Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our Favorite National Park

Platte River Point - where the river meets the lake and the sun greets the day.
Sleeping Bear Dunes.

I just returned from a week long business trip to the "northern Lower" (translation for non-Michiganders: the norther part of the Lower Peninsula). I was interviewing people for an orientation video for North Country Community Mental Health. I interviewed around 25 patients from East Tawas, Alpena, and Petoskey. What a moving and inspiring experience to hear how people with a mental illness cope and function and thrive and help others. There was a humility and gentleness of spirit that suddenly illuminated Jesus' statement, "the meek shall inherit the Earth". Indeed.
At the tail end of my trip I managed to squeeze in a morning at Sleeping Bear Dunes to photograph the sun rising at Platte River Point. This is of course in the wake of Good Morning America's vote for Sleeping Bear Dunes as our most beautiful National Park. Although it's dear to my heart as a Michigander and has always had my vote, I kept pondering why it was voted America's favorite out of all the spectacular National Parks.
It occurred to me that as a vote, it's possible our economically challenged state flooded the polls with the hopes of attracting tourists. Stranger things have happened. But assuming it was a genuine vote of appeal, I think I know why it stands out as our favorite.
Other parks could easily outrank Sleeping Bear on the grounds of grandeur: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Denali all offer a dramatic landscape that gives rise to an awe and humility in the face of the Earth's power and scale. But that same immensity can overwhelm and distance a person from the land, whereas Sleeping Bear, with it's gentle dunes and the warm, clean water of Lake Michigan invite you in. It welcomes you to enter into it's sandy folds. There is a subtle grandeur to the park that brings about a peace of mind or even slumber for a summer vacation. The name itself sums it up with it's sleeping bear. With the spate of recent bear attacks abroad, this is a pleasant thought.
Now with the park in the national spotlight, we can only hope she doesn't become overwhelmed with too many tourists. What a shame it would be if we smothered the very beauty that drew us to her in the first place.

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