Friday, 15 March 2013

Friko’s solitary Alphabet Game - H is for Halcyon

Photograph by Charlie Fleming


Currently mired in a period of blogger’s paralysis, and struggling to find anything in the least post-worthy, I remembered that quite a long time ago I started to play a solitary alphabet game, had a look where I’d stopped and found ‘H’ to be the next letter up. ‘H’ is a very common first letter in English; I wanted something impressive and asked Beloved for inspiration. He came up with 

“ haruspicy, haruspication "
a form of divination from lightning and other natural phenomena, but especially from inspection of the entrails of animal sacrifices.

The man is priceless.

“Thank you dear, but I think I’ll give that one a miss, delving in entrails is not what I had in mind for the moment."

But there is a word I’ve always liked, even before I knew what it meant “Halcyon”. Just try it on your tongue: hal-cy-on.  Doesn’t it sound beautifully mellow and promising? It reminds me of those long-ago days of summer when we children went to swim in flooded gravel pits, where the ground water was deep and came up icy cold and the black surface of the artificial lake hardly reflected any sunlight, making it appear opaque enough to walk on. For safety’s sake we had an older sister or brother in attendance but they were usually too busy eyeing up other teenagers to watch over us small fry. One or two dads were sprinkled among the children, spread out on a blanket and in charge of drinks and sweets and ready to bundle a shivering child in a towel before it died of hypothermia. We never had a dad of our own present but other children’s dads served as communal guardians. And not only guardians, but teachers as well. Long before I went to big school and officially learned to speak High German I had no qualms about attempting it anyway. Always willing to show off ‘big words’ and ‘long sentences’ I frequently got it wrong enough for any educated adult present to show signs of distress. One dad clearly couldn’t take any more and rounded on me, correcting my grammar in schoolmasterly tones, thereby embarrassing not only me and himself, but the other children around. “Don’t talk so much”,  the teenaged sister of my little friend said, “what I’m wearing to the dance is not your business.”

The 'halcyon days of old' is the expression mostly used. But halcyon is also the Greek name for the Kingfisher, born out of a gentle tale from mythology. Alcyone  was the daughter of Aeolus, either by Enarete or Aegiale. She married Ceyx, son of Eosphorus, the Morning Star.They were very happy together in Trachis, and according to Pseudo-Apollodorus's account, often sacrilegiously called each other "Zeus" and “Hera”. This angered Zeus, so while Ceyx was at sea (going to consult an oracle according to Ovid's account), the god threw a thunderbolt at his ship, causing it to founder, with all hands drowned.  Soon after, Morpheus (God of Dreams) disguised as Ceyx appeared to Alcyone as an apparition to tell her of his fate, and she threw herself into the sea in her grief. Out of compassion, the gods changed them both into halcyon birds, named after her.

A pair of kingfishers can be seen flitting under the bridge at Valley’s End at certain times of the year. You have to be very quick to follow the blue flash with your eyes. A flash is all I’ve ever caught up to now,  low over the water when the river is fast enough for fish to collect in the basin on the other side of the gravel bank.

42 comments:

  1. Gorgeous picture, Friko! It really brightened my morning! Thanks!

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    1. Hi Kathleen , too soon, too soon.

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  2. Lovely, Friko. Those colours.....

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    1. you too, Perpetua.
      How this post was up before I had written it I’ll never know.

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  3. Lovely post, lovely pic.

    Halcyon is a beautiful dreamy youthful word and I must admit, I did not realise it also belonged to our kingfisher friends. So, I am now wiser - thank you dear Friko.

    Anna :o]

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  4. I too saw the photograph unaccompanied by text...then came back again and all was well.

    We had a kingfisher family at the house in France...sheer delight to see them flashing low over the river.

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  5. Such a pretty bird. Halcyon - a lovely word, much better than haruspication (which spell-checker does not like). It flows off the tongue very satisfactorily.

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  6. those kingfishers are pretty cool....
    and we used to go swim at the quarry....that is where i first cliff dived.....

