There are people we encounter "in the ether" only: on the teevee, over the phone, walking around on the innerwebs. There are people who might be in our lives only briefly - and yet whose connection changes us in some profound way for all of our lives. Teachers, neighbors, friends, sweethearts. Clerks, salespeople, medical staff. We remember kindnesses, and we remember slights. The former may make US better, and we may "pay it forward"; the latter may make us angry or bitter - and hopefully we then encounter another kindness and carry on.
One of those people who has touched my life in a deep way is havin' hisself a birthday today. May 3, mark the date. May 3. I mean to honor him every year on May 3 for the rest of my life. He has given me courage when I needed it; he has delighted me every SINGLE time I've encountered him....either his image or his voice, since I first encountered him. I admired him from my initial awareness, and that admiration has deepened ever since and is now a true and abiding love. He's made me laugh, he's made me cry (with sadness, with tenderness, with joy), he's done something very few others have done in the whole of my life -- he's made me sing. Loud. In public.
Did I mention that he and I share space on this planet...on this continent...but I have never been in the same room or auditorium or open field with him?
This precious, darling, strong, brave, inspiring, poetic, gawky, homely lovely man whom I cherish so?
And thank you for every single moment I've had the pleasure and privilege of hearing you sing, or speak -- for your courage during the "blacklisting" period, for the strength you gave me and all the others during the Civil Rights movement. Thank you for saving the Hudson, for speaking out when needed, for standing tall when those of us around you needed someone to look up to. Thank you for your songs and your heart, your words and your philosophy. Thank you for writing on your banjo: "This machine surrounds hate -- and forces it to surrender"
Will I have you forever? No, not in life - I hope you sing at your 100th birthday, provided your health is good, but you will be with me until the end of MY life, in tapes and DVDs and CDs and songbooks - and in my heart. And Pete? When my time comes, the first thing I'm going to do when I stroll through that great woodland archway to the Other Side -- is find out where you're playing and singing, and I'm going to join the throngs and I'll sing along with you at the top of my lungs. (And probably - over there - I'll sound pretty good! )
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PETE!
HAPPY 90th BIRTHDAY, PETE SEEGER!