Getting Back to the Magic 8/12/2011

We have a winner on the Mystery Spot!  It is Irene Cowley from Inglewood, California!  Please see end of blog post for the Mystery Spot answer!

On Wednesday evening Ted and I attended the Mackinac Associates Annual Meeting.  After a box dinner under a tent on the fort grounds, close to 85 Associates boarded two-horse hitch carriages for a tour of Mackinac Island’s unique geological features.  Mackinac State Historic Parks Naturalist Jeff Dykehouse was aboard to present the scientific explanation for these features, and Native American interpreter Deleta Smith was along to discuss the native legend of the landmarks.

Of course I brought my camera, and I even brought a tiny notebook and a pen.  I took notes.  And I wish I could repeat all the facts Jeff gave us (they were amazing), and tell you the wonderful stories related by Deleta (they were fascinating).  But the truth is, although I took notes, I found myself only half listening to these gifted park employees and instead being caught up in where I was.

I’ve found myself lately asking if I am beginning to lose some of my wonder for this island.  I write about it almost everyday, and just as all of us start to take for granted that which we have near us for a period of time, I’ve found myself taking for granted the beauty of this mystical place I fell so in love with eleven years ago.  I do the same thing in Georgia.

There, I get up every morning and have my coffee on a sunporch overlooking Lake Blackshear. When I say “overlooking”, I almost mean that literally, as the water is only 30-40 yards from our back door.  We watch eagles and egrets and hawks fly by everyday.  We have our very own otter who swims by each morning and climbs into our boat house to feast on fresh-caught brim or catfish (what he leaves in the boat house is another story).  Mom and dad mallards hatch their babies and teach them eventually to jump over our seawall (and later to fly over our fence) so they can feed on the seed that falls from the big birdfeeder hanging from our crabapple tree.  And the birds!  Finches, cardinals, blue jays, robins, sparrows, wrens, brown thrashers (our Georgia state bird and the biggest mess-maker in bird-dom), and an occasional bluebird and cedar waxwing – we have all these and many more.  We see all this every day, and sad to say, most of the time we take it for granted. 

And then someone visits.  They sit on the porch that first morning with eyes sparkling, seeing nature awaken, watching and listening to the waves lapping on the seawall, seeing and hearing all the things we see and hear.  And once again, we see it for the first time – through their eyes.

Wednesday night that happened to me again – but instead of seeing it all through someone else’s eyes, it was as though I was given that entire tour to open my own eyes once again to the island’s magic.

When a visitor learns I live on the island half the year and asks what drew me here, my standard answer is “the weather”.  That’s easy to understand.  Explain that the summers here are a good 20 degrees cooler than Georgia, and most folks get it.  But if they probe further, and if they really seem interested, they will get the long story.  And what I tell them is this . . .

To understand the magic, you have to go into the woods. You have to walk the trails. You have to stand - all alone - on a path covered with pinestraw and leaves - and just be still and listen. If you're close enough to a road, you may hear horses as they pass by - and that's part of the magic. But so is the silence, and if you are far enough into the woods, that is what you hear. Nothing. Just you and woods. Where you stand was once covered in glacier ice, and at the end of the Ice Age - only 12,000 years ago - most of Mackinac Island was covered in water. At that time, this piece of rock was only 1/4 mile long and 1/2 mile wide.

If you climb to the island's highest point, Ft. Holmes, and stand on top of the grass and dirt wall there, you will see another part of the magic. The water is a shade of blue I can't name, and the sky is even bluer. I could sit on that wall for hours - watching the clouds, watching the planes leave and return, watching the boats ply their way through the Straits. If you happen to be alone up there, there's no sound except for the drone of a random plane. You're too high to hear what's happening in town or on the water - but you can see it - and it's magical.

Wednesday night - even though I wasn't alone - I fell in love with my island again. Riding through the woods - at one point so dense I thought we'd be in the dark by our arrival back at the fort . . .

. . . then topping a hill back into the last sunrays of the day, I could close my ears to the chatter around me and just inhale the smell of soil and wild things growing - just as they've been growing for centuries.

I'd be hard-pressed to choose which I love most - the woods or the water. But there's really no reason to choose. The island wouldn't be magical for me without them both.

