A Love Letter to St. John While Waiting for Irma
Everyone knows the Caribbean and then Florida are bracing for the beast now known as Irma to hit. This Category five hurricane is arriving on the heels of Harvey demolishing Houston. Even acknowledging how the media hypes storms, no one is denying Irma is one of the largest storms ever with 185 mph winds. You don’t need to be a meteorologist when looking at the eye of the storm to predict massive destruction to property and to fear the toll on human lives. Long before I began writing the Sabrina Salter series, I fell in love with an island. Lush with tree-covered hills, abundant with endless beaches, I happened onto St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands when I was on a cruise more than thirty years ago. Riding under a shady tree canopy over roads with perpendicular hills and switchbacks more terrifying than a rollercoaster, I arrived at Trunk Bay where the beach with warm silky turquoise water and talcum powder sand enchanted me. My husband and I vowed to return. Within six months, we did. Again and again, as often as three times a year over the next three decades. Now we spend half of the year on island. My love affair with St. John began with the rush of a crush. My senses were overloaded. I was sure my eyes were deceiving me. There could be no shade of green or blue as vibrant the sea. The sensation of a soft tickle on my skin was a gift from the local Tradewinds. My ears were treated to the songs of birds and the whispers of wind through palm trees. But like with any love affair, the sizzle was bound to fizzle. When I was no longer gushing at the dramatic beauty I’d found in St. John, although I still appreciated it, I became aware of more subtle treasures. The people of St. John are remarkable in spirit and generosity. Often considered a curious crew, St. John draws people who are strong individuals, many opinionated, most creative and many artistic. They are rugged, yet sensitive, and ferociously loyal. In St. John, if you’ve got a problem, you’ve got a friend. I learned as much about myself as I did about my beloved island, two thirds of which is part of the National Park Service. As I hiked the trails of Reef Bay and Ram Head in silence, I discovered a Michele I had yet to meet. One who appreciated words were not always necessary and the power of the Universe not always found in churches. That you don’t need “stuff” to live well and that the one commodity needed by all human beings is kindness. This morning, I’m perched safely on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, far away from St. John as Irma skulks toward its shores. Poised to hear news, praying that everyone is safe, and that damage is minimal, I am reminded of another lesson learned on an island where Mother Nature reigns as queen. All of this is beyond my control and I am at peace with that. I have faith in the people on St. John. They have rebuilt before and will again. Resilience is something no hurricane can destroy on St. John. I’ve been working on my third Sabrina Salter novel, which coincidentally is set during a hurricane on St. John where the courage and humanity of my characters is challenged by the forces of nature. I know where to find the inspiration to finish my story.