One day, while living in Paso Robles, we decided to check out a new restaurant in Arroyo Grande called Ember. Being easily a 45-minute drive, dinner in “south county” wasn’t something we did often. It turned out Halcyon Rd. was the off-ramp for Ember. (Side note: Being from Santa Barbara, living on the central coast and going to college in San Francisco, I have passed the Halcyon Rd. exit hundreds of times. I had always loved the name. I had told Kim months before as we passed the exit, “I love the name, I’d never name a kid that, but it’s special.” Yet that night was the first time I ever took the exit.) As we exited, and I’ll never forget this, Kim looked at the sign and said, “what about Halcyon for the label?”
“Yeah, what about Halcyon,” I whispered.
Dinner was nice but I was horrible company. I literally thought about Halcyon the entire dinner. All I remember is that all the food was wood-fired. Other than Kim looking fabulous, all details were lost.
We drove back to my small country cabin in the west hills of Atascadero and went straight to Google. After a bit of searching, I came across the Greek myth that is Halcyon. From my interpretation, it goes as follows:
There was a Greek goddess named Halcyon (Alcyone in Greek) and she was married to a mortal name Cyx. One day Cyx had to cross the sea to conduct business with the oracle of Apollo. Before the journey, Halcyon got the premonition that Cyx would die while traveling. She pleaded with Cyx to not leave but alas he set sail. In a tempest, Cyx died. While Halcyon slept, the god of dreams Morpheus, revealed to Halcyon how her beloved husband died and the beach from where his body lay. When Halcyon awoke she traveled to the beach and found the corpse of her late husband. Overcome with grief she picked her husband up and carried his body into the sea. With that action, she took her own life.
The gods saw this act of love and wouldn’t let it go unnoticed. They decided that this love was so powerful that these two must spend eternity together. They brought the dead back, but not as gods or mortals but as kingfisher birds (why kingfishers? No idea. But kingfishers are also known as Halcyon birds for all you Jeopardy buffs). The other caveat upon their return was that they mustn’t venture from the beach. They were destined as lovers to that beach as kingfishers.
Yet this sandy, beautiful plot of sand was quite tempestuous. Envision the rugged Big Sur coastline. Every time Halcyon attempted to lay her eggs the weather would turn nasty and create large waves that would wash the eggs to sea. Having had enough, one day Halcyon looked to the sky and begged the gods to allow but a few weeks of calm so she could lay her eggs and her chicks could hatch. The gods granted Halcyon and Cyx this two-week reprieve encompassing the winter solstice. One week before the solstice and one week after. This period of tranquility came to be known as the Halcyon Days.
As I digested the final part about the winter solstice it hit me. The winter solstice nearly always falls on December 21st. My birthday is December 19th and Kim’s is December 26th. Both of us came into the world during the Halcyon Days. The rest is history.