December is nearing. Like every year, I am overcome with the coziness that Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season brings and eager to sip warm beverages and see sparkling lights outside. But this December, the upcoming end to our semester and completion of two houses is in the forefront of my thoughts and those of my fellow interns.
In July, we poured the foundation. We built upon that, adding framing and roof trusses and filling the interior floor with packed mud. Soon enough, the straw bales were loaded in and interior framing began to give us an idea of what Jessica and the Millers’ houses would look like. Then came drywall, and plaster, plaster, plaster. Each layer of the house is not just a physical layer; in my mind it’s a day shared with friends and teachers, with laughter and stress and sweating or shivering, learning and asking questions along the way. With a final, finished plaster coat, we are down to the last eighth of an inch of the house.
I like words. Small pieces of power to take with you. One of my favorite pieces of power has been from a poem by Nick Laird: “there is such a shelter in each other”. Shelter has been a human necessity since the beginning of time – food, water, shelter. This is what has made me passionate about increasing access to affordable housing and what drew me to Community Rebuilds. The need for housing is universal and important. I’m so thankful for the last five months that have allowed me to work towards completing a physical manifestation of the meeting of that need.
When I think about shelter in a less physical sense though, I think about the shelter you can find in other people, like Laird wrote. Maybe we can consider this blog post as a little love letter to the intern group and CR community. Through the process of building these houses, my housemates have built shelter in and around each other as well. It’s been beautiful to observe and be a part of.
There’s certainly something romantic about the idea of buildinga house; the earnest desire to work with one’s hands, the gratification about the completion of a project, and the setting being here in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. But as one of my housemates recently put it, the construction site is maybe one of the least romantic places to be, with its piercing noises and flinging mud and general hazards. The day to day, while gratifying, is also tiring and can be stressful. Maybe you get to know people best when you are immediately introduced to them in stressful, or, in our case, extremely hot conditions. I’m thankful to those who offered me grace when the 105 degree heat made me one of the least lovable versions of myself. As the roofs of the homes went up and gave us shade, my housemates too sheltered me with their support.
In late September and early October, Moab received what I understood to be an uncharacteristically high amount of rain. We spent one morning at the window, in awe of the buckets of rain appearing out of nowhere in the desert and observing the pattern that the water would take as it moved around the house. That weekend, when it had rained so much that the novelty had long worn off, I sat at home by myself. The rain had made me think that I should spend some time in melancholic solitude, but I was quickly getting restless. As if reading my mind, a housemate texted me that they were watching the frisbee tournament, and that I should join. I was the last to pile into the covered back of a pickup truck, complete with blankets and fresh bread. Sheltered from the rain; sheltered by the friends who knew I needed coziness shared with others that day.
Lately, it’s been very cold. Some say they miss the heat of the summer, but I know better than that. After long work days and early sunsets, the warmth of our home on Mill Creek Drive is amplified by the conversations, laughter, and shared meals each night. I am overcome with gratitude for the home we have made for ourselves at night after we build homes for the homeowners during the day.
The collaboration in building these shelters for one another has been the most meaningful part of this experience so far. We will move on, move away, and maybe keep building elsewhere. I am eager to feel the gratification of completing these houses in a couple of weeks, to finish the final eighth inch layer. I am overwhelmed with sentimentality and will continue to be. I will feel tethered by witness to this place and these people for a long time.