One of my favorite books is “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin (despite his connections to the Republican party…). My first encounter with it was during my sophomore year in college, when one of MT’s housemates had her senior recital. She inserted the short chapter “Nothing is Random” from the book into her recital program, and I was hooked. It took me several years to actually locate a copy of the book, and had to read it three times before I felt like I was more-or-less grasping what the heck was going on. I would describe the book as part love letter to New York City, and part love letter to love. It’s very much fantasy, almost science fiction in a way, but grounded in the history of how the city developed. It’s very unusual.
The “Nothing is Random” chapter (which is widely available on the internet; just type it into Google) has stuck with me like no other. It is extremely reminiscent of passages in Ecclesiastes, and for some reason, I always thought I got the phrase “halcyon days” from this chapter. It’s one of my favorite terms, and ever since I met a very sweet woman whose actual name was Halcyon, I thought it was a great name for a girl.
So, I was a little taken aback when I re-read the piece and discovered that actually, Helprin used the phrase “perfectly blue days that begin and end in golden dimness”, and not the phrase “halcyon days”. Oops.
It turns out that the phrase “halcyon days”, which I have always associated with those perfectly blue days Helprin writes of, evolved out of a Greek legend about a kingfisher and calm seas right before the winter solstice. One goddess, Alcyone, fell in love with a guy named Ceyx who unfortunately drowned in a stormy sea. Filled with grief, Alcyone threw herself into the ocean and was transformed into a kingfisher, where she built a nest and launched it into the sea. She sat on her eggs for the two weeks surrounding the winter solstice, and during this time her father calmed the sea to protect his daughter and grandchildren.
The word “halcyon” itself means joyful and carefree, peaceful, prosperous; and also fair and stormless (related to the weather). As the past few months of my life have seemed like I’ve been out to sea in the middle of a hurricane in a leaky boat about to capsize, I thought it was an apt title for my new blog and my new adventures. This morning on the subway I felt something lift inside me, and at that moment a five-man group started singing in these marvelous harmonies that made me want to stay on the train forever. But I’m dreaming of making quilts again, writing funny stories about my childhood, baking bread, and taking long hot baths in the jacuzzi. It’s finally April, and while I have the terror of finding a new job over my head at the moment, I’m really ready to move on.