Halcyon days are a time of peace and calmness, when the sky is blue, the ocean is calm, and one feels safe and loved. The expression comes from a story in the Metamorphoses of Ovid, a Greek classic whose theme is transformation.
Ceyx was the king of Trachis. He and his wife Alcyone, the daughter of Aeolus, god of the winds, were happy together and devoted to each other. But Ceyx became possessed with the desire to visit a distant oracle and get a prediction of the future. Alcyone pleaded with him to stay, but he boarded a ship and set sail. When he was far from home Poseidon called up a mighty storm. Everyone on board drowned, including Ceyx.
Alcyone went to the shore every day to look for his ship returning. Day after day she stood on the beach, filled with terrible forebodings. Finally Aphrodite, goddess of love, sent Ceyx’s ghost to her in a dream and told her to go to the shore. As Alcyone ran into the water toward her husband’s body, Aphrodite transformed them both into sea birds, bringing Ceyx back to life. When the halcyon birds build their nest on the sea, Aeolus calms the winds, and the skies are clear.
I saw Mary Zimmerman’s production of the Metamorphoses on Broadway in 2002. The actors seemed to turn into birds before my eyes. I’ve never seen a production that moved me more.
I think we all wish for everlasting love, and we all know, even if we find it, we will lose it—to time, illness, death or depravity. The object of even the strongest love will end. But if we are lucky, or the gods intervene, the love itself goes on. And
perhaps there will be halcyon days.