Every year around this time I begin to feel a certain restlessness stirring in me. I’m ready for school to be over. That made a whole lot of sense when I was a mom of three young kids, and the close of the school year signified the end of homework, packing lunches, and driving everyone around to their various activities. There was even a certain logic to it when my kids were older and more free time meant more time together. I always did love being with them and still do. Maybe the answer is as simple as that. Or, since there are five teachers in my innermost circle, it’s quite possible that their sense of being ready for closure spills over onto me. Perhaps this is a universal thing that’s related to the fact that even if we don’t work in education, we certainly remember being in school, and longer days, warmer weather, and time outside trigger a kind of response in us. And yet, I think there is more. The other night I was looking through a book of poetry by Carl Adamshick (there will definitely be more about him at some point in this blog’s future) when the opening line of a poem called Emily caught my eye: “It is nice to be without answers at the end of summer.” I’ve turned these words over in my head all week and have come to the conclusion that the reason why they resonate with me so much has everything to do with the way I feel about summer, particularly these last two weeks of June. For some of us, summer begins with an invitation to change, improve, or evolve, which in turn leads to the question in late August that asks “How have you done so?”
There are several solid explanations as to why the end of the school year opens up the possibility of transformation for us. For starters, there are many things about summer that are constants. We engage in the same sorts of activities, eat outside at our usual restaurants, plant tried and true things in our gardens, or vacation in the identical spot each year. If everything around us feels invariable, then it becomes easy to identify ourselves as the thing that can change. The constancy gives us a means of measuring. Additionally, I do think that we hold onto remnants of our childhood years where we saw summer as offering the opportunity to retreat from the pressures of seeing classmates every single day. We were free to pursue our own interests, especially the kinds of things that were just a bit out of the mainstream or even downright odd. My summers as a younger child found me counting the number of books I had read, looking for pink katydids, and drawing endless maps. Whenever we retreat into ourselves for a period of time and then return back to the world, the world looks a whole lot different. If our classmates had changed, then it stood to reason that we were capable of changing as well. Finally, there’s an astrological component that occurs during this timeframe that links last December’s winter solstice to the summer solstice that will happen on June 21st. We are finally getting the opportunity to make real strides towards fulfilling the intentions we put out to the universe six months ago, and it’s fair to hope that by the close of summer we will see many of our goals actually come to fruition. It’s like the gardener who sketches out a plan and orders from seed catalogs when there’s snow on the ground and then finds himself surrounded by bounty in August. For this reason, the summer solstice is thought to be a time that holds the potential for tremendous growth and personal evolution. Are you not buying it? There’s a very funny thing about astrology: even if you think it holds no meaning for you, its energy still runs in quiet currents below the surface of everything. It’s going to affect you whether you believe in it or not.
Let’s agree that we can accept the idea that summer offers us the potential for change. We may, in fact, even find ourselves eagerly anticipating it. The real question becomes what happens if there’s no such transformation that takes place? For many years, my family vacationed in the same beach house in Sea Isle City, NJ during the same week of July. I remember arriving on our designated Saturday afternoons and feeling that odd sense of returning home that comes from vacation houses that do not belong to you, yet feel like they should after all the time spent in them. Along with that particular familiarity, there was always a sense of purpose. Since we vacationed early in the summer, I used this week to lay out plans for whatever I thought was next for me, whether it was something new that I wanted to learn, ideas that I needed to turn over in my head, or insight that was going to make me a better person. I realize in hindsight that most of these pursuits yielded results that were very much like my fruitless efforts to find a pink katydid when I was nine years old. Sometimes there really aren’t answers to be found. Sometimes the process of growth is far more static than we realize. Sometimes the more we chase the things we believe will make us change, the more the real process of transformation eludes us. What if by the time the school buses roll back around in September we really do find ourselves without any answers? It’s quite possible that we might end up finding the best answer of all, the one that comes from seeing rather than searching, or from tearing up the list rather than from crossing items off it, or from hearing the quiet rather than listening to the endless chatter that tells us all the ways in which we could live up to our potential. What a magnificent change that could turn out be.
For today’s cocktail, I decided to take things in the direction of a lemonade, the quintessential summertime drink. Rather than use vodka as my base spirit, however, I was excited to find a way to incorporate Recklesstown’s new Windy Lane bourbon, crafted by Ben Donia and released just last week to the public. It is quite wonderful with all the things you’d expect from a bourbon: the bite, the boldness, the warmth, and the wood. I have quickly learned that it also plays quite nicely in cocktails, marrying well with lemon, simple syrups, and even secondary spirits. For this drink, I added a thyme syrup because I wanted a distinct herbal quality and because the symbolism was perfect for this post. Are we brave enough to just remain still? The house made ginger liqueur that I used as the secondary spirit functioned in a similar way. I needed the warming flavor, but I also loved the fact that the best part of the ginger plant is found in what lies beneath the surface. The cocktail is most definitely a lemonade, bright and refreshing, but the bourbon is equally present and brings a quiet reflective quality that gives us pause. The best news is that we’ve decided to add this drink onto July’s menu, so you’ll have an opportunity to give it a try if you find you way over to Recklesstown next month. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! I wish you a peaceful start to summer that carries right through to September.
1.5 oz RFD Windy Lane bourbon
.25 oz ginger liqueur
2 oz thyme simple syrup*
1.5 oz lemon juice
Short shake with ice.
Dump into a Collins glass.
Garnish with a thyme sprig.
*Steep thyme sprigs overnight in equal parts sugar and water.