Updated: Nov 11
One of the best things about coming back to Portugal has been getting to know people with as motley a stew of cultures and languages as myself.
Like the mythological halcyon, we build our nests upon the sea, calming the waves for a bit before we move on.
Like J., Danish by birth with the soul of a Brazilian musician, transplanted through race and time to the beat of a hidden drum.
Like C., whose parents born in Goa raised their child actoss the Indian Sea in Kenya, who studied in London and fell in love in Lisbon.
Like F., growing up strong in Suriname, bringing her family to Dutch embassies around the globe, settling finally near our blue baía not far from me.
Members of this karass have shown up in my life before, and I recognized them immediately:
Like D., taken as a child from the Ukraine to the US Midwest, her operatic voice gone silent in Chicago, a series of unspeakable accidents bringing her one day to my café.
Like J., transported and displaced throughout Eastern and Western Europe, landing among Indians of another heritage, Hoosiers reciting Pushkin and cooking borscht.
When my daughter was at Berkeley High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, she had friends who were Vietnamese-Pakistani, Japanese-Puerto Rican, Chinese-African. Mother Nature in free fall, criss-crossing every continent!
Whence this story, of building our nests upon the sea, when the waters are calm enough for rest?
The blue kingfisher, king's fisher, is likely the bird of old, from where our idea of halcyon calm arose. Halcyoninae is one of the subfamilies in the kingfisher taxonomy.
In Greek mythology, Ἀλκυόνη (Alcyone) and the love-of-her-life Ceyx used to playfully call each other "Zeus" and "Hera." The gods were not amused...and hurled a thunderbolt at a ship sailed by Ceyx. Alcyone in turn threw herself into the sea with inconsolable grief. At some point thereafter the gods felt pity on the tragic lovers and turned them both into kingfishers. Alcyone's own father Aeolus, god of the winds, calmed the windy waves each year just long enough for her to build a nest and lay her eggs. These seven days in winter when no storms hail thus came to be called "halcyon days."
Over the ages, any pause during a tempest, or break from constant pain, has taken on the halcyon pledge, that there will be respite from grief, however brief and blue, where one can rest for a time on the tides of life.
18 MAY 2021