Dating My Wardrobe: Somewhere in Time on Mackinac Island

It’s July 2018, and I’m in love with my vintage wardrobe. Having given-up on finding romance with human beings, I looked to my closet for love. Moths, broken hangers and all! Now, this may sound like a rather depressing thing to say. You may be thinking, how can a girl be so love lorn that she’s reduced to forming amorous attachments with forty year-old hot pants!? However, my vintage wardrobe is exciting. They weather every turn with me. They are chivalrous protectors against the elements. And–unless I’ve eaten too many carnitas enchiladas with cheese– my wardrobe is always a perfect fit!

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Well, as I embark on this serious relationship with my wardrobe, I try to think of a good place to take my 1970s high waisted pants, and 1970s crop top. In the spirit of time travel and true love, I settle upon a trip to one of my favorite childhood haunts– Mackinac Island in Michigan. In my childhood, I traveled to this place to visit my mid-western family, wedged between my extraordinarily large brood of sisters and brothers in a fifteen passenger seat van, and a cooler filled with soggy bologna sandwiches. Captain dad at the wheel, always one to make “good time,” decided that stopping to eat, use the lavatory, or acknowledge any other basic human bodily functions would cut-in on his progress on the road, so we rarely ever stopped. The sound of whining, “I have to use the bathrooms,” and the Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed” filled the small, tinny interior of the van. Despite these circumstances, I will always have fond memories for Mackinac Island. Once on the Island, the purgatorial car trip on Hades’ highway was but a distant memory. Once on the Island, there were no cars. Just Victorian Mansions, bicycles, and fudge.

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While I know I must find romantic moments alone with my wardrobe, I decide to meet my beloved aunts, sisters Char and MaryLou, on Mackinac Island. We meet at the Star Line Ferry in Mackinaw City, located on the tip of the big mitten of Michigan, and take a ride from mainland to the Island. We have taken our bikes with us, and as soon as we check into our charming bed and breakfast, we get on our bikes and ride around the eight mile circumference of the Island. My aunts also stop to perform their time-honored tradition of scooping horse poop off of the street (there is a poop-scooper stationed on every corner in town). They titled this photo “Tired of My Sister’s Shit”

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If you’ve never ridden your bike around Mackinac Island, carrying your pound size box of island fudge, and waving hello to a passing a horse and carriage or two, I feel sorry for you. There’s nothing like gliding along on your bike, tracing the shore of Lake Huron as if consumed by this vision of pristine blue. You sit on the shore. You eat your pound of fudge. You contemplate life while staring out into the waters, sugar and a fist-sized glob of fat corroding your insides.

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Now, aside from the spectacular views, and countless fudge shops, the rich history of the island is alluring in itself. The magnificent limestone bluffs showcase candy-colored gingerbread Victorian mansions, and hide prehistoric gravesites in caves. The Island was formed 11,000 years ago after the glaciers of the last ice age retreated, forming the Great Lakes in their wake. The high bluffs of Mackinac Island were left poking from Lake Michigan, and so the indigenous people living on what is now mainland Michigan reckoned that the island resembled an aquatic creature, naming the place mish-la-mack-in-naw— or big turtle.

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The native peoples of Michigan were not the only ones to take a keen interest in the island. During the 17th century, Mackinac Island became a French fur trading post. In 1780, the British Major Patrick Sinclair built his Fort Mackinac upon the prime real estate of the bluffs. And, after the War of 1812, Mackinac Island resumed its role in the fur trade, once again, becoming a central hub in John Jacob Astor’s fur trading business (meeting the demand for beaver fur top hats, which nearly wiped out the beaver population). And while the Island’s indirect role in bloody warfare, and nearly wiping out the entire beaver population was regrettable, the island does boast many positive historical events.

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For example, Mackinac Island became the birthplace of modern gastric physiology. It all began in 1822 when Alexis St. Martin accidentally blew a hole in his stomach with his shotgun, right outside of the American Fur Company building (the fur trade always has its hand in something nefarious).

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American Fur Company building where St Francis had a very bad accident

The young man was treated by Fort Mackinac’s post surgeon, William Beaumont. After treatment, and miraculously surviving the accident, it seemed that St. Martin’s stomach wound just wouldn’t heal, forming a gastric fistula. Basically, St Martin’s stomach had a coin-sized hole in it, where the stomach contents could be viewed. In the name of science, and plain-old cat-styled curiosity, William Beaumont tied a piece of string around some meat, and, arctic fishing-style, popped the meat into the hole. When he retrieved the meat, he studied it, thus finally settling a scientific dispute concerning the digestive system, and proving that food was chemically digested by the juices of the stomach. Fur trade + gun accident + Mackinac Island + meat on a string = scientific discovery!

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portrait of William Beaumont

Another great thing which Mackinac Island is responsible for is the ultra seductive backdrop, and undeniable tear jerker setting for the the 1980 film Somewhere in Time. If you’ve never seen the movie, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour–shame on you! Watch this film– again with a pound of island fudge– and weep salty tears over your chocolate stained lips. What could be more romantic than obsessing over the portrait of a dead woman, going back into to time to find her, romancing her along the breezy porches of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, and kissing your love bitter sweetly along the aqua gem shores of Lake Huron?! Nothing, that’s what!

