Finding the Gift in Irma

As we approach the 4 month mark of hurricane Irma and her aftermath, I find myself at a crossroad. Having anticipated 2017-2018 my 16th year in business as a stellar year for Island Style Weddings, Mother Nature had other plans.

September 6, 2017 is the landmark date for life on St John being turned upside down.    I spent 2.5 months after the disaster volunteering with DIRT (disaster Immediate response team). I am grateful for having a purpose during those first few months. Our team became my support group, each of us having lost so much it was good to be able to be there for each other.


I was able to get off St John for two weeks during Christmas . It was my first trip since the storms and I was anxious. I was not sure how I would react to busy airports and crowds.
I chose to bring my rescue dog “Cookie” who had truly become an emotional support dog. All 12.5lbs of her sat in my arms for 6 hours as Irma thrashed outside.

cookie - island rescue dog

I planned to give her a Benadryl to calm her when we flew. She was pretty well behaved in the airport until she spotted another dog. Cookie has the ability to go from sweet lap dog to alpha bitch in 15 seconds.

The woman seated in front of me in the airport lobby commented  “Is that dog going to be on our plane”?  Little did she know that she was dealing with a crazed hurricane survivor/climate refugee (me not Cookie) sitting behind her.


I soon realized Benadryl was not going to do the trick. We made it to our destination intact. I was tempted to sit behind the complaining lady and growl quietly.

I met up with friends on the mainland who had also weathered the storms.
We spent most of the time getting massages, hot tub sessions, friends and family time binge watching Netflix and eating great food.  I highly suggest it as a complete detox from a natural disaster.


note the earrings- gifted to me by a friend- WOMEN WITH BALLS....hurricane survivors

When I returned to St John, I immediately got sick... 5 days in bed with a deep cough. It gave me a lot of time to mediate on the past 4 months.

I ran into a sweet St Johnian Mom of 2 and asked how Christmas was on Island. Her response rang through and answered many of my nagging questions. "" It’s a shift, a new normal. Embrace it! "Maybe we are meant to SLOOOOW DOWN. 

For 16 years I have built and designed my business. I have felt deeply blessed to have found an outlet that allows me freedom to create. It has been all consuming and I have loved every minute of it. I have had little time for anything else..

But now, I am forced to step back. Take inventory, recreate the future. It’s the gift for each of us. We have to let go of our perception of what we believe it should be. Instead be open, it is there right in front of each of us. We may not see it right away but it is there, as sure as the sun and the sea.

2018 GOALS

Lets take this time to be grateful and look forward to a New Year and new beginnings!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Mary Bartolucci4 Comments