Forgive my rambling today.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the splendor of the island (the cottages, the flowers, the carriages) that I don’t focus enough on the wonder of it.  In the weeks we have left here this season, I hope to give you both – through my eyes and from my heart.
NOTE: I’m going to take the weekend off from writing, so I’ll see you right back here on Monday with news and pics.  Have a wonderful weekend!
The object of the Mystery Spot  is to be the first to identify where the object is located. When you think you have the answer, email me at I’ll check my email several times a day, and as soon as we have a winner, I’ll post the winner’s name at the top of this blog so you can stop guessing, AND I’ll post the full photo of the mystery spot at the bottom of the blog with the answer. Is there a prize for the winner – yes there is; but the prize is secret, and the only ones who will know what it is are the winners. To be fair, I’m asking residents of Mackinac Island to please NOT guess. This is just for readers who don’t live here . . . but would like to! And the Mystery Spot is . .
Where is it?
Don’t forget to email your answer to me at brendasumnerhorton@hotmail.comPlease do not answer in the comment section.

This image of a Native American appears on four sides of the Round Island Passage Light.


34 thoughts on “Getting Back to the Magic 8/12/2011

  1. I want to say that I know just what you mean Brenda…about the magic. You say, but how can you know, you don’t live here, your not here to experience it day in and day out. But I do know…that’s why my kids ask me…why are you going there again, there are so many other places to see..and I don’t disagree with them, BUT if I don’t go to the island…something just doesn’t seem right, something seems to be missing… my heart maybe..I guess ..maybe I’ll find it when I get there in a couple of weeks or maybe next year or the year after….

  2. Great blog entry Brenda. It’s nice to see that even those who live on paradise are just as human as the rest of us. Have a great weekend!

  3. People ask me that too Hilde…why are you going there …again…well even before our granddaughter moved here to live year round we came to the Island every summer at least once..Someone asked me one time if it is to go shopping on the Island..and I had to laugh because when we were on the Island in July (for our Christmas in July party with Alyssa)…I realized on the boat going back to Mackinaw City that I hadn’t bought anything on the island but an ice cream cone!! (and of course our lunch..) that sort of answers that question!! LOL It’s a wonderful place and you are so right Brenda..sometimes I get caught up in the ‘splendor’ and then a ride through the woods will remind me of the ‘wonder’…Loved your post..enjoy your weekend!! 🙂

  4. So true Brenda.
    In the Scout Service Camp or Governor’s Honor Guard we call it Mackinac Magic. Once we have lived & worked on the island it becomes part of you.
    A lot of people ask why we come here & they call it a tourist trap but until you get off the beaten path & learn the history one will not understand. The Native Americans had it right about the island being a sacred place!

  5. Very well written Brenda! What you wrote about understanding the “magic” and going up to Fort Holmes is exactly what we do and love so much about the island. When Al and I walked Tranquil Bluff trail last month, we stopped a number of times to just look and listen. We do that alot when we are up inside the island. We have taken a lunch a couple times now up to Fort Holmes because we love it up there so much for the very reasons you stated. And yes, the water and the woods is what makes Mackinac Island the place we love so much. No choosing here either.

  6. Oh, you’re peraching to the choir, Brenda, but it’s a sweet sermon. And like an old hymn, we love to hear it over and over again! your photos look like so many of mine, sun slanted through the trees and a trail going around a corner into the distance.
    An especially beautiful post. Thank you. And enjoy your re-found magic!

  7. Brenda you are so true about our surroundings, everyone takes them for granted until someone visits and sees what we may have that they do not. Then all of a sudden we realize the beauty that we are actually living with every day.

    It’s as if we have to look at what we have everyday through someone else’s eyes to appreciate it.

  8. Agree totally. We come to the island every summer, and people ask us why we go there and what do we do? We just go to get away from ‘life’. Our kids fly kites by Mission Point, eat ice cream overlooking the water, watch airplanes take off, etc… Our kids are starting to grow up now (age 8, 10), and they look forward to our trip more every year. That ‘magic’ feeling is becoming part of them. We will be on the island next weekend for 5 days, and I think I’m more eager to go this year than ever. With the hectic pace of life and the down economy, I need to ‘get away from it all’, if only for 5 days.

  9. An absolutely magical place! People are always surprised when I tell them how many times we have been to Mackinac! Something draws us back….now that our girls are grown, they still love it too! Some friends have been there this week and I am anxious to hear about their trip. I told them to be brave and explore the island – because there is so much there besides fudge and ice cream! How lucky you are to have “magic” in the both the north and south!!!

