Locus Amoenus

By Isabel Mitchelson

I was swimming in tepid light, cast down by that white sphere which moved parallel with me. It drew exquisite tapestries onto dusty walls, that moved past me like a shadow show, and the sunshine danced as the light does on the bottom of a pool in summer. The ripples of shadow wobbling and trembling in a distorted pattern of movement. I felt submerged in blue and green water. My head dips and sinks as I hold my breath, then all at once, as if being held captive for a second longer was too much, the bubbles burst from my mouth. They cascade upwards towards the opal sun until they reach the surface where they departed from my world with such ease I was green with jealousy as the water was around me.  

 

The feeling is something I can’t quite pin down. An old song, forgotten for years, flooding your ears with sounds of a past that is intangible. An immersed state-of-mind, engulfed in a sea of bygone time. I have never felt that as much as I have being back here. The absence of this house is felt all over. It is felt all through me, over me and under me. It is felt as I step through the door. It is felt on the cold flagstones under my feet and in the scent of old furniture. It was felt when I clasped my hand on the cool brass handle. The moulded sphere, altered by the many hands that had held it, but now, mine conformed to its dented surface. Years of twists, decades of turns had worn it to a point that it wobbled on its insecure hinges, yet it felt complete in the dip of my palm. The last untouched room, everything pink and golden and glowing in its last leg of pride. Its beauty had been withheld from the grasping hand of decay, spared until it would be silently consumed by time. Everything had been altered, yet somehow remained unchanged, touched only by the replica of light that once shone out for youth. Now it is merely a projection of the same sun that watched and waited. The same sun that melted the snow on the lawns down to wet grass in that Arcadian paradise.

On the side, sat a small bottle of perfume. I stroked it on my wrists, its musky amber scent sending me into a pool of nostalgia for an epoch of time I had never experienced. My new-found treasure of a lost era. It was sunshine, bottled in glass. But on the far side of the room, the milky-hazed window cried icy droplets, falling slowly like rosy pearls down the panes, and as they did I shared their tears. It was the realisation that trapped time was just a mere hologram of what once was, or an illusion that distracted from the real passing of time. It had slipped between the gaps in my cradled hands like sand in an hourglass, silently and without my knowing, leaving me stranded in a foreign land. Time had been trapped in this room. Time was trapped in the dusty velvet armchair and in the yellowed drapes, that caressed the walls. It was trapped inside by the cold panes of glass that were a window between this domain and reality. 

 

A going-in or going-out, does it matter? Everything moves in one way or another and repeats relentlessly, in that time between the tides. An ephemeral window of Eden, slowly dying, drawing back or drawing in. Cyclical like the tick, tick, tick of the grandfather clock as its infinite chimes ring out for life, singing through the hollowed halls and then die. They struck their ominous call twelve times through and twelve times over. Then the sky blushed and began to slip away, in its shyness and in its beauty, to sleep until summoned again. 

I was swimming in tepid light. Half-hearted warmth with the crisp night air creeping up on me. It chilled my skin like running your hand over cold metal. But whilst that transient glow of the sun lasted, and the sweet memories flushed through me, it was warm and it was nice. To dabble and wallow in it. To sink and swim and immerse myself in it. To soak up every last drop of it. I longed for it to last. Slowly the night crawls, to a boundary that is ever-moving. Sluggish, like a presence hidden in a cupboard it moves over me in a constant sweep, motionless but moving, soundless but wailing. Everywhere is still and empty, waiting for the blessed head to rise above the now fading sea of dreams. The transient vortex, now filled with sweet golden light breaks the blind ambit and the last glimpse of paradise I once knew began to fade. It had held me in my youth so gently and for so long in the face of time’s certainty.

helicon.magazine@gmail.com

© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol