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  • Writer's pictureBruce Tate


As the loop has gone on, we're settling into a rhythm. Some of what's happening is unexpected, like delightful stops for lunch in Beaufort and Dataw Island in South Carolina. We've had guests and family on board much more frequently than any other loopers we've met. We've tried to build time into our schedule to invest in our existing relationships so we come back to our lives without starting over with new relationships.

We've also slowed down. We don't want to go so many places that we fail to *see* the places we do have time to visit. Conversations with loopers and the professionals that assist us all along our path are an essential part of what we do so our journey of the soul is as rich as the journey of places, marked by the growing lines on Nebo or the regular dots we leave in the Google map along the steps of our journey.

Other things we've noticed are expected, but no less welcome. Our marriage is growing without a doubt. To be sure, many of the conversations we have to navigate are critical ones. For example, Maggie needs me to see her as a competent and capable captain. Indeed, with both of us working, we both need to spend time alone at the helm. She also needs to hear me when I have input that will impact the safety of the crew. She needs to know about what local conditions like shoaling and tide will have on the boat, and on our ability to safely navigate a bay or cut between rivers.

As we have these conflicts, we have no choice but to grow. We have learned greater patience and kindness because the boat is small, and we're in these crowded conditions for six more months.

As we talk to other loopers, a common conversation is mistakes we've all made. Maggie and I have accumulated common experiences and a common way of telling those stories based on dozens of conversations with strangers. In a circle of chairs with a carbonated water or whiskey and coke, we sneak in a story about spinning in a lock, or almost wrecking our boat in the first fifteen minutes of taking the helm for the first time. As I glance over at Maggie, I catch a smile, and pause. She picks up the story mid sentence without missing a beat. The couples of loopers all squeal with delight at the right times and then smile the knowing smile of those who have sailed the same seas or circumstances.

Common hardships sharpen a marriage as do common random slices of joy. When we stop for fish tacos, we have a basis of comparison, whether they are closest to those flattened, folded bits of Miami manna or the stale, cold bits of concentrated apathy from St Augustine, we have shared the tastes of the loop together and added to our common vocabulary born of common tastes, smells, and conversations.

Too, we've experienced breathtaking sadness. We'll never forget where we were when Russia invaded Ukraine, or the car driver who heard our passion for racial equality and took us a few blocks off of the sanctioned Uber route to let us visit Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the 2015 shootings occurred. Sometimes, the sadness and happiness are intertwined, like the fresh beauty of Beaufort's parks and houses combined with the recognition that the wealth came from rice and cotton plantations so many years ago. When these moments happen, the bonds between us grow.

The loop is in some ways a physical journey. We'll physically cross our wake after undertaking some six thousand miles of travel and God willing, wind up in the same place. These waterways have physical connections that can be navigated with the right boat, circumstances, captains, and timing. That is the unvarnished truth of the loop.

It's also a spiritual journey, but the rules are vastly different. After we sojourn together, we'll come home to many of the same trappings, but changed. Maggie is already more than she was when we left. I am too. We could not help but be changed. This, too, is the loop.

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