When Ted and I began looking for property on Mackinac Island, we thought there was no other place to be except downtown. That’s where we had stayed for eight years at the Chippewa Hotel, and that’s where we wanted to be. Yes, we would leave the hustle and bustle everyday and go exploring around the island, but we couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than right smack dab in the middle of all the activity – where the excitement was, where the people were, where walking home meant a leisurely stroll of a couple of blocks.
When we got serious about looking though, we realized very quickly that there was nothing for sale downtown in our price range – nothing even close to our price range for that matter. So we started searching further and further from the downtown area, and as luck would have it (or lots of prayers), we bought in the perfect area for us – halfway between town and the airport, far enough away from the noise and the crowds to be peaceful, but close enough that a 10-minute walk down the hill will take us to all the excitement we need.
At Surrey Ridge Condos, we meet people from everywhere on the island. The true islanders live directly behind us in Harrisonville, and many of the “summer” folks and cottagers walk or bike or buggy by our condo on their way to their homes on the other side of the island. We feel we have landed in the perfect spot – a quiet, peaceful niche on an island designed to bring peace to your heart if you are in the “time of your life” that Ted and I are. We still love to party occasionally, but we also love the solitude that comes from sitting up on our hill, watching the world go slowly by.
This morning was a good example. I awoke at 7:30 a.m. to a silent, empty house. Ted is good about letting me sleep in a lot of mornings, but he will usually wake me up when he is rambling around the bedroom getting dressed. The dogs are usually making plenty of noise too, and Bear loves to jump in beside me for a few minutes of spoiling, even if I’m not going on a walk with them. But today, I had slept through all that. At first, I called Ted’s name, sure he must still be downstairs putting the dogs’ collars on. But, no. Not a sound.
I got up and wandered into the kitchen. The coffee was made (bless you, Ted). I poured myself a cup, added my Splenda and my half-and-half (good combo, huh) and walked out onto the balcony into the sunshine – and the silence. The island was just awakening, and up on our hill the only sound to be heard was the occasional gull flying overhead, calling to another gull somewhere up there, and the stamp of a horse’s hoof against a stall floor down in the livery barn. We’ve learned that horses make a lot of noise if they are all you have to listen to during a quiet time of day. In the mornings, you will hear them stomping in the barn, whinnying to anyone who will listen that they are ready for breakfast. You can hear the barn workers occasionally – not specifically what they are saying, just an infrequent shout as they muck out stalls and fill feed troughs.
Behind me I heard the clop-clop of a horse pulling a dray, and soon it passed into my line of sight and on down the hill. I’m beginning to be able to tell what a horse is pulling even before I see it – the dray horses are the slowest, all their might going into those muscles that can pull anything from hay to cement blocks. They tread heavily – and slowly.
Ted came in with the dogs, poured himself a cup of coffee and joined me on the porch. He had gone out at 6:30 – a lot earlier than normal (no wonder I didn’t wake up). Funny, he began to talk about how quiet it had been in the woods. He said the crows were the only birds he saw or heard this morning. He had watched, from the East Bluff, a single boat head out of the harbor into the straits. No fog horns. No freighters passing through. Coming home, Maddie alerted to a rabbit in the undergrowth. Ted said he would have never seen it without her eagle eyes – the rabbit never made a sound.
We sat together and watched as Denise and her little dachshund Scooter rode up the hill toward the Carriage Museum They are always the first ones to arrive on the job there. She carries him in her basket until she gets out of town, then puts him down to run. He flew up the hill ahead of Denise’s bike, already on the trail of a rabbit or chipmunk. She lifts her hand to us, as she does every morning, shouting “Hey, Maddie! Hey, Bear!” We shout back, “Hey, Scooter.” On this island, you are known for your dogs.
We talk about ordinary things – why the hummingbird feeder isn’t attracting anything but bees, forgetting to buy bananas on the mainland yesterday when we went grocery shopping, what the grandchildren will want to do first when they arrive Friday.
On Friday, our daughter and two grandchildren will arrive – having driven from Bentonville, Arkansas. They will be followed quickly next week by a son from China, a son-in-law flying in from Arkansas to join his family, and if they can figure out a way to make it happen, another son and daughter-in-law will fly up from Atlanta. Some of this bunch will be staying until the last week in July.
Maybe that’s why we both claimed the quietness of this morning. It will be our last one alone for a while – our last time for a couple of weeks to soak up the rhythm of the island as it starts its day. The days ahead will be filled with grandchildren’s laughter, our grown children’s voices all talking at once, a son and son-in-law’s practical jokes on Ted – the joy of family together. And, for a few nights, we will all fall asleep under the same roof – on Mackinac Island. What a gift we have been given. How blessed we are.