Does one pursue an obscure but soul-feeding job? Does one hang glide and suddenly realize how insignificant one’s problems are when compared to the great vastness of sky? Does one stand up to Fear in all His wiles and ask for the hand of one’s beloved?
Or does one simply take one’s steel nibbed quill and make a delicate, loopy design around the y at the end of the word “happy”?
When those autodidacts who study the moves of the Olympians think of Eurydice, they rarely imagine her flourishing. She did not live long enough to give much thought to it. For those mortals unfamiliar with the fair maiden’s tale, Eurydice was a nymph who loved well and wed Orpheus. The son of the muse Calliope, Orpheus’s music could tame the fiercest of beasts. Shortly after their marriage, the lecherous Aristeaus pursued the bride, and in her flight, Eurydice stepped upon a snake. Immediately, she died of its bite.
Orpheus was so wretched at Eurydice’s death, he resolved to descend into the Underworld to recover her. By playing his lyre, he calmed the three-headed guard dog Cerberus and convinced Charon to row him, still living, across the River Styx to the Land of the Dead. Orpheus even softened the hearts of the God Hades and his wife Persephone, who bade him take Eurydice, appearing now before him as a whispery spirit, back to the Land of the Living. But, Hades warned, Orpheus was not to look upon his wife until they had both emerged from the Underworld.
As the couple walked toward the sunlight, Orpheus grew worried, as he could not hear Eurydice’s steps behind him. Fearing he had been tricked by the Lord of the Dead, the bard turned, only to see his beloved Eurydice whisked back into the shadowy Underworld forever.
Illustration by Emily Balivet (2012)
Tales differ as to what became of Orpheus after his loss. Some say he was killed by the frenzied Maenads, followers of the wine God, Dionysus. Others say he took his own life so as to reunite with his love. But while I may pity Orpheus, he is not the main focus of my interest. What of his wife? How might Eurydice have lived, had she never encountered Aristeaus? What did she see in her time in the Underworld? What wisdom did she hold in her brief years on Earth?
Most importantly, how might she have flourished, had Orpheus brought her back?
For all intents and purposes, I am Eurydice. I have seen day and night. Loved and been loved. Wondered who I am. Stepped on snakes. Fallen. And been rescued. I have seen my own Underworld, as we all have, and have spent many an hour wondering what might have been had I not seen it.
The one thing I struggle with is flourishing.
Yes, it is a double entendre. A flourish is in fact an elongated pen line, often looping around the word written, dotting i’s and crossing t’s as it twists around itself. I started practicing calligraphy about a year and a half ago, roughly six years after first hearing of Eurydice’s tale. So then this site is my attempt at both kinds of flourishing. As a writer, I firmly believe both require a pen in hand, and I will do my utmost to allow Eurydice to flourish.