The End of Sorrow, The Story
Sara whispers into his ears. This love is the most rare, the most precious kind; Sam wonders why he should deserve such a gift. In the late August summer, the two finish building their house in the forest of Oregon. In their gazes, in their walks together, in their long talks on the road, the two fall forever into each other. It is at this hopeful point, amid the fir trees where the music begins.
Chapter 1: The Dream
The crickets sing their August song and the stream rushes along through the open window. A gentle midnight breeze ruffles the curtains just slightly. Sam and Sara sleep side by side. Sam begins to dream. He sits in a vast and dark cathedral on his knees and praying. The air is damp and heavy. He wants to look up and beyond the hard benches but his eyes seem locked down on the ground staring at the heavy dark stones. There are words he cannot make out, there is singing in front of him. Finally he looks to the front and sees three solemn monks with long rosaries wrapped around their wrists swaying in the darkness. They sing to him, calling out his name.
“Sam, I wish we could tell you what we have seen. Be weary of the world; it comes in colors darker than these.”
Sam feels that the words are his own. He is filled with fear and he looks anywhere for a way out. But he is trapped and listens in tears to the story they sing.
Chapter 2: Moonlight
“Don’t you worry about this.” Sam sings to Sara, brushing her dark hair from her eyes. He has told her of his dream and she is deeply worried, she sees it as a premonition, a vision. Sam tells her he has enough worry for the both of them. It is at this moment that two paths appear before them. They see down one lane, a life of happiness and peace together, a life of love. Down the other path they both see the possibility of losing each other in the darkness of the forest ahead. In this birth of fear they clutch each other in the moonlight and love like they never have loved. They both sing together in fear and knowing,
“There’s stars in the sky and I’d like to stay there in your eyes.
But always, morning will come.”
In the final chorus Sam recants this vision and suggests an alternative. Sam sings: “No storm ever could break us up, but we might never see land again.” He knows that an ocean journey is the only alternative to the fears of land.
Chapter 3: Into the Daisies
Sam and Sara spend the afternoon in a great field of daisies not far from their house. The mountains wear the last patches of snow in the distance and the days are growing just a little shorter with each sunset. But in this warm afternoon the two sit together and make daisy chains. In this frozen moment, Sam realizes how much he misses Sara and how has always missed her. Even when he first met her he missed her. Their time is running out and it moves faster with each second. He battles against this relentless worry:
“The chains on our necks, are made of daisy flowers. And we’re spending our days, we’re only meant for hours. All of this will go and then we’ll go, so you stay here with me. This is my only way to say, I wanna take your bones with me into my grave.”
This song closes with Sam and Sara both singing, “Come on now let’s forget. Worry’s for the faithless. So come on now let’s forget I said anything.”
Chapter 4: Bardo
As the two walk one day, Sara suddenly loses her grip in the grass and falls from a cliff. It happened before Sam could realize. The bardo is the space between two things. It is between hope and fear. Between this life and the next. It is an unrecognizable landscape of ripping emotions. Sara and Sam both pass through a bardo, yet for the first time, they move separately. We hear the wrathful beings trying to inspire the fear that cracks open and dissolves into awakening. In the moment of one single instant Sara reaches the other shore of freedom. Sam is left behind in a bardo of his own, holding her empty body at the bottom of the cliff.
Chapter 5: The Setting Sun
In confusion and terror, Sam carries the body on horseback to the sea. He carries her down to the sand. He opens the blanket over her and prays over her body. He pleads with God to let her rise. “Come off the sand with angel’s wings.” We hear in reverse and we hear the muted voices calling response in low tones “Cold body won’t rise.” There is a pause, as the music retreats, a realization dawns on Sam that he has lost his love. The drums, bass, and Sam’s cries return all at once and spit meaningless words at the ocean. A chorus behind sings, “All love fades.” Finally the drums and voices drop into silence we hear Sam call “as you breathe, love fades out, breath.” We hear him walking her body into the waves, finally he falls and goes under the waves, wishing for death to come to him too.
Chapter 6: The Daughters of Waves
Sam drops down and into the valley of sorrow. He is trapped in longing and disbelief. He did not die in the sea. He has pulled himself up onto the sand and watches the waves come and retreat back into the sea. There is nothing he can do now to stop the flood of wishing. Still, hope survives in Sam. He sings, “Why can’t I stay with you? Because the setting sun has died and I know, no no. But I wanna stay with you because the setting sun was your eyes and I know you’ll rise.” “And now I miss you, forever like I will do.” The final plea of hope lies in the words Sam speaks to the ocean, “I know you hear me even if you’re quiet.”
The song ends in a reverie of memory. Sam and Sara dancing together like she always loved. But Sam is not lost in the memory completely for he says, “But you can’t see these waves/coming/coming.”
Chapter 7: Let You Go
Night is falling while Sam walks through the dark forest, wandering. On his way he falls into a vision and sits down in the wet November leaves. He imagines still holding Sara, singing to her, “No my love I can’t let you go. Say you’re gone and you’ll never come back, and I will go. Say your eyes will stay that way, closed.” Since Sara says nothing, Sam is convinced she will return to him.
