Mark Woollacott Author and Artist

This Twilight Garden

A novel written by Mark Woollacott

This Twilight Garden

Sample extract

It was on this particular day, as the sun was beginning to set and I was seated on a wooden bench in the garden with my back to the cottage, that Juliana left me for a moment and entered the cottage in order to see to something. The garden had become quite still and peaceful and this quietness had seemed to affect Juliana to a certain extent, for when she had left my side I caught a strange look in her eyes, a look which almost conveyed a degree of sadness.

My thoughts began to wander for a while and eventually I rose to my feet and walked over to some trees and rose bushes and spent a moment appreciating their loveliness as the sun continued to play its part in illuminating the glade around me with its enchanting light. As the moments passed, this light became more saturated and vivid. The glass panes of the cottage windows gleamed as they reflected the sunlight as it turned gradually from gold to a soft pink-orange hue. I realized how lucky I had been in experiencing so many years of perfect happiness, beauty and love. I was humbled by this realization and felt very privileged as a result of it.

It was whilst I was standing among the trees and bushes, gently breathing in the heavenly, fragrant air and spiritual energy of the garden, that I felt a blissful sense of tranquility suddenly envelop me and heard a woman’s voice gently speak to me.

“Are you ready to resume the journey?” it asked in a familiar tone.

I turned around and to my great joy I recognized the Lady from India, standing among the sweet-scented roses that had bloomed so fully and so perfectly for all the years that I had been at the cottage. Her aura glowed softly and beautifully around her. She looked identical in appearance to the time I had seen her last: her face had not aged a day, her hair was long and dark, as I remembered, and she was still wearing the beautiful sleeveless blue and yellow dress, adorned with its orchid. Everything about her appeared immaculate, pure and lovely.

“Dearest lady, I am sorry to say that I had almost forgotten about you,” I confessed shamefully. “Why, for so long an age it seems, I have been immersed in such bliss that only love itself, in the form of my beautiful Juliana, has occupied my thoughts in all that time.”

The Lady from India smiled a sympathetic smile.

“You do not need to feel any sense of shame at this,” she said with kindness. “Your love has been a wonderful boon to you on your journey. But you are still only at its beginning.”

As I looked at the lady, I sensed it was time for me to leave the glade and suddenly I became very sad. It was as if the Lady from India was conveying this message to me by means of telepathy. The Lady from India knew how painful this would prove for me and upon her face I saw only the clearest compassion.

“I have to leave, don’t I?”

“Yes,” she answered softly. “It is time to leave your garden.”

“But I am old,” I said with a heart that now felt the unsettling tremors of anticipation towards the prospect of loss and separation. “Must I leave Juliana?” I asked. “Can’t I remain in happiness, here, where my heart rejoices daily in every moment that I spend in her company?”

The Lady from India smiled gently.

“She is already waiting for you,” said the lady, gesturing towards the cottage. “She has sensed that I am here and knows that I have come for you.”

I went alone to the cottage and found Juliana inside, standing quietly beside the table, gazing at all that lay upon it.

“The table is full, my love,” she said with a sweet smile, that was tinged with sadness. “You have remembered all that there is of me from the past. All that remains now is the present and our future.”

I looked at Juliana and wondered how I would ever manage to endure existing without her; for her soul contained the rarest beauty and graciousness, the connection between us was strong, and I was so used to being in her presence.

“The bond is too deep,” I told her, as my heart suddenly filled with emotion: “I’m not going to be able to do it. I don’t believe I have the strength within me to withstand another parting from you.”

Juliana smiled and gently placed her hand on my face and softly stroked my cheek.

“When your vision ends and you return your awareness to earth proper and write of what you have seen, felt and heard, it will not be long before we will be together again.”

“But you are here; you are living in another dimension!” I said despairing.

“But so is a part of you, my love ... at the moment,” said Juliana.

“Do you mean, you are also on earth? ... you are alive ... living ... right now?” I asked, taking hold of her hands as hope lifted me from my despair. “Where are you? I will find you!”

“We will meet when all the conditions are right for us to meet,” she told me calmly. “I cannot tell you any more than that. If I did, you would try and trace my whereabouts and arrive too soon in my life.”

I was overcome with relief. So glad was I at hearing this news that I embraced her and held her for a very long time, treasuring every moment, every passing second.

“Did you really conceive in that mind of yours that I would not be with you during your final life on earth?” she asked.

“It is a relief to hear it,” I replied. “I think I would despair at the prospect of enduring it without you. But how is it possible to be in two dimensions at the same time?”

“A higher, spiritual part of ourselves is able to exist in more than one dimension at any one time,” she explained. “Most of the time I am close to my physical incarnation, on Earth, as you are. But I knew I would be needed here, in this place, at this moment, in order to see you, to enlighten you, and to share my time with you again. But once you have gone from the garden, I will soon leave this place again. We have had a good while together, here, in this place,” she said. “But, we must part.”

