Slow Down and Shut up!

Thank you to Jess Venlet for reminding us of how important it is sometimes to slow down and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.   

Last summer I traveled to Northern Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Lakeshore for the first time ever. I was making the trip with my boyfriend, and my excitement dwindled as we drove. We took the scenic way. Gas was running low. We were behind schedule by an hour. My boyfriend was singing every song on the radio. And just as it felt like we would never get there, just as I almost threw myself from the car (from the singing!)—I caught a glimpse of my sulky reflection in the rearview mirror. 

Was I actually complaining that we took the scenic way? Did we even have a schedule? It’s not like the dunes were going to blow away. 

Our “schedule” consisted of arriving at the dune climb area of the lakeshore, and completing the walk to Lake Michigan. Though we were “late” we did get there eventually. We paid ten dollars for a park pass, parked, and stepped out of the car a bit surprised. Looming in front of us was the first climb. The people on top looked small. It’s over a mile to reach the water. But no big deal, right? We are young. We are athletic. Let’s do this! 

Dune after dune…after dune…after dune I eagerly anticipated Lake Michigan. Each time we climbed up I expected to see the lake just yards away. But at the top of each dune, the only thing in close distance was sand. Way up in the distance, Lake Michigan glistened with the familiar dark blue I had seen many times before at Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon

The view from the top

I tried my best not to complain, but my excitement was again dwindling. And is he humming? Is he going to sing more? Why am I still slugging through sand to reach such a familiar lake? But each time I looked back, I decided that I had come too far to quit. The sun was shining; the air was warm and breezy. It is a beautiful day. 

Forty-five minutes of walking later, my jaw dropped. Chilling waves of intense calm washed over me, erupting my skin into tingles. I do not consider myself religious, but that first glimpse of the waters surrounding the Manitou islands was unbelievably spiritual. 

Turquoise water. Glimmering rocks, not wet with water, but shining pinkish from a natural glitter deep within them. For a moment I could imagine nature untouched by human development. 

The lighthouse on South Manitou Island

Sitting, dune grass swaying behind him, my boyfriend leaned back to relax. I waded into the turquoise, letting it lap up at my knees and shorts. Gazing towards South Manitou Island—a thin, sleepy haze blanketing it—the island seemed the epitome of patience. 

On the walk back, I didn’t think about the schedule. Dune after dune after dune spoke to me as we climbed. This time I listened. They said, “slow down,” as my feet slipped backward in warm sand. They firmly said, “shut up!” to negative, busy thoughts. They softly murmured, “isn’t this magic?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I think this is.”



Jess is a recent graduate of Aquinas College, an aspiring writer, a runner, and a beach bum. She grew up in Conklin, MI, and now lives and works in Grand Rapids. You can share your comments and thoughts with her on Twitter (@JessVenlet), or by leaving a comment below.

14 thoughts on “Slow Down and Shut up!

  1. Couldn?t be developed any much better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this report to him. Pretty certain he will possess a great read. Thanks for sharing! 817554

  2. HA that is a long way to the water, buttt after u climb it a couple times its no biggy. This blog is so true

  3. Jess,
    I love how you express yourself and your experience. It is all so true how we do not know how to slow down and enjoy life. We are all so busy all the time that we miss so much beauty. Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of my favorites. When you do the drive through you can actually see a little lake within the dunes. My brother found the road to it and it is breath taking gorgeous. No one seems to know it is there and you can walk around it and then onto a sand barge and there is the beautiful Lake MI. The lake was formed from big waves going over the barge. Next time you are there, try to find that. You will love it. Very peaceful and like your own private little lake to enjoy.
    I hope that this has helped you to slow down and enjoy life to it’s fullest. Enjoy your boyfriend humming and singing. It “Now” should be sweet music to your ears. Dont take that for granted.
    Thanks for sharing this with me because it put me in check again to slow down and shut everything off once in a while.

    God Bless you.

  4. If everyone would slow down and shut up. Maybe they would learn to enjoy life’s little moments. People are always in such a hurry and it’s “all about them”.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Nice story Jess.My folks live just down the road in a sleepy little drinking village with fishing problem… Frankfort.Maybe you’ve heard of of it.A visit with the folks is never complete until we head up to the ‘dunes’.

  6. Thank you for taking me back. I’m currently surrounded by cement and I long for the tall grass and shiny sand of Northern Michigan. You certainly helped me out with that. :-)

  7. This is a moment where you realize….fast, is all about slowing down and you realized it due to the nature surrounding you! Well done!

  8. Very nice writing to capture the essence of the Sleeping Bear area. I grew up in Muskegon and spent my summers at the Pere Marquette beach there. I now live near the Sleeping Bear area and although I am aware of how fortunate I am to live here, your writing definitely caused me to take a deep breath and soak in the magic. Thanks!

  9. Phil, Thank you!

    Kay, feel free to share the piece on Facebook. And thank you!

    Tieka, You will love sleeping bear. The whole lakeshore area up there is extra beautiful!!

  10. Jess, this is so evocative! I have goosebumps. Is it OK with you if I share this with my Facebook friends? For me, you have described Pure Michigan.

    Kay in East Lansing

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