Digging Rocks

Posted by on Sep 3, 2011 in Breathe, Recent Posts | 22 comments

Digging Rocks

There is a growing pile of rocks in the garden. Each one of them dug from beneath the surface with a shovel and garden fork. Backs throb, forearms ache. The back of my right knee sore from the repetitive motion: stick shovel in, jump on it with right foot, pull back, repeatedly stab the chunk of loose earth to find rocks, bend over, pick up rocks and toss. We toss the rocks into a milk crate and carry cratefuls to the pile over and over and over. We are about three-quarters of the way across the garden as fall approaches. It feels like so much work, but in reality Papa has done most of it. His ability to persevere and make all of our big ideas come to life has been an inspiration for me. It is amazing to have a partner who is able to create a vision with me and then see it through to completion. But, here’s the truth: it is rocky.

In this last year a few couples around us decided to separate, take space, and think about the relationship. I think about what causes this in a marriage and wonder what it means to stay. I am also keenly aware of our lack of space, the mornings where there is no eye contact and inside I say “Don’t look at my butt as I climb down the ladder.” And then I think of the rocks in the garden. We could leave them there. Heck, no one even would know they were there if we didn’t start digging, but our soil is clay and rock and not fertile without the digging, the composting, the piles of manure. So we dig. We have committed to this marriage; this is what we said we’d do, so we will do our best. When a new rock surfaces, I can easily look at Papa and get angry. “Why did you dig that one up?” Funny, the same rocks have come up for years. But lately, because of the tiny house, I feel like we are getting to a place where we are digging new rocks and dealing with them.

How could the tiny house be responsible for our new-found ability to communicate clearly (not always) and more respectfully (more often)? The short answer: there’s nowhere to go. We used to work on preparing meals together, but we’d end up arguing about something most times. Usually, I would get in Papa’s way and the professional chef in him couldn’t understand how that’d be possible in a kitchen where five people could work. I could find a way. Then, I’d take it personally and attack. “Why can’t we just have a good time preparing a meal together? Why are you so uptight?” But Tiny House tells us, “There’s only room for one person here in my kitchen. There are clothes on the floor and backpacks on the deck, how ‘bout one of you pick those things up and the other one prepare the meal. When you finish the meal, someone will do the cleanup.” We used to argue about space when we had more of it. Now, this confined space has taught us how to give each other space to be who we are. I find myself allowing his frustration and not taking it personally. I see him breathing deeply and allowing me to squeeze past him to get to the bathroom, because, well, I have to go. The simple allowing has given us much space.

As we work together to build this life we have imagined, we go deeper than the surface and beneath the surface are the hard places. Living in a tiny house magnifies all the issues: is the ground growing rocks while we sleep?  “Can you please just scoot over 6 inches?” “Out, please get out now, I’m about to lose it.” “Brother fell out of the loft, what kind parent does that make me?” “There’s always stuff on the shoe bench, I can’t get to my clothes.” “Where do we put the 36 quarts of canned tomatoes?” “I tossed in my sleep and banged my head; couldn’t get back to sleep.” “I can’t sleep because I’m worried the well is dry.” “I bumped my head on the sink and I want to blame someone.” “Why is it that I have to arrange the food in the fridge every day?” “Can’t anyone else keep the kids clothes straight?” I like to think that because we live face to face with these mundane issues on a daily basis, we have uncovered these rocks while our home teaches us: this is how it is–adjust and accept. We are actually digging rocks, AND moving them. This creates space for the composted manure of these past years. We allow it to fill the voids with understanding and acceptance and create fertile ground to grow vulnerability.Creating fertile ground



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  1. Beautiful, Mama! I am excited to keep reading!

    • Thank you for reading, my soul sister. Love you much!!

  2. I love reading this blog!

    You guys are great and I’m glad you are making things happen in your tiny house. Do you any plans of visiting Florida again? If so, please let me know so I can plan a trip there to see you again.

    What do you have planned for the garden? And more importantly, why do you have 36 quarts of tomatoes?!?!

    Take care Mama and tell the family I say hello.

    Long days and pleasant nights,

    • Thank you, Chris! I am happy to know you enjoy our blog.

      36 quarts of tomatoes all lined up for winter. Part of our effort to eat local food year round. Papa spent a whole day canning like a pioneer. Garden will hopefully produce many of our vegetables for next year.

      A visit to FL may be in the works for this winter. Will have to have a reunion, won’t we, New Day Boy?

