Selected excerpts from the book Source to Sea:A Journey down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers.
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Too Close for Comfort?


One of the first things people ask us is how in the world we don't kill each other from being so close all the time. One guy declared that while he loved his wife, he’d rather chew off his right foot than be around her for that long. Come to think about it, that's been a common sentiment from folks we've met.

There hasn’t a whole lot of alone time during the trip that’s for sure. We're in the canoe about ten to twelve hours every day. Then there is the constant list of tasks that have to be done, like setting and breaking down the campsite, cooking, shopping, and getting water. It's no wonder some folks can canoes "divorce machines."

After the chores are finished I usually go for a short walk with my little tape recorder and talk about the day. I need this time alone just to have a little space. This also gives Jess some time to relax in the tent without my smelly self around.

Being in close proximity all the time is just another part of the journey. Our thirty-five square foot tent is our home every night. The canoe is just over eighteen feet long. Our agreement is that she gets the front nine feet and I get the back nine. We share the extra half a foot. Fortunately the canoe is long enough that we can’t reach beat each other with our paddles. Fortunate for me at least.

Back in the real world you can slam the door and blow off steam if you want to. That doesn't work out here for a couple of reasons.

1) No door to walk out of.
2) You’d get all wet and cold if you tried. Then you’d be cold, wet, and mad instead of just mad.

So we deal with it.

There are plenty of ways of dealing with things—some effective, some less so. One of us can be silent and just brood but that’s not going to last long. If nothing else we have to talk about which way to go to dodge the next barge. Next we could just pretend nothing’s the matter. That only works until one person blows up over something stupid later on down the way.

The best option is to take that moment of reflection and get to the heart of the matter. Those moments of reflection run the gamut from “Hey Darlin’, what’s the matter” to “What in the %$& is wrong with you!”

Some of our moments of reflection could be heard from five miles away I’m sure. While the merit of discussing the origins of our respective mothers is debatable, it’s just been part of the process of paddling for two and a half months together.

Eventually all the junk gets aired out and things go smoother. There’s an old saying that to make an omelet you gotta break a few eggs. While we’ve had a few “moments of reflection”, the end result is that we’re stronger as a couple. I can’t imagine doing this trip with anyone else, nor would I want to.

I’m one lucky dude.