A lyrical, slowly unfolding gospel song/anthem that describes John’s vision in the book of Revelations of the river of the water of life:
There is a river whose streams flow forth
from Zion, the city of God.
The Trees of Life grow upon its banks,
whose leaves bring the healing of the nations.
Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion,
Zion, beautiful city of God.
My sister was the “early adopter” in our family when we were growing up. Even though we are the same age (triplets), it just seemed that she heard about things sooner than I did, whether it was the music of our folk music heroes Andy and Terry Murray, or the stories of American healer/seer Edgar Cayce. I found a book about Edgar Cayce on her shelves way-back-when, but scoffed, highly skeptical. Years later, I became the devotee.
Cayce as a young man discovered a talent for healing; when in a deep, meditative state, he could “see” the conditions in an ailing person’s body, and recommend a practical course of healing action. But it’s not this miraculous ability that has impressed me over the years as much as Cayce’s deep spiritual insights. He remained a Sunday School teacher his whole life, even after he had achieved some level of fame, and was sought widely for his aid and counsel. His spiritual “readings” are universally applicable, regardless of one’s faith tradition, and are resonant with inspiration and wisdom.
It is this sense of the reality of a “connection” to the Divine that led writer Thomas Sugrue to entitle his 1942 biography of Edgar Cayce There is a River. And that title became the creative trigger for me to write this song. I must have written it around 1995 or 1996, but didn’t consider it a “real song” because it had an unusual structure, and didn’t share it with anyone. But I eventually figured out that it was indeed a “real song,” and recorded it with my folk group Kindling on our first album in 1998 and again with Ryan Harrison in 2004 for our album Holy World: Songs of Grief and Healing. This choral arrangement is many, many years in coming, and is based on versions that I have concocted for my church choir over the years.