Students should pause to admire Marquette

Alex Belz

A few weeks ago, I went to Tourist Park with some friends. We sat along the rocks by the river and took in the sunset coming down over the horizon. A friend of mine who is new to Marquette interrupted the casual conversation and asked  how we could take views like the one in front of us for granted.

I think often we don’t take advantage of the beauty around us in Marquette. In our busy lives as college students, it can be hard to stop and look. So I looked out at the view like I was looking for the first time.

In front of me was a beautiful sunset, highlighting the tall grass surrounding the river, bringing out the reds and purples of the bedrock. The river was running fast along the rocks, kicking up water around the edges. The sky was a mix of orange and purple, spreading out over the field and riverbed, disappearing behind the edges of the trees around us.

I started thinking about how I’ve become used to the beauty of Marquette and the Upper Peninsula. I often don’t even notice it that much anymore. In the craziness of college, it’s sometimes hard just to stop and appreciate in the nature around us.

When I started going to school at NMU, I was amazed by all of the nature in the UP. I’m from the suburbs of Detroit. I grew up with small yards with metal fences and knowing what the neighbors were up to whether I knew them on a personal level or not. Nature to me meant a small park called Tot Lot not too far from the house where I grew up. That’s one reason I applied to Northern. I wanted a Thoreau-like experience. I wanted to be near a real forest, not just a fence around a small gathering of trees.

Melissa Pinskey/NW

I remember on the way up to school for my first semester at NMU, my father and I took in the view of Lake Superior in silence. The closest body of water to my house back home is the Detroit River. While the view isn’t bad there, it just doesn’t compare to the waters of Lake Superior. It was January when my father and I looked upon the lake. Some of the waves, impossibly, were frozen in place. Beyond the ice, the lake was calm. The sun shined down upon it all, creating colors along the smooth white and blue.

I love being able to take a short drive in almost any direction and be in a forest. Sometimes I would walk along the beach whatever time of year it was and take in the view. I’d walk around near the lake or drive down Lakeshore, carefully looking at everything around me.  As my classes grew harder, I started finding less and less time for nature. Books replaced walks around town.

I think many of us fall into that same trap. We talk so often about the stress of our lives. We even have classes at NMU dedicated to teaching us how to de-stress. But maybe – and I may be wrong here – all we really need to do is sit on a rock and watch a sunset at Tourist Park, or walk along Lake Superior in the early morning.

After taking in the view at Tourist Park, my friends all went back to the picnic table we were using. I lingered, looking toward the horizon. I couldn’t help thinking that the view would be the same whether I looked at it or not. It wasn’t there to wow me into realizing how beautiful it was, the way a wide view shot in an expensive movie would. It was just there, beautiful and waiting for whoever wanted to take a moment out of their lives and study it. I’m not much of an art person, but I understand why great artists like Monet only painted landscapes. There’s a lot of beauty in the world, but few things are more beautiful than a sunset.

I hesitate to use the phrase “stop and smell the roses,” but I suppose sometimes clichés are clichés because they are true. In our lives, with classes, jobs, other responsibilities, friends and family, it’s difficult to make time to stop and look around. Tourist Park, for example, is a fifteen minute walk from the university. Yet my trip there a few weeks ago was only the third time I’ve been there.

Maybe the answer to our fast-paced lives of eyes glued to laptop screens, homework assignments and job responsibilities is just to stop once in a while and look at the beauty around us as if we’ve never seen it before.