The Beauty of Insignificance
Lucia Upham

I took these photographs as part of my testimony on why Sylvania should become a protected wilderness. I have provided excerpts from my testimony below. Standing on Fisher Lake in Sylvania, squinting as the wind whipped snow into my face, I felt incredibly humbled. The magnitude of the stillness and the harsh and unforgiving solitude gave me pause. I felt small and insignificant. I did not matter to the cedar trees standing tall on the shoreline, to the wavelike patterns of snow under my feet, to the solidly frozen ice. The knowledge that I would leave and everything would continue exactly how it would have if I had never been there in the first place was gratifying. I think that this feeling is exactly why we must protect wilderness areas. For us to realize that we are no more important than anything else and for us to treat other living things with the respect we give ourselves will be the first step on the road to a more connected relationship with wilderness. Feeling this sense of awe and humility is key.

Sylvania holds a multitude of lakes, bogs, and wetlands, each with their own unique character. The contrast of the lakes with the thick forests around them inspire a sense of awe and wonder for those who stand on them in winter and paddle them in summer. The stillness and solitude of the air is beyond compare. These deep and clear lakes are mainly spring-fed, with no streams entering them. For this reason, the lakes are especially vulnerable to pollution. The lakes are home to many loons, which are threatened in Michigan, and a diverse collection of fish and other aquatic animals. These pristine bodies of water are sensitive ecosystems that should be protected.

The forests of Sylvania are dense and wild, full of hidden life. Walking in feels like walking into a different world. The thick branches block out much of the light, and what gets through gleams and shimmers off the clumps of snow, sending dappled patterns to the ground. Sylvania is home to one of the few remaining stands of old growth forest in Michigan, and these towering trees immediately humble anyone who walks beneath them. Many are split and weathered with age, giving them even more character. The trees of Sylvania deserve protection.


The beauty of Sylvania is not only in its giant trees and sprawling lakes, but also in the small segments that make up the greater wilderness. Each tree is covered in lichens and moss, some tiny and barely established, and others in a thick blanket across the trunk. This moss is growing on a dead tree ringed with holes from woodpeckers, even in death providing shelter and nutrients for new growth. Sylvania's ecosystem depends on this cycle of death and rebirth. Leaves falling to the forest floor provide a rich blanket for new life, trees that are dead but still standing provide shelter for the myriad animals found in Sylvania, fallen branches decomposing in the wet earth providing habitat for the lichens and fungi. Sylvania as a whole is magnificent, yet to fully appreciate its beauty and wonder we must look at the tiny parts that make it complete.


  • Alumni Stories
  • English