Paradise Redefined

The sun is finally out here today in East Tennessee. I don’t remember seeing it over the course of the last five or six days. The entire area has been cloudy and drizzly as portions of the remnants of Irma have slowly passed through the area.

I would never compare the minor inconvenience of some clouds and drizzle here in Knoxville with the catastrophe that occurred in the Caribbean and the southeast coastal US, but the fact that East Tennessee was influenced at all for such a long time is part of the testament to the magnitude of this beast of a storm. If you sift back through my posts here to the beginning of 2017 (and why would anyone want to do that), you’ll see that back in January, I wrote a post entitled “Paradise Found” about a trip to St. John in the US Virgin Islands. In that post, I wrote about a unique, remote villa fashioned as a stone castle on the east side of the island overlooking the Coral Bay area of St. John. I was there with my lady love, Ashley, and we shared a week of beautiful weather and scenery on the mountainsides of St. John. In that post, which you can read here, I wrote, “I’ve been to a lot of places and the resulting experiences have taught me that paradise is not about weather, or location, or other extrinsic factors. Paradise is a state of mind.” Well, catastrophes like Irma have a way of changing one’s perspective. We recently learned from the villa owner that everything on the property not made of stone was destroyed. He actually weathered the storm inside the castle as he was preparing the property for the upcoming rental season. Mind you, this property is 750 feet above sea level facing east. It took the full force of Irma, which as I understand it had winds in excess of 150 mph at the time it hit St. John. Wow, I can’t think of words to describe that, but what a harrowing time it must have been! I can’t imagine. I have not spoken with the owner of the villa in person, but thankfully, he is safe and has returned to the mainland, where he lives permanently. I can only guess that the restaurants, markets, and bars that we loved so much on Coral Bay have been wiped out. Needless to say, we probably won’t be able to return to the castle as planned this January, but I’m already looking forward to going back next season!

The images from the aftermath of Irma are horrific. Thinking about the situation for thousands and thousands of people affected by this storm, it is hard for me to imagine what it must be like to have everything taken away from you in an instant. But there are numerous catastrophes in recent times that give me pause. I think of Harvey, or the wildfires in Gatlinburg, Oregon, and Canada, and on and on. There are too many catastrophes to name and it gets depressing pretty quickly. My heart goes out to those on St. John trying to rebuild a life in the aftermath of Irma. I don’t know from personal experience, but I’m sure paradise is redefined when catastrophe takes away everything but hope. And I hope these pictures from the castle on St. John reflect not only what was, but what will be again soon on St. John!

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