It was a tumultuous week. In the best of times, it’s not easy to ask for help. But there I was in a fluorescent lit, tile floored room filled with people of all ages and races, asking for help because I just couldn’t do it anymore. Taking care of myself nutritionally had become so difficult and made me feel so low. In many ways, asking for this sort of governmental help made me feel like a failure, a loser. I had been brought up in a home which believed asking for help was for “them.” And there I was, one of “them.”
But on Friday, when I could go buy groceries and put fresh produce and protein other than chicken in my refrigerator, I forgot about “them” and was simply grateful.
Mid-week, the temp agency called. I have become skeptical when they ask if I’m available to work. Two years of not being picked have made me jittery. But this time, it was my turn to be picked. Later this week, I will begin a part-time job doing data-entry in a facility not far from where my high-tech life began.
Evie Mae, she of the electric blue hair, has been talking to me so I guess we have some stories to tell. She’s very reluctant to tell it to me all at once and, as I’ve read many times, writers don’t necessarily need to be linear when they start the story. So I’ll take what she gives me when she gives it to me. I have so many questions for her!
It has been extremely hot the past few days, it’s hard to get anything done in this uninsulated stucco apartment which absorbs all the days’ heat. I took a couple of days off to reground myself from all the excitement of last week. I feel better able to work now, which is a thing I’m sure my stories appreciate.
This week has proven yet again that the universe watches out and provides for me. I must get back to my part. Who knows what good surprises are in store for me?
My mind works in funny ways. It always has. If I had to explain it, I’d probably say something about that’s just how the creative mind works. But since I don’t have to explain and I’m used to the idea of being what others consider quirky and odd, I’ll just say this, “Yup, I’m weird.”
A post on Facebook by author Baer Charlton, sparked an idea. Proving, to me at least, that inspiration comes from anywhere.
Baer was discussing the lack of character development in a book he’d just read and listed all the things he didn’t know about the protagonist, including what color her hair was. And I thought, “oh, her hair is electric blue,” like it was the most obvious thing on the planet.
I don’t much trust myself with fiction because I’m not sure I could bear the weight of consistency which fiction requires. But Baer’s list struck me as an interesting exercise. As did his quote about how bad the character development was in this book he’d read.
This book was the worst case of stick figures being pushed around in a story line.
What follows is my response to Baer’s post.
Her hair was electric blue, in a straight cut just below her ears. She hated when it was long enough to cover her neck, but not long enough to pin up out of the way. She also hated having to do anything other than wash and comb, so she kept it short.
She also kept her hair short so that it wasn’t awful to deal with when she hit the open road in her 1955 ruby red Thunderbird. At least the last guy she lived with had been good for something. His restoration job was gorgeous. But when she caught him online having some sort of weird sexual orgy with people from all over the world, she knew it was time to pack up and leave. Besides Nellie Belle, a box of books, a box of clothes and a laptop, was all she owned anymore.
Twiddling with the radio, looking for the comedy routine called church radio, which could only be found on the AM dial and was best enjoyed on the back-roads of Middle America, she heaved what used to be an ample bosom in a deep sigh.
The moonlight reflected off the deep burgundy color of her fingernails. She still hadn’t figured out a great story to tell when people asked why she was missing part of her right pinkie finger. Telling them her father thought it would be funny to see what else garden shears could cut was just too painful to relive. Mostly, she shrugged and smiled when asked.
Hating that she was nearly 60 and there was still so much she wanted to do, the trip from Ohio to New Mexico was yet another attempt at sorting things. She had a score to settle with her parents. Her mother died before the score had even been tallied, and one of the things on her long list of things to do before she died was to settle up with her father.
Grinning as yet another preacher profaned the word of God while making a plea for money, her stomach rumbled. “Oh, hungry,” she said out loud. Didn’t seem that long since the last bacon double cheeseburger with onion rings, and the cherry shake had gone down.
