Halcyon Tuesday Nights

On a rare Tuesday night outing, some dear friends and I trekked to Decatur for the only thing that could get me from the Westside to Decatur on a Tuesday: Caroline Herring at Eddies Attic.

Accompanying Caroline was Jim White and Otis Gibbs. It truly was a holiday show spectacular. They each took turns playing songs (apparently this is called “in the round”), and each was equally entertaining with their (sometimes rather long) stories and melodies. However, it was Caroline who made the show. Promoting her new album Golden Apples of the Sun, she started off with a bang playing “Tales of the Islander”. Although she hasn’t mastered lip synching yet, this video is worth a look.

I love a lot of things about Caroline’s music, but one of her finest qualities is certainly her precision in language. In discussing her fabulous word choices on the way home with two of Atlanta’s finest English teachers, I learned a new word. “Halcyon” days.

Here’s a little bit about what it means…

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).

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.

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.

Our current use of halcyon days tends to be nostalgic and recalling of the seemingly endless sunny days of youth.

(information from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/168000.html)

It got me thinking…are these Halcyon days? It’s hard not to think in our preparation for the King we should be calm in our expectation, assured in our hope, confident in God’s power to save us from drowning.

5 responses to “Halcyon Tuesday Nights

  1. Hmmmm…

    sounds like an AMAZING evening. 🙂

    These halcyon days of waiting and hoping in expectation remind us of our powerlessness and dependence on HE WHO REIGNS FOREVER and EVER.

    As Handel’s chorus shouts out, “HALLELUJAH!!!!!”

    Thank you, JLal.

  2. Kind of amazing that yesterday was the 15th and…
    “The Halcyon days are generally regarded as beginning on the 14th or 15th of December.”


  3. Moxie – If I was going to buy one Caroline Herring album, which one should I buy (keeping in mind that “Living with Ghosts” is my favorite Patty Griffin album)?

  4. Hmmm. Millie that is a tough one. I’m really loving her newest album–Golden Apples of the Sun, but Lantana is hard to beat. I think you would really like the song “Lover Girl” she wrote about her daughter, which is on Lantana.
    And Living with Ghosts is a fantastic choice for Patty. I think my first listen was your copy…memories.

  5. Loved Caroline Herring on Tuesday night. Could’ve done without stories from Jim, but anyway… I bought Gold Apples of the Sun and have been listening nonstop! Thanks Moxie! (I unchecked “True Colors” in my itunes, though… kills the mood for me.)

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