Yesterday, the music and social justice community on Earth lost a peace troubador and the one in Heaven welcomed him with open arms and I imagine greeted him and blessed him for a job well done. Richie Havens, whose great big heart gave out yesterday at the age of 72, may be best known for his role as the iconic opening act at Woodstock. He was asked to perform a handful of songs but ended up playing for hours since the others who were scheduled to be on stage were caught in the historical traffic jam. He had done 5 or 6 encores to the point of what I imagine was a combination of exhaustion and exhiliration. He had run out of songs to sing at that moment and then brilliance broke through.
According to Richie: “I start strumming my guitar and the word freedom comes out of my mouth as FREE-dom, FREE-dom, with a rhythm of its own. My foot takes over and drives my guitar into a faster, more powerful rhythm. I don’t know where this is going, but it feels right and somehow I find myself blending it into an old song — ‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child’ — a great spiritual my grandmother used to sing to me as a hymn when I was growing up in Brooklyn.”
www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA51wyl-9IE Freedom Richie Havens
He was a road musician who traveled world wide, touching hearts and enhancing lives with his devotion to co-existence. The essence of his music was that it encouraged social action, and he seemed unafraid to take a stand. I had the delighful experience of meeting and interviewing him, I’m thinking, in the 1990’s when he came to the Abington Art Center in Abington, PA to display his artwork. This man, tall of stature, with a larger than life presence, was friendly and approachable. I sat next to him on a bench as we had a casual conversation, with the only indication that it was a journalistic interview was the tape recorder between us. His deep, smooth speaking voice and rising laughter, along with his long fingers, each encased in a ring, were among the most memorable aspects of our time together, as well as the warm hug we shared after the interview that I needed to stand on tiptoes and he came down part way to my height to experience.
My favorite song of his, that he sang with Cliff Eberhardt is called Long Road. It speaks poignantly to the journey he was on in life and will continue with his passing.
http://youtu.be/jJOgCNwBe_U Long Road- Cliff Eberhardt and Richie Havens
Richie, may you follow your dreams, down the long road and may those who follow in your footsteps know they have big shoes to fill.
Today is Earth Day, celebrated for the first time in 1970, when I was 12 years old. This eco-friendly, environmentally conscious, tree hugging, gracefully aging hippie, celebrates it every day, leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible. I reduce-re-use-recycle whatever I can, I walk where I am able, combine trips when I can’t, carpool as often as possible, have never been a litter bug (my parents taught me well), buy organic food when available, mostly veg, bless the planet with thoughts of love and healing, practice Tikkun Olam (Hebrew for ‘repair of the world’) and have taught my son to be kind to the earth as well.
According to the website: Earthday Network: ”
The height of hippie and flower-child culture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Protest was the order of the day, but saving the planet was not the cause. War raged in Vietnam, and students nationwide increasingly opposed it.
At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news. Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and, up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.
Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center.”
Today, as I was listening to The World Cafe on my favorite radio station WXPN (885. fm), the host David Dye was interviewing Adam Gardner from the group Guster. Along with his wife Lauren Sullivan and a gathering of kindred spirits with all kinds of skill sets from promotion to organization, from logistics to community outreach. The purpose of their organization that they call Reverb, is for those in the music industry to take the lead in making the tours eco friendly and responsible. It is a grassroots effort that is spreading worldwide.
For the bands, it involves using bio-diesel fuel for the tour busses and vans, using recycled and re-usable products rather than disposable and creating a sustainability thought process for their fans that includes:
- Eco-Village | Festival-like village with environmental displays and activities to educate and engage fans
- Non-Profit Groups | Environmental organizations hosted at each Eco-Village
- Carbon Offset Program | Allows fans to offset their carbon footprint
- Volunteers | Reverb volunteers coordinated to encourage fans to participate in Eco-Village activities
- Eco-Concert Program | Takeaway for fans describing green initiatives of the tour and offering simple calls to action
- Jumbotron Slideshow | Includes eco-trivia, tour greening information, and text messaging campaigns
- Greening Website | Custom tour-specific site outlining all greening elements taken on tour, featuring resources and calls to action for fans
- Online Carpooling | Resource for fans looking to carpool to and from shows
Artists, including Dave Matthews, Brandi Carlile, Bare Naked Ladies, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5, Janelle Monae, John Legend, Sheryl Crow, Jason Mraz, Ben Folds and Phish have jumped aboard this Earth friendly stage and encourage their audiences to do the same.
