‘There’s a certain Slant of light
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes.’
Wrote Emily Dickinson in 1861.
Beautiful poem. You can feel the interior dread.
Dread is what poor little Isis seems to experience when outside. Is it the autumn/winter light, from the sun low in the sky, which makes her so afraid?
Or is it just that she has become confident enough to say, “No”?
Or perhaps everything was so different, so strange to her when she arrived in England that she was unable to discriminate between what was strange and what threatening.
Her behaviour certainly indicates that her notions of ‘safe’ and ‘dangerous’ have shifted since she came. For a while, she refused to come into the house and when brought in stared upwards with a terrified expression as though she expected the walls and ceiling to fall in on her. Now, although she is disorientated for a minute or so when lights are switched on, she adjusts quickly. As I write there are two overhead lights on in the room and she is peacefully sleeping. Now she seems perfectly at ease inside.
It is when she is outside that she stares upwards with a terrified expression as though she expects the trees, bushes and sky to attack her. And this is as likely to occur in the back garden as it is in the park or on a road walk.
When she cowered in the park in the summer I concluded that it was the shadows thrown up by the bright sunlight which frightened her so much. She seemed more confident on duller days.
Now I am not so sure. Her responses to the big outside – back garden or further afield – no longer seem weather dependent. I feel that there is something much more subtle going on.