We are placed on Earth . . . to learn to bear the beams of love. William Blake
Find the sweetness in your own heart; then you may find the sweetness in every heart. Rumi
We took our shoes off. And isn’t that a perfect way to start a day’s adventure, with no worry about the other shoe dropping, with no nervous system on alert that something could go awry, simply with bare feet pressed into the ground and a soft breeze caressing your face, simply trusting in the well-being that is at your core, and at the core of those around you, and at the core of this very moment? When you let go that deeply, when you remember that there is no need to hold on tightly for fear that the next moment might bring a shoe-dropping disaster, that the Universe indeed does have your back, only then, in that delicious state of relaxed receptivity can you squeeze out the sweetness that is always tucked into the present for you to savor.
That’s what we were doing, my husband Cam and I, yesterday morning, as the southwest wind blew the clouds away and the sun warmed the early September air; we were drinking it in, the deliciousness of it all, allowing our toes to grasp the silky sand that was still damp from the middle of the night rainfall, allowing our calf muscles to propel us upward as we climbed the first of nine steep sandy hills on a path that would take us up and down and up and down, again and again, to a pristine section of Lake Michigan, allowing our spirits to soar because our spirits really do want to soar. The happiness in the air was palpable. Perhaps that is because we were in a national park — Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore, along the sandy coastline of a northern stretch of Lake Michigan near Traverse City — and it does seem like people enter our country’s national parks with an expectation of dazzlement. The reason doesn’t matter. It felt wonderful, all this joy sprinkled over the whole of the grassy dunes, in the sand that tickled and soothed our feet as we walked along, in the grasses and thistles that shined in the sun, in the lake that was impossibly blue on the horizon beyond the dunes, in the children dive-bombing their way down the hills and the parents and grandparents walking behind them, in the smiles on people’s faces. Though the languages spoken among the dunes were many, the smiles were universal and contagious.
With all these smiles, all this sunshine and sand and lake and not a shoe in sight to drop, it was easy to embrace and embody the sweetness of a Labor Day Weekend morning hike in Sleeping Bear Dunes. But what about the next day, when we’ve returned home to our neighborhoods and there is no national park moment in sight and we’ve put our shoes back on and there are bills to be paid and groceries to buy and dinner to make? What about then? Can we remember how it felt to practically sail down those hills on our own two feet, how we knew, in those sandy moments of dune-playing that we were safe and secure, grounded on the earth and soaring in the skies? Can we bring this sense of relaxation, of receptivity and trust into the every-day moments? It is a tired old belief, one to send out the door, that we need to be on alert for the shoe that might drop. And when we let this belief go, then there is a steadiness in the air and a sense of serenity within, and there is the sweetness of one moment after another after another to simply experience. An abundance of smiles isn’t confined to the boundaries of our national parks. And neither is dazzlement. It is available to us all, wherever we find ourselves.
The idea for our mini-vacation to Sleeping Bear Dunes seemed to float in as lightly as a feather from the ethers. It was on a walk in the woods a few weeks ago that the name settled into my mind. Sleeping Bear Dunes. I had never been there — and neither had Cam. And the idea took hold and excited us both and that’s how we found ourselves at the dunes, on a whim, trusting a vague guidance from within. The guidance didn’t get specific, didn’t tell me that I would be checking something off my bucket list. It just called out the name, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and drew us south to the Traverse City area. It was in the midst of the hike yesterday, on a steep downhill as my legs started to leap in long running strides that I felt something familiar, a body memory from childhood. I remembered Shelter Beach on Hermit Island in Maine, and its tiny dune behind the shelter and the way my siblings and I would climb to the top and run and roll and leap to the bottom, how it felt free and expansive and like nothing else in the world. I remembered yesterday how I loved sand dunes. And the child in me felt like she was getting the Disney World ride of them, hours of play on the biggest of dunes. So, you see, when we are present to and trusting of our moments, they will lead us where we need to go, and it just might be a national park.
Labor Day Weekend: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, 2017