And now she was out on a two-lane in god knew where Indiana. A night owl by nature, it’d be another couple of hours before she would be ready to bed down somewhere. It was unlikely there’d be a burger place open at 2 or 3AM. Damn, she was going to have to settle for an energy bar stashed in the Wonder Woman lunch box on the seat next to her. When she stopped for the night, she’d look for WiFi and figure out where the next really great burger place was. The internet was good for things like that.
It was also good for things like talking to people in murky places with even murkier morals willing to help one quirky older woman settle her scores. Her father would never know what hit him. Too bad it wouldn’t get her the finger and the years he took from her back.
Book Thirteen has 967 has lines on 48 pages and is the longest book in Metamorphoses.
In “The Judgment of Arms,” Ajax and Ulysses argue over who should be awarded Achilles‘ armor. Ajax’s basic argument is that he is descended from nobility and braver in battle than Ulysses, because Ulysses skulked around at night hiding from actual battle.
Ulysses, on the other hand, addresses his comments to the chiefs who are to make the decision, not to the onlookers. He speaks of his tactical abilities which, among other things, involved skulking around at night spying and negotiating.
The notes in my copy say that the speeches both cover a spectrum of rhetorical style that Romans would have recognized. Since it is not my intent to give a close or more technical reading, I will leave it to the experts.
After Ulysses is awarded the armor, Ajax commits suicide. Which in Ovid’s hands reads like a pathetic attempt to hurry on to the next story. The retelling of the Trojan War has allusions to Homer but doesn’t address many of the details which would have been familiar to Ovid’s audience. In other writings, Ajax was driven to madness and then committed suicide. Here, Ovid just makes Ajax seem like a petulant little boy who didn’t get his way.
In many ways, Book Thirteen is a relief to read. There’s not so much violence or rape or such goings on. That is not to say that it doesn’t have a share of sadness.
The story of Hecuba is one of those. At the end of the Trojan War, Hecuba and two of her children are just a few of the remaining survivors. One son, Polydorus, was sent to live with King Polymestor In Thrace. Priam sent gold with his son so if Troy fell, Polydorus would be able to support himself. As in most stories involving gold, Polymestor was greedy and killed Polydorus to keep the gold.
Hecuba is aboard a ship in Agamemnon‘s fleet which has anchored off the coast of Thrace waiting for the right winds so they can continue on to Greece. The slave women and Hecuba convince Agamemnon to go ashore and avenge Polydorus’ death.
But as they touch shore, Achilles’ ghost arises and demands the death of Hecuba’s remaining child, Polyxena. Polyxena’s final speech is so brave and moving, telling her killers that she goes willingly but they must not sully her maidenly body by touching it with their male hands. Achilles will be more appeased with the blood of a willing victim. This sweet daughter goes to her death knowing nothing will save her, or her family’s name, and goes bravely.
Poor Hecuba. She has now lost her husband and all her children and is now a slave to the Greeks. Yet she does not lose her dignity. She connives a meeting with Polymestor by telling him she has more gold to give him in return for the release of her son.
Greed overrules smart in so many of these stories. Polymestor thinks he can get the best of Hecuba and keep all the gold for himself. But he soon learns that a mother avenging her children is someone to be reckoned with.
And then she grabbed hold of him tight, with a shout to her posse of female captives, and dug her fingers into his treacherous eyes … (lines 559 – 560)
I’m going to end the commentary on Hecuba with this, “posse of female captives.” Posse?
The last two stories in Book Thirteen are those of unrequited love.
First, the story of Galatea, a sea-nymph, who spends her time in the arms of Acis, a human, and avoiding the advances of Polyphemus, a cyclops. Polyphemus is beside himself that nothing he does can gain the attention and love of Galatea.
He combed his hair, trimmed his beard, and cut back on his slaughter of ships as they anchored in port. One day a seer puts into port and tells Polyphemus he will lose his eye to Ulysses.
