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While to That Rock I'm Clinging

Pete Seeger died.

I hadn't cried all day, even though I had thought about this day before it happened; dreaded it coming, because it would mean that death really did come to all of us, even those of us as good, as filled with Spirit and meaning, as willing to live out our values day by day, as the one we called "Uncle Pete."

I won't go into all his virtues. You can google that. I will say that the hagiography you see right now about Pete Seeger is far closer to the truth than most sentimental postmortems.

A Facebook friend, Karen McCarthy, posted a video --

And I broke.

I never met Pete, unlike some of my peers. But his were the first songs I heard. I still have the LP, Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes.  Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo ...

Perhaps he was my first minister. His were the songs played in my house, and my parents lifted him up as a hero. For fighting for justice. For the Hudson River. For adhering to his values during the McCarthy hearings, and then again during Vietnam, when he defiantly sang, "Knee Deep in the Big Muddy" on the Smothers Brothers show. 

It came at great cost, this living according to his values. It came at great sacrifice. Do we Unitarian Universalists have a theology of sacrifice?

I was a grown-up, a mother of 4, and still Rev. Pete provided pastoral care to me.

My youngest daughter was sick. Okay, not sick. As she said, "I'm not sick, I just have CANCER!"

There was no one carrying me. Every day, I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But I clung ... to something. Not faith in a God who would make it all okay. But I clung to community, to reality, to the knowledge that somehow, as a dear friend told me, I would make it through this. No matter what. There were people around me who loved me fiercely. And somehow, I knew, that life was still worth it. No matter what happened. No matter if I felt my heart was being ripped from me. Life was still worth it. And there were slim moments of peace, in realizing that.
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?
Pete Seeger was a folk singer. Some of the music was his. Some he gathered, curated, from others. I clung to that rock. Quaker hymn, Unitarian Universalist hymn, Uncle Pete brought it to me.

Ultimately, I believed that Love was lord of heaven and earth. No matter what happened, no matter disease, no matter death, no matter the Big Muddy, no matter the hate that swirls around us ... ultimately, there is a Greater Hope.

 I lay my banjo in the dirt. 

 Thank you, Peter Seeger. My "Uncle." My "Minister." My hero.

 Thank you for loving the hell out of the world.


  1. As always, so very moving are your memories. They've resurrected many, many of mine. Thank you for the journey back.

  2. Joanna,
    Thank you for this post on Pete Seeger. He did indeed "love the hell out of the world".

    You may remember I have Luddite tendencies, I wasn't able to figure out how to post these thanks as a comment until now.




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