Equal and opposite

2_NT_EqualandOpposite_Savage

Seth and I spend most of our nights wearing headlamps. We probably have five between the two of us and we move through the darkness like miners in our small space. When you live in one room, you make compromises and one of ours means we take our nights in low light.

In winter, in Montana, it gets light early. We are only now coming out of the season when it’s dark by five and by the time we go to bed it feels as though we’ve spent as many hours in the dark as in the light. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but that’s how it feels. Something has tipped lately, though, and there isn’t always a chill the air. It’s warm in the sun and I’ve even seen blue sky. A few days in a row.

It’s big, spring.

We’ve not yet reached the time of year where we have to convince the children that it’s time for bed because it’s still light outside. We are getting close but for now we still move from bed to bathroom to table by the light of a headlamp while our girls sleep on a pullout futon in the middle of the room.

I suppose we could have arranged the room differently but, come to think of it, I’m not sure how. There are no walls, no curtains to block light and the only logical place for Eliza and Lucille’s bed to go was in the middle of the room, between our bed and the table, where it can fold out every night.

So we walk around them, quietly, while they sleep. The blue glow of Seth’s computer lights one side of the room while he studies and I usually read across the room, headlamp affixed to my forehead, until I give in and go to sleep.

Usually earlier than I’d like to admit.

Living in a small space means you don’t really have your own space. Every square foot is communal, shared. Because I took coastlines of the Southeast as my only lab science in college, I can only tell you this: there is some rule of science that goes something like every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I’m not sure who came up with that idea but I’m pretty sure he lived in a really small space with several other creatures because that’s exactly what living in my tiny house is like. Every move requires another to accompany or negate it. Nothing happens in isolation. We do not even breathe without affecting someone else.

But after six months of this endeavor, we are starting to breathe collectively. We are starting to settle in. We know each other’s rhythms, every move seems familiar. On the good days we move in separate unison. Art at the table, games on the floor, dinner on the stove, books on the bed. On the not-so-good days we ricochet off each other. Shoes in the middle of the floor, markers with no lids, water all over the bathroom from the grooming of toy horses, mud across the kitchen floor thanks for old lab that doesn’t care where she walks.  Even on these days we are a unit, though, in similar ways to when our girls were babies. We are all leaning heavily on each other to make this work and it’s hard to lean on someone and not feel close to them.

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One thought on “Equal and opposite

  1. Your last sentence sums up life in a small space perfectly. My husband and I (nearly 30 years) have shared very small spaces with a growing daughter: Houseboats, studio apts, 500 sq ft homes… It creates a bond that couples with tons of space and the ability to get out of each other’s way all the time don’t have to develop. It will sustain you later as it does us.

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