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The grass is green, flowers are blooming and the sun shines much more consistently. These months of warmer weather from spring into summer are when Michigan is at its best. The weather is almost an invitation to get outside in nature.

And with that invitation comes the reminder that nature is a beautiful place to experience the presence and stillness of God.

God is ever-present and all around us through people, places, experiences and things — they can all be an avenue to hear God’s voice and reflect upon the mysteries of our faith.

If you are looking to connect more to God in nature over the next three months, here are some suggestions of places to visit in the Metro Detroit area.

Kensington Metro Park

Located in Milford, this local metro park offers 4,481 acres and offers a variety of wooded and hilly terrain surrounding Lake Kent. There is an abundance of beautiful space to spend a restful day hiking, running or walking and just soaking up the beauty of God’s creation. 

Several years ago when I was in a running group, we met at Kensington every Saturday morning to do our long runs — rain or shine, snow and ice. I stopped running with earbuds to listen to music because I didn’t want to miss out on all that was around me. A mother duck crossing a path with her trail of baby ducklings behind her. Wild turkeys looking for a mid-morning snack. Swans gracefully gliding through the lake waters.

The open, vast space of a metro park like Kensington offers a variety of options for space to sit and be still. Maybe bring your Bible and reflect on a particular Psalm, reflect on the words from St. Francis of Assisi’s The Canticle of the Sun or just be quiet and listen.

Your own backyard

Okay, I recognize this suggestion may feel a bit cheesy, but hear me out. Sometimes our lives become so fast-paced and busy that we miss the little opportunities to be outside with God. While it can feel more restful to go on a hike in the woods or enjoy a silent retreat in a park, don’t discount your little patch of green space at your own home.

Take stock of what is in your backyard. Do you have an herb or vegetable garden? Is there artwork or beautiful statues that remind you of God? What types of flowering plants are in your garden? Is there a bird feeder or hummingbird feeder to attract the local neighborhood birds to your little oasis?

After taking stock of the space in your backyard, pull up a comfortable lawn chair (maybe even with a cool drink!) and think about what you want to focus on. Is it the beauty and smell of the peony bush? The wonder in the mother robin feeding her babies in the nest above your garage?

Whatever it is doesn’t really matter. There are lots of opportunities and ways to encounter God right from your own yard. It might be as simple as the relaxing sounds of bird chirping or the wind blowing through the wind chimes. In my own backyard, those are some of the most relaxing sounds to me — and they have a way of calming down my heart when it feels anxious or on edge.

Detroit RiverFront

If you’re looking for a stretch of space to walk or run, this is a great option. In the heart of downtown Detroit, the Detroit International RiverWalk spans a little over three miles, from Rosa Parks Blvd. to the Belle Isle Bridge.

While soaking up the sunshine on the waterfront, you can take in views of downtown Windsor, Canada across the Detroit River.

While I find it a great place for people-watching, perhaps bring a rosary or listen to worship music on your AirPods. As you encounter different people on your way, recount the words of Mother Teresa who once spoke about how whenever she met someone she greeted Jesus living inside of them, first. What a simple, yet powerful spiritual practice to offer whomever you encounter throughout the day! 

The Labyrinth at Manresa Retreat House

Two years ago, I went to the Jesuit retreat house, Manresa, in Bloomfield Hills for a silent weekend retreat. A lover of Jesuit spirituality, the grounds were abundant with many silent, prayer places. And yet, my favorite place to pray on that specific retreat was walking the Labyrinth.

The above brochure describes a labyrinth as, “an intricately designed pattern of a single circuitous path that leads to the center and back out again.” Very different from a maze, a labyrinth offers no choices, no dead ends and no chance of becoming lost. Each twist and turn is part of this journey.

This is a beautiful practice of centering prayer — especially outdoors in nature. This prayerful, reflective walking is a metaphor for the spiritual life on our own journey with God. If you would like to experience the prayer practice of walking a labyrinth, use this locator to find a site near you.

Creation Garden at the Fr. Solanus Casey Center in Detroit

For local Metro Detroiters, I can’t think of a more perfect place to be outdoors and pray than at the Fr. Solanus Center.

Before you enter the Fr. Solanus Center, you are greeted by the Creation Garden which is designed in traditional Franciscan spirituality. While in the city, there is a deep sense of being connected to nature in this open, squared prayer space. This space is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures, which he wrote towards the end of his life.  

All the artwork in the garden brings to life this poem of praise by St. Francis while inviting you to find God in all things. There are multiple benches and little corners to tuck away for times of private prayer and reflection.

Even in the hustle of Detroit, this is an oasis of peace and prayer for all who come here.

Belle Isle Park

Belle Isle Park is a hidden gem that some readers might not be familiar with. Located in the middle of the Detroit River near downtown Detroit, Belle Isle has almost 100 acres of park space. It is home to several different activities including a golf course, aquarium and much more.

There are plenty of spaces to go kayaking, ride bicycles or find a quiet place to reflect, journal or be still. You have plenty of hiking trails to choose from which could be a great way to pray a rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Take advantage of the beautiful Michigan weather this spring and summer to find new places to pray outdoors in nature. Use one of these options as a guide, or find one that works for you.

Are there any that we missed? DM us on Instagram @utgdetroit! Or, tag us when you go to pray in nature this summer.