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Mackinac Sunrise Aug 28 09

Bright days start with a pale glow. With clouds present to serve as tinder, the glow becomes a sullen smolder that kindles on the horizon and spreads slowly upward, up across the eastern sky, its gathering flames invading the darkness with tranquil intensity.

I was lying in my bed in the Hamilton Inn on the Mackinac City waterfront when I saw the first glimmer of dawn crack over the rim of Lake Huron. A bout of fudge-induced insomnia (if you don’t know about Mackinac Island fudge, you clearly don’t live in Michigan!) had kept me awake all night. Now, like dully glowing iron in a forge, the first dim light of the new day was filtering in, revealing the black silhouettes of boat docks and shoreline.

My sister Diane, brother Terry, our mother, and I had arrived the day before with plans to catch the jet ferry over to Mackinac Island next morning, enjoy the luncheon buffet at the Grand Hotel, relax afterward and savor the extraordinary view from the hotel’s vast porch, and then head back to Grand Rapids. Such mini-vacations to the Bridge lie within the reach of most Michiganders, and this one was our way of continuing to celebrate Mom’s eighty-fourth birthday.

Overnighting at the Grand Hotel was well beyond our budgets, but lodging on the mainland at the Hamilton was affordable, and the rooms were elegant, clean, and comfortable. From the third-floor balcony, the view was beautiful, looking out across the waters toward Bois Blanc Island and the sweep of the Lower Peninsula shore arching off to the southeast.

Terry amused himself by throwing pieces of French fry off the balcony, prompting the resident gulls to swarm from the roof and fight over the scraps. The resulting scene was unnervingly Hitchcockian, with the big, shining birds wheeling and diving mid-air, hovering in front of us and staring intently, waiting to pounce en masse on the next bit of fry.

That had been the day before. Once we had settled in, we of course visited the fudge shops, which led to my predictably sleepless night. I was poised at the edge of finally drifting off when the first light began to peer in through the sliding glass door, promising a spectacular sunrise. When was the last time I had seen one? I lay there, watching the rusty glow begin to strengthen, not wanting to get up but knowing I would regret letting the opportunity pass. Finally I rolled back the covers, threw on my clothes, grabbed my camera, and stepped out onto the balcony.

Pale light glimmered on the water, revealing the dim colors of the ferries moored in the Star Line marina next door. At this early hour, I could hear the sound of activity on the boats. Other than that, silence reigned. This was the period between darkness and daylight, between the time when Mackinac City went to sleep and the time when it awoke–the magic hour of light that transforms first the sky and then the earth, igniting the clouds and filling the placid waters of Lake Huron with shimmering pigments.

I watched quietly as the reds brightened into deep gold and deep gold into creamy yellow. At last the first rays of the rising sun winked over the horizon. A new day had begun. I closed the curtain, stripped off my clothes, and crawled back under the covers. Then, as the furnace of the sunrise blazed away outside the sliding door, I slipped at last into sleep.





Written by Dave.