One thing that I would LOVE to see happen, but is not likely, is that venues (even those outdoors) become completely smoke free. I have been at many events at which otherwise enviro-savvy folks blow smoke about and then drop their butts on the ground as if it is their ashtray. Now THAT would be quite a feat. Imagine the reverberation that would spread world wide~ In the meantime, good for you, Adam, Lauren and your family of choice who are making this planet a greener and cleaner place to live.
I am thrilled to say that my invisible Wonder Woman cape and tights are in the Jeep (along with my faerie wings, which are tangible and colorful)… and I don them less often these days. Once upon a time, they were standard wear for this recovering co-dependent, caregiver, people pleaser, feeling like Mighty Mouse singing “Here I come to save the day!” Not sure if I come by it genetically or by example since my parents were the go-to people among their circles, who could be counted on to be there in times of crisis. My career path led me to become Ms. Fixit and in my personal relationships, my social worker’s ‘rolodex’ brain cards have been thumbed through so many times that they are dog eared. The truth is, no one needs rescuing and while I have information and experience that are helpful, I am no expert on anyone else’s life and needs. I am a willing guide along the way.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to allow myself the freedom to leave the Wonder Woman facade behind. I attended a retreat called The Woman Within which is an event I have been encouraged to experience for many years. Several of my friends have taken it and had marvelous breakthroughs. I welcomed that as well and was delighted that when all was said and done, my transition from where I was to where I am, took all kinds of leaps; some of faith that I would safely land. I was determined to savor the time just for myself; rare indeed for this woman who feels that nothing I do is for me alone. My healing heals the planet….all that stuff which may be true AND I really am permitted to have personal joy. Going into the time away, I told the organizers that if they saw me attempting to fix, save, heal or otherwise exhibit ‘savior behavior, they were to call me on it. I was off duty. Within very short order, an opportunity arose to test my mettle. I was asked to take on a leadership role and as my ego chirped….”How cool! They know you are a natural born leader.” and my Sally Field Academy Award speech persona chimed in “And I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!” My inner knowing creature, looked at me with kind and compassionate eyes, wagging finger and loving smile and said “Don’t you dare.” Saying no has not always come easily to me. It felt really good this time.
Throughout the weekend, I faced multiple challenges to my resolve. Each woman there had her own particular story that had me wishing I could offer answers, wanting to charge in there to fix the situation. Knowing that I couldn’t do it, even had I not made the promise to myself since it was not my role, was painful….literally, head throbbingly so. I needed to sit with my emotional discomfort and it wasn’t until I acknowledged my own loss, pain and sadness; my real human vulnerability that the headache dissolved and I saw clearly that my help was not requested or required. I rest my cape~
This image was posted on the Facebook page of Charlotte D. Piper and I knew I just had to scoop it up and claim that identity for myself as well. She defines it in this way: “Spiritual Gangster: One who lives a heartcore, passionate, mindful existence as an ambassador of divinity.” I would add to it, “One who feels the fear and does it anyway, one who has their posse around them, whether nearby or farflung and invites others to join this none-exclusive club, one who declares his/her dreams and desires and allows them to manna-fest. His or her ‘weapon’ is love’; with no need to jack anybody up, force, bully or coerce anyone into adopting their beliefs. He or she struts their stuff, dances to their own tune, colors outside the lines….” Not exactly like the Jets and the Sharks.
There was a time when declaring this for my life would have seemed strange, since the people pleaser aspects of myself would have felt as if I would be considered weird for speaking of such things. I already sensed that I was (as I often told my parents) “an alien baby left on their doorstep” that they did a pretty good job of raising to masquerade as a human. I have sometimes felt out of step, but over the years, have found my Tribe. Some I have met hug to hug and others just heart to heart through the marvels of modern technology and social networking. Back in the late 70’s into the early 80’s, I hung out with folks who might fit into that category when we worked at a counseling center called Together Inc. We were young idealists who thought we could heal the world, one heart at a time and fix broken places in people. We painted the youth shelter in which some of us provided counseling, with hearts, rainbows and flowers. I remember the marathon sessions with paintbrush in hand, emblazoned with multi-colored drippings ourselves.
When I was ordained as an interfaith minister via The New Seminary in NYC in 1999, I decided then that I had no right to tell anyone what to believe spiritually, that love is my religion and God’s too big to put in a box. I like the 12 step concept of The God of Our Understanding. My understanding of the Divine changes, sometimes moment to moment. I like the idea of being in the God Gang since I know S(h)e always has my back and that my gang colors are rainbow hued.