  10. What a great post!! When we visited Judy a few summers back we went to the restaurant “in the woods”. I’ll never, never forget that beautiful ride thru the woods. The ride thru the woods was magical for me. I kept thinking of the pioneers riding in the old wagons and what they had to go thru and how few material things they had. They just kept forging on like the troopers they were. The ride back to the condo was cool enough for me to use the blanket over my legs. What a fabulous ride after a very fabulous meal and chatter with family and friend. You show your appreciation thru your photos and sharing them with us. I don’t feel you take much for granted. You are constantly telling us of the wondurous (sp) sites. So enjoy your blog and lovely photos!!!

  11. Brenda,

    I cannot add to these comments, except to say that because of your blogs, and especially this one, I think I’m being eaten up with envy. Well, maybe it’s not really envy, but I sure would like to share the Island in person (and maybe a little of South Georgia too, but only in Winter). In the meantime, I cannot thank you enough for how you share with us through your wonderful blogs.

    • Dear Lowell,
      Please don’t think of it as envy. It’s a deep longing, and aching for a time and place still in your heart. It’s just that Brenda is so good at sparking our memories with her words and photos. It’s like looking at an old scrap book and longing for the 20 year old who’s long gone, except in our memory. 🙂

      I hope you get to go back to Mackinac, and to south Georgia! And thank you for your lovely comments, too!

    • Lowell and Faye,
      Just remember . . . our door swings wide and welcoming both north and south. You are welcome anytime, my friends.

      • Thank you, Brenda. Maybe some day. Who knows what the future may hold? Should I knock on the front door, or could I just be a friend and knock on the back door?

  12. Enjoyed your comments about being alone in the woods and the ride at night in the woods. We had a carriage ride from “The Woods” back to the Grand at about 10 p.m. It was the most fantastic experience I have ever enjoyed. It is so dark and so quiet. Thanks for your pictures and comments. Have a grea weekend!

  13. Just came in from a long week of teaching and read your blog. Tears sprang to my eyes and my heart ached a little. Reading your blog, I can almost feel it, almost smell it. No one around here understands my love for MI…most never will, but to me, there is simply no other place on earth that I love as much. If only I could blink my eyes and be there instead of 12 hours away!

  14. To everyone who has said no one understands, I do. I just can’t believe I spent all those years thinking I was the only one! All those come-ons for vacations in the Caribbean, time-shares on the beach, skiing vacations in the Rockies – and all I want is a month in a cottage on the Island. My SoCal neighbors do not understand!!
    Brenda, this was one of the best posts ever. And I can’t believe no one else recognized the ‘Indian on the Lighthouse’ (I almost didn’t!). They used to be sort of rusty red – the color threw me off for a while.

    • Irene,

      I just knew I recognized the Indian, but I guess after 55 years or so it’s a little difficult to remember where I had seen him. I’m glad you remembered. How long has it been since you saw him?

      • Lowell, we were there for the College reunion in October, 2006, but I can’t say I actually ‘saw’ him! Some things we take too much for granted! That lighthouse was finished the first year I came to the Island (age 3 months) so I have long memories of it. But it’s usually just a backdrop for all the other magic that happens. It’s nice to see a good close-up of the old man!

  15. What a joy to read this epistle but even more special was to read everyone’s comments and know that I am part of all these folks I’ve never met, each of them having a piece of their heart carved out for this little island as I do. We are all priviledged to be members of a unique fraternity. Do you recall the words to the song in South Pacific about Bali Hi. (Bali Hi will call you, on the winds of the sea, here am I your special Island – come to me, come to me). I guess this is how we all feel.

    • All of you have certainly made my day with your beautiful comments and memories of the island. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts – I can’t begin to express how much I enjoy hearing from each of you.

  16. I wasn’t crying (really hard) till I read Lowell and Barbara’s comments. What a magical place to bring all these people together in spirit, all sharing a love for Mackinac Island! If only I could put a little of what I feel when I walk thru those woods in a gift and give it to people who have never been there. Brenda, your blog gives that gift! Thank you to everyone, for putting my thoughts into words so eloquently!

    • I really don’t know much about the house or the lodge, Tracy. The property is called Silver Birches, and I know it presently is for sale. I’d love to “tour” it someday, but I wouldn’t even know who to contact to arrange that. Sorry.

      • Brenda, that would be such a neat idea if you could tour Silver Birches. I would love to do that as well. I am sure many others would be interested as well. There are so many people that stop when they get in front of it when riding around the island and are curious as well. It would be cool if someone could organize a tour like they do for the Round Island lighthouse. They could raise money to perhaps make some repairs.

  17. OMGosh Irene, that is an excellent idea. Brenda, if that happens try to get the interview next month when Al and I return. You can take us along. :o)

  18. Once again you’ve managed to put in writing what’s in the hearts of many of us who read your blog.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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