May and June are prime wedding season months when many of us find ourselves attending ceremonies or celebrations on weekend nights where we gaze upon happy couples exchanging vows, and we listen to speeches that pay tribute to the idea of love. As many of you know, I am a hopeful romantic whose favorite subject to write about just happens to be love, and so I listen to the words people say at weddings to find inspiration or a brand new perspective. I could, in fact, easily become a wedding crasher in the spirit of Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson attending not for the food, drink, and dates, but rather for the speeches, for their power and poignancy, and for the possibility of being moved to tears. We all have our weaknesses. Two Saturdays ago I stood in the beautiful backyard of my two friends, Mike and Kim, a couple to whom I owe such a debt of gratitude for extending much love and understanding to me at a time in my life when I needed it the most. It was their son, Evan, whose marriage was being celebrated, a person that I have known since he was the sweet pre-school friend of my youngest, who has grown into a man whose light and grace fill any space he occupies. When that space is shared with the woman he married, Giselle, those qualities multiply, magnify, and disperse until they are felt by everyone. I’ve never witnessed anything quite like it.
Mike officiated the wedding celebration at sunset, that magical hour when the light is soft and perfect, and we have the feeling that we are betwixt and between. I actually love the Scottish phrase for this time of day, the gloaming, because it literally translates into “the fall of the evening,” and it makes me think of the times in life when we wish we could reach our arms overhead to stop the night from descending and stay a bit longer in whatever ephemeral moment we are experiencing. I felt that way that night, standing there listening to Mike speak about being on a walk where he saw an older couple in front of the beautiful garden of a Victorian house. “The old woman was resting her head on the man’s shoulder, and he was pointing out a hummingbird dancing around a flower. It was easy to see that they had spent their lifetime in love with one another.” His speech continued in this way, recounting numerous walks he’d been on with Evan and Giselle, so that we felt like we were traveling with them from their early days as college friends where that certain light first appeared around them, to their current state as a couple who “walks very fast, but are somehow able to still share the smallest details on the journey… all the little things that make life beautiful.” In my favorite moment of the speech, Mike shared his realization that the older couple he had witnessed were really Evan and Giselle at some point in the future, a gift from his subconscious mind that affirmed for him, and for all of us, that they’d still be deeply and magically in love.
When Mike handed the microphone to his daughter Kelly, I felt a tiny thrill of anticipation knowing, as I do, how much she strives to understand life through poetry and to express it through her own metaphor and symbol. I knew we were in for something beautiful, and I was not disappointed:
I’ve thought of love and the ways to make it stay. I’ve thought of love as a pale green thing, poking its way up through a crack in the streets of New York City, delicate, something to be nurtured. I’ve thought of love in a million ways and one, and I’ve known fair few to keep it. And while I might once have considered the snares to make it stay, I certainly don’t anymore.
It is true, isn’t it, that the rapid heartbeat that accompanies falling in love isn’t just about boundless joy. There is real fear as well, the kind that skulks in the shadows murmuring suggestions that we’d better find a way to cage this beautiful, ethereal thing before it retreats back into the nothingness from which it seemingly came. And it is equally true that many of our biggest mistakes regarding love come from listening to these murmers. To see love as a living, breathing thing means that we must see it as having an existence of its own that cannot be held or contained, and most frightening of all, that has the limitless capacity to change over time. We fear that change the most, the dissipation of the magic, the transition into what’s ordinary, the inability to stop the night from descending. Yet there are some couples like Evan and Giselle whose love illuminates those shadows and silences the voice of fear, leaving the world with a “deep seated, soul kind of problem in that we want all of life to feel the way it does when we see these two notice one another.” Indeed we do, and many of us spend a good bit of time unknowingly perfecting our traps and snares, albeit beautiful ones, in the hopes that we’ll catch this feeling of love once and for all and hold it fast. It looks back at us from its pretty cage, the one we put it in, where it languishes despite our nurturing, rages despite our soothing, and transforms painfully despite our attempts to contain it in the exact likeness in which it first came to us. Does the answer lie in the much overused quote that begins with “If you love someone, set them free…?” Yes, quite possibly, but much more eloquently stated as such:
Two people can make not a bond of love, but rather a sea that moves between the shores of their souls. Silent devotions and outward expressions, stuff of dreams and poetry. And here we are, at the precipice, sitting in the front row. To the things we find simple and the ways that Evan and Giselle make them feel like magic.
When we witness a love that is allowed to be free, to change and grow, to retreat and advance, to go on a journey in the morning and return full of wonder at the day’s end, what are we permitted to see? Movement. Light. Grace. The iridescence on the wings of the most difficult bird to capture, even in a photograph. As I listened on that Saturday night, standing not far from the man to whom I was married for so many years, but next to the woman who now claims my heart for the future, in the company of longtime friends, I realized that there was no need to hold my hands over my head. Night descends, as it always does, but the light returns each day in the same endless dance. It is the very thing that granted me the opportunity to hear words that thrilled my heart being spoken by a young woman who I first met when she stood knee high, while waiting with her mom for our pre-school boys to dismiss so many years ago. In the end, these are the things that matter, the real stuff of dreams and poetry, where we are given a glimpse into the way it all works. We get to see what this magical circle of light and movement can do, in this case revealing how the love that begins as a quiet friendship, or transforms into the same, or is never, ever expected, or is defined by bonds formed long ago are all equally steadfast and true, with no need for any definition or constraint, illuminated in the gloaming, perfect and free.
For today’s cocktail, I chose to go with an idea that evolved from the actual wedding drink that I made for Evan and Giselle’s celebration. I did this purposely because I wanted the cocktail to have a certain ethereal quality that would reflect the way in which that night has become a memory for me. It is mine to keep now, and I will hold onto it with intention. The original cocktail contained gin, rose lemonade, hibiscus tea simple, and hibiscus lavender bitters. To move it into the ether space, I kept the gin and the hibiscus components, but replaced the lemonade with a Meyer lemon peel liqueur that we’ve been infusing at the distillery. I finished the drink with a few drops of rosewater. Without any citrus, this cocktail moves into the martini arena in which I like to spend so much time, and the bright, forward flavors of the original retreat into the soft shimmer of those moments that live on only in our minds. I wanted to also represent the hummingbird’s wings with a bit of iridescence, so I allowed just the tiniest bit of cocktail sparkle dust into this drink. I am certain that the bride and groom would approve. To Mike, Kim, Evan, Giselle, and Kelly, thank you for so much for including me in your celebration and for allowing me to write about your beautiful words. It was truly an unforgettable night that filled me with unexpected inspiration. Happy Friday everyone! I wish you all the kind of love that dances with endless light. It’s somewhere right in front of you.
2 oz gin
.75 lemon peel liqueur (like a limoncello)
.75 hibiscus tea simple
2 dashes Crooked Row Hibiscus Lavender bitters
5 drops rosewater
Long, long stir over ice.
Single strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a scant sprinkle of cocktail glitter.
Fun fact: my Thirsty Camel logo is Evan’s work!