by Carolyn Lee Boyd
For one glorious week each year, the rose and white-showered magnolia trees lining Main Street transformed the potholed, two-lane road into a processional as elegant in its own simple way as any gracing a medieval European or an ancient city. The town did festoon the street with flags and balloons for parades with the Mayor and town council, high school band, and Boy and Girl Scouts on special occasions. “But, it goes nowhere,” Mary reflected as she drove home on a Friday evening during that magnificent week one year, and, indeed, it ended in an empty concrete courtyard of buildings long since abandoned.
As the sun warmed her arm through the car window for the first time that spring, an unexpected memory came to her of summer Saturdays when she and her mother would gather in her grandmother’s kitchen to make jellies and jams from the fruits of her grandmother’s farm. The thought “I’m almost the age my mother was then. She had my grandmother and me. How did I get to be so old and end up so alone?” came into Mary’s mind unbidden.
Tucked into a strip mall at the corner where Mary waited for a green light was Demeter’s Supermarket, a small grocery that had been established by Greek immigrants decades ago when the neighborhood was mostly families who had immigrated from there. Their children had moved out a generation ago, but a few of the original businesses still served the surviving elders. Read More...
by Carolyn Lee Boyd
In the garden of She Who Creates, tucked into a very remote corner, grows a small, water-blue planet whose inhabitants call it “Earth.” The soil is rich but most of what grows there appears on the surface to be only straggly stems fighting each other for a place near the dim light. But yet, somehow the most spectacular blooms emerge from the planet by the billions every day.
She Who Creates has planted Earth’s patch of the garden so that the breeze will catch its blossoms and carry them to the farthest reaches of all that is. “Like seeds on the wind,” she whispers as a cloud of them rises from the Earth to make their way across the cosmos.
Everyone elsewhere in the universe waits anxiously for Earth’s exquisite blossoms to drift for eons to come to their planet. When each one lands, it is enshrined and lovingly cared for, each drop of sap savored, every molecule doled out so that it will do the most good. Read More...
A Short Story by Carolyn Lee Boyd
While Penelope was being born in a small fishing village in the far north, a storm ascended from the surface of the ocean herself. Howling, raging, cursing, the relentless waves scattered the frail fishing boats that had sailed out on what had that morning been a fine summer day. From that day forward, water turned her wrath on Penelope's life. The roof over her bed always seemed to leak constant drips onto her face, whether she was at home or visiting, until water became to her a terrifying living being full of unknowable motives. More than once she tumbled out of the family fishing boat and had to be rescued, though this impelled her to learn to be a strong swimmer. Finally, as a young woman she won a scholarship to a university in the south but a month before she was to leave, a hurricane ravaged the campus and it closed indefinitely. "The ocean claimed you as a baby," her great-aunt told her, "and she will never let you go."
by Helen Carmichael
The first time our fingers touched it was like butterflies – profound. I was busy crawling towards something, a new job…or something irretrievably forgotten on the shopping list in my jacket pocket in the lockers that sweat behind the fake palm trees near the lifeguard.
And she came through. Feet churning, hips like a belly dancer, face alabaster, a trail of flames for hair and bubbles streaming from her mouth – five beautiful elements in the fast lane. I was disconcerted, floundering slightly and swallowed a little chlorinated water, enhanced with the sweat of my community and the faint odour of cheap perfume perpetrated by a plump lady keeping her chin well above water to safeguard her permanent wave. I’m always impressed by anyone who puts on mascara before entering the water.
By Carolyn Lee Boyd
In Joan’s time, tranquility, prosperity and contentment were as newly abundant as the ocean while kindness and compassion were as commonplace as air. Still, Joan dreamt over and over of a tormented woman staring through hazy torchlight into the sanctuary of a cave held deep inside a mountain. Painted horses raced around the walls, unchained from the stone, while Paleolithic dancers circled round and round an altar in the center, their heels pounding grooves into the stone floor.
