Dear Clearwater,

My parents listened to classical music most of the time, but I was brought up on the music of Pete Seeger. We went to his concerts and I understood immediately that he was an agent of change in the world.

Later, during my time at Sarah Lawrence College, Suzy Schwimmer (a teacher at the Early Childhood Center) shared that she worked at a wonderful camp during the summer, Fieldston Outdoors. As part of the experience, one day each summer, the kids go to Beacon on the train, pull the water chestnuts out of the water (removing the invasive species) and then have a big sing-a-long on the shore with Pete Seeger! As they say, the rest is history.

For the next several summers, I worked at Fieldston Outdoors. I sang with Pete Seeger on the shores of the Hudson River. I also sailed with my camp group on the Clearwater, the sloop that Pete and a group of his hearty friends created to change the Hudson River. I loved it!

As soon as I could carve out a week where I wasn’t working, I volunteered on the boat. I spent a week swabbing the decks, raising the sails, teaching groups of people to read a chart and to study what we collected from the river…and my heart sang. I volunteered on board each summer for a few years and eventually at the Clearwater Festival when it was at Croton Point Park. I convinced my best friend to volunteer with me at the festival and on the boat, even though she had not even heard of or seen the Clearwater before. Together, we taught children at the education tent about our wonderful Hudson River… and about the issues that humankind had created, but could also fix.

Of course, I made wonderful friends on the boat too! People who are and will be in my heart forever. The bonding that happens when you are working hard each day, eating together, sharing space and time, and truly making a difference in the world, can never be broken. I would visit the boat often, soaking in the music, the hugs, the camaraderie, and get to know some of the new amazing people who were sharing their time on our Clearwater.

Along the way, I met my Rick. I say, my Rick, only because there were several Ricks working with Clearwater at that time and also because eventually we were married and had three beautiful children together. (It was two years of bumping into each other at Clearwater events before we started dating.) Clearwater, and our basic values of making a difference, started our relationship and our life together.

As we have raised our children, worked to survive in our busy society, and think about our history together, we often say that our lives always come back to Clearwater and Pete Seeger! Thank you, Pete!

Melissa

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