I chanced upon a broadcast interview a fortnight ago and made a discovery which I would like to share with anyone with whom it may chime. As I say in my ‘About’ section, my blog is concerned among other things with ‘memory: looking back, making sense, making peace, making whole’. In the interview, the BBC’s Libby Purves talked to Marian Partington, sister of Lucy Partington, one of the many victims of the killer Frederick West. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01hjt98
Lucy disappeared on December 27, 1993 and it was 20 years before her family found out what had happened to her. Marian Partington talked in her interview about her book, ‘If You Sit Very Still’, in which she describes how she dealt with not knowing and then knowing, what had happened to her sister.
As the book cover says: ‘Through deep and fierce engagement with her experience, and guided by powerful dreams, Marian finds an authentic and compassionate response’ to her experience.
Both Marian and Lucy read English at their Universities and both had studied ‘Pearl’, a 14th Century alliterative poem. In the poem – I quote from the Oxford Companion to English Literature – ‘Pearl’ was the author’s daughter and only child who has died before she was two years old. Wandering in misery in the garden where she is buried, he has a vision of a river, beyond which lies Paradise. Here he sees a maiden seated whom he recognises as his daughter …..he plunges into the river in an attempt to join her and awakes, comforted and reassured of his faith in God.’
In telling her story Marian follows the process of discovery, understanding and acceptance as signposted in ‘Pearl’. It began four months after Lucy disappeared and nearly two decades before the family found out what had happened to her.
Marian writes in her prologue: ‘Lucy, four months after you disappeared I had the first dream. You had returned and I asked you where you had been. You said: “I’ve been sitting in a water meadow near Grantham”. Then slowly, with a smile, you said:
“If you sit very still you can hear the sun move”.
For Marian a result of her journey (a hackneyed word maybe but it fits) from not knowing to knowing it in all its horror, and encountering her own darker, angry side, has been her work with prisoners, out of her perception that there is something of God in everyone, for which the possibility of rescue may exist, however vile their deeds.
Her prose repeatedly evokes the beauty of the English and Welsh countryside and is a delight to read. As to the discussion of dreams, it spoke to my own experiences of dream life. And I think Marian Partington’s story has something to say to all of us about our own passage through life.
I mentioned that I had made a discovery. It’s the poem ‘Pearl’, which somehow I passed by in a rather undistinguished time at University. Fortunately Mrs L was able to give me her student copy (Oxford at the Clarendon Press) and Professor Tolkien’s translation.
(‘If You Sit Very Still’ by Marian Partington, Vala Publishing Co-operative www.valapublishers.coop