The Cyclops replied with a laugh, “Your are wrong, most stupid of prophets, My eye has already been robbed by another!” (lines 773 – 774)
Polyphemus catches Galatea and Acis in each other’s arms and sings a song about what she’s missing out on by not choosing him. He is so angry that his voice causes an earthquake on Mount Etna. Grabbing a piece of the mountain, he flings it at Acis and kills him. Grieving Galatea uses her power to turn Acis into a river.
Here is the lesson, obviously old as time, not to try to make yourself over just to win the love of someone who doesn’t love you. In Polyphemus’ case, it’s literally destructive.
The last story is of Glaucus and Scylla. Scylla, preferring to be alone, has found a cove in which to shelter. She encounters Glaucus, but is wary of him. He swims up, begging her to hear his story and to fall in love with him, as he has done with her. (The Romans were apparently big on love at first sight.)
He tells her that he used to be a fisherman. Once, while letting his nets dry, he discovered the grass he was sitting on sent the fish he’d just caught back into the ocean. Taking a taste for himself, he found himself turned into a sea-god.
It was then that I first set eyes on this beard encrusted with green, on the hair which sweeps in my wake as I swim far over the sea, my colossal shoulders, my blue-coloured arms and my curving legs which vanish away to a fish with fins. (lines 958 – 961)
“My colossal shoulders? My curving legs?” Glaucus is certainly full of himself.
Scylla rejects him and leaves the scene. Enraged, Glaucus goes to see Circe.
The way this is written, my first impression is that Glaucus is just another fickle male, who stomps off to some other woman for comfort when he is rejected.
Although Erin, owner of ARTIS PURA Custom Framing, and I have been friends for many years, she is a delight to work with. Framing is technical, and her patience in explaining terms and ideas was a great help. I’m looking forward to working with her a good long time.
Retailer Target did something very important this week. By announcing they are phasing out gender-based signage around the store, they have signaled they listen to the concerns of their customers over the pigeon-holing of children.
Friend and mentor, Melissa Atkins-Wardy of Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies was on the forefront of this movement and continues to be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the way we think and raise our kids. Be sure to read her blog post about it.
People are losing their minds over this move, and not in a good way. I’ve seen comments about how this is political correctness run amok, or how this move will confuse children about their sexual identity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Now there’s only toys. Not toys for girls and toys for boys. Just toys. And kids get to pick the toys they want to play with without getting the not so subtle message that there’s something wrong with them if they want to play with a toy identified as a different gender from the kid. Girls who want to play with green army guys can now just go to the toy aisle to find them. Boys who want to play with a doll can now just go to the toy aisle.
In case you’ve missed it, society has become over-sexualized with gender expectations narrowing what is “proper.” Women get the brunt of this. We have to correct this notion that women have specific roles to play, and one way to do that is to teach both boys and girls to have respect for themselves and be who they are at any given moment in time. As Melissa says, “There are many ways to be a boy/girl,” and “colors are for everyone.”
I got it. The advice I’d been reading most of my life finally hit home. Finally. Sometimes I’m really slow.
This is my work now. Developing the discipline of meeting myself at the computer every day and creating.
If none of what I have been doing looking for a job has been working, and my heart longs to create, why not just spend my energy there?
I thought talent and creativity just came into being. Really. My father was a musician with perfect pitch, yet I never saw him practice or sweat over a composition. We only model what we see, and if creativity seems to come out of nowhere, how was I supposed to know it took practice?
I didn’t know it was a craft to be honed, and that the way to hone it was to create all the time. Instead of creating, I would go back to not creating and worrying incessantly about how to pay the bills. My dysthymia would become full-blown depression and I would lie in bed and cry. (I still worry incessantly about bills.)
Then I read a book of essays by Anne Lamott about life. I hit the part about “shitty first drafts.” Seriously, that’s what this crazy writer up the freeway from me in Mill Valley called them, “shitty first drafts.” Well, huh, I thought.
