Moab can be a little hard on the eyes. My pupils dilate and strain under the pressure of the vivid blue sky, red rock, relentless sun. My body sweats, prickles, compresses and reshapes under the pressure of the heat. I am not evolved for this landscape, I am trying to adapt, I am a small blip in geologic time.
Existing in the extremes of deep summer in the desert, the constant stimulation of heat and light and contrast, is a practice in finding rhythm in strangeness. Every person deals with extremes in different ways, seeks balance in habit and routine or solace in activity, keeping busy. My own process is more and more tied to the land I live with, and the relationships I seek there.
What I find in Moab is a landscape and ecology I’ve never lived with before, a place that feels intense in many ways. But in this strangeness I’m finding potential to grow and explore new parts of myself, reflections within a new reality. Walking around Mill Creek, on the canyons’ rim, in the La Sals, I find resilient wildflowers, cactus blooms, lizards, wild variations in color and gradient, abundance, scarcity, wild formations of earth and decay, veins of timeless sediment, imprints of ancient peoples, winding canyons, wide reaching aspens, cold spring water coming out of the rock. I am trying to hold and remember the people who traveled and made homes here from time immemorial, respect the influence that the ancient Puebloans had on this land, recognize the ancestors and indigenous folks that still make and sustain home in this corner of the region (Navajo, Ute, Hopi).
At the bunkhouse and on the job site I’m finding space to consider another context of place, what the impact of accessible housing is on this rural community, what rhythm looks like for a city with an ever shifting identity and limited resources and ample space to support those changes. I am witness and co-creator to the magic that folks who are willing to give time and energy to building something together, in all the different ways we are doing that here, can create.
We are all in process, working with the multiplicities we carry as individuals and as a community. I’m taking time to be in this landscape, even if I don’t understand it or always feel good in it, respecting it as a place that deserves my attention and care as a visitor here. I’m hanging out with plants, trying to be kind to myself and find compassion and energy for others, eating well, working hard, processing emotion alone and in tandem, embracing unknowing, reveling in the temporal, yearning for home, and living within the multiplicities of place.
Written by Cai Beirwirth, Fall 2019 intern.