Establishing Our Mackinacs
( Originally Published 1906 )
IT is fitting to close this series of chapters on fun outdoors with a word or two about vacations,—the right kind and the wrong kind.
You cannot see your way to getting a vacation, dear Howard Hardwork and Dorothy Drudge? Then surely you need a word of consolation, if I can find one for you, and I think I can. For, do you know ? in not taking a vacation you are far nearer the primitive order of things, the good old ways, than we favored folk that can take one. Read your Ten Commandments. Does not the fourth commandment provide as clearly for six days of work in the week as for one day of rest ? This great vacation of one day in seven, of fifty-two whole days in the year, we too little appreciate, I fear. Indeed, most of us hardly look upon them as a vacation at all, but long after some two weeks or two months that we can have somewhere in a lump, unspoiled by any work.
Ah, God's way is best; God's way, that fits to each rest its toil, to each toil its rest. We are in sore need of vacations in modern times, beloved, because we do not work in the right way, in God's way. Goethe's famous phrase, "unhasting, unresting," gives a hint of what that way is. Christ's phrases, " My Father worketh hitherto and I work," and " It is My meat and drink to do the will of My Father," give still clearer hints of the right way to work. Christ got His meat and drink, His joy, His vacation, by way of His work ; and so may we.
But when we overwork, this cannot be done. Neither can it when we overplay, nor when we worry or fret, or are filled with envy or tormented with ambition, or affrighted with doubts. How often we say from our hearts, " It is not work that kills, but worry." It is not work that cries for vacations, but worry.
If you can manage to work as God would have you work, my dear Howard Hardwork and Dorothy Drudge,—if you can manage to trust God for the strength of the day and the fortune of the morrow, to be cheery and smiling and prayerful and loving,—then I will risk you with no vacation whatever, but one day in seven. And, more than that, if God does not see best to give you any longer vacation, I do not believe you will even think of wanting it.
But for most of us vacations are possible, if not every year, then in the delightful " once in a while"; and surely in this book some word should be said about the right use of them.
I spent a week one summer on the island of Mackinac. Maybe you don't know where that fairy island is. Look on your maps at the junction of the three greatest of the Great Lakes,—Michigan, Huron, and Superior. Just where the breezes from all three can sweep over it with their full cargo of health and freshness is a little dot that resolves itself, as the steamer approaches it, into one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
It is a rocky bit, " ringed about by sapphire seas," with delightful glimpses, everywhere through the birches and evergreens, of the sparkling water. Historic charms are here added to the charms of nature,—the old trading-station, the battle-grounds where English and Americans had it out, the houses where dwelt the heroines of Marion Harland and Constance Fenimore Woolson.
You can see that I enjoyed myself there by the way I run on about it. But what I want to say is this :
When I got back to Boston, I found that my vacation had only begun. Mackinac kept repeating itself. In the midst of all the heat of the sweltering city during the dog-days I constantly was receiving breezes from that invigorating island. It was much to know that somewhere there was coolness. While walking through the narrow streets, often noisome with bad odors, it was much to know that somewhere was fragrance,—balmy arbor vitae, and flowers distilling honey in the sunshine. While fretted, with many cares, the mere thought of the peace and quiet over yonder on that enchanted island was enough to soothe my spirit and refresh my body. And so, you see, my vacation is being prolonged, and I guess it will last forever.
Now all our pleasant experiences ought to be very much like this, and they may be made so by the shrewd use of memory. I could not stay forever at Mackinac ; but in that delightful week I had established my spiritual Mackinac, and, firmly as that lovely island is rooted in the Great Lakes, I had fixed in my life this immaterial Mackinac, which is the most real one after all. I go to it often enough to know that it is there, and to ensure the prolongation of it through all my living.
And 0, this is a great thing in the midst of all the busy, fretting, anxious hours of this life, to know that there is a resting-place awaiting us, that peace is there, and good cheer, and fragrance, and song, and health, and newness of energy and courage. We have found them there often before ; we may find them there again ; and the memory and the anticipation prolong them through the periods when we are away from our Mackinacs. And there is no one so. busy and no one so poor that he cannot build for himself a cottage on some island of happy memories.