Quite suddenly, the end of the workshop is upon us. There's a lot of hustle and bustle as everyone kicks into high gear this morning, recognizing that we have just one workday to get as much plastering done as possible. Tyler and I hope with all our might that our new friends will be able to finish before they all disperse—twenty enthusiastic people plastering is very, very different than two tired ones.
It's a bittersweet day, knowing the end is nigh. The atmosphere around our homestead is a confused hodgepodge of emotions: excitement about the structure, and sadness that our tightly-knit company will soon break apart, and in my case, eagerness to collapse from exhaustion and get my first real night's sleep in a week.
At lunch, our neighbors come over to help with a final blow-out meal. Charlie sets out cold drinks and chips, while Hercilia bounces her daughter Olivia in the carrier. Becky shapes hamburgers and threads vegetables onto skewers, while Jeremy grills everything on a homemade fire pit. As famished plasterers ascend to the clearing for lunch, my heart swells as they thank our neighbors. Though their contributions were behind the scenes, our neighbors were as much a part of the workshop as everyone else!
As everyone stuffs their faces, a spontaneous round of giving thanks erupts. One by one, participants pipe up to talk about what the week meant to them. They thank their new, fast friends for their camaraderie and hard work, and Andrew for being an amazing, inspiring leader. They thank Tyler and me for the time, energy and intention we've put into this workshop and this homestead. And as always, there are rousing thanks for the week of delicious food. The outpouring of love from everyone is palpable.
As I'm cleaning up from lunch, several guys come bounding up to find me and urge me to come look at the workshop. "You HAVE to see it," they say. I follow them down and gasp at how right they are. The building is amazing. There are two big, beautiful doors standing proudly in place, making the grindbygg look like a real structure. Holy shit. It's really, really happening!
After plaster on the outside is finished (no scratches since we're going to put on live-edge siding), indoor plaster begins right away. Since everyone's heading home and there's no dinner offered tonight, I'm able to take the afternoon off to plaster with the crew. It feels strange to don my overalls and join the group in a way I haven't all week. I'm a little nervous, like an outsider in my own building. Not due to anyone's behavior, it's just that I'm not used to the camaraderie developed by the group over the past week.
When I mention this lightheartedly to Andrew, he smiles and loudly announces, "I'd like to introduce the newest member of our crew. Tara will be joining us for the afternoon. Everyone say hello to Tara." And the joke is met with smiles, laughter, and welcomes. I'm grateful. And then, together, we hustle, smearing plaster over straw, carrying hawksful of plaster blobs to folks on ladders, and doing our best to tackle the job of nicely plastering the wonkiest structure ever.
Hours later, we're spent; our muscles are shot and our productivity is plummeting. Though the plaster isn't quite finished on the inside, Andrew officially calls it. We've done our best. I am elated by all we've accomplished and I devastated by how much remains to be done. I know how difficult this project will be to finish without twenty pairs of hands. But it doesn't matter right now; I'm too tired to continue anyway. One by one, folks disperse to call dibs on the shower and begin packing for the trip home.
I hate parting. The depth of emotion roiling through me can't be captured in words. Goodbyes never seem to do justice to the real impact of the leave-taking, and hugs are never enough. And there are the awkward, post-goodbye "I'm just back to grab the shoes I accidentally left!" run-ins, and the hopeful but unlikely promises that we'll all keep in touch and stay friends. Because even if we manage to accomplish just that, it still won't be the same. All we can do is appreciate this week for what it was, and do our best to keep those memories bright.
One by one, we say goodbye. We hug and get teary and hug some more. We thank each participant—each dear friend—for everything, for all they've done, for who they are. And then we wave as they crunch down the gravel driveway. Each person leaves a vacuum in their wake, a palpable absence. The emptiness is massive and overwhelming.
In a very cathartic, movie-like way, a sudden storm rolls in as we're saying goodbye to the last stragglers. I've never seen such a storm on our land before! Thunderous waves of rain came drenching down, pooling atop the food tent where the last of us are waiting. As I watch our land become awash with swaths of mud and lake-like puddles, I thank my lucky stars that we haven't had weather like this all week.
At last, the storm abates, and the stragglers leave, and it's time to say goodbye to Andrew. He's just showered, looking clean and dapper in a button-down shirt. A different man. If there ever was an inadequate goodbye, it would be with him. How I appreciate his humor and his humble but powerful leadership, and how he literally changes the world for the better, one person at a time. Saying farewell and thank you isn't easy, but we content ourselves with the knowledge that our paths will most certainly cross again.
Now, it's just the two of us. Plus Martin, who will leave in the morning. Plus Heinz, his partner Teresa, and their 40 foot RV, who will roll our tomorrow as well. And of course, that massive, deathly quiet Absence whose presence I feel like a heavy, numbing weight. It's still raining, but not hard, and the world around us is sodden and mud-filled. There are three pairs of worn-out shoes in the trash can. The recycling bin is overflowing; bags and cartons of beer bottles and cans take up much of the space under the food tent. Everywhere, there is wreckage.
I am an emotional mess. I feel a mounting sense of dread. Despite the fact that this past week was a jump-into-hyperspace along the infinite space-time continuum of building that needs to be done, I am daunted by the toil that lays ahead. Because it's still infinite. But right now, it doesn't matter. We have a workshop that is mostly plastered. We had an amazing week. I walk around in a daze, aimlessly and half-heartedly picking up bits of trash.
I'm going to need one hell of a 24-hour rule.
And mostly, I'm going to miss our friends.
To everyone who came to our straw bale workshop, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.