The Island in May

Morning on Mackinac. The storms of the night have given way to a soft grey morning, and the sun is slipping through the mist, offering some promise of a beautiful day. Outside the cheerful room in one of the less “grand” older hotels, a dray drawn by a beautiful matched pair of black Percherons makes a delivery to the grocery across the street. There are no automobiles on the Island. Last night’s revels–the main street has almost as many bars as it has fudge shops–are forgotten. The morning’s first ferryful of tourists will soon arrive. Thankfully, the crowds are considerably smaller in May than at peak times during the summer and early fall.

Spring arrives later here, but compensates with prodigious blooms. The daffodils, still flowering in the latter half of May, are half again larger than those 400 miles south. The tulips are a riotous clash of colors as if they are celebrating a late carnivale. The legendary lilacs are not yet in bloom, but they will soon spring forth from massive twisted trees well into their third and fourth centuries. Gigantic white trillium, trout lilies, and forget-me-nots carpet the woods.

Mackinac Island is a wondrous mix of so much that I love. The Straits, of course, where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet and mingle. The views of the mighty suspension bridge over the Straits, a marvel of engineering now over 50 years old. The nineteenth century architecture, heavy on the unrestrained Queen Anne. The layers of history (last night the plaintive sound of “Taps” emanated from the old fort just up the hill). The abundant and outsized natural wonders–not just the flowers and trees, not just the persistent gulls and bold bats, but also the ancient breccia rock outcroppings that keep to themselves many a wondrous tale.

The Island. In Michigan one need not say more; people know where you mean. I could live here, I’m sure of it; with my Nordic blood I do not fear the piercing cold of winter. In my dreams I envision many an afternoon in the Island library, watching the snowy straits as I finally return to the regular habit of writing, overcoming my block at last. I would walk and walk, past the glorious architecture, up the hills and deep into the woods–no need for artificial means to keep fit. I would unfetter my soul through long consultations with the Lake that always knows the answers, even if I do not know the questions. Perhaps even the wise old breccia formations would have something more to tell me. Mackinac breccia, by the way, is composed of limestone largely replaced with dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate). These early Devonian outcroppings appear willy-nilly all over the Island, several large enough to be considered tourist sites, such as the Arch Rock and the Sugar Loaf. West across the water in St. Ignace, gateway to Upper Michigan, the most famous breccia is Castle Rock, once a must-see tourist attraction, but another much smaller one juts up right downtown next to an alley. I should have been a geologist, but I digress.

This all-too-brief respite ends soon. My departure will not be without pain, but the box of fudge that I cannot resist will offer some ease. I will remember, and the siren song of the winds and mating of the Lakes will bring me back again.

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One Response to The Island in May

  1. Eric Grayson says:

    It is a wonderful place.

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