In this sequel to the 2009 short story "SAVING THE POOL: CAN NATURIST FIND A PLACE TO SWIM, AND SAVE IT FROM CLOSING ?", Heather meets Cassandra and Susan at the mall, giving her some courage.
This first new story since 2019...
Letters : 13491 Words : 2447
Ever since I had been a little girl, I have known I wanted to work in a field related to nature. I would spend hours walking alone in a nearby forest, loving the silence that only nature could offer.
Of course, everyone who's been in a forest knows that there is always some sound: the wind whistling thru the trees, an animal cracking a branch or a bird chirping at the sun. However, compared to the sounds of the city, it was soothing, calming, relaxing.
The speed of time is also very different. In the race between the two of them, the city is the rabbit while the forest is the turtle. I just prayed every day that in the end, the turtle would win against the frenetic urban development.
Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and so many other groups warn us about deforestation, global warming, the ozone layer but the government doesn't listen and the throughout my school years, forests were losing ground, rapidly.
I already knew California is much more moderate than the rest of the country despite its rapid development. They impose taxes on heavy vehicles; they try to reduce the negative effects of industrialisation. I never figured out if it is because of the Hollywood idealism or simply because they are always afraid of earthquakes, but I know that California, contrary to my Georgia home state, is the place for battle between nature and civilisation.
It is not surprising that the Lauzier-Pitfield College was founded in the California "wilderness", the next frontier in the fight.
The College proudly announces it is the most liberal of the country, even surpassing UCLA and in order to celebrate their differences, they offer a series of unique graduate degrees including "Natural habitat engineering".
The program is designed to create a new breed of environmentalist: the college predicts that a lot of states will pay to have previously deforested land reconverted into natural habitats, and graduates of their new highly restricted diploma will be the front line of specialists to plan and execute the colossal task.
Nothing really new is taught in the degree. It is the mix of courses that really differentiates the program from any other in the country: environmental studies, biology, zoology, genetics, geology, computer assisted design, fluid engineering and economics.
As soon as I heard of the program, I knew what I wanted to study and applied for the course. I was lucky enough to get admitted in the first year of the program, which is only the second year of the opening of the college.
With my grades and my exceptional essay, I managed to get a 25% scholarship. With the little my parents and I were able to save, I successfully managed to get another 10% of my tuition paid for, and hope to get a job in the area to pay for my room, books, food and the balance of the tuition.
My parents are not really happy with my choice of career, being conservatives, but nonetheless support me the best that they can. They even flew me 3 weeks in advance and managed to find enough additional money to pay me a month of rent and food in an extra room of a widow near the University.
I spoke on the phone with the nice lady a few times in the past few weeks. She very nice but can only accommodate me for a month, after which she will move out of the area, her house having been sold already.
Moving to California is both easier and harder than I expected. The actual physical move is simple enough: I don't own a lot of things, so packing was light: Mainly some clothes, a few personal effects and some books.
But leaving my friends and family behind is hard. The only person I can really relate to was the lady I am living with, but she will leave in a month. I am left without any social contacts.
Nature is still here, but the little wilderness in California near my temporary residence has nothing to do with the forest back home. I am never really sufficiently in the forest to stop feeling the civilisation. There is always an airplane, a car horn or a remote police siren in the distance.
Getting employment is certainly not easy. Especially since we are far enough from the big cities for a reduced economic activity and all of the jobs possibly open to me are taken by other students, even minimum wage jobs at McDonald's or Wal-Mart. To get things even worse, the almost total absence of mass transit transportation means that until I get a car, I need to get a job really close to the school.
As such, as soon as the College's administration opened, I ran to the financial aid desk to get either references or additional scholarships.
Unfortunately, the College being only in its second year, all of the available jobs for general students are already taken by last year's freshmen, and new job offers won't come until much later in the year such as around the holiday period.
I was depressed, until the counsellor discovered 3 job offers for students of my program which weren't filed last year since the program is in its first year. He didn't have the details yet, but he nonetheless gave me the 3 contacts names and phone numbers.
The first one was actually the State of California. They wanted help in redesigning the environment around a few of their highways. The pay wasn't bad, but I needed to get a car and the work was a little too far from the College. I thanked the woman in charge, but didn't think I would be able to do it unless the program was very light on the studies, since they needed a lot of hours.
The second one was a lumber company. They had cutting rights in one of the forest in the nearby area, on the condition that they only picked tree above a certain age, depending on the type of tree, and they needed to reforest any areas they cut.
This was one of the reasons the program was created and I was interested in the job, but the hours would conflict with the College, since I would have needed to approve every work shift personally and the pay was, well, barely enough to cover my tuition let alone my rent or books.
I called the third offer; feeling a little crushed, but was happily surprised. They were a natural resort which tried to offer both housing and a camping ground in an environment as close to nature as possible. They wanted to integrate their future extension into their privately owned forest in a way to minimize the effect on the environment.
I was thrilled, especially when they announced the terms of the work: my scheduled would be organized every semester around my school's workload, and they would be able to hire me for the entire 4 year diploma, if I did the job right.