It began to sink in. This advice I’d been reading most of my life began to hit home. It was the very realization that I have to put my butt in the chair every day and do something. Butt-in-chair does not mean publishable every day, nor does it mean a strict word count or number of hours. Why Anne Lamott was the one who got through is anyone’s guess.
What “shitty first draft” and butt-in-chair mean to me is, go to work. Every day. Go to work and create. If it’s shitty, who cares? I don’t even have to care. The only care I should have is that my butt is in the chair and I am working. Two hundred words a day, five hundred? Doesn’t matter. Hands on keyboard, butt in chair, go.
Thank you to all the mentors I’ve never met. To Richard Kadrey who shared a picture of one of his outlines. To Wil Wheaton who writes honestly about his own depression and anxiety, and who taught me the two best words to string together; “depression lies.” To Anne Lamott who taught me about shitty first drafts and letting go. To Annie Liebovitz who makes it look effortless but who said “I’m happy if I get one shot a year I really like,” while I was in the same room with her. To Gordon Atkinson whose writing resonated with me while he was RLP and who was open about his own process.
It’s really called discipline, or work ethic, or something silly like that. But to me, it’s shitty first drafts and butt-in-chair every day. No lie, it’s that simple and that difficult.
My first paid piece was published this week for ARTIS PURA Custom Framing. Erin and I have been friends for years, her business is now so successful she needs to (and can afford) to hire someone to write for her. I write, she frames. This is what happens when two creatives come together.
Book Twelve is mostly about the Trojan War. But instead of describing the war itself, as Ovid’s predecessors Virgil and Homer did, Ovid describes it as yet another brawl breaking out at a wedding reception (see Book Five).
Next is a seemingly unconnected story about Rumour. I’m particularly fond of the way Ovid describes Rumour’s home.
… who chose to live on a mountain, with numberless entrances into her house and a thousand additional holes, though none of her thresholds are barred with a gate or a door. … the whole place hums and echoes, repeating whatever it hears. … (lines 43 – 45, 47 – 48)
There are 23 lines which exquisitely describe this home and its denizens. This is why I continue with Metamorphoses, the language can be so beautiful and interesting.
Then there’s the story of Cycnus, yet another man who metamorphosizes into a swan. This Cycnus brags to Achilles about needing no armor. Comically, Achilles keeps trying to kill Cycnus by throwing his spear multiple times and always missing. Even more comically, while Cycnus is boasting he can’t be killed, Achilles strangles Cycnus with the strap of his own helmet.
The after battle story telling around the fire leads into Nestor’s story of the transgender Caenis/Caeneus.
His exploits won him renown, the more surprisingly so as he started life as a woman. (line 174 – 175)
The story of Caenis makes sense, since she was raped by Neptune who offers her anything she wants. She asks to be made something other than a woman so that she will never have to suffer rape again. (lines 199 – 203)
The core of Book Twelve is “The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs,” Ovid’s comical version of the Trojan War. At the wedding of Pirithous and Hippodamia, the drunken centaur, Eurytus, decides he’s going to make off with the bride. Which never goes over well. There erupts an epic brawl in which weapons are improvised from the furniture and table settings.
One line in particular caught my fancy. There’s a centaur passed out drunk in the midst of this chaos with a cup of wine spilling from his hand. A lapith sees this and takes action.
Now you must mix your wine with Stygian water! (line 322)
Book Twelve ends with the death of Achilles, as cowardly Paris’ arrow is guided by Apollo through Achilles’ heel.
If Priam, after the death of Hector, had cause for rejoicing, this surely was it. So Achilles who’d vanquished the mightiest heroes was vanquished himself by a coward who’d stolen the wife of his Greek host. (lines 607 – 609)
The death of Achilles ends with preparations for the dispensing of Achilles’ belongings.
In my research, I keep being reminded that the Romans were a blood-thirsty lot and all these tales of battles and wars would have been greatly appreciated. Even as I caution myself of this, I can’t help wincing over the detailed gory events. Eyeballs dangling onto faces just isn’t a very nice thing to think about, no matter how much the antagonist might have deserved something horrible.