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  7. I'm rather fond of the word "Halcyon." It has grace and such mood. And I do love the kingfisher photo. Stunning animal.

    I'd say Beloved has quite the sense of humor -- and the knowledge and vocab to go with it!

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  8. Baden im Baggersee! Wie gut kann ich mich an solche Sommertage erinnern, und wie es eisig aus der Tiefe an einen hin zog, wenn man über eine besonders tiefe Stelle schwamm. Auch wenn ich nicht im Baggersee schwimmen gelernt habe sondern im Freibad, war meine erste Erfahrung auf Schlittschuhen auf einem Baggersee in der Rheinebene. Das muss so ungefähr 40 Jahre her sein.

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  9. You're right about the word 'halcyon' and the beauty of the kingfisher, and your're also fortunate to have a husband with such an interesting mind. I've never heard of the word "haruspication" although I've heard about divination from entrails.
    I love the story about swimming in the gravel pit, and can just imagine a little you trying to impress teenagers and parents with your knowledge of High German. I have often been told, by a childhood friend, that I never missed an opportunity to use my rather extensive vocabulary when I was young. Precocious little girls can, I'm sure, be annoying, but I rather like them.
    I hope you and your beloved and Gardener are all well.
    K

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  10. Your kingfishers are far more colourful than ours but still, they are such beautiful birds and elusive to photograph. They're just shy but so vocal. Halcyon is indeed a lovely word. Thanks for this.

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  11. I like your alphabet game. I do wonder what story you could have told by reading entrails though! Poor Ceyx. Just as well he never got to the oracle. The Greek gods were such an agro lot. I guess there wouldn't have been too many stories if they'd all been sweet.

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  12. halcyon is a word I love too.
    and kingfishers, we get them here but I agree it is often just a flash.......

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  13. Hello everyone, glad you like my photograph, if you want to see hundreds more of my close up photographs of Kingfishers then you can have a look at my galleries here. (Copy the link below and put it in to your search bar).
    http://www.pbase.com/charlie_fleming/kingfishers_alcedo_athis
    Charlie Fleming

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  14. I am caught up reading the posts you published while I was away. I loved your pictures of Millie with the sheep and was happy that your US family found nourishment. The world Halcyon in French is Alcyon without an h, but since we don’t pronounce Hs anyway, I guess it’s OK, although for your post it would have been the beginning of the alphabet. Alcyon was a French bicycle team in the 20s and it was a brand of bicycles till the mid 50s. It was also the name of a French torpedo ship in the 20s. The main name though is just the same as in English, it is what the ancients called the “martin-pêcheur” or kingfisher. But looking at the English word, I would not know how to pronounce it – would it be like “action” ? or like Yvonne?

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  15. Fantastic kingfisher! The kingfisher's here are much less colorful.

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  16. I am not a bird watcher and know little about them, but I was fortunate enough to spot a kingfisher one day when it was sitting still not too far away from me. I was completely bewitched by the occasion and will never forget it because of the incredible beautiful colors of this bird. I felt that it must have escaped out of someone's private collection and I had to do some asking around to find out what kind of bird I had seen. I hope to spot one again some day.

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  17. Halcyon is indeed a beautiful word. I found the historical significance of the word to be fascinating. And all this because you didn't have a post to write! :-)

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  18. Beautiful bird, informative post. Thank you so much.

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  19. Friko, thank you for the beautiful kingfisher portrait and for providing its connection to the word halcyon. In a place of past employment, I knew a wise and prominent attorney whose first name was Halcyon. I thought it very sweet for his parents to have given that name to their newborn son.

    Do you see how yet again one of your posts has caused me to think on many things? xo

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  20. Kingfishers over here are bright blue and white but just as flighty and fleeting. (Try saying that three times quickly!)

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  21. Halcyon Days. We colour them with the crayons of our youth.

    XO
    WWW

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  22. Isn't it odd, how after a terribly dry period, with no words, a post all of a sudden streams off the end of the fingers?

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  23. Good job on the H. I've already forgotten what my H was about. 'Halcyon' is indeed a wonderful word, like 'ocean' which is a favorite of mine...the way it sounds, the way it writes reminds me of the very nature of the ocean.

