Essay by Lisa Jones
Mountain Life – November 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine
BELIEVE ME, THERE’S NOTHING SEXIER. In contrast to their urban brethren, biologists are sinewy, tanned, and wise. They are often bearded. They know their knots. They have all the right books. They think environmental change begins at home. They are right.
A few years ago, I fell in love with a biologist who lived in a completely recycled hexagonal house on a mesa in western Colorado. Even the NAILS were recycled. He and his friend had built the place entirely by hand. I loved walking to the nearby stream to take a bath — the only bath available. I actually spent one afternoon scrubbing our rough wood floor with rags dipped in melted snow. (I loved that part less than the others.) But I really loved running around after rabbits with a bow and arrow. Of course we never shot any, but the thrill of the chase took me right back to childhood.
I loved it all at first. And then I loved it less. Over time, I had to confront my true self: I was not nearly the environmentalist my beloved was. Sure, I’m non consumptive enough that I can write about reducing, reusing and recycling with a certain amount of authority. I ride a bike to do my errands, my voting record is impeccably green, and I have camped out for months at a time. But the worm is in my heart: I’m an American, an impure soul who has driven 25 miles through prime hiking territory to get to a health club to climb a Stairmaster. And I like to drink coffee, and, on weekends, perhaps some Budweiser.
“I am a child of the universe,” I would say to my increasingly speechless boyfriend. “I have a right to be here.” Then I would get in my car and gun it through the forest, cattily steering toward the Stairmaster; toward a friend’s house, (and her sink, her bath, and her soap); or toward the post office, where perhaps the Pottery Barn catalog would be waiting. Let’s say I got just a little reactive. It didn’t take long: The relationship ended with as much gusto as it had begun.
I picked myself up and moved to Massachusetts, where any live-off-the-land types were devoured by insects long ago, or had repaired to clapboard houses to read their Thoreau in peace. I met a nice man there. We went for a walk in the dappled maple forest. We came upon a tiny wooden structure. It was perhaps the size of a three-person tent. True to form, it was hexagonal. It was his HOUSE. My blood ran cold. I turned to him and said slowly, so he was sure to hear, “If we ever end up dating, let me tell you right now I am never, ever going to set foot in your house.” We did, and I didn’t.
A year ago, I started dating another biologist. Somewhere in the first flush of romance, we stood high in the Rockies watching a particularly gorgeous lilac, pink and tangerine sunset play off the surrounding peaks. Birds tootled melodiously. My sweetie put his arms around me, nuzzled me on the neck and identified the divine song as that of the hermit thrush. Then he said, “Let’s drive back to town and rent Naked Gun.”
My knees nearly buckled with lust. I had met the biologist of my dreams. Sure, he lives in New England, where he teaches classes on global warming when he isn’t flying out to see me. But heck. Life is paradoxical and love is more so. We plan to offset the environmental consequences of our long-distance relationship by moving in together, and he hopes to eventually own a hybrid-electric car.
But for now, this guy lives in an efficiency apartment. He has a two-burner hot plate and a dorm-sized fridge, and drives a Toyota held together by duct tape. It may not sound like much, but for me it is progress.
Lisa Jones is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (www.hcn.org). She lives periodically in western Colorado.