Over the last few months, two of my very best and most beautiful friends came to visit The Boy and I in LA. I wanted to show them all the magic and splendor of the golden coast, so I brought these ladies to Big Sur–“The Most Dramatic Meeting of Land and Sea”–and Leo Carillo Beach in Malibu. We scrambled over rocky bluffs, peered into crystalline tide pools to spy on lazy starfish and anemones in briney blues and violets, gazed up in awe at the tops of towering redwoods, and scaled peaks to look out across the whole wide earth all the way to the glittering sea.
These pictures are especially poignant to me now, because The Boy and I are packing up and hightailing it out of California. We debated this decision over weeks and months, but in truth it was while we were in Big Sur with Lorenza that my heart made its decision. I was sitting on top of a rock on a mountain overlook, looking down on a valley grove of redwoods that stretched all the way west until the land finally gave way to the Pacific. I felt nothing but happiness and the sun setting on my shoulders. Then something broke inside my head, and I had one of those perfectly clear thoughts: we need more space. We need more room to breathe. We need better air in our lungs. We need seasons, we need change. We need something more than the feverish grit and dizzying, disorienting, omnipresent sunshine of Los Angeles. But, sitting on top of that same mountain, I knew I was not ready to give up the wonders of the west, not yet. So Portland, Oregon, here we come.
I am beyond excited for our new life in a new city. We knew from the start that LA would not be our forever home, and eventually it seemed pointless to keep putting down roots if we weren’t ready to commit. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic for our Tiny Cottage one day.
In many ways, it was the perfect place to live as a newly married couple. 400 square feet offer no hiding places, no refuge, no room for cold shoulders or silent treatments. This house has been a wonderful crash course in marriage. The space forced us to be close, to speak plainly and honestly about our problems, to be gentle with each other even when one of us had had a bad day, and wasn’t feeling especially nice. We had spent so much time apart before we moved into the Tiny Cottage, and it was a little disorienting at first to swing so rapidly from 3,000 miles between us to just 3 feet.
To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t always easy. The Boy was slow to adjust to LA, and for months he was cranky, out of sorts, vulnerable, and lost. It fell to me to pick up the pieces a lot of the time, and quite frankly I did not always accept that role gracefully. We went through a little rough patch in those months, where it felt like we were arguing all the time and getting nowhere.
This was especially tricky during wedding planning, also known as hell on earth. I have one particularly fond memory of the early stages, which happened to coincide with The Boy’s poor mother staying with us for a weeklong visit, where a casual conversation about when we should start hanging lights in the yard erupted into an argument over nothing. I can see his mother so clearly, pretending to read on an airbed in our tiny living room, while we had a heated conversation in undertones just fifteen feet away in the kitchen. Ahh, wedding planning… that perfect melting pot where two different sets of values on family, religion, money, and tradition all come crashing together. Good times.
But little by little, the Tiny House showed us the way. I learned the value of small measures: making an extra cup of coffee in the morning, without being asked… picking up his favorite soda from the grocery store… washing the dishes, even though he told me he’d take care of it in the morning. These things count in a very real way, and they can make all the difference. Around October, without warning, the load got a little easier. We were sweeter with each other, and bickered less. We spent a little extra time in bed each morning, talking softly together about our plans for the day. And we both learned something important, something critical, something obvious but nevertheless difficult about our marriage: sometimes, some days, one of us will have to carry the heavier load, and that’s ok, but it’s especially important, when those days roll around, to not just remember that we love each other, but to say it, too, in gestures large and small, explicit and unspoken.
Our new house will have a lot more space, but we’ll carry these lessons there with us anyway. And one day, when we’ve been married a lot longer than we have now, I’m sure I’ll tell someone about the tiny cottage we lived in when we were so young, and so in love, and so full of plans for the future.
All pictures by Xander Keeping.