, Merwin took the position that very few of us ever achieve the ability to live in the present. He maintains that “the present is an absolutely transparent moment that only great saints ever see occasionally.” What we think is happening in the here and now is actually made up of our impressions and reactions to things that occurred anywhere from a few seconds ago to many years ago. These responses inform our “present” outlook and don’t really allow us to see things as new. When we can’t see the possibility of anything new, especially when we are lighting enough birthday candles for the act to be considered arson, we lose hope that there is anything ahead for us, and our orientation spins backwards. We stay in bed too late and never allow the dew to greet us and share the message it holds for us: each drop contains the very essence of the idea of impermanence. It lasts only long enough to be illuminated by the light, hoping there is someone there to see it, realizing fully that the source of its illumination is also the very thing that will vanquish it. And so it is with the present moment. The instant we see it, it has already moved into the past. Once we realize this, the passage of time loses its hold on us, and we stare our mortality fearlessly in the eye. We are free to celebrate every revolution around the sun, acknowledging joyfully the day our star danced, facing grief and sadness necessarily and bravely, but never allowing them to overcome friendship and love, holding on as tightly as we can to the hope-filled dream that the light will always, always illuminate the possibility of something new.
For today’s cocktail, I wanted to create a drink that was a source of comfort, brightness, and warmth. I began with a base of Windy Lane bourbon from Recklesstown Farm Distillery. For me, it captures the place where I’ve lived out a large part of my life’s purpose over the past few years: a huge, beautiful room with views of the sky from one horizon to the other. In this environment, my creative spirit found a home, and the warmth and sweetness of this whiskey somehow encapsulate the idea of it. When we think of home, we think of comfort and memories, leading me to my next ingredient which was a honey rosemary tea syrup, followed by lemon juice as the splash of bright citrus. Finally, I added two dashes of Crude’s “Lindsay” bitters which blend together flavors of pecan, magnolia, and habanero. The symbolism of each ingredient tied in perfectly: the pecan represents longevity and abundance, the magnolia perseverance and endurance, and the habanero reminds us of the fire we need to always stoke within us so that forward is the only direction in which we want to move. The greatest significance of these bitters came from the fact that they were a recent gift from Ben Donia, our distiller and another true friend of my soul. We have shared many present moments together in this sun-filled room, where we found constant and easy conversation, mutual support and admiration, and the recognition that home and family often extend beyond the literal meaning of the words. I am forever grateful. Much like sunflowers, our hearts will always attempt to follow the sun. We need only to grant them the freedom to do so, no matter how many years our stars have danced. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! Thank you so much for reading.
2 oz RFD Windy Lane bourbon
.75 oz honey rosemary tea syrup*
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Crude “Lindsay” bitters
Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon peel strip.
*Blend 4 oz of water with 4 oz of honey. Add in 8 oz of rosemary tea, brewed at double strength.