They would supply me with a small 2 room Cottage free of charge, and since they paid some of the College construction's cost, they would be able to get me an almost full scholarship.
The pay was really low, but since they took care of my rent and most of my tuitions fees, my expenses were really lowered. To help even more, several students and teachers of the college lived at their resort, so a shuttle bus was established and could be used for a very low monthly fee, removing the need for me to actually buy a car.
This was the perfect arrangement! The lady in question would be my immediate supervisor and seemed really nice. At first, I called her Mrs. Wilson, but she insisted on calling her Susan.
We met in a restaurant close to where I stayed, and she interviewed me further, bringing the plans for the Eden Lake resort, and asking me what I would do to in general for the new development.
We ended up talking for over four hours, and it became clear that we had a lot in common. We both had the same passion for nature, and we were both very passionate persons.
At the end of the 4 hours, she officially offered me the job, if I wanted it. I immediately accepted, but she suggested that I visit the resort before making my decision. She immediately invited me, even proposing to let me get the keys of the cottage I would have should I accept the job.
Once in the car however, she took a more serious tone with me. She explained that there was something left out of the discussions.
Instead of driving away, she started a new discussion I was afraid I wouldn't like.
"Cathy, did you know that the Lauzier-Pitfield College is the most liberal of America, even more than UCLA?"
"Yes, it was listed in the advertising."
"You see, years ago, the UCLA allowed certain clothing optional activities. Do you know what that means?"
"I guess it means that you were allowed not to wear any clothes. Is that right?"
"Exactly; students would be able, for example, to attend some swimming activities without a bathing suit. Do you know why some people would do that?"
"Yes, exactly you get the point. Not because they are perverts, but simply because they prefer it that way. Maybe they prefer to feel the water on their skin, or they simply hate bathing suits"
I stayed silent, wondering where she was getting.
"Lauzier-Pitfield is a clothing optional CAMPUS. Which means that..."
She let a pause in her phrase, to let me answer for her.
"That the students may decide to be nude on campus?"
"Exactly; they can attend classes or activities without clothes. And not just students, teachers too"
"Wow, must be weird. I guess not that many students decided to do so."
"You would be surprised. Many people prefer not to wear clothes. They call themselves naturists. There are naturists from everywhere in the country specifically coming to this college for that reason. They represent maybe 35% to 40% of the students, but not all choose to be nude all the time"
I was puzzled. Why was she telling me this?
"Cathy, these students, they come to stay at our resort. They choose Eden lake because we are a naturist center."
"Yes. People living at Eden Lake are nude. Don't worry, we aren't a sect, there is no sex allowed in public and we even have kids, so it is actually a family resort. It's all perfectly healthy and sane. We just prefer not to wear any clothes. Can you live with that?"
"Well, it seems I will need to get used to seeing people naked at school, so I guess I'll have to get used to seeing naked people at work too."
"No, I don't think you understand. We are a naturist center. Not a clothing-optional resort. You would need to be nude too at work, and to get the scholarship, you would also need to be nude a school."
"What? All of the time?"
"Not all of the time, but almost all of the time. It's the deal with the college. They allow us to give an almost full scholarship to up to 5 naturist member of our resort, but they don't want us to give it to others hence the rule. Of course, if on evenings or when it's cold, you dress back up, no one will bother you. You will also be able to wear protective clothing, such as when working in the forest. But at school and while working, you would be required to be nude; otherwise we can't get you the scholarship and the job, thought you could always only take the job and remain clothed at school."
"I'm not sure I can even do this, assuming I even want to"
"I would understand Cathy. I don't want to pressure you. If you don't want the job or if you want the job but not the scholarship, It'll be okay with me. You have great ideas, I really think you would succeed, but we can always try to find someone else from your program. Who knows, one of them might already be a naturist!"
"I am not saying no, the job is great. The pay is interesting, especially with the sponsorship and the boarding included, but to live naked for 4 years? I don't think I could do it even if I wanted to"
"Why don't you try it before you decide?"
"I guess. I don't know."
"Listen, I'll make you deal. Why don't we start by visiting the resort as well as the cottage you would occupy if you do take the job? You'll get to see if you are comfortable or not with nude people around you"
"Would I have to undress?"
"Only if you decide to stay; if you just want a tour, it would be ok"
"Will you be nude?"
"Well, I'd prefer to, but if you want, I can wait until the end of the tour before undressing."
"The way I am seeing it, if I do take the job, we'll spend a lot of time together nude, so if it is okay with you, I'd prefer to get used to seeing you as soon as possible"
"You are very nice Cathy. You will not regret this."
We chit chatted a little about naturism on the road, mostly about my fears and interrogations. I got the chance to get a lot more background on what actually goes on at the resort.
First of all, there are no sexual activities. Well, not in public. Members, like everywhere else, do what they want inside their bedrooms, but otherwise nudity doesn't equate sex for naturists.
There are members of all age, from babies to retired people, of all trade, teachers, doctors, janitors and unemployed; and of all convictions. I was surprised to hear that there were a few devout Christians who believe that Christianity doesn't prohibit naturism.
As we got closer to the resort, my stomach was echoing my apprehensions, but her words were slowly shifting those from fears to mere interrogations.