denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy, calm, and peaceful.
A bird in Greek legend generally associated with the kingfisher. There was an ancient belief that the bird nested on the sea, which it calmed in order to lay its eggs on a floating nest.
Here is an evocative story: According to Greek mythology, Alkyone, the daughter of the god of the winds, became so distraught when she learned that her husband had been killed in a shipwreck that she threw herself into the sea and was changed into a kingfisher. As a result, ancient Greeks called such birds halcyon and the myth ensued that these birds built floating nests on the ocean that so moved the wind god that he created a state of breathless quiet on the water that protected the eggs until the fledglings were born. This legend prompted the use of halcyon both as a noun naming a genus of kingfisher and as an adjective describing unusual, primordial calm.
Calm can be associated with the ocean — a state desirable as an alternative to chaos. On a recent trip to Antarctica, there was much discussion of the Drake Passage, a convergence of current and weather from Cape Horn south, that was portrayed as a collision of wind and wave that wrecked ships and marked its sailors for life as survivors. Our passage both ways was across a placid sea, birds and dolphins racing alongside, not even a hint of any storm to come. I can’t say that I was disappointed.
Calm can be also associated with an inner state of being — a neuro-chemical-physical quietude, a desirable condition that expels and denies the neurotic conditions of our lives and brings us peace of mind and body. Be calm we say to our children grappling with their futures; be calm we say to our parents and friends in illness or grappling with the fear of death; be calm we say to ourselves en route to Antarctica, it’s going to be a Drake Lake. And it was.
Why is it that all major religions involve water as an essential place of ritual: baptism, cleansing, purity of purpose and soul? The ocean is a vast reservoir of water to the point of no dimension: its horizon has no meaning; its…