My favorite renewable resource is one that’s often overlooked: singing.

When I’m exhausted, drenched or frozen, nothing can keep me moving like belting out a song. Over the years, I’ve come to depend on singing to push through strong winds and power up hills.

Songs are as important to me as the chocolate bar that perhaps you keep stashed in your backpack.

The U.S. military knows all about the power of song. That’s why recruits in boot camp chant as they march. The caissons keep rolling along and so do the soldiers, moving in sync at a steady pace.

I want to share with you my rescue kit of songs, from a wide range of musical genres. But first, let me put in a pitch for singing as a way to pass the time on foot or bicycle.

In an era of devices, it’s easy to plug in and let someone else create your soundtrack. Maybe you listen to podcasts or talk on the phone while you walk. I do, too. (I hope you don’t do those things on a bicycle, since you need to pay full attention to what’s going on around you.)

But one of the joys of getting around on your own power is that it takes a little longer than driving, and gives you a break in the day, a chance for your mind to wander. Modern life offers precious few opportunities for that, so why not take advantage of them? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve had my best ideas at those times.

Singing allows me to be aware of time in a good way. Instead of dreading a half-hour walk, I figure it gives me a chance to sing six or seven songs.

I love the way my brain automatically shuffles through its personal song collection to come up with ones that somehow connect – for example, all the songs I can think of with the color blue in them.

When the weather turns bad or my energy starts to flag, I turn to my ace-in-the-hole songs, the ones that keep one foot moving in front of the other. Here are a few:

Songs about sunshine and hot weather to warm me on cold days: “Keep on the Sunny Side” is a trusty standby.

Songs about very cold weather to cool me off on hot days: My favorite is “The Frozen Logger,” which tells the story of a man who died at 1,000 degrees below zero.

To keep me from freaking out when walking or bicycling alone in the dark, the song from “The King and I” that begins:

Whenever I feel afraid,

I hold my head erect,

And whistle a happy tune,

So no one will suspect I’m afraid.

Inspiring songs to keep me pedaling up steep hills, including “Never Turning Back” by Pat Humphries and Stan Rogers’ song about the vessel Mary Ellen Carter that includes this chorus:

Rise again, rise again and the gospel song that begins:

Have you any rivers that to you seem uncrossable?

Have you any mountains that you cannot tunnel through?

God specializes in things that seem impossible,

And He can do what no other one can do.

Songs that describe the weather that I’m experiencing, with lyrics such as I hear the drizzle of the rain (“Kathy’s Song”), When you walk through a storm (“You’ll Never Walk Alone”) or The snow is softly falling (“Song for a Winter’s Night”).

Long zipper songs that keep the miles rolling. When my daughter Ruby was 4, I coaxed her around Back Cove for the first time by singing endless verses of “The Ants Go Marching,” “Ten in the Bed” and “99 Bottles of Beer.”

Songs about times of day (“Early” by Greg Brown, “Twilight” by Mary Chapin Carpenter) or seasons of the year (“Yankee Lady” by Jesse Winchester).

The peppiest, most upbeat songs I can think of, such as “City of New Orleans” or the sea chantey “Rolling Home.” A new favorite, “Bike Ride” by Nora Jane Struthers, has this verse:

Years ago, I’d find the shortest way,

Now I know I can just enjoy the day,

I’ll get there either way.

OK, now I have a song suggestion for motorists: “Walk a Mile” by Jan Nigro.

The song says that we all benefit when we take the time to look at life from someone else’s perspective – in this case, the perspective of the cyclist to your right or the pedestrian crossing the street in front of you. Here’s the chorus:

I want to walk a mile in your shoes,

I want to walk a mile in your shoes,

I want to know what you think and what you feel,

So I really want to walk a mile in your shoes!

Shoshana Hoose is a freelance writer who walks and bicycles in Greater Portland and beyond. Contact her at [email protected]


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