Friday Musings: Two Solitudes
In his Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke spoke about love as being “endlessly considerate and light and good and clear… [consisting] of two solitudes that protect, border, and greet each other.” It’s a beautiful description, right? And the perfect inspiration for the final post in this February conversation we’ve been having about different forms of love. I’d like to begin today by telling you a story. It will seem unrelated at first, but have patience with me, and I promise that I’ll tie it all together.
Back in December, a few weeks before Christmas, I had to get a Covid test. I scheduled it at a drive-through testing center in the parking lot of a hotel that is adjacent to a diner and a fenced-in wooded area. A restaurant sits about 150 feet away. As I sat in my car that day, I saw a little animal scurry across the asphalt and take refuge under a group of bushes on one of those concrete islands that sit in the middle of parking lots. Extremely curious to know what I’d seen, I drove over to take a look and found a tiny black kitten staring back at me who was ridiculously cute. There was nothing I could do at that moment, but I promised I’d return and bring my daughter Wendy with me. She is one of the greatest cat lovers in the world, along with her husband Andrew, who joined us later in the night. We tried and tried to get this kitten, tempting him with food, which he devoured, talking to him and finally winning his trust, but we lost him. Not keen on being captured, he escaped into the wooded area where he watched us from behind the fence. A terrible storm came with driving rain and crazy wind, and we had to leave him there, rendering us all inconsolable. On the following night, Andrew and I returned to look for him, but it was to no avail. By then the temperatures had dropped considerably, and I hated the idea of him being in the freezing cold. Thinking I’d give it one last try, I headed towards the fence and stood there meowing while shining my flashlight into the woods. Crazy? Maybe, but it’s just how it is. Before I knew it, a pair of yellow eyes lit up in the darkness. I was certain that it had to be him, and my heart leapt for joy, until a second set of eyes popped up to his left and then a third to his right, all three close together. Well now. This little guy’s message was crystal clear: “Lady, if you wanna drop off some food from time to time, go right ahead, but I am not leaving with you. Ever. I’ve got family here, and I’m good.”
As I thought about the kitten in the days that followed, I realized that what I did was assign my own meaning to him. I defined him as being someone’s pet, curled up in a ball on his owner’s lap, purring contentedly. He saw himself, however, as a wild beast of the forest, scavenging for food and finding plenty, running free and conquering the world. It made me reflect on the number of times we implement this same process of attempting to define other individuals in ways that we think are best for them. We do this with the most honorable of intentions, under the umbrella of love, and because we want our relationships to spin like beautifully smooth machines. That last part is the tricky bit and can be the hardest to recognize and admit. With our children, we are in the unique position of being the people who have known them from birth and therefore have the widest perspective. As stewards of their past and present, we reserve the right to have an opinion on what their best future should look like. Sometimes we’re met with little to no resistance, and the gears whirl. Other times, everything becomes jammed, and we need a major realignment on both sides. A similar thing can happen with friends or other family members, particularly those to whom we are very close. Once again, our motives are well-intentioned, and we are certain that we know what’s best, but because we are looking through a lens that is uniquely ours, we can only really know what’s best for us. A wise little kitten made me realize that. This leads us to the million dollar question: what happens in the case of our romantic relationships?
I think the answer can be found in considering certain misconceptions we have about romantic love. When we first become involved with another person, and we think we may be falling fast, it goes without question that we want the gears to spin in fluid motion. Any sign of conflict, even that which comes from simply being different, is an immediate red flag. We’re conditioned to want the ultra compatibility that results from removing our boundaries, borders, and edges. We want to shift blissfully toward oneness. After a certain period of time, however, this oneness should yield naturally back to individuality and land in a place of healthy interdependence, where we can breathe deeply and move freely, pursuing both the dreams that are important to each of us, as well as those that are vital to the relationship as a whole. What happens if one partner is ready for this transition and the other is not? Ah well, trouble follows. We may begin to hold on too tightly out of fear of loss, or rejection, or because we have not yet learned our definition of ourselves. Rather than pursue that particular course of study, we allow the relationship to define us instead, and we head towards some kind of tragic end. In the greatest love stories, we become one another’s biggest cheerleaders, most loyal companions, and fiercest protectors, all while never losing sight of who we are as individuals. We allow our edges to come into focus again, and it is only with the utmost respect that we cross one another’s borders. In that space, we can greet each other in a way that remembers the thrill of falling with nothing but air beneath us, while being equally awestruck by landing on solid ground, striving toward a love that is “endlessly considerate and light and good and clear.”
For today’s cocktail, I began with vodka, a spirit that I’ve always referred to as a blank slate. Lately, however, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with saying this because I know that the vodka we make at Recklesstown has its own smoothly delicate flavor that elevates the cocktails that I craft there. I also knew that it would be the perfect choice for the one I’d be making for this post. I began with saké as my first ingredient, and I chose one that is made here in the U.S. in Colorado. In Japanese marriage ceremonies, the bride and groom drink three cups of saké to represent the idea of tying together a relationship. I reached for Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur next because ginger is calming, healing, and invigorating all at once. Sound like love? Yes it does to me too. I added a Matcha tea simple syrup (made from equal parts steeped tea and sugar) to echo the calming theme of the ginger. For my citrus, I went with Meyer lemon because of its slightly lower acidity. Finally, I added just a bit of rosewater because while roses are one of the greatest icons of love, they also represent boundaries. Can you guess why?? For today’s garnish, a pinch of salt brightens the drink’s flavors while symbolizing protection, and tarragon speaks to the idea of bringing out the best in your partner. This unified whole has ingredients that definitely still assert their individuality! Cheers everyone. Happy Friday. Thank you so much for reading!
1.5 oz RFD Dustsettler vodka
1 oz Momokawa Pearl Nigori saké*
1 oz Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur**
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz Matcha tea simple
Eight drops of Nielsen-Massey rosewater***
Strain over fresh ice into a tall Collins glass.
Garnish with a tarragon sprig and the tiniest pinch of salt.
*Purchased at Cherry Hill Spirits on Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill, NJ.
**Crafted in Brooklyn, but readily available at most liquor stores.
***Life changing, as are all Nielsen-Massey products! Available on Amazon or their website.