Sahlman Blog Series: Post 1 – Devastatingly Beautiful

Editor’s note: While I absolutely love publishing my thoughts around what’s going on in Saint Martin, I also think it’s important to share different perspectives. So, in an effort to offer a more diverse view of what’s happening on Saint Martin, I reached out to Susi Sahlman to ask if I could share her posts here.

Chances are, a lot of you already know Susi. Whether it’s from her blog or her beautiful Saint Martin themed artwork. She’s agreed to allow me to share a few of her blog posts here on SXM Strong. The goal isn’t to be redundant, but to hopefully expose those of you who haven’t yet discovered her wonderful writing.

I’m planning to start with her first St. Martin blog post from her most recent trip (post-Irma) and will then publish subsequent posts over time. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

December 6, 2017 – I’ve been wondering about the Caribbean islands and St. Maarten/Martin in particular since the hurricane season. What a terrible season it has been. A direct hit by Irma with 185 mph sustained winds with 220-230 mph wind gusts. The eye passing over was a tease of a reprieve for fifty minutes. Then she slammed the island again, the winds changing direction.

Three months ago to the day, on the evening of September 5th, Irma came calling. Now, here we are on December 5th, just arriving to our favorite island. Our visit may be a whirlwind tour but promises to be one of good will. Back in September we were glued to social media for any and every bit of news we could get from our friends on St. Martin. Now, we will be hearing personal accounts along with rumors islanders whisper about.

Photo via Susi Sahlman

Landing felt like coming home. We were even blessed to have friends there waiting to welcome us! What an amazing surprise. The mountains as green as ever. Nature more resilient than man’s handiwork, aka “progress”. What secrets are they hiding? Someone told us there were thirty-eight tornados during the twelve hour siege called Irma. However, the effects are still being felt ninety days later.

Damage so random, one house perfectly fine, while next door was ravaged. Many roofs were missing. Some cars with minor damage, dented or broken windows, others piled up in complete ruin. The streets have been cleaned up and repairs are in progress. Of course, we are only seeing and speaking of Simpson Bay, where we will be staying for the next three weeks.

Photo via Susi Sahlman

Our plan is to venture out and survey the other areas of the island during our visit. We shall see where this trip, this adventure will go. If our landing is any indication of what’s to come, we will see many clouds bedazzled by rainbows. We are always encouraged by the hopefulness rainbows seem to represent.

The contrasts are already so striking. To see the flag of Sint Maarten — with a cost rumored to be $150,000 — waving on the hill as we walked past a roofless house with someone sleeping on the porch, challenges who we are as humans and what kind of government we entrust to do right by all. Yes, the ocean is still as blue as ever and the waves still count time. Plants and trees are blooming and growing. Nature, innocently haunting, wind and rain in a rage.

Be sure to visit Susi’s blog and check out her stunning artwork too!

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Susi Sahlman

An artist and blogger, Susi has a passion for the island of Saint Martin. She's been visiting the island with her husband Bill for 21 years. You can follow her blog at and see her artwork at

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