Memories of Silver and Plum


So it is now that I have come to be weary,
For my third song, I promise not to be scary.
The household was quiet, all were asleep,
Until a little baby began to weep.
Mei instinctively shook herself out of bed,
She readied the milk and towards Ling she sped.
It took a while to pacify Ling,
She fed her, shushed her and went on to sing.
A lullaby that her sister had taught her.
She smiled as she reminisced, close they were.

Her thoughts were disrupted as commotion arose,
“I’ll have to get by another day, I suppose,
Ling, you have another full day with me,
Hao has no help either, happy are we?”,
She teased the baby as it cooed happily.
Their fun and games were disrupted by a knock,
Mei soon heard the main door unlock.

She stood with Ling in her arms, at the door,
“A rest I beg, for my feet are sore.”
Her eyes were warm and looked full of care,
She held a peaceful, an almost divine air.
The old woman came close and joined her hands.
That is when Ling caught some strands,
Of her silvery hair as the wind blew.

“Please come in, we welcome you.”
Hao smiled at her and ushered her in,
“Might I ask, where have you been?
The sunrise approaches and the heat too
Is it not too harsh for you?”
She laughed as she entered their house,
“Nature discriminates not, be it young or old, man or mouse.”
Hao and Mei exchanged a glance,
Could she be a learned sage by any chance?

“I am Hao and this is my wife Mei.”
A gurgle escaped from Ling as if to say,
“Lets not forget Ling, the latest to join our family.”,
Continued Hao, “Mei & I together run this infirmary.”
“Let me hold the child, while you run errands.
Lets see if Ling and I can become friends.”,
She said as she sat down on the floor,
Her arms outstretched, a smile she wore.
Ling happily played in the old lady’s lap,
She was in no mood for her routine nap.
Meanwhile Mei and Hao got to their chores,
They heard the old woman discussing several lores.
She sang of magical tales for Ling,
About the Jade emperor and the Monkey king.

The couple tended to the patients who came.
While the old lady and Ling continued, game after game.
Finally Ling’s sleepy little eyes gave up,
They set her to sleep and enjoyed a cup
Of Jasmine tea that Mei had brewed
“Now that I feel most renewed.
I must go back where I belong.”
She said as they heard the evening gong.
That began to ring in the temple nearby.
A breeze took over and the clouds darkened the sky.

No matter how much they asked her to stay,
The old lady insisted that she be on her way.
Hao and Mei packed meals for her journey,
they knew not how long it may be.
When something stirred Mei’s attention
It was much beyond her comprehension.
The old lady was petting Ling gently, one last time,
And was singing a nursery rhyme.
Something that her nurse used to sing
About the joys of a colorful spring.

“Mei, my beautiful little plum,
What a fine woman you have become.”
The wind whispered softly in her ear,
She ran towards Ling and wiped a solitary tear,
As she found Ling sleeping soundly
And a departing ball of light she could see.
“Remember that the gong be a reminder to all
To relieve suffering, big or small,
For those who live and those who depart,
The living and their illusions must finally stand apart.”

About the post: This story is based on “Guǐ Pó” which is categorized as ghosts of maids/servants who used to work for the aristocrats/rich families. They can be kind and friendly or violent and vengeful spirits.

Another interesting concept used in the post is about Chinese temples. In the morning, the gongs  have a fast and then slow pace to instill activity from the dullness of slumber. In the evening, the gongs and drum are sounded in reverse order, slow to fast pace, to remind all to be aware of illusions and to help relieve all beings of the netherworld from suffering. The gongs are sounded 108 times because it is believed that sentient beings have 108 types of worries. The gong is believed to dispel these 108 worries one by one.


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