Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Biirthday Sloane & Halcyon Days

Today my granddaughter Sloane is thirteen years old. Oh, doesn't even the very mention of that age bring a flood of memories to your mind and body, most of them awash in the fragility of changes, like cold water dashed suddenly in your face, only to find it felt refreshing later on?

Happy Birthday Dear Sloane!!! As you turned to the *double digit* significance of 11, now you enter the teens, another milestone along the way. Yes! You finally got here. And I hope it is a year filled with its beginnings, which are truly Halcyon Days.

So Grandma MJ, what are you talking about? you are asking. I was looking up something and came across a phrase I've heard and loved for years, but this time the date attached leapt out at me, a deer from the brush, a mouse across a room, a shooting star in the sky. Halcyon days are considered to start today! On your birthday! And what, Grandma MJ, are Halcyon days (and why do you get so overexcited about everything?)?

To explain, here is your birthday story for today.
"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. The Halcyon days are generally regarded as beginning on the 14th or 15th of December.

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).

The source of the belief in the bird's power to calm the sea originated in a myth recorded by Ovid. The story goes that Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter named Alcyone, who was married to Ceyx, the king of Thessaly. Ceyx was drowned at sea and Alcyone threw herself into the sea in grief. Instead of drowning, she was carried to her husband by the wind. The rest of the story is, in a translation of Ovid:

The Gods their shapes to winter-birds translate,
But both obnoxious to their former fate.
Their conjugal affection still is ty'd,
And still the mournful race is multiply'd:
They bill, they tread; Alcyone compress'd,
Sev'n days sits brooding on her floating nest:
A wintry queen: her sire at length is kind,
Calms ev'ry storm, and hushes ev'ry wind;
Prepares his empire for his daughter's ease,
And for his hatching nephews smooths the seas.

- from The Phrase Finder


Feel the strange and wonderful contradiction of this bird having the power to bring tranquility to the seas, for love and for life? That is what thirteen can feel like sometimes...that surging inside yourself while being able to take those crashing waves and with a breath or thirteen, calm them. One kingfisher feather, blowing over the sea, drops onto your hand, out there in the Plains.

You, Miss Soccer Queen, Miss Oh Lime Green, Miss I love monkeys girl, are going to have an excellent year! Let your Halcyon Days begin now.


Grandma MJ and the Kingfishers (yes, it would be a GREAT name for a band)


  1. Happy Birthday, Sloane. Your halcyon days begin when G-MJ writes poesy! Many happy returns!

  2. Sloane is one lucky girl to have a grandma like you...

  3. Trust me, the luck is all mine...really. But thanks.