The anticipation of moving to Moab with my partner Matt was thrilling. Packing up our life from living in a wonderful co-housing community of two years was a mixed bag of feelings. I was ready for change, challenge, adventure, and a marvelous desert landscape, but sad to leave the wonderful spirit family we created for ourselves. I am so grateful and reminiscent at the path, people and experiences that brought us to Moab, right here and now.
Once our cars were tightly packed, we began the thousand mile drive to the desert. We made a stop in my hometown of San Diego to visit my family before moving even farther away. Twelve hours after arriving, my sweet Grammy took her last breath. I am so grateful to have been present physically at the time of her passing, not only for my own comfort, but to be there for and with my family. As the whirlwind range of emotions began surging inside me and all around me, I experienced sadness and anxiety at being late to the start of the semester in Moab. Learning to build strawbale homes has been a dream of mine for many years. And I came here with the intention of building my own home someday, I didn’t want to miss a second, but knew that being with my family was necessary. I’m thankful to the gentleness of Community Rebuilds as I told them the news. Upon our late arrival to Moab, everyone caught us up in lovely ways…from the build site, to our home life and everything in between. This new life had just begun, but so had my mourning.
Early in the build, all I could think about was my Grammy. I did my best to be as present as possible, especially as a novice with power tools, but it was hard. I felt like I had this secret in my new life that only Matt really knew about, like how I cried most days in private, or that sometimes at work I just walked away to Rotary Park to weep under a tree, or how songs come on KZMU radio and no one knew but me that that was her wedding song or the song we danced to in the kitchen to while making scrambled eggs and banana milk.
During foundation forming on site another intern was talking about when her father died, and how she just spent months afterwards diggin’ ditches because she didn’t know what else to do. I took that to heart. It changed my whole perspective on the build in that moment. From struggling with foundation forms, to shoveling heaps of gravel, to rolling trusses up on the roof, to stuffing palette walls with cob, every movement and every moment is healing. I am pouring my blood, sweat and literal tears into these homes, into something greater than just Danica. It is not a distraction from my grief, but rather a way into it and through it. I could not imagine a more perfect way to grieve than creatively working with my hands, my partner and my newest, dearest friends every single day.
As my sweet, tiny Grammy watches over me being a Moab mud kid, I can hear her saying…”Oh Danica, you are such an earth worshipper.”