I looked at her for a good while, and took in her beauty as if I were looking at her for the very last time and wanted to treasure everything about her sweet face and to store it in permanence in my memory. A tear trickled down her face and I touched it with my finger and kissed her one final time. I was overcome with sadness, despite her words, and felt a sense of anguish in my heart at parting from her.

And then the moment arrived and we both knew that I had to turn around and face the open doorway. I had to walk through it and leave behind my love, my dearest Juliana. I turned from her, knowing that the next time I would see her would almost certainly be on Earth sometime in the future. The sunlight shone through the doorway and flooded the floor with its warm light. I looked at it for a moment and wondered how I would make that first reluctant, but necessary step.

“Goodbye, my love,” I said quietly, keeping my gaze on the open doorway.

“I will see you again soon,” she replied softly, behind me.

I was filled with emotion. At each step, I ached and yearned to turn around and return to Juliana’s embrace. But I stepped slowly into the garden and made my way towards the Lady from India, who was standing at the perimeter of the garden, beside the rose bushes. When I reached her side, I turned and glanced in the direction of the cottage. The reflected sunlight on the window panes turned from orange to ruby red and glinted like jewels. Red is the colour of love, I thought, and such a love I have experienced – truly I have – bright and vivid, passionate and beautiful. Juliana was somewhere inside there, standing in loveliness. The bond that lay between us – those beautiful spiritual cords that joined lovers through time – pulled at me, heartbreakingly so, as if they wanted to draw me back to the immediate proximity of her body.

“The attachment is exceptionally strong between you both,” remarked the Lady from India as she observed me with her heightened sense of spiritual perception. ‘You have a very special bond, a very deep bond, and therefore you must find great strength within in order to turn your gaze away and strive to think of the greater wonders that will lie before you in this vision.”

And so it was that I walked away from the glade and from the most beautiful being that God had ever created, and I wept. The Lady from India placed her hand on my back and with sympathy softening her voice even further she gently encouraged me onward as she walked beside me, step by step.

For a long time I was suffused with sadness, and as we left the wood and walked for some miles across a wide area of low-lying land filled with waist-high grasses, I gradually raised my eyes from the ground and took a greater interest in my surroundings. The ruby red light of the sinking sun tinted the world around us with a wondrous beauty. The long grasses around us moved as the gentle currents of the air breathed lightly upon them. A great flock of starlings flew overhead and performed captivating displays in the roseate-tinged sky. The scenery appeared dreamlike in its beauty, and for a moment I found myself halting and gazing in awe at its loveliness. I looked at the Lady from India, who looked beautiful in the evening light, and saw her smiling with pleasure as she too delighted in observing the displays of the birds. As I studied her face, I asked her why it was that she had not aged.

“Time has not really passed,” she replied. “It was only a short while ago that I watched you follow the blue butterfly and saw you enter the glade.”

“But that cannot be! I counted the seasons – the years were many!” I told her. “I grew old by fifty years! I feel old!”

“It may have seemed like fifty years, but time in this place is flexible and fluid,” she told me. “You shall discover this in a short while.”

We resumed our journey through the long grasses, taking our time as we did so, and passed many miles this way: quietly walking, side-by-side, feeling the soft grasses as I ran my hands over them and observed the sights and sounds that were indigenous to this wonderful place. The open countryside stretched for many miles. The sky seemed vast above us: a great, pure expanse of clear air, completely empty of clouds from horizon to horizon. My mood was relaxed, and the environment soothed me.

Gradually, the world turned silver and violet. Twilight encroached: hushing everything in the countryside with its softness and enchantment. Eventually, the long grasses gave way to beds of tall reeds, which marked the shallows and the boundary to an immense lake ....

Written by Mark Woollacott
February 2013.
Copyright © 2013 Mark Woollacott. All rights reserved.

I originally came up with the idea for This Twilight Garden on 9th February 2013, which was also the date I began writing the first chapter. The brief I gave myself was to write something that conveyed beauty. I didn’t want to write a conventional drama (i.e. protagonist versus antagonist etc.) and wanted to purposely stay away from that type of story structure. As a consequence, there are no gripping plots and sub-plots or extraordinary twists and turns to be found in this particular story. Instead, it is a visionary tale, rich with beauty, written for readers who wish to be immersed in the mythological and the spiritual. Needless to say, archetypal references abound in this book, and there is a deliberate hint of old world mystery and the mythical in this story – a homage to Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Dante’s Vita Nuova and The Divine Comedy. There are many themes running through this story, such as love, beauty, happiness, peace and compassion, but the overriding theme that runs through the main character’s journey is the theme of identity through spiritual understanding.

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