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Ludington State Park. Ludington, Michigan.Credit: Christine Markoski

July 16, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – For the last two months, I’ve been traveling to what us Michiganians call “up north” almost every other weekend. 

“Up north” is code for “going to the lake and taking it easy.” 

Sometimes I’ve been going for work. Other times for pleasure. Either way, it isn’t new to me. I spent much of my youth at Michigan’s most well-known vacation spots — Silver Lake, Ludington, Grand Haven, to name a few. But over the last five years, I haven’t visited these places as much as I used to. 

Maybe it was the draconian coronavirus lockdowns Michigan had under Gretchen Whitmer. Maybe it’s just me doing things that I haven’t in a while. But something about this summer’s trips northward have made me appreciate them more than ever before. 

What’s clear to me now is that when we connect with nature, we connect with God. The tranquility of flowing water, the peaceful sound of chirping birds, and the general slowness of cottage life heal the soul from the scourges of modern living. Cities today are filled with angry cab drivers, frenetic crowds of people, and constant noise pollution. These things grate on our spiritual well-being. 

What’s more, contemporary architecture is downright repugnant. Glass buildings and angled rooftops don’t inspire anyone. Places like Mackinac Island (where cars are not allowed) have charming hotels and quaint vacation houses that put people in an especially relaxed state of mind. 

“Up north” also means watching a perfect sunset while sitting on a pier with your significant other or group of friends. It means gazing at the stars, taking a casual stroll on a beach, dipping your toes in the water, and listening for hours on end kids laughing and waves crash into the shoreline. This is all a foretaste of heaven, as far as I can tell, given the universally uplifting effect they have on us, regardless of our religious or political persuasions. 

I wish more people could experience Michigan summers. I know not everybody can, so I hope they can find their own “up north” wherever it may be. God made creation for man to enjoy, not ignore, during his short stay on earth. I look forward to doing more of that in the months and years ahead. 

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Stephen Kokx is a journalist for LifeSiteNews. A former community college instructor, Stephen has written and spoken extensively about Catholic social teaching, politics, and spirituality. He previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago under the late Francis Cardinal George. His essays have appeared in a variety of outlets, including Catholic Family News and He is the author of St. Alphonsus for the 21st Century: A Handbook for Holiness.