One of the ways of looking at love, romantic or otherwise, that has always resonated with me the most is related to the concept of being a witness. Back in 2017, I wrote a post called Can I Get a Witness? in which I considered this idea in greater detail. I talked about the movie Shall We Dance? and quoted a line from Susan Sarandon’s character that is specifically about the reasons why we marry, but is easily transferable to understanding any deep commitment that we may have with another person. Beverly Clark maintains that what we are seeking from committed relationships is to find someone who will be a witness to our lives, someone who will say to us, “your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.” We certainly seek these things from our life partners, or from our closest friends, but we can quickly see how these thoughts can also apply to our children, in the sense that we are the witness to their younger selves, and to our parents, who often need us to become their witness in their later years. Or it may simply be that we share a particularly intense time with a person or a group, during which we witness something together, and a deep bond forms as a result. As many of you who read me know, I can go down a bit of a rabbit hole with words and their meanings, and I found myself doing exactly that with the word witness. As it turns out, the term has multiple meanings, some of which are borrowed from the legal field, and while I truly love the Beverly Clark quote, it seems as though the type of witness we’re looking for is fairly specific when it comes to love.
If we begin with the simplest of meanings, we quickly discover that the concept of being an eyewitness is related to the things that we are able to perceive through observation alone. No additional interpretation is necessary; we’re merely stating the facts. If we are called to bear witness or to testify in a court of law as to what we observed, there is a definite shift in weight or importance, and the meaning of the word suddenly feels heavier. Additionally, there are now rules put in place. Not only is interpretation not necessary, it is to be avoided at all costs. We can testify that we saw or heard something, often in excruciating detail, but we cannot say what we thought the motive was behind what we observed. If we are asked to be a someone’s character witness, or to provide character evidence, then we would not have been an eyewitness to circumstances in which they were involved, but we know them personally and can attest to their integrity and reputation. If we look at each of these meanings of the word witness, they seem to fall somewhat short when we attempt to apply them to our major relationships. Yes, of course we want an eyewitness to the events of our lives, someone who can say I was there with you, or I remember when, but we certainly don’t want them to hold back on the interpretation part. I also think it’s fair to say that there are times when we want the character witness that will climb up to the rooftops to tell the world how wonderful we are, but we also want them to hold us accountable for the circumstances. In both these examples, there seems to be a vital component that’s missing.
All of this interpretation distressed me, until I considered the most literal meaning of the word. When we sign our name on a document next to someone else’s to affirm that they have applied for a license, joined a society, or entered into a union such as marriage, we are identified as their witness. When the term is defined in this sense, it is said that the witness validates or endorses the truth of an action. Hmmm. Now we may actually be getting somewhere. In order to validate something or endorse its truth, a deeper level of understanding as to what we are witnessing is required. We are not just restating facts based on observation, we are also speaking to the intentions behind those facts as we understand them. If we apply this particular meaning to the idea of life partners or important friends, we move closer to a definition that encompasses all the nuances we are seeking. While we most definitely want our significant people to remember the events of our lives in terms of the where and the when, we also want them to have understood the why, thus recognizing our reasons for having done what we did, even if it was not our finest moment. We want the validation that comes from a profound understanding of who we are as a person, the compassionate response that comes from a true place of empathy, and the intuitive affinity, otherwise known as simpatico, that comes from a connection that feels almost magical. We want a witness who loves us in this way, who will not only prevent the circumstances of our lives from going by unnoticed, but, even more importantly, who will also insure that the intentions of our lives are always equally acknowledged.
For today’s cocktail, I chose ingredients that have this same kind of magical affinity towards one another. I began with a bourbon that had been aged in a barrel that previously held Oloroso sherry. This casking gave the whiskey a great deal of depth, as well as a certain savory component. I went with Laird’s Applejack next, and a rosemary simple, to which I’d added a bit of maple syrup. These ingredients complemented both the sweet and savory sides of the main spirit, with the extra bonus being that rosemary is the universal symbol of remembrance, of course. For my citrus, I chose lemon juice, and I finished the drink with two dashes of the aromatic bitters that I make for us to use at the distillery behind the bar. Alone, the components of the drink seem somewhat unremarkable, but together they become something that is rather amazing. I find that the witnesses to our lives do something very similar for us. Through observation and with understanding, they take in all our details of our lives that may seem unremarkable to those outside our circle. They unify them for us in a way that makes us see ourselves as important, impactful, and extraordinary. In this way, we become very much like this cocktail, the perfect example of the proverbial whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! Thank you so much for reading.
1.75 oz of your favorite bourbon (sherry cask aged, if you can find it)
.5 oz Laird’s Applejack
1 oz lemon
1 oz rosemary simple syrup*
2 dashes of your best aromatic bitters
Long, long shake.
Double strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a Forget Me Not flower and enjoy!**
*I added 2 oz maple syrup to 12 oz of finished simple.
**I am just confessing that this is a pansy.