Another week gone by. That’s profound, in a completely obvious “duh” kinda way isn’t it?
The biggest thing to happen is that my patrons can no longer afford to be my patrons. As if trying to find a job and asking monthly for money was easy. I am neither surprised or upset with this news. Everyone has the right to take care of themselves, and my patrons helped me as long as they could. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared about money, there’s enough for about a month. No, I don’t know what comes next or what I’m going to do.
Actually, I do know what I’m going to do. Keep writing. There’s a paid writing assignment about to hit, there will be more. For now, I just keep doing what I’m doing and trusting the universe is going to continue taking care of me as it has.
On the reading front, I finally finished Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Reviews/recaps/commentary on each book will be published for the next few weeks on Tuesdays. It was a challenge, but one I’m glad to have taken on. I feel even more erudite and well-read now. Or something.
I haven’t weighed in much on the hullabaloo over the publication of Harper Lee’s “latest” book, Go Set a Watchman. Basically, my opinion is that the provenance is iffy at best, and it just seemed like there were too many people trying to take advantage of a woman who swore she would never publish another book after To Kill a Mockingbird. She is very old now and nearly blind and deaf, I don’t see how anyone thinks she gave her blessings to this endeavor. My curiosity is not great enough to want to read it. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, and I’m not willing to let my memories of it be tanked.
Having said all of that, if you want to read it, please get down with your bad self. Because I don’t want to, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or that I don’t want you to.
We had been disappointed in the way the book was marketed from the beginning. We knew the history of Go Set A Watchman and it wasn’t congruent with the marketing: “Harper Lee’s New Novel” “with many of your favorite characters from To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Whether you agree or not, there’s something to be said for retailers who stick to their principles.
In other bookish news, I’ve been following the Hugo nominations controversy with a somewhat jaded and amused eye. Basically, it comes down to a bunch of white, male SFMil (science fiction military) writers deciding that the Hugos have been highjacked in past years by people who are not white, not male, possibly not even heterosexual, and don’t write SFMil. Oh, then there’s the whole “social justice warrior” thing being batted around. Whatever that means.
Never mind that one of the most revered writers and founders of science fiction wrote characters who were diverse and took on “SJW” issues. As many bow to Robert Heinlein as the manliest man SF writer who wrote SFMil there ever was, they are so wrong I can’t help but laugh. Or, there’s Frank Herbert who wrote Dune, one of the greatest SF books of all time, which main theme is environmentalism.
The Hugos have always been a popularity contest, a showcase of SF fandoms’ favourite fiction, and skewing the lists for political point-scoring makes a mockery of them. Whether the Sad Puppies win the day or not, it’s the awards’ legacy that will suffer, along with the future work that would have benefited from their now damaged prestige. That’s what is truly sad.
I left organized fandom years ago for many reasons. Mostly I’m too mundane for fandom and too fannish for the mundanes. I did not find fandom as welcoming as others have, mostly because my tastes don’t particularly match any given group. Nor do I understand cosplay or gaming. This is not to say I disapprove or feel left out. I do not.
The best thing about fandom is “ZOMG, I have to show you this thing!” The worst thing is the gatekeeping which sometimes creeps in when someone doesn’t know episode titles for their favorite television show, or hasn’t haunted the internet reading fanfic about their favorite characters. It got tiresome explaining to someone I barely knew why I was reading something not of the genre, or hadn’t read every single book by the Guest of Honor, who was frequently someone I hadn’t heard of before.
There’s only so much time in my life and only so much energy I have to devote to my many interests. Plus, introvert. If fandom is where your people are, then do it. Hang out with your tribe and be your very own fan. But, please stop gatekeeping, especially of women fans. That’s just rude.
You asked your readers to write a thousand words on why we write. My honest answer is, “I don’t really know.” Truly. Like most writers, I’ve written off and on ever since I could pick up a pencil and make words come out of it.
