by Sister Marcella Clancy
I have had the privilege to visit many scenic sites but my favorite place is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Most of its geography consists of quiet, untamed wildness. For me, the “UP” is a coming home; a resonance with something deep within.
This was not always true. I am a city girl who grew up in the teeming neighborhoods and bustling traffic of Detroit. My journey to an appreciation of nature was hesitant and very gradual. Just 10 years ago as we, the Congregation of St. Joseph, made a generous promise to “…claim our oneness with earth…,” I doubted. But creation has converted me. As I began to sit still and bask in nature, a new awareness began to dawn.
As I drive over the Mackinac Bridge and then west along US 2, the silent towering pine trees welcome me into their enormous quiet. They are both regal and humble. Their collective stately bearing is not so much a “showing off” as a knowing they must be fittingly dignified before the God who made them so majestic. They hush and call me to explore my own humble grandeur grounded in the God within.
Craig Lake State Park is the most remote park in Michigan. Although it is only 12 miles off Highway 41, it takes at least 30 minutes to drive the rutted rough road into the parking area. Then you carry your camping gear the rest of the way. There are no conveniences of home – no plumbing or electricity are available and no motors are allowed. Yet it offers other priceless amenities: stars so close you are tempted to reach out and touch them; rising moons brighter than any street lights; an encompassing silence that is more deafening than the roar of any buzzing freeway; and the lovely lilting song of loons crooning tenderly to one another. It is a sacred, hallowed place in which I feel completely embraced by the sacramental presence of God concealed within creation.
Pictured Rocks along Lake Superior allows me to gaze upon a past dating back 500 million years. Water dipped in copper, iron, manganese, and limonite buried in the sandstone paint the cliffs extraordinary oranges, reds, blues, greens, browns, blacks and whites. Spires, caves, arches, blowholes, turrets and human figures are some of the sculptures formed by the ever-changing forces of wind and sea. Besides the raw beauty they display, Pictured Rocks makes me poignantly aware of what scientists call deep time and the Divine up-welling within the inner lining of our unfolding cosmos, rich and zesty with life, always seeking abundantly the more. Yet the process is absurdly slow, amazingly patient and stubbornly persistent. The Pictured Rocks give me a new perception of time and the slow, steady, unrestrained loving labor of God.
Lake Superior is more an ocean than a lake. Its unrelenting pounding waves speak to me of its immense depth and reveal a profound secret inherent in the universe itself. What we know of the observable universe is about 5%. The other 95% consists of either dark matter or dark energy, eternally invisible, known only through its effects. What is known is barely comprehensible. What is not known is unfathomable. I cannot grasp the whole of Lake Superior. So much of it is a Divine secret held coveted in the heart of God. So much of life, of living, is the same. Mystery abounds everywhere. There is a freedom in acknowledging this truth. There is a joy in just being enfolded in the brilliant darkness and hidden intimacy that is God all around us.
There is something of myself God has planted in this remote place of Michigan. I go there to find myself and to find God in myself. I am filled with wonder and awe. There is a desire in me to embrace the mystery and miracle of creation, to enter deeply into the source of its beauty, complexity, and oneness. Yet as I gaze out, I realize it is gazing back at me, mirroring my own thoughts and desires. There is an inner field of the Divine in me and it dwells within the inner lining of everyone and everything, not separately, but making us all one! I hope you have your own favorite place. May it speak to you of God.
About the Author
Sister Marcella Clancy currently lives in the Detroit area. She offers spiritual direction, serves on Congregational committees, and companions one of our newer members. She loves long walks, good movies, and leisurely lunches with friends.