Outdoors: Halcyon days

Dec 30, 2020

Well, they’re over.

Halcyon days, that is.

The phrase, I discover, refers to a period of calm, peacefulness and prosperity.

The term shows up in poetry, once or twice in Shakespeare, and even in modern articles and essays.

I used to be a bit startled when I encountered it.

Having once dutifully memorized the scientific names of bird subfamilies, I connected the name Halcyon with kingfishers. And what do kingfishers have to do with tranquility?

According to mythology, quite a bit.

It seems that in ancient times, people believed that kingfishers produced their young—not in spring like most self-respecting birds—but in the hostile days of early winter.

To make things worse, they nested on the sea.

(For the record, our belted kingfishers do breed in spring and they use their feet and beaks to dig burrows in sandy banks for their nests.)

Anyway, according to the legend, the gods looked with favor on the halcyon—allowing her seven days before the Winter Solstice to build her nest, and the seven days following to lay her eggs.

This fourteen-day period was characterized by calm seas and mild weather.

Around the Mediterranean Seas, and curiously, often—but certainly not always—here in the Great Lakes region, the fourteen-day period is calm.

But it is over. And 2020 is almost over.

One can only hope that peace, wellness and prosperity fill our coming year.