I first became interested in the RMLL years ago when I realized my friends shared three of my greatest loves—books, nature, and books about nature. Like me, they seem to feel the gravitational pull of nature stories; unlike me, they’ve taken their love of books and nature a few steps further by single-handedly creating a library whose worth is estimated to be up to $400,000. Its true value, of course, is impossible to imagine.
The project started simply and small enough, as commitments often do, with a few books on nature bought here and there and stacked on a shelf. In talking to Jeff, I get the clear impression that the books get more room (and consideration) in the Martin-Lee household than either of its human inhabitants do. It may be that the couple spends more on books than other items—such as, say, food.
Collecting the books is probably the easiest part of the endeavor. The trickier issue is what to do with all of them. All along, they’ve been intended for a publicly accessible place somewhere in Colorado, a residential library that would display the books and provide housing quarters nearby, so truly devoted nature readers could stay for days or weeks at a time and seriously study the collection. Lee and Martin are hoping to soon sign a 90-plus-year lease for a residential land-study center in South Park, about two hours from Denver. The idea is to house the books there and offer workshops, conferences, fieldwork, and other activities. “Basically, we wanted a site remote enough to provide the quiet conducive to work and study, so we looked in rural Colorado,” Jeff says. “But we also want to be a vital resource for the surrounding communities, and so we want to be accessible. The RMLL is committed to serving both the local community and visiting writers, artists, naturalists, researchers, and especially all those lifelong learners out there.”
Although the RMLL site search has taken some time, the deliberate pace has helped Martin and Lee bring other facets to the organization. “We’ve slowly developed several outreach programs”—author talks, classroom visits, and two-week residencies—“all to advance the mission of encouraging a greater awareness of our ties to the land,” Jeff says.