The woman stood apart from them and wept, her hands covering her face, holding herself back from running into the realm of the ecstatic celebrants. Finally, the woman faded into nonexistence, the horses leapt back onto the wall, and the people’s dance unwound until they, too, dissipated. As the last dancer dissolved into invisibility, she revealed someone else in the cave, a woman shaman who was just finishing a painting of a female figure whose radiant eyes knew the beginning of human time. When the cave was empty, Joan awoke.
Joan knew from the standing woman’s clothing that she was from the dreaded, revered, almost mythical 21st century and she shared her consciousness, as one sometimes does in a dream. When the woman’s adrenaline spiked in Joan’s veins, Joan understood that the woman’s distress was not simply a momentary anomaly, as it most often was in her own time, but rather was a constant layered state of being suffered by everyone all the time in that era of the past. Violence, repression, environmental disaster, disease, and hunger were always only a few steps away in the woman’s everyday life, so present that she was usually not aware of her constant anxiety. The woman did not yet know that her generations’ vision and courage had won the people of Joan’s century a lifetime of waking up each morning knowing that today everyone would be safe, fed, sheltered, and free. Read More...
by Carolyn Lee Boyd
If you stand on the shore long enough, the ocean’s waves and the pulse of the blood in your veins will synchronize. Go to the water’s edge. Wait and be mesmerized by the ancient unstoppable rhythm until you no longer hear the waves as separate from yourself. That moment is the beginning of the story I have to tell, and that of all of us.
Forty years ago, my mother came to this New England beach where I now stand because she had begun hungering beyond all reason for seafood. For weeks she had consumed pound after pound of fish, mussels, clams, shrimp and seaweed. She had sought the ocean’s edge hoping for salvation from her compulsion, but instead she found that she wanted nothing more than to annihilate herself under the waves. Distracted by the sound of an ambulance siren just as she was about to take the first step towards the deep, she ran a half mile back to her family’s vacation cottage, locked the door behind her, and vowed never to go alone to the shore again.
She and her father had finally decided to sell the cottage, and my mother was clearing away generations of summer vacation debris to get it ready to show to buyers. They had stopped coming there years ago when she was ten and hankered for more glamorous vacations. The two of them were the only family each had since her mother had died giving birth to her before having other children, so the cottage was abandoned when it no longer interested her. Read More...
Story by Carolyn Lee Boyd
Illustrations by Nanri Tenney
A tiny ray of sunlight caressed the arm of the Goddess of Compassion as she lingered for just one more moment by the open window of her cottage. Though a deity universal and known by many names among Earth's religions, she chose to dwell among the humans she served in humble places closest to those most in need of her. She had only a few seconds to savor the solitude of her tiny one-room dwelling that was not quite in, not quite beyond the forest, wonder at the meaning of the sparrow's constant conversation with its companions, and lose herself in the pungent blooms from her herb garden before a human cry of despair filled the space between the walls and she once again rushed away to where she was needed. Early in human history, the number of humans was small and her life was leisurely, but now the voices crying for help were so legion that she could rarely tell one from the other anymore, though each was still uniquely beloved. She was drowned constantly by the never-ending wail of despair. Read More...
A novel by Clarise Samuels
Chapter 13: An Army of Angels
The brutality of humans after having descended to the lowest depths of their animal souls far surpassed anything Odin could have foretold. The coarse and indecent aspect of human nature was a flaw in the works, an oversight, a divine miscalculation. Wild animals roared, pounced, and tore living creatures apart limb by limb in order to feast on raw meat and drip with fresh blood without remorse, without reflection, and without contrition.