I couldn’t tell you why I feel compelled to sit down and write every day. What I do know is that since I made the commitment to myself to put my butt in the chair every single day and do something creative, something has shifted. Profoundly.
The only mentors I’ve had are the authors who bare their souls about their process, and what it takes to be a writer. There was no parental encouragement, no teachers taking me under their wings, nothing of that sort. I would write, then I would set it aside. Then I would try again.
Two years ago, I got laid off. My job was eliminated based on a salesperson’s promise to someone who had no idea what I did. At the time, I thought my path was photography, and an advocacy blog for young women in the form of letters to my nieces.
The photography wasn’t selling, and it was hard to find my writing voice in an overcrowded field of advocates. None of the resumes I sent out were getting responses. I was running out of money and had cashed in everything I could.
On top of this, a very dear friend of over 30 years, who was more family to me than anything, was dying from terminal cancer. I had no energy to do anything except recognize I needed to break out of the loop I was in, even while I was perpetuating the loop.
Books have always been my solace. In a tumultuous childhood, reading was the one thing I could do guaranteed not to get me in trouble. A few months ago, a book fell into my life which literally changed my life. A cliche I wish I could avoid. Anne Lamott‘s, bird by bird, contained an essay about “shitty first drafts.”
All my life I’d heard and read the worn out axiom, “A writer writes.” And the advice to just put one word after another, never mind the self-critic. I would nod in agreement and then get caught up with the internal naysayer who told me what I was writing was silly and stupid; that no one would ever want to read it, not even me.
But Anne Lamott said it in a way that got under my skin. “Wait, wait, wait,” I thought. “You mean… you’re seriously telling me to just write for the joy of it? To write because I want to, every day, with no thought as to who might be reading it? That if I don’t like it I can toss it and no one will ever know?” This was like the magic incantation I’d been waiting for.
I can’t tell you why it was this book and this advice which finally took root. Many writing mentors I’d never met had been saying the very same thing everywhere I looked. But somehow, Anne Lamott is the one who got through.
Nothing else was working. I was still unemployed with no assets, surviving only through the good graces of my dead friend’s family. I was supremely miserable and couldn’t see a way out. Photography seemed like a broken relationship I couldn’t restart.
What the hell? I’d commit to butt in chair every day doing something creative. It didn’t matter for how long, or how many words. It just mattered that every damned day, no matter my mood, I would be creative. No word counts. Just me and the computer.
When I didn’t know what to write about, I wrote about the books I read. Then I started writing other things. Little 500 word things, developed because I wanted the discipline of writing something I liked within 500 words.
Around July 4th, I posted a temper tantrum on Facebook. There was an interview that I had absolutely nailed, but someone fumbled the communication between hiring manager, company HR and the temp agency. I lost the job for no other reason than someone misconstrued something I said and would not believe otherwise. When the recruiter told me, “I’m sorry we lost this job for you,” I didn’t know what to do.
A long-time friend in Australia read my tantrum and contacted me via Skype. We had a really long talk in which I cried and told her everything. And then she said the words I’d been waiting for someone to say to me, “I’ll be your mentor.”
She completely understood where I was coming from and that I recognized I needed to take small steps towards my goal of making money being creative. Or rather, the goal of paying the bills with something I loved instead of just another office job. Only I didn’t know what those steps were or how to take them.
“You are a writer,” she said. “You write so well, this is what you should be doing. Seriously. I’ll help.” After two years of praying for a mentor, here she was. Not quite a month later, I’ve established a reasonable publishing schedule and have a calendar reminding me of what’s in progress. I’m happier than I’ve been in some time.
I’m not any less broke or worried about paying rent and bills. But I’m writing every single day, even the ones I don’t feel like writing on. And my mentor is just a Skype away. And it’s led to my first paid writing job, writing blog posts for her because her business is successful enough that she doesn’t have time and can afford to hire someone to do it for her.
