A landscape like that of Pictured Rocks is one of immensity. Lake Superior stretches on past the horizon in varying shades of green, turquoise, blue, and violet. The pristine blue sky arches to space. The faces of the cliffs explode from the waves. The soaring canopy of green rustles overhead.
But throughout our weekend hike at Pictured Rocks, my sister and I were careful to take note of the small things set in our path. I’m a “noticer.” My sister joked that while I was busy noticing a miniscule red and yellow fungus in the undergrowth I would be eaten by a bear. Sadly, we saw no bears, but we did see flowers, ferns, stones, fungus, insects, squirrels, snakes, rabbits, deer, and chipmunks. Always chipmunks.
Here are some of the small graces we experienced as we were pushing through the pain.
Beyond the sights, we heard eerie and thrilling bird calls we had never heard before and smelled the freshness of Lake Superior and pine forests. When you are exerting the kind of effort we were, you also appreciate with true gratitude the small graces of cool breezes off the lake, cold water from the rivers, and the frigid waves of Superior. That’s probably why so many of my photos are of our feet in the water.
It’s focusing on these gifts of comfort and beauty from God that makes it possible to overdo it without complaint. Sure our feet hurt, our shoulders were sore, our joints were aching, we were thirsty and rationing water. But that’s just hiking. Complaining doesn’t change it, and, in fact, it makes it no fun. I’ve been on hikes and nature walks and tours with complainers young and old and I have to tell you, there is little that grates on me quite like someone who is whining about heat or cold or bugs or boredom and not appreciating the beauty of a place.
And that’s how it is in the rest of life, too. You can focus on the negative and moan about the things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy and bring everyone around you down with your constant discontent and never notice that all around you are small graces. All it takes is a shift in focus. All it takes is taking your eyes off yourself and looking instead to the gifts that have been lavished upon us by a generous hand.