Each year I make a pilgrimage, and my family happily goes too.
This is a deliberate choice, a deliberate change in geography.
Place is important. As I mentioned in an earlier post, our personal geography has a major impact on our lives. While sometimes we do not get to choose the locations in our lives, we do have many opportunities to deliberately decide where we want to be – and therefore deliberately impact our lives.
We can go anywhere, but we choose to go there, to the family cottage. Built out of the love of a widowed father for his sons, it is a unique retreat in Michigan’s north woods.
We ban electronics and our phones barely get signals, allowing us to enjoy being disconnected from everything. We spend our days swimming, go-karting on the trails, reading, craft projects, puzzles, and doing whatever else we feel like. Sure, we go into Kalkaska to shop at Cherry Street, grab icecream and “pink” milk at Shetler’s Dairy, and a day or two visiting Traverse City and wandering through Old Mission and Leelanau, but mostly we remain within the bounds of our 38 acres and the lake.
It was the first place I felt truly connected with God, sitting on the expanded porch and hearing the wind through the trees and the water gently moving through the plants and limbs leaning down into the lake. I spent much of my childhood there, either with my immediate family, sometimes just my Dad, and other times with up to 25+ extended family members.
Now, the children and I make our yearly pilgrimage, spending two weeks there – one with our husband/dad and the other with my folks. We are making new traditions for them “Grandpa Camp” day for our son, “Girl Shopping” day for our daughter, and a trip out on Torch in their grandparent’s boat, Red Cedar. Not to mention that the Fairies providing the children with surprise gifts, keeping our active kids distracted at times (see: To My Kids…Fairies are Real)! We also continue with older traditions, roasting s’mores, rides on a “home-made” garden tractor, boating, and playing in the woods. And when possible, we join the now 40+ family members as the place is taken over with tents, campers and the revived talent show.
Beyond the fun of this amazing family-built paradise, is the importance of our kids incorporating the place into their bones. It is a place filled with history and nature, an opportunity to step back from the world and just be. A place where the kids can literally run naked through the sprinklers, our daughter can play for hours in the sand and our son can drive the go-kart for as long as he wants over the rough “terrain”. We allow our kids to have the freedom to do what their minds and bodies need, even hooking up a “swing” to help with our son’s SPD. Here they can be themselves, knowing that they are completely loved and embraced.
It takes them a few days to feel comfortable, away from the distractions of all their toys, friends, electronics and busy schedules. Our son spends a bit of time wandering around, but always ends up finding something to do. But in our last days of our last pilgrimage, our son asked me to promise that we would never sell the cottage.
Just as I have come to love the time we spend there, finding that it renews my spirit and soul, our son has come to love it too.
Yes, I love visiting new places and traveling the world, but in the end, there is one place I will always go. One place that centers my life in a way nowhere else can.
Vacations are a prime example of providing us with an opportunity to shape our lives. Where do you go? Do you travel the world? Go to the beach?