Sunday, October 15, 2017

Seeger and Shattemuc

It sounds like the name of prestigious accounting firm, but these two names bear witness to a far deeper audit. While paddling down the Hudson River last fall I found myself between two very different landmarks. On one high promontory was West Point and the U. S. Military Academy, a place I had visited with my dad as a boy. I remember being deeply impressed by the cadets as they marched in precision lines in their parade gray uniforms.
On the other side of the river was the little town of Cold Spring. Originally it housed the workers who built W. P. but in recent years had become a sleepy bedroom community. I was drawn to this shore by the sloop Clearwater moored at the town dock. I could almost hear my folk-music hero and anti-war activist, Pete Seeger, singing from the deck of this beautiful craft. For years Pete had plied the Hudson River waters seeking to clean up his badly polluted river home. You see my dilemma?
As I paddled downstream pondering the paradox of patriotism and protest, I sang one of Pete’s anthems, “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer out justice, I’d hammer out freedom, I’d hammer out love between my brothers and sisters, all over this land.” I prayed for safety for the young men and women serving in our military and wisdom for our national leaders to pursue the way of peace. That night I pitched my tent on the beach by the Shattemuc Yacht club in Ossining, NY. A warm shower refreshed and good food at a nearby restaurant fueled me for the final push to NYC and the Statue of Liberty.
Months later while planning a Paddle Pilgrim book tour on the Hudson River, I was invited to be the “Earth Day” speaker at the same Yacht Club. I was delighted to return to this place where I received such warm hospitality. I suspect some of my friends are chuckling as they imagine me speaking at a Yacht Club. When I arrived, I was greeted by Dave, the Commodore, a friendly “button-down” Wall Street broker. As the crowd began to gather, I noticed a number of folks whose bearded and informal presence seemed a bit odd in the well-appointed meeting room and bar overlooking the river. I was introduced by the event’s surprising cosponsors, Commodore Dave and John, the Director of Ferry Sloops, an environmental sailing group inspired by the work of Pete Seeger. My dilemma, for a “brief shining moment”, had a denouement as two seemingly disparate groups came together, despite different political leanings, to work together because of their common love of the Hudson River. I suspect Pete is singing a new chorus to his iconic anthem, “We have overcome….”

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