As many of you know, I try to keep a fairly open mind when it comes to finding inspiration for the things I write about on this blog, even if what moves me comes from an unlikely place. Often the most unexpected enlightenment has come from my grandchildren, Nora and Jack. A month or so ago I arrived at their house in the morning to find them eagerly waiting to tell me something. “Freezie, Freezie, we have a new movie for us to watch. You are going to love it SO much!” Well. Who could possibly pass that up?? Certainly not me. The movie, as it turns out, was called The Rise of the Guardians and it is currently streaming on Netflix should you have some time this weekend to sit down and watch it. If you’re raising an eyebrow, and I know some of you are, just be patient with me. I promise you that there’s real substance here. The premise behind the movie is that the children of the world needed protection from the boogeyman, that universal bad guy responsible for our nightmares and the subsequent fear and sadness they bring, which prompted the Man in the Moon to assign a group of guardians to keep everyone safe. Are you still with me? These protectors consisted of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy, obvious icons of childhood who fill the world with good things and happiness. Something goes wrong, and the boogeyman begins regaining his strength. A new guardian is needed to fortify the group, and so the Man in the Moon chooses Jack Frost, a young mischief maker who is going through a bit of an identity crisis. When the other guardians are mystified as to why Jack would be selected, Santa Claus (a.k.a North in this movie and the best character) asks Jack to tell him what is at his center, or what is the core of his being. Why would the Man in the Moon have chosen him? He must be someone special. Yet Jack is unable to answer the question because he simply has no idea.
This particular interaction made me pause for a moment to consider how many of us would have trouble answering that same question. We all have a general idea of who we are and what it is that we stand for, and maybe some of us have a few more specifics, but the concept of articulating our exact center may present us with some difficulty indeed. Jack certainly experiences this. In what has become my favorite moment in this film, North uses his own personal set of nesting dolls as a means of helping young Mr. Frost to understand. North’s outermost doll represents the side of him that everyone expects to see: he is big and intimidating. Each of North’s inner dolls, on the other hand, reveal traits about him that only become apparent when a person gets to know him better. In addition to being so bold and confident, his deeper layers tell us that he is also jolly, mysterious, fearless, and caring. His innermost wooden baby has enormous blue eyes which are, according to North, “big, yes very big, because they are full of wonder. That is my center. It is what I was born with, eyes that have always seen the wonder of everything. Eyes that see lights in the trees and magic in the air. This wonder is what I put into the world and what I protect in children. It is what makes me a Guardian. It is my center. What is yours?” I told you there was substance here. If each of us was born with our own set of nesting dolls that could reveal these kinds of truths to us, it would definitely make the process of self discovery a whole lot easier. I don’t know about you, but if mine are hiding somewhere, I have yet to find them. In the absence of having the literal version, however, it seems as though we could create a metaphorical set of our own if we sat down and really gave it some thought, especially the idea of what we’d find when we opened that last doll.
What I think I love so much about this concept is that it would force us to truly consider ourselves in a very minimalistic way. We would need to narrow our focus down to the point of identifying a group of adjectives that could function as adequate descriptors, with the final one being the energy that we give to the world. How exactly would we go about doing that? I think the answer varies. For some of us, we may be able to do the same thing North does and look at ourselves in terms of the way our largest circle sees us and continue tightening that diameter until we arrive at our core. For others of us, it may require a bit of a journey where we see our outermost layer as who we currently are, but need to travel back in time to discover some of our inner layers that may have been forgotten or put on hold. What happens if we discover a center that disappoints us in some way? If it’s a case of knowing that we can be more, do more, or give more, then I would say we have some work to do. Conversely, if we arrive at that conclusion because we are being unnecessarily hard on ourselves, we might need to explore the idea of self-compassion and appreciate the center we have discovered, rather than see it as a shortcoming. No matter how we get there, the beauty of this process is that it is incredibly dynamic. There will be times when our center shifts slightly in response to what the world needs from us. There will be instances where we need three dolls or nine dolls, instead of six. There will be moments of deep grief or trauma when we fold inward and the only part of us that we can hold onto is what resides at our core. And there will most certainly be others when we are so filled with love and happiness that all the dolls stand next to one another open, fearless, and ready to be seen. If what lies at the deepest place inside us is what we give to the world, then it stands to reason that it is also where we find our place in the world. In this way, the process of sharing our gifts reveals what is at our center, while the discovery of that revelation inspires us to give even more. Both halves flow back and forth freely in an endless cycle of generosity and knowing.
For today’s cocktail, I made some changes to a dragonfruit margarita that I’ve been working on so that the symbolism of its components would fit the idea behind this post. If you look closely at the recipe, you’ll see that the structure of the drink is very simple, much like the design of wooden nesting dolls. Spirit, sour, sweet. By adding the aged float, I’ve created two layers of tequila, one coming before and feeling heavier than the other. I did the same thing with the St. Germain liqueur and the elderflower simple. The spirit comes first, and the syrup second. The flavors echo one another, but one is definitely bolder, and the other far more subtle. The lime garnish hits your nose first and, for that moment, it is all you think you know about this cocktail until it yields to the subsequent flavors. The lime juice returns at the end to sweep away any sweetness and affirm that you are indeed drinking a margarita. The only component that stands alone is the dragonfruit simple. I recently had the good fortune of working with this ingredient in a cocktail I crafted for Recklesstown‘s monthly Literature Distilled bookclub. The symbolism of the dragonfruit is that it is the gift dragons leave behind to the world in their dying breath. It represents their center, or the very essence of their being. Not only is the symbolism perfect for the cocktail, but the flavor of this syrup is beautiful, uplifting, and somewhat unexpected, very much like what we may find if we allow ourselves to peel back our layers and see what remains. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! What is at your center?
At Your Center
Shake with ice for 20 seconds.
Single strain over one large cube.
Float .25 oz Teremano tequila reposado on top.
Garnish with lime zest.
*Frozen dragonfruit cubes puréed, then mixed with an equal part of simple syrup.
**Dried elderflowers steeped for 15 minutes in boiled water. Strain. Dissolve in an equal amount of sugar.