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  • Deb Puretz

Covid Art 89: Halcyon Days

This is the third work that has as its centerpiece 18th century prints of places my parents visited. I believe this is a Holland town near the beach, where my family spent three weeks in 1960. The sea is in the distance although a few sailing ships can be viewed. Two of the other photographs are of towns whose houses might be just as old, and Heidi sitting on a ledge overlooking a waterway (river? sea?) contemplating water going by. The photo of her might be from 1950, from what I know of her life.

There are few places in the world where I’ve deliberately sat for 45 – 60 minutes, and consciously tried to memorize every detail: the view, the warmth, the angle of the sunlight or the dancing of the clouds, the quiet or the noise, and what I was feeling. What comes to mind is a late afternoon in St. Gallen, when I was 16 years old, or midday in Machu Piccu in 2001, and another time in Provence in the summer of 2010 at dusk, when I was 55. Mostly, wonderful landscapes escaped my notice while I was reading a book on a train, jogging with earbuds, or drinking a coffee in a streetside cafe people watching – now a blur. Except in churches – I remember those individually as well. (See other posts, about portals for example).

On September 10, 2001, I sipped champagne over lunch in Napa with a work colleague. We had been downsized at a Silicon Valley startups a few months earlier. I knew instinctively to be grateful and appreciative for this lovely afternoon, and named it ‘a halcyon day’ on the drive home. The next morning the Twin Trade Centers in NYC were attacked and the world changed for Americans.

The phrase refers to the period around the winter solstice that is associated with calm weather, which in Greek mythology was attributed to the power of the fabled halcyon bird that was said to calm the wind and sea. Ah, those were the halcyon days, before our country was at war.

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