For many people, the pandemic offered chances at self-reflection and long looks in the rearview mirror. For one woman—the gifted environmental journalist Megan Mayhew Bergman—this look back took her from Vermont, where she lives and writes, to Beaufort, North Carolina, where she grew up and dreamed of living on a boat. 

Beaufort, a small town that happens to be North Carolina’s fourth oldest, is idyllic enough to have served as the backdrop for several Nicholas Sparks novels.

But it’s also, as those who have visited know, home to a wealth of natural coastal resources and slices of the wild as well as a wealth of environmental research, including the North Carolina Maritime Museum, N.C. Coastal Reserve, and the Rachel Carson Preserve

This is where Bergman finds herself returning to and finding, happily, that “the coast of North Carolina still resonates as home for me in a deep, biochemical way.”

Her pandemic-era decision to return to this dream comes, she writes, from a desire to return to her roots and to “show my two daughters that a woman doesn’t have to wait for everyone to approve of her plan.” Bergman takes boating classes and then, with her dog, Radish, by he side, buys a pine-colored boat—she names it the Night Heron—and returns to North Carolina and spends a week breaking it in on a marina off the state’s Carrot Island. 

Berman writes: “It takes a certain determination to stay tethered to the lives and places that matter to you, to steer full-selved into the divine chaos, knowing that it will change on you as soon as you have your bearings. Migratory birds know this instinctually, and yet each year they chance the voyages between their different homes. The plan never fully comes together, but we take the risk of dreaming, again and again.”

This beautiful Sunday long read is not an investigative or reported piece, but it finds its power and potency in lyrical attention to North Carolina’s coastal wilds, as well as to making and remaking definitions of home and middle age. In peak travel season, perhaps you’ll dive into it while at the beach or during a long-awaited visit home. 

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