Chapter 8: McKenzie
Sam collapses by a river’s edge. He remembers this river from his childhood. He used to swim and play in it as a boy. Now it looks so different, so deep and cold. The water runs gray and swiftly. Sam sees his sunken face in the water, he sees his meaningless life in the water. He imagines what it would be like to slip into the water and never come out. But he fears death as much as he fears life. His mind is transported to the ocean again, he sees a lighthouse turning smoothly casting a yellow light out into the dark sea. From high above, sees small boats heading out to sea and watches them crash on the sharp black rocks. He hears their screams in the water. He finally lays on his back and another vision descends upon him. This time he sees a tunnel, passing through with other souls who have died and moved on. “Tunnel, coming. All I’ve waited for.” This break in the darkness, this small shift in his mind reminds him of what Sara told him once. The song closes with her words echoing in his mind, “Emptiness cannot harm emptiness.” Where there is no self, there cannot be harm.
Chapter 9: Heaven
Sam has wandered the forests and wandered the grasslands and has found himself near the ocean again. He smells the winter ocean air but cannot yet see the ocean. He finds himself in tears almost all the time. He knows he must eventually let go of this pain but he fears he cannot. He fears losing everything he once loved. He would still rather hold to Sara as a memory than let her go. He swings between letting go and holding tightly to this memory. He senses that Sara has passed well beyond the Bardo by now. He can feel her slipping away entirely. He sings out to the sky, “Don’t you, go where, I can’t, follow you, follow you.” The song then ends in a glimpse of memory, hazy now and beginning to wash away.
Chapter 10: Losing
At the bottom of the canyon of sorrow. Sam finally touches the base of his himself. He knows he will love Sara forever and he also knows he must let go. He walks along mossy green cliffs on a gray winter day. Sam laments how he had ever looked at things when the two were together. He had stared at the sky, at beautiful things that passed by. Now he just wishes he had once more look in Sara’s eyes. “I give you all my sky, I leave you with my eyes. ‘Cuz I won’t need ‘em anymore, better for you where you are.” In a moment of complete and terrible sorrow Sam let’s go of Sara’s hand in his heart. The song closes with the lines repeating over and over, “I’ll love you forever, oh. I’ll love you forever, oh.”
Chapter 11: There is no Prison
Sam has begun the experience of letting go. He is exhausted and lays down in the long brown grass. He dreams. He sees a river in his dream, a wide and sunny river leading up to an edge and he cannot see to where it leads below. He hears voices in his head, whispers inside of himself. “There is no prison. There are no walls. You are dreaming. You are dreaming.” Sam wakes and it is true. He glimpses the nature of his new world.
Chapter 12: At The Ocean
Now Sam walks in a kind of daze, seeing very clearly all his misery for what it was; a kind of dream that now feels somewhat distant from him. He has no idea who he is anymore or where he is going. His steps feel lucky and very surprising. He stops every so often to examine the ground and the little insects around him. The world is so alive and free. He thinks, “Has this all been happening while I was away? Eventually he finds himself walking down the grassy dunes and he feels a small wave brush against his foot. He has lost his shoes along the way and his clothes are tattered. He feels a distant memory welling inside of him. He sees dark eyes, dark hair, a beautiful smile. He loved someone once, he loved this girl. Sara, the name returns to him. But it is not longing that fills his heart now, it is gratitude.
Chapter 13: The Fall
Sam follows his feet as they lead him away from the sea and back up to the cliffs. He does not need to understand anymore. He just moves along like a gentle breeze. The air is crisp and the sun shines on his shoulders through the holes in his shirt. He walks for many days out and into the mountains. He finally makes a mountain cave his home. He builds a small garden and lives there for months. The Spring comes and the Summer too.
That summer, on a warm day, he walks to the river nearby to gather water as he does every day. But this day something surprises him. He looks into the water and sees his face again. He sees his eyes sullen and his cheeks sunk in like he saw by the cold dark McKenzie river so long ago. He feels sorrow well inside of him again. He does not understand how this could be happening again to him. It is like suffering a thousand knives in the heart, all over again. His chest aches.
Without any will of his own, he topples into the water. He turns over and onto his back. He notices the beautiful blue sky and the white clouds floating along. He too floats along the water. He hears a rushing coming. He knows this fall, this is the fall the mountain. He has seen it many times. It is more than a thousand feet to the rocky pool below. But he does not feel fear. He is reminded by the sky and clouds above that he has nothing to fear. All things are changing their shapes and all are supported by the vastness in which they exist. The rushing sound becomes deafening. Sam’s eyes are open and a slight smile falls into him as he tumbles over the cliff.
Chapter 14: A Hymn to the Sea
In this final movement, The End of Sorrow reaches out into the sea. The open vastness where there is no screaming. No whispering. No more words. Where the waves wash us all clean. The great mother of life breathes in and out. No one sings this song and no one is there to hear it. It is the music of the sea herself. It is sung for no one at all.