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  24. Friko, I'm so glad you came for a Blog Visit so that I could discover your Beautiful Blog! I don't know that I'm having Blogger Paralysis, but perhaps, since I typically Blog daily and usually it is so effortless, but recently I just haven't felt the urge and so I find myself not plugging into the Land Of Blog as often as usual. It has been a wonderful Community to retreat to and an amazing form of Artistic Expression of one's Passions though and so I do Believe I will always return, if not daily, often.

    Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

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  25. Reading your post for today, I had three thoughts:

    1.For one who is suffering a dearth of composition ideas, you do well. I would like to see a Kingfisher some day. I don't think we have one here in the States as pretty as the fellow above.

    2. As for haruspication, as one who has gutted many creatures for consumption, I wish I had known sooner I could have read their entrails.

    3. I once had a blue Quaker parrot I named Halcyon and called Hallie. I still have his brother, Jesse.



    Dianne

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  26. Fascinating how the word halcyon has morphed from kingfisher to the meaning we know. I wonder where it's been on its travels?

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  27. Big H, Little H. Hungry horse, hay. Hen in a hat. Hooray! Hooray! - Dr. Suess

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  28. Hi Friko .. loved the origins of the word and I didn't know the Kingfisher had halcyon days ... certainly peaceful, calm, serene times at the river's edge. I love Kingfishers ... they're so beautiful ...

    Cheers and I love the choice of H for happy, hilarious and me of course!! Hilary

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  29. Blogger paralysis - it hits us all now and then. Loved the resulting post. I learned a lot. Thanks!

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  30. ┈▕▔▔▔▔▔▔▏┈╰╮Happy┈
    ▂▂▇▇┏▅┓▇▂▂╭╯┈St.┈┈
    ╲▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔╱╰╮Patrick's
    ╭▔▔▉▔▔▉▔▔╮┈╰╮Day┈
    ╭̸╭┳▔╭╮▔╮╮╮┈╭╯┈☘┈┈
    ╭̸╭╰━━━━▃▃▃▃▉┈┈┈☘┈
    ╭̸╭̸╭̸╭̷┓┏╮╮╮╮┈┈┈┈☘┈┈

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  31. What a wonderful essay, Friko! You see, inspiration is all around us -- even in the dictionary! xoxo

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  32. Beautiful memories of your childhood. Unfortunately we never had a lake like this anywhere close by. Sometimes on a weekend the entire family and friends would go to one of the Talsperren where you were allowed to swim, and those days were just another word for summer. Wonderful.
    We have the Belted Kingfisher here year round, and he has a very distinguished call. He lives at my favorite lake.

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  33. I love kingfishers' and didn't know that about t their name. Interesting.

    I also love the word halcyon and lits blissful sound.

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  34. Interesting post. Pretty picture. I, like the Kingfisher, am on the fly! But I wanted to come by and say HI ! :)

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  35. We have a different type of kingfishers here, but as they don't appear very often we are always delighted to see them. I didn't know the word 'halcyon' applied to them. Interesting - Dave

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  36. Love the image - a beautiful bird.
    Your entries delight me
    and the blogger paralysis has hit
    this one also.
    Now posting old entries
    just to keep in touch...

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  37. Thank you for this informative post - we have on occasion received visits from a kingfisher who lingers by our pond. I have to capture one with a camera. Now I will think "halcyon" when he comes to call again.
    (So pleased you did not choose to go with the first "h" word. - really not into sacrificial entrails at this early hour😨

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  38. Halcyon is such an evocative word. I had no idea that it was a word for kingfisher, so thank you for finding that out. The picture of the kingfisher is so colourful.

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  39. Thank heaven you did not choose "haruspex, haruspication" to illustrate... even though..;. even though most mysteriously it was the Ides of March (March 15 !), and Caesar had been told before he went to the Senate that the haruspecial-futures-market-indices had been pointing down all day....

    I also like "halcyon" because it I always think of it as "hal-" meaning "salt", and picture a "salty dog".

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