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OK. I lied. The most romantic thing you can do is this. Go to Mackinac Island. Take your 1970s high waisted white pants, and psychedelic crop top out of your suitcase. Slide the smooth polyester over your supple skin. Let the draw-string of your crop top hug your waist so dear. Then take your vintage wardrobe on a bike ride around the Island. Stop at the Grand Hotel, and check out there famous geraniums, held in their lovely greenhouses.

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Ride the middle of the island, exploring limestone formations, old Forts, Victorian homes, Civil-War era graveyards. Finally, as the sun sets, take your vintage wardrobe down the the shores of the island. Watch the sun make its departure for the evening, sinking into the blue waters of Lake Huron, and searing the surface as it goes.

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Feel the nautical breeze move across your brow, just as it caressed the skin of Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve in their most romantic moment on the shore. Watch the white hot moon rise and echo along the waves of the lake, and realize that– like the hopelessly romantic Reeve from Somewhere in Time– some things in life surpass the space time continuum, and exist in a timeless dimension of love. Somewhere in time I meet my wardrobe, which comes from every decade of the twentieth century. Somewhere in time I meet the limestone bluffs of Mackinac Island, which hosts traces of prehistoric natives, enterprising French fur trappers, Victorian leisure culture, and the  modern phenomenon for fudge in tourist spots.

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And this is how I move as a time transient, blurring the supposed linear course of time. I wear the loves of my life on my back, clothes from many eras. I ride by moonlight on a bike through the cedar forests of the Island. I wonder, where the heck am I?! Well, of course….somewhere in time.

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my cedar tree friend, Isadora, in the moonlight

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My Own Muse: Hot Date With Myself, No. 3, Mohonk Mountain Preserve

After being cast-aside by my boyfriend like some crumpled candy wrapper, I endured the beginning of my summer of 2017 in a state of heightened melancholy. I mean, I went all-out weeping, moaning, gnashing my teeth– the full gamut. But, by July I was truly bored with myself as a driveling lump, mourning the loss of a moron who was too shallow to enjoy my company in the first place. I mentally retired my mourning blacks, and metaphorically transitioned into mourning purples. I was ready to move on. It was time to take myself on 100 hot dates!

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For hot date number three, I was determined to release any pent-up anguish and emotion with a brisk hike at the Mohonk Preserve, NY.  The foremost emotion which I needed to expel from my body was an innate urge to find my ex-boyfriend in Florida, and punch him square across the jaw; But, not wanting to bruise my knuckles, or exert so much time and effort pursuing this line of violence and mal-intent, I forgot about the cheating bonehead, and strapped on my little red hiking boots!

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The Mohonk Mountain Preserve originated with two brothers, Alfred and Albert Smiley, who purchased Lake Mohonk, along with 280 surrounding acres, in 1869. The property contained a ten-room inn, called Stokes Tavern, which was expanded upon by the Smiley family to accommodate 40 guests, in 1870. Over the next few decades, the Smiley family continued to build, tear-down, and re-build additions onto the original Mountain House, until it reached the grandiose state that it exists in today. A rather haphazard, yet lovely structure, the Mountain House boasts a lot of character.

 

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In 1963, the Smiley Family and passionate supporters formed the Mohonk Trust to protect the area’s jaw-droopingly gorgeous natural landscape for future generations to enjoy, and the area became a Preserve in 1978. Fast forward to 2017, I am so thankful for this sequence of events. After a month of feeling like a loveless slug, I needed the Shawangunk Mountain range and the beauty of the Mohonk Preserve to absolve me of my slimy soul.

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On the morning in July which I determined to visit the Mohonk Mountain Preserve, I noted a nebulous mass of black clouds overwhelming the horizon. Driving towards the ominous mass on Rt. 44/55, I felt a kindred connection to the hulking cumulonimbus clouds. We were both brooding, both moody, both in the humor for a storm. This gigantic cloud and I were of the same ilk! As soon as I parked, and stepped out of my car, the storm cloud greeted me with silvery, cool rain drops, which broke over my warm skin like a friendly hello. Nice to meet you, storm! Let’s go for a hike!

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As the rain persisted, I set out on a trail which led to the Albert K. Smiley fire tower. The steam and mist which enveloped the trail was very sexy, and I cannot lie when I say that I was seduced by the sight of this. Being only one of two people brave enough to walk through sheets of warm, wet summer precipitation, I enjoyed my romantic walk up the hill to the tower in solitude.

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Here is where the hike gets good. When I reached the fire tower, and climbed up to the observation deck, the storm clouds broke, and a gigantic crepuscular ray sliced through the grey mists, illuminating the Shawanunk mountain range in a chiaroscuro manner.  As if the storm and I were on the very same page, we both allowed the sunlight to break-through our gloomy temperament at the very same moment. As the storm cloud and I were alone at the top of this mountain, we shared a moment of glimmering happiness together. Perhaps the cute little cumulonimbus cloud was going through a bad break-up, too! Undoubtedly, some wispy cirrostratus just didn’t understand the depths of the cumulonimbus spirit.

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I watched the sun stroke its luminous hand across the mountain range, commanding mist to rise from the green forest floor. Like a veil of love, the vapors danced towards my new friend, the cumulonimbus cloud. Oh, god, we were both enraptured by this sight. What a steamy hot date with myself, indeed!

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