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.