I grew up in a cool temperate rainforest on the southeast coast of Australia, so it’s difficult to imagine a more alien environment than Moab, Utah; or a more welcoming one.
I’ve been living in the US almost a year, clinging to the west coast’s forests and rocky shores and liberal cities that feel like home. I was WWOOFing, camping and road tripping, trying to find short-term work trades through which to learn about natural building. I didn’t find much, but I did move up and down the coast between three states stating my intentions to every permy, hippy, punk and burner I met. Eventuallya friend living in the Oakland Greenpeace Warehouse met a former intern and put me onto Community Rebuilds. The instant I read a description of the Community Rebuilds program I knew that I had wandered far enough and found what I needed.
We are now almost three weeks into our internship and our time in Moab, and both have exceeded expectations. I have sixteen beautiful housemates, from all over North America who have rapidly become a patchwork family. Each intern has had a unique path to reach this point, and brought with them so much to share and teach.
Our instructors are warm, fun and glacially patient, guiding seventeen people whose experience varies drastically to become increasingly competent builders. They allow us to make mistakes and take the time necessary to learn the ins and outs of each process in ways that couldn’t be possible in a commercial build. The houses are rising rapidly. We’ve each had intimate experience of building foundation forms, pouring concrete, building and installing timber framing and every tool and technique used along the way. Today we got our first taste of straw while stuffing it into box roof beams for insulation. My new favorite job is climbing around on roof beams,fastening them with a nail gun.
Moab itself has been no less welcoming. I’ve been taken rock climbing with one of our homeowners, and hosted at a pajama party by another. Cashiers at the grocery store get excited when I mention I’m a Community Rebuilds intern, and we are invited to at least one imaginatively themed party each weekend. From the campus we can bike to the start of dozens of trailheads, and hike across waves of sandstone, through high walled canyons and across tabletop mesas dotted with junipers and cacti. World class rock climbing, mountain biking and rafting surround the town; Arches and Canyon Lands national parks are within fifteen minutes drive; it’s impossible to choose how to spend our free time.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so present, so intentional and purposeful in thismany aspects of my life. This desert has already begun to treat me less like a foreigner, as familiarity creeps across the sandstone and draws me into its secret canyons and shaded creeks.