Love and the Journey

One of my favorite lines in “Metamorphoses” is from the story of Alcyone and Ceyx, who are torn apart when Ceyx goes on a journey.

Just before he leaves, we hear this about their relationship:  “These two adored each other, and lived in a monotony of happiness.  But nothing in this world is safe.”

I have been meditating on this line since rehearsals began, asking myself why Ceyx must leave Alcyone.  He’s happy.  His wife is happy.  Their happiness is so complete, it’s monotonous.  So . . . is he bored?  Has he lost the capacity to appreciate what he has?  Or is a happy home not enough?  Is his journey necessary?

In the original story he has an urgent reason for his trip, but in Mary Zimmerman’s script he explains nothing; he simply says he can’t be domesticated.  And he promises to come back “in two months’ time.”  For reasons beyond his control, he doesn’t.

Travis Smith and Park Krausen as Ceyx and Alcyone

Travis Smith and Park Krausen as Ceyx and Alcyone

Heroes have been going on journeys since the dawn of literature, and I don’t doubt Ceyx’s need to roam.  There would be no story without it.  I recognize in myself the urge to wander, to leave familiar ground and seek adventure in a new place or a new challenge.  Ceyx looks to the other side of the wine-dark sea; I look to new projects.  I don’t tolerate boredom well.  I have been known to undertake massive schemes (like, oh, I don’t know, starting a theater company) just to keep life interesting. 

But I also see myself in Alcyone, the loving wife who begs him not to go, the person who values domesticity and fears any venture that might separate her from the one she loves. I am tightly bound to hearth and home.  I have turned down good jobs that would have taken me away for too long, and simply not pursued many others.

This struggle, or tension, or balancing act between love and journey is the story of my life.  Participating fully in art and in lasting relationships is a challenge.  I consider it my life’s work.  It may be the most creative thing I do; it’s certainly the most essential.  I can’t be myself without both art and family.

The story of Alcyone and Ceyx is a sad one. But it ends sweetly, with the two of them transformed, after much pain and loss, into sea birds – utterly free, yet still devoted to one another.  They “mate and rear their young” and live in “a nest that floats upon the sea.”  No longer bound to the land, they find home in the midst of journey, far from familiar shores.

I’m still pondering that ending. I don’t think it means my husband and I should sell our house and live on a sailboat (cool idea, though). 

I think it says something about who we humans are, alone and in relationship: sometimes on a journey, sometimes lost at sea, sometimes safe at home. 

Sometimes, mysteriously, all of the above.

 

2 thoughts on “Love and the Journey

  1. Your writing is lovely. I think the story appeals universally, as we have all been Ceyx, or Alcyone, or both of them at different times. It tempts the Muse. Please indulge this scribble, if you will.
    =
    To feel alone in midst of revel crowd,
    Or set with voices when he was alone,
    Or paired with one he could not meet, but knew
    He knew from long ago, a name
    In literature, a face in art,
    A Truth, if truth be found, could he but delve
    His part to play in plays that no one wrote
    Nor no one saw, to please himself, they say,
    Or none of these, for pleasure for itself
    blows rainless breeze on shriveled leaves.
    From this confusion Ceyx would depart,
    From settled happiness for fear of what
    He did not know, but only go he must.
    That much was clear. The rest was Alcyone’s
    Alone to share. She paid his ticket off.
    And as he would not stay at home, she bore
    Home unto him, and pleasure, no, contentment
    Found them both where neither thought to find.
    Home never was whence either came afrom
    But always whither both together go.

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