Wilderness Heals

Thank you for visiting the Wilderness Heals blog. Wilderness Heals is an all-women, three-day annual pledge hike that benefits the Elizabeth Stone House (ESH), a Boston-based emergency shelter, transitional housing program, and therapeutic community that provides services to women and children who are escaping violence and overcoming trauma. By encouraging hikers to set challenging physical, emotional, and financial goals, Wilderness Heals mirrors the experiences of hundreds of women who have sought help from the Stone House. Committing to hike is a way to grow personally while simultaneously standing in solidarity with women of the Stone House and women everywhere who are working to overcome the effects of violence in their lives.
Wilderness Heals 2011 will take place July 15-17, 2011. Registration materials may be downloaded here.
Go here to view the 2011 routes, and visit our Who's Who page to meet this year's team leaders and Recruitment Committee members.
Want to learn more? Visit our list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Still have questions? Contact Erika Whyte, Wilderness Heals event coordinator, at 781-726-0551 or ewhyte@elizabethstone.org.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Closer to Fine; or How Wilderness Heals Taught Me to Sing

Here’s a secret: I don’t sing. It isn’t because I don’t like music. No, it’s because I am absolutely, positively tone deaf. My mother tells me that, once upon a time, I had a decent singing voice. At four years old, I knew the words to every single song from My Fair Lady. In fact, Eliza Doolittle was my imaginary friend, and the two of us spent many glorious summer afternoons singing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

I’m not sure when I stopped singing, or why. I know that by the time I was 10, I refused to utter a single note. I dreaded the school Christmas pageants; I always stood in the back row and mouthed the words.

When I was 11, I went to an amusement park with my friend Rachel, who convinced me to cover the song “It Must Have Been Love” at a karaoke studio. (Give me a break. It was 1991, and I was in fifth grade.) For a mere $10, you could record the song of your choice on a souvenir cassette tape — just like a real rock star! Against my better judgment (I plead temporary insanity), I agreed.

I didn’t comprehend just how truly horrendous my voice was until I heard myself warbling, “It musta been loooooove, but it’s ooooover now!” over the amusement park loudspeakers. I remember turning to Rachel and hissing, “Get me out of here!” Not even four rides on my favorite roller coaster could ease the sting of my humiliation, and when I got home, I destroyed the tape.

It took nearly 10 years for me to recover, but by the time I was in college, I would sing in front of my friends. I generally chose country tunes (John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” and “Country Roads” were two favorites), and I always made myself sound as atrocious as possible. As long as I was deliberately butchering the music, singing was okay.

And then when I was 25, I went on my first Wilderness Heals Hike. On the final morning of the three-day event, one of my teammates gathered us in a circle and taught us the Wilderness Heals song. It’s an uncomplicated melody with only eight words, and it is beautiful in its simplicity. By the final round, I was singing softly with the rest of the group and tentatively clapping my hands.

Later that evening, during the bus ride back to Boston, a small group of hikers led the rest of the passengers in song after song. I was sitting in the back of the bus — the quiet section — but I enjoyed listening to the boisterous voices of the ladies up front. They sang everything from the Beatles to Billy Joel, and the music lulled me to sleep. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I told myself that next summer, maybe, just maybe, I might be comfortable enough to sing with the rest of the hikers.

The following year, there were two buses to take us back to Boston: the quiet bus and the singing bus. After much deliberation, I boarded the singing bus with my friends Emily and Monica. The driver had not even pulled out of the parking lot before a group of women began leading the rest of us in a rousing rendition of (what else?) the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine.” I whispered part of the chorus, but only because Emily kept elbowing me.

Afterward, Sandy and Sue — who I’m convinced know the lyrics to every song on the planet — sang Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game,” Don McLean’s “American Pie,” Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” and “Summer Nights” from the musical Grease. Although I occasionally hummed along, I remained relatively silent until they began to sing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” from My Fair Lady. I thought about how my grandma and I used to sing the song during car rides, and I remembered how disappointed she was when I stopped singing. And so that evening, I sang in earnest with Sandy and Sue and all of the other hikers — for Grandma…and for me.

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