Building houses, making homes

Home is more than a physical structure built out of wood, dirt and straw. After a 5 month crash course in strawbale building, we can see the tangible outcomes- We’ve built two new strawbale houses to take the place of an empty lot and an outdated trailer. They are layered in earthen plasters, topped with an array of solar panels, packed with adobe, and sitting on top of concrete foundations. But behind every square inch of that house is a collection of stories. That corner in the southeast bedroom is not just the intersection of two walls, it’s where I learned how to stuff straw in between posts, it’s the first time I mixed dirt, clay and straw together to make plaster, it’s where I commiserated with fellow interns about the joy of screwing drywall, it’s the countless hours of carefully troweling on finish plasters with a rubber spatula, it’s the memory of commandeering the radio and blasting black metal, it’s the conversation I had with a friend after hours. Home is every abstract moment shared with the people you build it with.

Our builders have encouraged us to think about who we were when we arrived in Moab in February and who we are now. What did we want and expect? I signed up for an experience that would teach me skills that were completely foreign, take me out of my comfort zone and change me into someone capable of building their own house. I knew I would be humbled in confronting the challenges of trying something new. What’s a speed square? How are you supposed to mark measurements? Whose plumb bob? I did not however anticipate the humility that would be handed to me in the beauty of life in the desert with 15 fellow interns. I arrived as the quintessential novice and am soon to depart with the skill and inspiration to continue slinging mud, wielding hammers, hucking straw bales, and changing the idea of what our built environment should be made of.

I can’t express enough gratitude for those who I’ve shared this home with. Life in Moab has been full of moments of unbearable beauty. A few more memories: hunting for cactus blooms, swarming the streets as a bike brigade, sharing food, the exhale of appreciation from a homeowner, sweet relief at Mill Creek, countless hours of dancing in variable forums, hours of listening to kzmu, shaving mohawks, sharing ideas, values, opinions and all the necessary challenges this experience has offered to grow and change. Thank you Moab. Thank you Community Rebuilds.

Melissa Graciosa

CR Alumni

Spring Moab 2015

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