DENIM SPIRIT: Dog camp and special places | Opinion

Rabia is pouting, maybe even depressed.

My wife and I went on vacation and brought Rabia to the “Dog Camp”. Definitely a very nice place if you are a dog or a cat. She was well fed, trained, able to play with other dogs, and given special human attention on schedule (for which we paid extra).

Anyway, it was a good, safe camp and she was a happy camper there. But now she is home and Rabia lets us know that she was hurt and offended that we would leave her behind. We came home with familiar and new scents, and she almost said, “And where did you go anyway?”

We went back in time. Have you been there before?

We went to northern Michigan, an area where I spent every summer for over 50 years. Although I love Seneca Lake and live where we live, the shores of Lake Michigan hold a special magic for me. I would even call it healing.

Most of the people I know have this kind of place – where personal history and beauty intersect and open us up to some kind of sacred presence. The people I know who grew up by the ocean have a similar emotional attachment to salty surf and sand. But the freshwater tones cyan and aqua of Lake Michigan and further out the deep royal and azure blue tones speak to my heart. In one place its crystal clear water reveals a pure sandy bottom that extends far into the lake, and in another a huge expanse of smooth stones covers the beach and the lake floor, occasionally spewing out a rare and beautiful “Petoskey” stone .

Lake Michigan, three times the size of Lake Ontario, engulfs a huge dent in the earth: 307 miles long, 118 miles wide, and 923 feet deep at its deepest point. Whether whispering with gentle waves lapping the shore or rushing through 3 meter high waves, their size, strength and history make you feel small – both in the moment and over time.

It has been many years since I last visited this place, which for me is a sacred presence, and it has reminded me of the importance of having such places. Many people have sacred buildings, shrines, and altars that are steeped in family history and generations of prayers. They were often or completely inaccessible in the past year of the pandemic. Others have a special place in nature, such as one of the numerous waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. Many of these places were inundated with visitors in the year of the pandemic because so many felt the need to flee. The Flood may have made it difficult or even impossible to achieve the sanctity of such places.

This is just a reminder that our lives have been interrupted in more ways than we often realize, and long absences from our sacred places (or being diminished by too many people) are worth acknowledging. For Rabia and her kind, the whole earth is sacred, maybe even the dog camp. But for the people we dedicate certain places where we have important connections. There is no substitute for going there and being in His presence.

Cameron Miller from Geneva is an author and pastor. His fiction and poetry are available on Amazon. Contact him through his website at

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