Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lonely Palms

Since I last posted on this blog, our country has been through a lot — winds, floods, fires, political tempests. Although I’ve agonized from afar, nothing directly affected me until Hurricane Irma made landfall on my beloved island just off the coast of Miami.

Landscaped path and our favorite
bench before the storm.
I was in New England as the storm approached. When meteorologists predicted that a category four storm might decimate Miami, I reacted philosophically. E. and I had been lucky to have a winter getaway in such a lovely spot. If our apartment were destroyed, I would be sad, but I would move on. I did worry, though, about friends who were in the path of the storm. The island was under mandatory evacuation, but many of those who left elected to stay with friends a short distance away. They were vulnerable.

Then Irma’s track veered and Miami suffered only a glancing blow from the hurricane’s outer bands. I breathed a sigh of relief. Not that those outer bands were completely insignificant. They still brought category one winds and a storm surge that covered the island as well as downtown Miami and Coconut Grove. But this year, everything is relative. Compared to the havoc Irma caused in the Caribbean and Maria later brought to Puerto Rico, Miami’s mess seemed small and reparable.

To be sure, there was damage on the island, according to friends’ reports — trees and foliage destroyed, the seawall partially collapsed, some apartments flooded. But the buildings did fine overall and our apartment was untouched. Power was restored after only one day and the AC worked fine. I breathed a sigh of relief. E. and I could return to Miami for another winter.

Trees gone as well as
our favorite bench.
We arrived a few days ago on a gorgeous afternoon. The summer humidity had eased and soft breezes blew across Biscayne Bay. At first glance, everything looked as lovely as ever. Then we took a walk around the island. Even though we knew what to expect, we were still shocked. The palm trees had survived but the beautiful old sea grape trees were gone. Flowers and shrubs — gone. Our favorite bench — gone. Most of the beach — gone, along with the wooden stairs leading leading down to it. Only the adjacent tiki (chickee) hut survived unscathed — the Seminoles and Miccosukees knew how to build to withstand hurricanes.

Seawall collapse.
On our little isle you’ll find three high-rise condominium buildings and, at one end, a small four-story hotel. The hotel is owned separately from the condominium property and the current owner has allowed it to become run-down in recent years. The part of the seawall maintained by the hotel owner had deteriorated, so when Irma hit it simply gave way. The collapsed area is now barricaded off and completely impassable, so E. and I couldn’t make our customary full circuit of the island. Instead, we had to turn around and retrace our steps.

A minor inconvenience, to put it mildly. But one whose very insignificance made me reflect on how fine the line is between normal life and total catastrophe. In an instant, the clear path of one’s life can disappear, swallowed up by illness, terrorism, natural disaster, or random accident. For today, at least, I’m grateful for what I still have — family, friends, and a spectacular view.

Note: Click on the photos to enlarge them.


  1. So glad to see you up on line again, and so sad to read about your lost paradise.

  2. I can't even imagine the force of the wind that took out those trees. Nature can be so gorgeous and so scary. That sunset is hard to beat! #natureaskingforgiveness

  3. I wondered how much your area had been affected. We left the DR just a few days before Irma came by--although it didn't affect the south of the island where we were. Still amazing what Mother Nature can do.