The Old Gods
By Maggie D. Fedorov
Art by Dylan Fowler
Published Issue 100, April 2022
“LOOK MAMA, THERE IT IS; SHE’S WAKING UP!” she cries, infused with as much wonder as I’ve ever seen in a child of four.
A smile unfurls as I laugh lightheartedly at the little flutter in my chest from having been jarred awake by such a bold pronouncement as we sit in the dark, damp air waiting for just this moment. The first rays of morning sunlight only just began to peek over the horizon and through the trees, and with that same wonder reflected in her face, Inna looks into my eyes and asks delicately:
“Is it time now, Mama? Will you tell me now?”
She snuggles tighter into the folds of my coat but her eyes do not leave mine, as if the entire world hinges on my response. Beady eyes dart left and right as I bask in the beauty of this fleeting, intimate moment between us, committing it to memory.
“You’ll never be this small again,” the thought echoing loudly both in my head and in my heart.
A few quiet moments pass. Exhale deeply, and:
“OKAY. Let’s meet Mother Sun.”
As my words hit her ears, Inna melts deeper into my pelts; a storytime habit I’ll never tire of.
“OH, is she ready now, Miss?” eyebrows high, questioning.
Her resulting scowl tells me I better make haste in delivering what was promised. I can’t help but to let out a half-laugh.
I pull in closer myself, glad to be so well insulated from the early morning chill.
“Today begins … Today begins as every day begins; Mother Sun rising to greet us, her many children of Father Earth. But, child-mine, to move forward we must first look behind us. All of nature is concentric circles. (‘Concentric is just when all the circles share their centers,’ I explain; and her brow unfurrows.) Life imitates nature, and so life is concentric circles.
We see this in the seasons; the same four repeat in the same order, year after year. Concentric circles. We see this in our stars. The same meteors and planets pass us by and wave their bright colors and decorations in increments of time we can predict and observe. Concentric circles. We see this in the salmon runs. Fish born here leave. Live years away, and return here to spawn and be reborn as a new generation. Concentric circles. Mother Sun also lives and breathes in concentric circles, just like us. But unlike us, Mother Sun’s days do not end. Mother Sun is all days. This is a big responsibility for Mother Sun, Inna, don’t you agree?”
She looks up at me, wrapping her inquisitive mind around my words like a blanket; absorbing them, forming ideas all her own within the walls of her mind. Never have I beheld anything quite so beautiful as the unhinged imagination of a child.
“Well I don’t think so! Mother Sun goes to bed before I do, and you and Papa make me help with everything even when it’s after supper. I think I work more than Mother Sun, and I’m only FOUR!”
She holds four fingers very close to my face to help illustrate her point; something I can’t help but loose a smile over.
“Such a hard life, child-mine.”
I hold her even tighter still and we sway gently together watching the sun peek over the horizon and through the thicket of trees between us with brilliant ribbons of orange and red to announce the arrival of another new day.
“Consider the vastness of these woods, Inna. What lies beyond? The tundra, yes? And beyond the tundra lies so much more. There are great bodies of water where masters of ships will take you to places and things you have only yet dreamed. But it exists out there. All of it. And Mother Sun is Bringer-of-Days to all of it.
In winter our days are brief. It is cold, and Mother Sun must pass through quickly or lose her heat to the ice. So she makes haste, and leaves us quickly to spend her time with Summer at the far end of Father Earth. This is why we have night, you see. Mother Sun cannot be in two places at once, and so she shares her time with all her children; coming and going, each day.
When Winter fades to Spring, and Spring to Summer, Mother Sun returns for longer days. These long days with Mother Sun nourish us. Her rays feed our gardens, which in turn feed us through the year. See, Inna; without Mother Sun we would not be. Mother Sun blesses us each day she continues to greet us. She does not sleep as we do; and teaches us of the strength, sacrifice and perseverance of mothers the world over. Mother Sun watches and guides us. She does not fail us.
One day, Inna, Father Earth will require of you to be strong like Mother Sun. You will be challenged, and you will wish to give up. You will say: ‘I am not Mother Sun. I do not wish to continue,’ but you can and you will. You will go on like Mother Sun, in concentric circles of quiet strength and repetition. And eventually the ice will melt, Summer will return, and you will feel for the first time the divine strength of Mother Sun burning within you. You will know passion and true power and nothing will be able to cut you down forevermore.
Never forget, child-mine. That is the true nature of Mother Sun.”
Born and raised in the Greater Seattle Area, Maggie D. Fedorov began to develop her inquisitive nature and lust for exploration when she was very small. Maggie considers herself a lifelong learner, and as such she spends much of her free time reading, researching, honing her skills in the arts and other hobbies, and naturally, planning her next adventures!
Maggie’s writing stems from a desire to delve into and capture what it means to be human at its very core; this tug-of-war that we play with the elements which mold our lives as we fight and embrace them, and using our observations to develop more vital roots anchoring us to the elements we all battle and nurture in our own lives. It was out of a compulsive need to share this form of expression and exploration that Maggie Fedorov, the writer, was born.
Maggie shares her travels and her life with her husband, Sam. The two are often found indulging in desserts, collectively dreaming about their future fur babies, and attempting to achieve Nirvana through the flawless integration of bad puns and dad jokes in normal conversation. See more on her Instagram.
Dylan Fowler is a Denver-based designer and illustrator at Consume & Create. He really enjoys every aspect of visual storytelling, and when he’s not drawing on the computer, you can find him making screen prints in my garage. See more of his work on his site and on Instagram.
Check out Maggie’s last published Birdy piece, Disassociation, and Dylan’s A Lake So Still, the companion art to Joel Tagert’s fiction story, or head to our Explore section to see more work by these talented artists.