Saturday, February 22, 2014

Remembering Pete Seeger

Today the local (Port Angeles, Sequim, Port Townsend, etc.) folks held a gathering to remember Pete Seeger.

The Peninsula Daily News (link here) explained that the Wheeler family of Sequim made a connection with him back in 1956 and continued that relationship for years afterward. They were the hosts of the event, coordinating musicians, coffee and cookies and cake.

Some of us didn't need the lyrics to recall the words of the
songs we had been singing 'back then'...
I went to the Unitarian-Universalist Church event today and in mentioning to someone that my school chum was Penny Seeger, I was asked to speak about my memories of Pete coming to visit.

How do you compress the experiences of several years into a three-minute talk?

Fortunately, with my background as a Toastmaster, I was able to extemporaneously (big word meaning to quickly stand up before a microphone and speak to a crowd of 100 without any planning) tell about how I got sent to Woodstock Country School in the 60's - in VERMONT, not the place where they had days of wild living and singing in NEW YORK - and ended up with Pete's younger sister in my class, and how he came to visit us.

But the kernel I wanted to offer to this group was what I think was the essence of Pete's life, that when you were talking to him, he was listening, and for all of us at Woodstock, this was in itself a rare experience and it was something to carry away and build on in our futures.

Several people came up to me later and said they enjoyed hearing what I had to say.

That was gratifying.

But what pleased me the most was being able to find a way to express what this man of legend meant to me when I was 16 years old, that even then as he was becoming so well known, he took time to listen. Not only to me, but to all of us gathered 'round him as he played for us and talked with us.

And then later today I was reading a reminder about this important tool of communication.

When we really listen to what someone is saying, we are letting them know that we think they have something of value to share. This imparts a sense of importance to them, building their self-esteem.

How often are we invited to a party where we are introduced to someone, but that person is always looking over our shoulder, scanning the room for someone better they can engage in conversation? We come away feeling belittled, de-valued, less than.

I am so grateful for my early experience in meeting Pete and what I liked about him was that he wore a plaid shirt everywhere with his bluejeans, and when his blue eyes met yours you knew you had value in them.

The play "Summer of Love" was recently staged here,
a reminder for some of a time gone by, but still relevant.
"I was so much younger then; I'm older than that now…" How quickly the days have flown from being a flower child to being chaff on the winds of change.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

She would have been 101 today...

If she had lived until now, my mother would have been 101 today. The last woman who grew up speaking her tribal language from birth, S'klallam, died today at 103 here on the Peninsula. It was noted by a relative that when the elders leave us, there are no ways to replace what they have taken with them.

And in my eulogy comments at my mother's memorial, I also noted the huge gap that was created by her death. She was a musician, an artist, an intellectual, and like us all - particularly unique.

All of this was stolen by a 'friend' who was renting my place
while I was in Colombia. I came home to an empty house
and thus endeth the lesson of permanence.
Although I wasn't aware of it at the time, when she died in March 2007, I went into a peculiar kind of depression that manifested itself in a buying spree of semi-precious stones, none of which remain today, due to a theft of my personal things.

I have thought a lot about why I was buying them recently, and why I don't have them anymore. Both of which point to the impermanence of 'things' and life itself... none of it lasts forever, unless you are talking about radiation/uranium which has a half-life that goes on for centuries.

In some wierd way I think I was trying to stave off the certainty of death itself, and now here I am again, in a part-time job writing obituary/death notices for people who have lived, loved, laughed and cried before they died. They have no interest in stones of any kind now.
At any rate, while time passes, according to the AP Style Book, people do not. They die. Flat out. No euphemisms, no padding the truth of it all. 

And last year I went to a grief group because I realized I never dared to cry for my mother and what I missed about her. It was a relief to talk about it back then and now when I tell people they can remember my name as being connected to Lil Orphan Annie, I can laugh about being motherless, because really I am not. 

We all have mothers and fathers, whether we know who they are or not... we only become orphans when we feel unloved. I am lucky to know that I am.