Not to tarry, not to roam. We said we’d join her, she said she’ll meet us when we come

Winter plum. Robin L. Chandler Copyright 2016.

Winter plum. Robin L. Chandler Copyright 2016.

On his recent bluegrass album, The Happy Prisoner, Robert Earl Keen recorded the Wayfaring Stranger with Natalie Maines. The plaintive lyrics haunt me:

“I am a poor wayfaring stranger, while travelling through this world of woe. 

Yet there’s no sickness, toil or danger. In that bright world to which I go.

I’m going there to see my mother. She said she’d meet me when I come.

I’m only going over Jordan. I’m only going over home.”

A classic American folk and gospel song, it resonates with one of Buddhism’s four Noble Truths that all is suffering, all is woe, and impermanence is one of the great causes of suffering. But a bright world exists to which we can go.

Last week the rains stopped and the fruit trees blossomed, a month before expected, but nonetheless spectacular for their early arrival. The plum trees in my yard shimmered in the February sunset, still winter by the calendar. The blossoms will not remain long. But long enough to tarry in my dreams, haunt my imagination, and find their way from brush to canvas to capture the beauty of impermanence.

This weekend we will say goodbye to a good friend, my second mother, who has gone over Jordan. There is no sickness, toil or danger, in that bright world to which she goes. Someday we’ll join her, going there, no more to roam. She said she’d meet us when we come. She said she’s only going home.

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