Today, I woke up and outside, the rocks surrounding Moab had already started glowing yellow and red. Sunflowers were twisting their heliotropic heads to the sky. I got on my bicycle: a temperamental cruiser that I had borrowed from the Community Rebuilds bicycle library and headed off to work.
I got to the build site and formed a group with the other builders and interns. Reid, an enthusiastic ceramicist and builder, was giving instructions for the day’s tasks. She had sketched out the anatomy of a roof overhang and talked as we all stood in a circle and stretched.
When we got started, I had the opportunity to work with some men from the community and learn about applying base metal around the bottom of the house. The men’s names were Kelby and Jeremiah and as we worked they played rock and roll and metal. Kelby, a Moab local who would be moving into the house we were working on, announced early on in the day that “I can’t work unless I’m rocking!”
Although, I am no expert at cutting sheet metal, Kelby has got me pretty psyched on listening to Rock and Metal. I wake up and listen to songs by Tool and Skinny Puppy before heading back to the build site for another day of hard work and (occasional) silliness.
As I ride along the sycamore-lined streets of Moab, I pass a deer. I wonder how long it will take before I can recognize and identify the deer that roam the town?
Today, I am assigned the task of teaching a friend named Will about base metal. Although I feel a little uncertain about my abilities, I embrace the challenge and together we spend the day drilling, snipping, and cursing, but finally we are able to get the job done.
After work, a group of us head to the nearby Mill Creek where we wash off the day’s sweat and grime in the cool flowing water.
I wake up and my roommate and I cook scrambled eggs with onions and zucchini from a local school garden. The garden is a part of an expanding organization called Youth Garden Project (YGP). YGP is oriented towards providing sustainable food and farming education to the community and operates a weekly CSA food delivery.
Moab is a place of abundance. In addition to YGP, interns are provided with free food from local grocery stores and, at the build site, we are often given produce by our neighbors.
Today, I am tasked with putting up sheetrock and wood trusses that will support the house roof. It is immensely rewarding work. I work as part of a team and am given ample opportunity to swing from scaffolding and balance along the tops of door frames. The day culminates with the whole crew hauling an enormous truss into place.
After work, everyone heads home, exhausted and ready to lie down away from the hot sun.
Today it is hot before I even arrive at the job site. By the time work is in full swing, the air feels thick and heavy. I find myself preparing angled door bevels and cramming a mixture of straw and clay into holes in the house frame. It is uncomfortable work: my arms are quickly covered in mud and the straw is itchy and sharp.
After work, an Americorps employee named Charly leads a group of interns to a rock climbing hotspot called Wall Street. We all laugh and climb and drink warm beer to forget the day’s struggles. Later we drive to a canyon near the Colorado River where we clamber over sandy yellow rocks towards a group of people participating in an event called Ecstatic Dance. There are enormous speakers and about twenty men and women dancing wildly. No one speaks, we all just dance in uninterrupted flowing motion under the late afternoon sun.
To end the week, we have a ‘plaster day’: everyone converges at a single build site and we all work together. Sand and Clay are mixed; buckets of material are hauled around the site and many hours are spent troweling earthen plaster onto walls in order to build up a smooth surface. It is highly gratifying work: learning to plaster is tricky at first, but once the basic techniques are learned, the results are great!
In the evening, I ride my bicycle to the mouth of a canyon and hike up a dry creek bed. I pass little ponds of stagnant water and hundreds of tiny green frogs chirp at me before disappearing below the surface. The trail leads to a flat-topped boulder, glazed with iron. I sit on top of the rock and watch a cloud of bats swooping in pursuit of mosquitoes. After several weeks of living in Moab, the desert has begun to feel like home.
Words, drawings and pictures by Fall 2020 intern John Micah Bellis.