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Green for The Gray



By Kate Dernocoeur, guest blogger

Being a big believer in listening to those quiet whispers in your soul that serve so well as guides, I found myself driving recently to Frederick Meijer Gardens for a bit of Gray Tunnel Relief (GTR). The Gray Tunnel was named by the man formerly known as my husband, who loathed the day-after-day grayness of this lake-effect affected patch of terrain known as western Michigan.

It seems worst at this time of year, even though the optimist in me knows that the days are, in fact, getting longer. Although it’s personal policy never to complain about the weather, it can be challenging to maintain a chin-up attitude when confronted by the monocolor of late January—especially when a warm front adds fog to everything in sight, from the dirty old snow to the unyielding grey-scale of the sky.

The billboards proclaiming relief at the end of a flight to the warm, sandy beaches south of here are not helpful when that’s just not in the cards for whatever reason, so, my soul whispers, why not go to the Gardens?

When I get there, I always feel a surge of happiness, just to be there. On my way through the main building, I always divert to the cactus pathway instead of instantly indulging in the best part. This gives me time to slow down, catch a whiff of beauty in its own, arid way. That path wanders after the desert display into the mirror room (I call it), where there’s always a burst of color from blossoms such as early daffodils, geraniums, and more. Then through the Victorian room, where I wish they’d put back the wrought iron table I used to sit at under the winding overhead vines on the arbor, listening to the fountain. Since it’s gone, I carry on, exiting the Victorian Room and turning left into the Best Part.



The automatic doors slide open—shoosh!—and you step through to be enveloped like a hug by the humid wafting of earth and plant smells. It’s the finest kind of GTR. I always smile like a dazzled teenager in love at that moment. Mmmmm…..the sound of the waterfall, the birds, the overarching greenness, the bursts of color, the variegated leaves, the orchid wall. Mesmerizing. Truly lovely. Best at a quiet time of day, but always, always worth the trip. It never fails to slow me down, soothe my cold bones, elevate my mood. Green for the gray: yes!

Fun story: once I was sitting on a bench there in the rainforest, working on an essay, using just a finger on the down button to scroll as I re-read it. A baseball cap shielded my face, but I became aware of someone standing beside me for a long time, so I looked up. He jumped back, astonished, saying, “I was trying to decide if you were one of the sculptures!”




It’s a world-class place, Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I heartily recommend it for GTR. (See more at

“This blog post was first printed on Kate Dernocoeur’s blog, Generally Write. For more from Kate go to For more from Kate on this blog, go to the menu Guest Blogs under the header, DesignDestinations.


271Bio: Kate lives in a beautiful natural area in Vergennes Township (MI), and despite a personal policy of never complaining about the weather, has to admit it would be nice to see a glimmer of sunlight. She is currently writing a book describing the history of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and wishing for the wilderness.


Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Marie Preston
    Feb 15, 2016 Reply

    Beautifully written and photographed, and I couldn’t agree more.
    We walk outside year round too . . . always a pleasure . . . every part.
    Love the sculpture story.

  2. posted by
    peggy depersia
    Feb 16, 2016 Reply

    Thank you, Kate.
    Just what this gray spirit needed, especially on a day like today. The poetry of your observations reminds me that, indeed, there is beauty to be found amidst the gray (its own kind of beauty) but we need to work a bit to lift ourselves into it.

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