Thursday, September 17, 2009

The white dove sleeps in the sand

Mary Travers died yesterday. I’m sad. And, I think Abraham Lincoln would have been, too.

My Mary connection

The first time I remember hearing a song by Peter, Paul and Mary was in 1966. I was the oldest of five children riding home from school in a red wood-paneled 1963 Ford Country Squire station wagon, affectionately called Nellybelle.

In the car with us were my friend, Cindy, and her sister, Charlie. At my sister’s insistence, Charlie sang a song for the “little kids.” It was called “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Right there, that day, I was hooked on folk music and shortly thereafter on Peter, Paul and Mary.

Through my high school years, Peter, Paul and Mary’s songs were with me often – “Blowing in the Wind” as I learned to pick a few chords on a guitar, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane” as I joined arms, swayed and sang with friends at hootenannies, and the album, “The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary: Ten Years Together,” as I went off to college.

In the dorm, I often placed that black vinyl disc on a revolving turntable when I was homesick for dear friends or longed for peace in the turbulence of the times.

As I grew older, had my own family and a van instead of Nellybelle, I listened to Mary’s smooth voice and powerful harmony on a cassette tape.

When CDs came out, one of the first ones I got was – you guessed it – another one of Peter, Paul and Mary.

In the late 80s or early 90s, the group “played Peoria.” Seats at the concert were first come, first serve, so my hubby and I got there plenty early. It paid off. We got within a few rows of the stage. No matter how many times you’ve heard or sung one of their songs, there was just nothing like being there, seeing them a few feet away, hearing them in person and joining in as they said “Sing along.” It truly was one of my most memorable evenings.

While Mary fought cancer these past few years, I prayed for her often. I really did want her to be healthy and happy, but being a little selfish, I guess also just wanted to hear her in concert one more time. I'm sure I was not alone. We'll miss her.

Mary’s Lincoln connection

The same year my parents bought that red wagon, the car in which I learned to drive, Peter, Paul and Mary sang at the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. They were there again on the 40th anniversary of the speech in 2003.

Two lines from their civil rights anthem, “Blowing in the Wind” speak to me most strongly tonight.

I’ve often thought that if Mary Travers had lived in Lincoln’s time she would have been another Harriet Beecher Stowe. When I hear, “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?” it’s as if I’m transported back to Lincoln’s day.

I listened to Peter, Paul and Mary YouTube videos and read their song lyrics tonight. I thought of our peace-loving Mary, our white dove, when I heard, “How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?”

You sailed for us all, Mary, and as you did you soared into our hearts. We love you. Sleep well, our friend.

To Peter, Paul - and Mary’s beloved family

Thank you, Ethan Robbins, for sharing your lovely wife with us all those years, and to you, Alicia, Erika and children for letting your mom and grandma sing us her songs.

To Ethan and family and to Mary’s dear friends, Peter Yarrow and Noel “Paul” Stookey, I know my heartache is nothing compared to yours. You’re all in my prayers.

Peter and Paul, your music will always define my past and remain with me in the future. Thank you and God bless.


Anonymous said...

In the 70's the radio was always playing Peter, Paul and Mary here in Brazil. I never forgot Blowing in the Wind and 500 Miles. I did not understand English at that time but I liked the songs.

Sebastiao Albano

Lincoln Buff 2 said...


I really do believe music is an international language. We can enjoy the sound regardless of whether we can understand the lyrics.

Hope all is well in your world. Sure wish we could have found your Springfield acquaintance. At least we know we tried.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

Hi Ann,
Since I was a boy I always liked Brazilian and American music.I think the American music fantastic.

It made me very very happy to know you liked my story. We did not find the man but I am sure I gained two new friends in USA: you and Mr. Bakke. And you both can be sure you have a friend here.

Take care and keep in touch.


Lincoln Buff 2 said...


Thank you. I think Dave would agree - we've been touched by your story and moved by your enthusiasm.