It is day 34 of my 365 Days of Living Deliberately blog. Pete Seeger died a week ago today. Every day since his passing, I have listened to his “My Old Brown Earth,” a song that exemplifies his amazing ability to state the simplest of messages. The song makes me both happy and sad.
The speaker in Pete’s song does not speak of God or Jesus or immortality. He speaks “to my old, brown earth,” “to my old blue sky,” offering up the individual’s final molecules to join nature’s elements. We are not to cry, the speaker, tells us, but instead we are to guard well our human chain, keeping our earthly connections strong. As well, the speaker calls on us to keep our home, this earth, pure and sweet and green, for we are of the earth, and the earth is of us.
Although Pete wrote this song in 1958 and sang it at the funeral of his friend and co-editor of The Guardian Newspaper, John McManus, he could have written it as a eulogy for himself; he could have written as an anthem for our age.
Over the past week, I have also been scouring my files for correspondences from Pete. I have a stack of numerous correspondences, starting in 1982 when we were in the midst of the PCB landfill protest movement, continuing from time to time throughout the 1980’s, the 1990’s, and 2000’s. In all cases, Pete wrote Ken and me to encourage and support our environmental justice and pollution prevention efforts, and we are humbly honored. He was genuine, caring, insightful, and we treasure every word he so graciously shared.
The following is a message from Pete Seeger that was delivered to the people of Warren County over the telephone to Yonni Chapman who joined our fall 1982 Warren County PCB protest movement as a supporter from the Federation for Progress.
Pete Seeger, 1982:
“I wish I could be with you today to help out, but my schedule makes that impossible. I have forwarded the information you sent to the Clearwater Organization which I work with, and I hope you will continue to keep me informed about the progress of your efforts.”
Organize the people to learn more. The only way to do anything is to organize and fight. That was the lesson of 1776, and that is the lesson of 1982.”
“One person can’t do much, but dozens can do a great deal; and thousands and millions can change the whole world.”