What it means to be in love

Environmentalists are always saying they love the earth. I do love the earth—I love hiking and the scenic views of mountains that make my soul breathe a bit easier. But when I get out in forests, I remember that I feel more than just love for the earth. I’m in love with the earth, so completely. My love isn’t the chaste admiration of Emerson or Thoreau. It’s not about writing poetry inspired by majestic sunrises. My love is intimate, physical, wet, wild.

I want to walk naked through mud, cover my body in earth, feel it squish between my toes as I try to become part of the ground below me. I want to nestle myself into the branches of trees, limbs entangled in a messy pile of twigs and leaves and skin. I want to stand under a freezing cold waterfall and let its raw power wash over me as my skin draws in, breath coming louder, faster until I can’t hold it in any longer and I scream, always surprised by how cold glacial runoff can be. I want to stay up late sharing secrets with the moon while the desert breeze plays with my hair, caressing me as I drift in and out of sleep.

Things you love, you’re willing to help. You sign petitions and write letters and try to waste less and eat locally. But you know that sometimes, you lose. You always have an out, the knowledge that we can destroy the planet completely and some form of life will survive. You’re rational with things you love. You make backup plans. You don’t base your whole world around them.

When you’re in love, it’s different. You’re stupid. You fight for things you know you’re going to lose. You put your body on the line if you think you have to. You try anything you can think of to keep your beloved from being harmed. You base your entire life around your relationship, no matter how much the odds are stacked against you. Even if every river on earth has turned toxic and the ocean is full of plastic, you refuse to leave your home behind. You never give up. You never stop fighting.

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