By Mark Gauert
City & Shore Magazine
I remember the morning on Captiva Island, not far from where Hurricane Ian would go ashore a year and a half later:
Not far from Sunset Beach, where Captiva Island finally drops into the sea, the Gulf of Mexico rushes in and out of Pine Island Sound through Redfish Pass. Richard Finkel, our guide on the tour boat earlier that morning, had pointed it out on the cruise over to Cabbage Key – along with stories about the earliest inhabitants of these islands. The ancient Calusa, who left their middens of mollusk shells here; the Cuban fishermen of the 18th century and the early American homesteaders of the 19th.
“Captiva used to be one island, about 12 miles in length,” he said to about 70 passengers aboard The Lady Chadwick. “Now we have Captiva and North Captiva – anybody want to guess why?”
“Hurricanes?” someone guessed.
“That’s right!’’ he said. “After the hurricane of 1921, this pass was known as Mickle Pass, and that’s because a gentleman by the name of Mr. Mickle had a tomato farm right in that spot,” he said. “He was in Fort Myers when that hurricane came through; he came back out here to check on his property – but there was no more farm.
“Hard to believe there was a farm in that spot, until the hurricane in 1921, and the really big one in 1926 just blew that out,’’ he said. Where the Mickle family farm had been, “there’s about 35 feet of water now.”
Who couldn’t hear that story in the stillness of a beautiful morning and not think of its potential as a metaphor, too? That maybe we’re always going to have something to endure, to get through, to move on from.
And maybe we will. Like the Mickle family, a hundred years ago. Like the Cuban fishermen, a hundred years before that. Like the ancient Calusa, long before us all.
Just up the beach from people lined up for margaritas now, turning cartwheels in the sand, throwing seashells into the sea.
And making a wish.
* * *
They all closed, a year and a half later. Captiva. Sanibel. Cabbage Key. The Lady Chadwick. So many names and special places there and throughout Florida we hold close to our hearts. We don’t know, as of this issue, when they’ll reopen.
For now, our thoughts this holiday season are with the brave people of Southwest Florida – and to all in the hurricane’s path who have suffered these past few months. If you’d like to help them, we’ve put together a list of organizations that already have projects underway, updated here https://bit.ly/3EaBF5p.
We’re making a wish all these efforts will lead to beautiful mornings again.
PHOTO: Sunrise on Captiva Island, before the storm. Photographed by Mark Gauert