Odin, who created the animal soul and embedded aspects of the beastly soul in the human body alongside the divine soul, wanted the complex creatures called humans to know the exultation of the triumphant beast. The All-Father freely gave mortals such animal instincts and a taste for the thrill of vanquishing one’s foes, but he did not balance the formula as well as he thought he had. All too often, the instinctive animal side of the human being prevailed, and the otherwise divine creatures became no better than the lions, cougars, and panthers of the jungle who fought to the death while ripping all adversaries to bloody pieces. Nonetheless, Odin did not make mistakes; he merely could not have predicted the bloody gore resulting from what he delicately termed a minor misstep.
Atli of Hunaland was a supreme example of Odin’s impetuousness—this small indiscretion—which had occurred in the All-Father’s haste and enthusiasm to complete the work at hand, when he gave humans every gift he could possibly endow. Atli’s heart was almost completely dead. The legend holding the wise and sagacious King Budli to be Atli’s father was difficult for my Icelandic kinsmen to accept. Paradoxically enough, when Atli was not leading savage invasions all over the continent, when he was at home, secure and in power in his own land, especially later in his life, he ruled in the fashion of my father, with discipline and order. But when the war beat started throbbing in his blood, Atli was uncontainable. The merciless chief organized barbaric onslaughts; he plundered entire cities, allowing his soldiers to run wild in the midst of the chaos and the destruction they had created. As king of the Huns, he was feared throughout the civilized world for his butchery and his ravenous greed for more power and more land. Atli was, for the most part, characterized by his pitiless cruelty, which bordered on insanity. Even the wisdom and talents my half brother might have inherited from the benign genetic material of King Budli could not do much to temper such primitive instincts. Read More...
A novel by Clarise Samuels
Chapter 11: The Helmet of Dread
But my reprieve was only temporary. Gunnar did not sleep at all after having left my chambers, for he was, how shall I say—fit to be tied. My peeved husband burst into Sigurd’s room and shook his brother-in-law awake. Sigurd had spent a miserable night tossing and turning with the agony of having witnessed my marriage, and he had finally fallen asleep with his head buried under the pillows. The son of Sigmund felt no desire to get out of bed the next morning.
Upon awakening at the hint of dawn, Sigurd remembered the events of the day before—most sadly, the royal wedding where I was given away to Gunnar—and he groaned, immediately burying his face in his pillows once again. But this second awakening an hour later was much ruder, with Gunnar shaking his brother-in-law and imploring him to get up at once. At first Sigurd thought he was dreaming that Gunnar was shaking him, and he hoped he could change the venue of his dream. But after a few moments, the half-conscious knight realized Gunnar was indeed at his bedside, and Sigurd opened his eyes to the drab, gray duskiness of the early morning. “Good gods, Gunnar!” Sigurd exclaimed as he sat up in bed rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “Is there a fire?”
A novel by Clarise Samuels
Chapter 9: Gunnar’s Plan
The events occurring after Sigurd bid farewell that day have, unfortunately, become part of the legend for which I have been known throughout the ages. It is painful to recount this part of the story, for it is filled with conflict, woe, and misunderstandings. After taking leave of me, my sweetheart rejoined his crew and his stately ship, which had been docked for several days on the coast. From there Sigurd and his men set sail for Nibelungenland, the mythical realm located across the sea in Norway. Sigurd intended to remain true to the pledge of love and allegiance he had made to me at Isenstein, and I was uppermost in his thoughts throughout the voyage.
The distance of approximately six hundred nautical miles from Iceland to Norway took about five days in a ship relying mostly on sail power, but with good weather and favorable winds, the vessel could complete the journey in two or three days. Sigurd’s boat, a warship built for speed, was constructed of plain oak; the vessel displayed large square sails, but it also had auxiliary oar power operated through circular oar ports. There was a crew of thirty men. On the exterior, the sides of the ship were decorated with the circular shields used by the Norse warriors, painted in yellow and black. Regin’s nautical brilliance had allowed for the design of a ship well ahead of its time—Sigurd’s vessel included living quarters below deck and the construction of a special compartment for the transport of livestock, especially horses, which Sigurd used for his divine horse, Grani.