Of all the ways to make money, writing wasn’t one I’d considered. I was just writing for me. I was compelled to write, it makes me happy.
Maybe the reason I write is that simple, it makes me happy.
Book Eleven starts with the death of Orpheus at the hands of the “wild Ciconian women.” They tear Orpheus to pieces because after Eurydice’s second death he refused to get involved with women, but rather immature boys (see Book Ten). At last, Orpheus and Eurydice are reunited in the underworld and can walk side by side.
Bacchus punishes the women by turning them into trees. Further, he is so displeased with Thrace that he takes a band of dancers and heads for the kingdom of Midas.
After Midas has performed a good deed for one of Bacchus’ followers, he is offered any gift he wants. Ovid portrays Midas as a slow-witted buffoon, greedy with little thought. He asks for the “golden touch,” so that anything he touches will turn into gold. It’s not too long before the misfortune of this boon is found.
Literally, anything Midas touches turns to gold. His food, his servants, his clothing, his … everything. He begins to starve because he can’t eat gold. So he asks Bacchus to take the “gift” away and return him to normal. But Midas isn’t done being stupid.
When he’s observing a musical contest between Pan and Apollo, he calls the decision of Apollo as the better musician “unfair.” Which, of course, pisses Apollo right off. Midas’ reward for this opinion? Donkey ears. Apollo gives him donkey ears, which Midas tries to hide from everyone.
Right there, that’s the origin story of the phrase “the Midas touch” and the meaning of having donkey ears as stupid. I love learning things like that.
I am mostly going to skip the details of the story about Peleus and Thetis because it’s another story about rape, and it’s becoming easier to get fed up with these stories. However, it’s an important story because it leads to the argument which began the Trojan War.
The story of Peleus and Thetis is also important because it leads into the story of Peleus being exiled for the murder of Phocus, his half-brother. Peleus winds up in the court of Ceyx, in Thessaly.
There’s a story about the giant wolf rampaging on the beach eating and destroying all the livestock. After the wolf has been turned into a marble statue, King Ceyx decides that he must consult the Apollonian oracle at Claros.
This involves a sea voyage, Ceyx’s wife, Alcyone pleads with him to go overland instead.
Just tell me you’re journeying overland, then I’ll only miss you and won’t be also afraid. I’ll fret without being frightened. But no, you are going by sea, and that is the ugly picture which fills me with terror. I recently noticed a wrecked ship’s boards on the shore, and I’ve often read names of graves containing no bodies. (lines 424 = 429)
And then the mother of all storms hits. This being an epic poem featuring Roman mythology, I should rephrase that. A great big storm happens, caused by nature, not by gods (surprise!). Everyone on board is killed, the ship itself is destroyed. Ceyx dies wishing he could see his wife Alcyone again.
Meanwhile, Alcyone is at home weaving new clothes for them to wear once Ceyx returns. She has no idea that disaster has struck. She goes to Juno’s temple frequently to pray for her husband’s safe return.
The catch with Juno is that praying for dead people is considered unclean, and she no longer wants her temple polluted by Alcyone’s prayers. Juno’s solution is to send a messenger to Sleep telling him to send a dream lifelike enough for Alcyone to know that her beloved husband is dead.
Iris arrives at the palace of Somnus, and delivers her message. Sleep rouses himself long enough to choose Morpheus:
… the master mimic, the quickest of all to capture a person’s walk, his facial expressions and tone of voice; he’ll also adopt the original’s clothing and typical language. (lines 634 – 637)
Morpheus enters Alcyone’s dreams and convinces her of the truth her husband is dead. In deep grief, she returns to the spot where they said their last goodbye. Off in the distance is something which looks like a body.
As it gets closer, she recognizes it as Ceyx and jumps onto a groyne (new word!) to get a better look. She is turned into a bird, and flies to Cyex’s body to try to kiss him. He too is turned into a bird and they fly off together.
This story, while sad, is refreshing in its portrayal of love and devotion. It happens sometimes in Ovid.