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  • Shannon Westblade

What is it about Mackinac?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it is that draws people to Mackinac Island. I was talking to a friend of mine about how the island brings us so much peace. What is it about Mackinac that does this? There is just something about the Island that is both an escape from the “real-world” and also just how life should be.



A four year old hands out flowers to strangers
We had so many Peonies this season that my four year old gave them to passersby

Example: I have to run to the grocery store so I get my bike and say “Good morning” to my neighbor, and before I can ride off we chat about the yacht races and how the wind made the boats come in so quickly this year. Then I hop on my bike and the weather is lovely but just a little bit chilly so it wakes me up and I feel invigorated. I get only a minute down the road and I run into Christina from Small Point B&B, and we chat about how bookings are and the vegetables we got this week from our farm share. Someone else rides by and we say “Good Morning,” and “See you later!” and I’m on my way to the grocery store. There I run into Andrew, of course, and say “Good Morning” and we talk about our sons and T-Ball, and I get my baking soda and well, maybe a chocolate long-john too. At the cash register I say, you guessed it, “Good Morning,” to the cashier and I ask “Have y’all been busy?” and so we talk about the amount of people on Main Street today and we both roll our eyes and shrug our shoulders but remind each other how good it is for business. It all just … feels like how life should be. Maybe you are reading this and you are thinking “gosh I would not like that I prefer to remain anonymous and go about my business uninterrupted” and that’s fine, you probably are hiking in the woods on the island instead and haven’t run into a single soul in the last two hours. I often make the comparison to Movies and TV (Does this sound like Gilmore Girls?) because for so many people life like this only exists on screen.



But then there is something more – something that brings you into your own kind of Mackinac fairytale. I do feel this way walking in the woods a lot. When I am walking in the woods I feel connected to the Island’s past. I can almost feel hundreds of years of hikers like myself in the rocks and roots I step on. Its like, I get it Robert Frost - these woods are lovely, dark and deep. We are transported to a world we know in fantasy novels. Do you look for Elven hideaways or for trolls under the rocks? Lets talk about the rocks in the woods on Mackinac Island for a second: huge limestone boulders that are worn with age and moss covered. Some have little stubborn trees growing right out of them. I feel like they will spring to life at any moment, like the trolls from Frozen or a creature from The Neverending Story.


A creature-like boulder
Is it a mossy boulder or a thousand year old creature just waiting to awaken?

Sugar Loaf Rock is almost intimidating or eerie. It imposes itself on the landscape. Does anyone else feel this way? Like the rock is almost aggressive – telling you that it owns these woods and you can sure try to climb it but it is still in charge. Hansel and Gretel stroll down Leslie Avenue. Little Red Riding Hood hides from the wolf behind Friendship’s Altar. An Ogre sulks in Skull Cave.


Friendships alter
Friendship's Altar and it's tree

A whimsical hedge
There is a cottage behind that whimsical hedge


My two best friends each had their weddings on the Island and I was honored to be a bridesmaid for both. If you want to think about magic on Mackinac Island – weddings on Mackinac are quite an experience. Backdrops for photos include lilac filled parks and a rainbow of Victorian cottages. Where else in the world do brides get whisked away in a horse drawn carriage through lantern lit woods? Oh and of course the forget-me-nots are in bloom and so the forest floor is covered in these dainty little blue and white flowers. Butterflies and bumblebees bounce around until Snow White calls them back to her cottage.



fairy mushrooms
Mushrooms like this only lack fairy companions


Flowers on the island are in on the magic. I remember looking at our rose bush on November 1 and thinking “Gosh I think you can stop blooming now if you want to.”



Sue, an innkeeper of ours, once said that colors are just brighter on the island than they are other places. Why? Is it that cars kick up dust that dulls colors other places? Or does the sun simply shine brighter on Mackinac Island than it does everywhere else?

Flowers and a fire hydrant
The flowers frame the fire hydrant so nicely


If you needed an escape from reality but you wanted something a little more real-life that Disney World – here it is. When other people ask the question “What is it about Mackinac Island?” there are too many things to include in one conversation (let alone blog post). It all comes together to create its own fairytale. One of my friends said that the Island is a “thin place,” where the veil between heaven and earth is particularly “thin.”



What do you think? What is it for you about Mackinac that is simply so magical?

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