Moab welcomed me home again in August. This is my second go as an intern, having been here in January for two months until the pandemic hit. Fast forward a few months later and I’ve found myself back in the fray. Somehow another week has slipped by and we’re rolling into early autumn.
I still find it hard to put Moab into words. At first glance, it’s a little abrasive: a cloudless and violently blue sky meets towering, stacked canyons, all godlike and radiating the fierce gold light of the sun. (Drink water, drink water, drink water). Jeeps on steroids cough gasoline fumes down the length of the town’s main strip, billboards and hotels shout and uranium mining really didn’t happen much longer ago than yesterday. Despite it being a small town, the vastness of everything within Moab, the desert, and perhaps America as a whole, makes me feel tinier and more mortal than growing up in England ever could have done, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Readjust your eyes and the beauty of Moab is boundless. The flora and fauna are abundant in this green and verdant vein, and I’m finally starting to be able to put names to what I’m seeing. Both sunflowers and moonflowers glow in peoples’ front gardens, the La Sal mountains illuminate the horizon with their first shake of snow and Mill Creek has filled up again, bubbling quietly next to the bike path. I’m becoming familiar with the family of deer who lounge around our yard and I’ll never quite believe they’re considered a pest – locking eyes with a doe will always feel like magic to me. Moab, and the Community Rebuilds team within it, have become my normal but every day still enchants me. I feel lost and found all at once and am slowly learning to dance with the heat and the dust. Hell, I like the way it makes my hair feel.
To paint a picture of my days here: I wake early. It gets a little later each day as the mornings slowly darken. Oatmeal hasn’t yet failed me as I try to piece myself together in the morning, tripping over my roommate’s shoes and spilling flour as I start a loaf of bread. Reading and dawdling until it becomes a mad dash to gather my belongings and cycle uphill to site, brakes squealing on arrival. Maybe a few of us will carpool, when the morning truly escapes us.
Each day brings a new process, a new perspective. A refining of a method and hopefully, hopefully, that click of understanding. An ‘oh! I can do this!’. Some days are characterised by a much larger group effort; this last Friday required the synergy of the whole team to apply the first coat of lime plaster to the house up on Doc Allen Drive. Days like these feel like a monumental achievement, unifying the crew and nudging the house into the direction of a home. More often, the days tick by with ‘smaller’ tasks, which might be, for example, stapling lath to the exterior, shovelling sand or masking windows. At moments, these tasks feel menial, but the overarching feeling is one of purpose that I have never quite felt before. Even cutting and recutting a piece of timber I keep splitting with badly aimed nails makes me feel a part of something – a set of hands in a gentle push for a world we want to see.
It’s an extraordinary privilege to watch a house (or three) materialise into fleshed out bodies from the skeletons we saw them as just over a month ago. And in a way, that’s happened for our pared down team. Strangers have become fast friends and familiar faces have become much deeper connections. In the evenings, somebody will often have cooked up something to share, alongside the perpetually simmering beans on the stove or bread rising in the oven. Connecting over food feels both special and essential, especially for this gang raring to go all the time. The ceaseless energy of everyone leaves me equally scattered and fulfilled; in our downtime we’re finding our feet on rollerskates, refining our handstands, throwing our sweaty, plaster covered bodies into the Colorado River, playing raucous games of basketball and occasionally sleeping outside to watch for shooting stars. On seeing one I reflexively say, ‘make a wish!’, and almost instantly realise I have nothing I need to wish for.
To return to Moab and dive into the world of CR again has been invigorating. I feel endlessly grateful to have the opportunity to be here, learning to carve out the world we want to live in, here under this urgent blue sky and powerful sunshine.
drawings and sketches by Fall 2020 Intern Eddie Lovell.