Two weeks ago, I was blessed to go to a place that I consider a haven for my soul.
Door County, Wisconsin.
For those not familiar with Wisconsin, Door County is a popular vacation spot in the late spring, summer and fall months. Some people have summer cottages there. Others camp with their families. I’ve heard of it referred to as “The Hamptons of the Midwest”.
While I do enjoy the things that bring most tourists to Door County, like shopping and wineries, the one thing that made me fall in love with this little corner of Wisconsin lies near the tip of the peninsula – a quiet place called Newport State Park.
It’s nowhere near as popular as Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek (which is also one of my favorites for different reasons), but what it lacks in popularity, it more than makes up for in beauty. Before becoming a state park in 1964, the land was described in 1946 as “the most outstanding state park possibility along the Lake Michigan Shore”. Those words couldn’t be more true.
The reason I love it so much?
From the moment I turn off Hwy 42 into the small country road leading to the park, a hush envelops my soul. Then, after several minutes of driving, I see this.
My heart quickens. My soul sings for joy.
A little bit farther and I would reach my destination. The winding road meandered through the thick forest and shadows of towering maples led the way.
The road ended at a parking lot. I grabbed my water bottle and a small snack, took a deep breath and emerged from my car. It took a while for me to find what I was looking for, but my heart did a little flip when I did.
Here it is.
Well, it’s not technically my bench. I don’t own it. But this particular spot holds a spiritual connection for me. It is one of the few places in this world where I feel closest to God.
So I took a seat. I closed my eyes. I listened to the waves. Opened my ears, and my heart, to God’s voice.
The feeling that washed over me was unlike any I have ever felt. So much so that mere words cannot describe it.
After a few moments, I stood, then walked down to the beach. I felt drawn closer to the waves, as if the answers to the questions deep within my soul lived in those waters.
As I walked along the damp sand, I spotted a few rocks, and my post from a month ago rose to the surface of my mind. So I picked up a handful of rocks.
One by one, I tossed them as hard as I could into the lake. With each toss I shouted out something that had been troubing me. Fears. Worries. Anxieties. All cast into the waves.
And with each splash, I let it all go.
I took a deep breath, smiled, and turned to go back to my car. But something made me stop and look down. What I saw next made me laugh and cry at the same time.
A single seagull feather, sticking out of the sand.
I didn’t take a picture because my hands woudn’t stop shaking. See, this was no ordinary feather. It reminded me of a poem – one that has been written on my heart years ago.
“Hope is the thing with feathers,
that perches on the soul.
That sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all…” -Emily Dickinson
That feather, dirty and covered with bits of sand and grass, served as a beacon of hope.
Hope that no matter how much my troubles weigh me down, God is with me, ready to bear some of the burden. I picked up that feather, wiped it off and brought it home with me. Now I keep it tucked behind a picture frame by my desk, to remind me that when the world feels dark, when I feel like I can’t go on, there’s always hope.
All I need to do is gather up my troubles. My fears and my anxieties.
And one by one, to let them all go.