Pete's Seeger's legacy is not his music or political activism. It's how to live an authentic life.
Pete never wavered. In the 1940s he bought 17 acres on the side of a mountain in upstate New York and constructed a log cabin with his own bare hands. He was an original minimalist. He structured his life so that he could follow his inner voice. He built for the future. He took it one log, one song, at a time.
Too many of us make decisions because we think we need things we don't. Pete recognized what was important at a young age and lived accordingly. He once said, “My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”
I once saw Pete Seeger at a pumpkin festival in Beacon, NY. My friends and I were camping and had come down off the mountain. The air was crisp and the sky was clear. The sun was blinking off the river.
Wandering around the cider and knick-knacks I discovered Pete Seeger leading a casual sing-along. We sang "This Land Is Your Land" and Pete gave a rousing, optimistic speech in between verses of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." He was an old man by then, and he moved slow, but the warmth and generosity radiated off of him as he led that crowd in singing.
In his local community, beside the river he helped restore, near the house he built by hand, in the America he made more just and equitable, Pete continued giving to others with every day he had left.
Thanks for everything Pete. You stayed true. You built this world for us. You showed us how to live.
Pete Seeger performs at the Beacon, NY Pumpkin Festival in 2010.
Note: This post also appeared as a letter to the editor on January 30, 2014 in The Daily Journal, my hometown newspaper in Tupelo, MS.