I’ve been lucky enough to spend almost every New Year with Marco for the past four decades. With one of the most amazing white sand crescent beaches, it delivers sunsets that only God can paint.
I like to go to the beach on New Year’s Eve to see the very last sunset and on New Year’s Day to see the very first sunset of the year. It has become a ritual of mine to walk on the beach, meditate, thank God for the past year and set intentions for the new year ahead.
Some people like to start the new year with resolutions or choose their “word” for the year. I prefer to start with a question. What will you reveal in 2023?
Last September, Marco Island was hit by Hurricane Ian, one of the worst hurricanes in Florida history. The damage was unfathomable, with winds exceeding 150 mph and 20 inches of rain, the physical and financial implications are still being calculated.
I have many friends still waiting to be repaired, I have lost personal items such as boats and cars that have drifted out to sea, and of course the priceless loss of life. The optimist in me tries to understand such devastation or see the silver lining.
Shortly after the new year, a silver lining appeared.
Since visiting the island for more than forty years, I have witnessed the changing coastlines of the six-kilometer stretch of white sand beach. I’ve seen it almost disappear and then be restored through sand trudging renovations. It was an exciting and interesting scientific observation to see the evolution of nature on Marco.
This year something magical happened.
At the southern end of the beach was a point where the white sand ended. In 1980, when we started visiting Marco, South Beach was an abandoned missile tracking military base built in the 1950s. The US Navy used the base during the Cold War.
As a child it intrigued me. It was a mysterious attraction, surrounded by a barbed wire fence, “NOT OUT AND PROHIBITED ENTRY” signs, and reef rocks that made it difficult to access. It eventually evolved into Cape Marco, a property of six luxurious high-rise condominiums, which some say oddly disrupt the natural view.
Around that southern end of the island, beyond the base or what is now Cape Marco, are the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, fishing docks, and what used to be jetties for condominiums along that coast of the island. For the past four decades, if not more, there has been no natural beach for walking on this side of the island.
For residents, I don’t need to say the obvious. For visitors, the island took a beating from Ian, and the storm surges were responsible for most of the damage. Water and waves pounded most of the docks on the south side, engulfing many boats and choking the pipes of many buildings and their luxurious pools. But after Ian challenged the island’s integrity, as obstacles often do, he revealed its strength and beauty.
Around the corner from Cape Marco and the reef rocks, a white crescent-shaped beach reappeared. She rose with silky sand from the gulf, bright fluorescent green stoneweed, starfish, sea snakes and conch shells. Gigantic thunderbolts that haven’t washed up on shore for decades and were plentiful; like a still life waiting for artists to render their organic details. It was as if a treasure chest had been dumped on the south coast of the island.
It reminds me of a quote from The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday,
“The obstacle on the path becomes the path. Never forget that in every obstacle there is an opportunity to improve our fitness.”
This new sandy beach is in improved condition. Whether temporary or permanent, I felt it was like a fairy tale. I discovered it on my walk after a yoga class at moonset. Besides being thrilled, I felt like a kid seeing the Magic Kingdom for the first time. There she is!
This morning the sun came up intensely bright. I could barely see the Caxambas pass. It was an emotional experience because for me it symbolized a kind of resurrection. After the death and destruction of Ian, new life and beauty appeared. Blinded by the light, I had to close my eyes. I gave thanks for this extraordinary power of nature and how it mysteriously always provides.
Immediately I was aware of the lesson nature taught me and the theme for my New Year’s resolutions. What obstacles and challenges in my life have revealed hidden beauty?
Like the abundance of artistic shells and the unique marine life that had surfaced, what gifts in me are hiding under sea or storm water?
So I ask you:
What treasures have you hidden?
What storm of life has exposed your soul’s desires?
What can you reveal from the depths of your ocean this year?
Like the glittering stonewort, the glittering jingle shells and the shimmering white sand of this newly sprung beach, we all have hidden gifts that need to be revealed.
What will you reveal in 2023?