Rediscovering some poetry the last few days, here’s a favourite from Walt Whitman:
Not from successful love alone,
Nor wealth, nor honor’d middle age, nor victories of politics or war;
But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm,
As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky,
As softness, fulness, rest, suffuse the frame, like freshier, balmier air,
As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs
really finish’d and indolent-ripe on the tree,
Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all!
The brooding and blissful halcyon days!
Years and years ago when I first read this poem, I figured I knew what halcyon meant, just based on the poem. Yesterday, the poem came to mind in the most random moment, as I was driving home from work. It was just before sunset and I was taking the long way home near my favourite ocean access. I stopped for a little while, just watching the water and being reminded of how awe-some and beautiful the ocean is when Whitman’s words weaved into the moment.
I came home and did some reading about the poem. Here’s the most interesting part:
Halcyon is a name for a bird of Greek legend which is commonly associated with the kingfisher. The phrase comes from the ancient belief that fourteen days of calm weather were to be expected around the winter solstice – usually 21st or 22nd of December in the Northern Hemisphere. as that was when the halcyon calmed the surface of the sea in order to brood her eggs on a floating nest.
Halcyon means calm and tranquil, or ‘happy or carefree’. It is rarely used now apart from in the expression halcyon days. The name of the legendary bird was actually alcyon, the ‘h’ was added in regard to the supposed association with the sea (‘hals’ in Greek).
What is so neat about this is that there is a lone kingfisher that lives at the lagoon. He was pointed out to me months ago and I find myself looking for him every time I am in the area. Last night, I forgot about the kingfisher until I was getting back into my car and I took one last glance at the water, and the kingfisher flew right across the water, about a hundred feet away. The only bird out at that moment and it was beautiful. Breathtaking even.
And the simple thought that this poem reflects how things are going right now, it’s nice to have some things falling into place right now. Not everything, but some things. I’d like to believe it’s reward for being patient and not crying or yelling every day. But who knows, either way…I kinda like it, these halcyon days. And the kingfisher and all it represents.