Today is the beginning of the calendar period that is traditionally known as Halcyon Days. Halcyon is the name of a bird from ancient Greek legend associated with the kingfisher. There was the belief that the two weeks prior to winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere calmed the weather and the seas. It was during this two week period that the female kingfisher required calm waters to brood her eggs in a buoyant nest.
In the modern historical era, Halcyon Days refers to the idealized, nostalgic memory of carefree, happy times of our youth or young adulthood. Some poetic verse about such times in our lives comes to mind in this excerpt from “Halcyon Days” by 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,
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!”
Some of my older acquaintances sometimes fondly reminisce about the 1950s as being the perfect period in time. They recall such times as being somehow more “innocent”. The popular music was “better”, the cars were nicer and more stylish, and society was more “ordered”. Of course such halcyon times are figments of the imagination. Our brains tend to “round out” or soften our memories of the past. This human tendency is what can make nostalgia a form of denial or escapism.
Such “halcyon days” of the 1950s are purely matters of opinion. To my ears, 1950s rock and roll is fun and interesting in small doses because I can appreciate campy lyrics and quaint instrumentation. The same goes for cars of the 1950s. I can appreciate such vehicles for their historical value. My personal favorite is the 1959 Buick Electra 225 convertible. It’s an oversize, gas-guzzling artifact of times when autobody fins were the big fad. That car is interesting and has a certain beauty, but it’s not as safe nor economical than contemporary vehicles.
My own halcyon days are probably the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, I have yet to round that period down to nostalgic bliss. The 70s and 80s were filled with social and personal crises that still come to mind. I don’t have any recollections of the past that seem so ideal that they could be classified as halcyon days. I don’t know if that is bad or good. Perhaps I’m not old enough to idealize the past.
Although I have not crystallized my past in terms of halcyon days, there are many beautiful memories about people and events from many years ago. Recalling them brings me great joy in a melancholy way.
The beauty of appreciating this present moment is that we have just begun the calendar delineated annual Halcyon Days. Even if the calm seas with sunny days of youth are idealized poetry, the present time is well worth contemplating.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders poetic verse by 19th century physician and writer, David Macbeth Moir. “Simplest of blossoms! To mine eye Thou bring’st the summer’s painted sky; The May-thorn greening in the nook; The minnows sporting in the brook; The bleat of flocks; the breath of flowers; The song of birds amid the bowers; The crystal of the azure seas; The music of the southern breeze; And, over all, the blessed sun, Telling of halcyon days begun.”