As so many of you know, I spend quite a bit of time with my grandchildren. One of our favorite things to do involves discovering fabulous new movies that have just arrived on Netflix or Disney Plus. I am always amazed at the amount of wisdom that can be gleaned from characters that are 100% animated. Sometimes it’s even more than what we get from their live counterparts. One afternoon a few weeks ago we watched The Magician’s Elephant, a new Netflix release that was absolutely wonderful and had me reduced to a weepy mess by the end of it. Nora patted my knee knowingly. “It’s okay Freezie. You’re crying because you’re happy.” Indeed. The premise is complicated, but simple. A boy conjures up an elephant by wishing for a way to find his long lost sister. The town is terrified of the elephant, but the boy knows that she holds the answer he has been searching for throughout the entirety of his life. He needs the elephant desperately and wants to hold on to her, but he realizes along the way that the elephant can never really be his. She has a home to return to, a place where “she is known, and therefore she is loved.” Oh boy. That’s the line that got to me early on. As I began a bit of research for this post, I learned that the movie is based on a book by Kate DiCamillo, and the quote that I loved so much is actually even richer and more poignant in its written form. “She was working to remind herself of who she was. She was working to remember that somewhere in another place entirely, she was known and loved.”
I would venture a guess that most of us can find resonance in these words. We all have the need to be known and loved, and we all know the place where that need is satisfied, despite the fact that we often spend large portions of our days in environments that have us struggling to remember its exact location. When we do return to it, however, we are once again like the elephant in the book: joyful, comfortable, and free. Although there’s very little argument to be made as to whether or not this need is real, it is worth asking the question as to why being known and loved are so very important to us. While we may accept the answer as something we already understand intuitively, actually articulating it becomes a bit of a slippery thing. For starters, we might point to the fact that most modern lists of human psychological needs include a deep sense of belonging, a feeling that is totally unattainable unless we are seen, heard, and loved unequivocally. This last bit is crucial. Being loved in a way that is unconditional allows us to feel as though we can be fully known for who we are, without any need to don the mask that hides our deepest truths. While we often have to accept this mask requirement for certain people and situations, the falsehood tears at us and inflames us. It is in these moments, most of all, that we seek the place of refuge where we know we can comfortably lay bare our souls. The honesty calms and quiets us at the most profound level of our being.
Yet if we desire to truly be known, we have to be willing to tell our story with the highest degree of truthfulness. Do we have to tell everyone? Absolutely not. Do we have to tell the people closest to us who love us unconditionally? That answer is yes, especially if we want to grant them the opportunity to see, hear, and accept us in the way that fulfills this deep human need. While I was contemplating all this business with Kate DiCamillo’s elephant, I was also reading Rebecca Serle’s newest novel called One Italian Summer in which she explores the idea of how critical it is to fully know our mothers, a concept that is so important to me. In the book, a young woman loses her mom just before a trip they’d planned to Positano. The daughter is stricken with grief and loss, but wants to honor the purpose of their trip, which was to learn who her mother had been just before marriage and motherhood irrevocably changed her, as they always do. The woman goes to Positano, and there she meets her mother as a thirty year old and learns the story waiting to be told firsthand. No spoilers here; you can find all of this written on the back cover. I pictured meeting my own mother at that age, definitely not in Positano, but sitting on the pristine marble steps of her city row home, cigarette in hand, watching my brothers at seven and nine, and waiting for my father to get home from work, a man equal parts charming, mercurial, and so very difficult. I would come along four years later when she considered herself to be scandalously old in that era to be having a baby. Oh the things I would ask her if only I could. What place of refuge did she have where she could be who she really was? The fact that I have no answer to that question led me to tirelessly seek that place of my own, something that I have come to believe each and everyone of us must do at some point in our lifetime. What will we learn when we do so? By granting entry to those people who deserve to stand beside us in our innermost circle, and by allowing them to know us despite our fear and hesitation that we may end up totally alone, we discover that the acknowledgement that we are still loved, even when the truth spills out, unifies us as human beings in a state of complete oneness, all while setting us free to be the individuals we are meant to be.
For today’s cocktail, I began with two ingredients that I consider to be traditional symbols of love. Hibiscus represents divine consciousness, which seemed incredibly fitting for a drink that is meant to embody the idea of being profoundly understood by another person. Rosewater is universally associated with love, but especially that which we develop through empathy, another perfect fit. Once I had these two ingredients set in my mind, I decided to use Recklesstown’s gin as my base and Aperol as my secondary spirit. I love the way their flavors interact with and intensify one another, and I also knew both would work well with the hibiscus and the rosewater. Hibiscus tea simple has a certain tannic bitterness to it that dovetails nicely with the Aperol, along with an orangey floral component that loves being partnered with gin. I used lime as my citrus, along with two dashes of DRAM Palo Santo bitters to represent the deep, sacred knowledge that comes from knowing another person so intensely. The rose petal garnish echoes the drops of rosewater, and the sage leaf represents wisdom gained. This is an equal parts cocktail, which means that balance is infinitely important to its structure. Pour too much of one ingredient, and the entire flavor profile collapses. This reminded me of the way in which it is just as essential to hold our close personal relationships in that same delicate balance, speaking when there is something to say and listening when there is something to hear, sharing our truths and knowing that the end result will be the perfect blend of mutual respect, acceptance, and affection. Cheers everyone! Happy Friday. Thank you so much for reading.
No Mask Required
Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail coupe.
Garnish with a sage leaf and rose petal.
*Steep one tablespoon hibiscus tea in one cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain and add an equal amount of sugar. Stir until dissolved while reheating gently.