Walk shepherdess walk
And I'll walk too
We'll find the ram with the ebony horns
And the gold footed ewe
The lamb with fleece of silver
Like summer sea foam
The wether with its golden bell
That leads them all home
So, walk shepherdess walk
And I'll walk too
And if we never find them
I sha'nt mind, shall you
~ Melinda Caroll
Walking lends itself to singing. I was probably 8 or 9 when that life lesson found its way to me. Summers at Girl Scout camp in Indiana were always filled with singing – along the road, around the campfire, in the lodge after meals. Along the way we were taught walking songs – we walked trails through the woods or blacktop, back roads. These songs entered in and have never left me. Now they are life-gifts, always to be treasured.
There were usually 20 or so campers hiking from here to there. Sometimes we knew exactly where we were going and exactly how to get there. Sometimes we just didn't. Either way turned out fine, because of the singing. It was summer in Indiana and we away from home at camp. When our talking-words ran out, someone would start a song. Someone would sing-out a song born from inside her to keep us moving. There, on those hikes I learned the beauty of singing rounds. On those hikes we would sing repeating songs that would push us up the hills and over to the next place. I bet "Green Grow the Rushes ‘O" lasted an hour or so, if we sang all the verses – and I think more often then not we would sing them all. Polly or Tracey or Brenda or Kim or Jody would have to verify this, but I do believe at some point one of those summers we actually did sing every verse of "99 bottles of beer on the wall."
It was on those long, blacktop road hikes that I learned to sing harmony. I learned the beauty and significance of those echoing melodies. The gift of harmony is (at least) twofold. First, it is the freedom found in blending notes, followed closely by the grace and life that can come when we intentionally listen to another. (Could there be a more important lesson for the living of these days?) We never used sheet music. These were songs passed down from our counselors or the older campers to us. And most of them, we took on for our own.
Singing set the pace. It changed the mood. It brought us together in step and in spirit. It passed the time. It unified us and helped us lean in way long before we ever realized we would need that skill for the rest of our lives. It taught us about life ("This Land is Your Land," "There is a Balm in Gilead," "Dona, Dona," and “Puff the Magic Dragon”). Singing made us laugh and cry, sometimes during the same song. Singing brought us together and eventually brought us home.
And now as we set out on our journey through the wilderness, singing will serve us well. Choosing or being gifted with companioning songs will encourage us and renew us. Pilgrims learn and listen to one another, they irritate and inspire one another, they renew and remind one another. Songs can help shake up and lead on those who are traveling. "...and if we never find them, I shant mind, shall you?" More often than not, with the right song, it’s not as much the destination, as it is the journey.