      Love you,

  3. This is so raw–how refreshing it was to read on this rainy, Monday morning while I sit in my fluorescently-lit office in the land of Academia. Your rock digging is inspiring. I to, am digging my own rocks and often it seems as though complete strangers are unearthing them for me and saying, “here, deal with this! Move this rock NOW!”

    Thank you for sharing this, Mama. Until next time 🙂

    • Thank you, Kari.

      Pesky rocks 🙂 Good things to move.

      I hope you are as excited about your world of academia as you were last we spoke. ox

  4. This post is flat dab gorgeous and contains a truth and an action plan few seem to know these days. Our place is not as small as yours but we do have six children and we are together 24/7. Now that makes you work out some things in a relationship too. Squished for space and/or squished for time. Yes. We have been popped into the pressure cooker that ultimately makes the food soft and easier to digest. Lots of hot water meanwhile though!

    You are a tremendous writer and liver of your life. It is an honor to read your thoughts and go rafting down the melody of your inner development.

    • What a nice comment to read, Leslie. Thank you for your understanding and supportive words. I like the image “go rafting down the melody of your inner development.” Thanks for that. Be well!

  5. thank you mama for this beautiful blog you have.
    my girlfriend and i lived off grid in a travel traile for a year while we build a 20×20 two story cabin.
    we just moved inn in november.
    we love our new home, but believe it or not, our upstairs has one wall that is empty.
    we still have room that is not been used, which tells me that we could of build even smaller.
    i use to b married and had a 1300.00 morgage and a huge 1800square feet home.
    i dreaded that payment every month.
    now my house is payd for, and in about 2 years ill b debt free..
    I LOVE IT!!!!!!
    keep up the good work and continue to post pictures please..
    How about your floor plan?
    god bless take care

  6. So wise. I love the analogy of the rocky ground to the relationships.
    All our relationships and situations teach us lessons we need to learn. We can choose to learn them and move on or ignore them. In which case they will be repeated for us until we do learn them. 🙂
    So glad your marriage is growing stronger.

    • Hi Patricia,

      Thanks for your understanding! I am glad my marriage is growing stronger, too. Such a rewarding experience to make it through the hard times together.

  7. Some day when we are gone, our children will remember the comfort of our tinyhouses, but more importantly the relationships that grew there, bringing us closer together.

  8. Oh how I love this post. I am a reader who first saw you on “Tiny House blog”. My hubby recently lost his job – 1 month ago and we had been thinking of going tiny long before. Now it may be sooner than later as we realize how much the mortgage takes. We too are dealing with rocks and I find us both stronger and united that we realized. We too have kids- 4 and one large dog. We may need a bit more room but look forward to the adventure. Thank you for sharing your lives and great talent for writing.

    • Hi Liesl,

      Thanks for your comment! Sorry to hear about your hubby’s job loss. Sometimes, the unfortunate events become the fortunate ones. It sounds like you are finding solid ground to build your new life. Enjoy the adventure!

      Much love,

    • Hi Liesl,
      I am wondering about you. How is your family? Have you made any moves toward your little house?

      Thanks for journeying with us!

  9. I stumbled upon your Tiny house project (and your interview) via a post on Nomad’s site. I truly loved your “Moving Rocks” blog. What a great perspective. I have always marveled at how life can indeed throw lemons at us, but that we later discover how life was secretly allowing us to quench our thirst with the ability to make lemonade. I think this is a prime example! Thank you for sharing and being so inspirational! natalie

    • Hi Natalie,

      Thank you for visiting and reading. I am grateful you spent some time here. Be well!


  10. Just found your site, and I have to say that this is a real post. So many blogs out there about this stuff, always seem to hide the fact that this type of thing is real. I currently live in a very large house with my wife, two children, and two dogs. We’re almost never in the same rooms, and I miss them, but I do have to work. “Moving Rocks” is really a great analogy. Looking forward to getting through all the rest of your posts!

    • Hi there!

      Thanks for reading! One of the things I set out to do with the blog was to be completely honest, to keep it real. Thank you for this comment. It means a lot to me to know that the words come across as real.


  11. Re-reading this just reminds me of how much I love your writing. I can’t wait to ‘hear’ more on the new big house! 🙂

    • Thank you, Bobbi! It feels good to know you enjoy reading my writing. I’m looking forward to getting back to the page. Cheers!