St Pete, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden
This week I planned to post about my experience with jury duty, but during our court-appointed lunch break yesterday, I saw the news. Pete’s gone? That’s like hearing the Big Dipper won’t be coming over the mountains any more.
Tributes to Pete Seeger are pouring forth all over the country now. Those of us who live in the Hudson Valley feel a special pang at his passing. Seemed like we were always catching sight of old Pete–at potlucks, jams or rallies, or just slinging his banjo case through Grand Central. He’d use his beloved voice and music and presence to help wherever he could: to unite communities, move people to action or simply share joy.
The year I swam the Hudson from Newburgh to Beacon, the first thing to greet my blurry eyes as I rose from the river was old Pete himself, by himself, picking up litter from the river’s edge. Helping wherever, however he could.
We were privileged to hear him locally last fall at the new Towne Crier Cafe in Beacon. He was giving their new venue a boost, warming the stage with Work o’ the Weavers, a tribute band, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Weavers’ first public performance. It was a grand night indeed, though I was frustrated trying to take a good picture of Pete. There was so much light pouring from that stage, I finally gave up.
But next morning, magically, in the shot above I saw the old image of a bodhisattva, a painting of an old saint with his symbol of deliverance. An icon, in more ways than one. I had to smile at the accidental truth of it.
Pete Seeger will always hold a special place in my heart for another reason, too. In the early 50’s a small boy received a 45 rpm record. To the consternation of his family, he played one side over and over and over again. You may have guessed that the song was “Goodnight, Irene,” and the boy grew up to be my husband.
Goodnight, Dear Pete, Goodnight Dear Pete, we’ll hear you in our dreams…