W.S. Merwin is one of my favorite poets because he’s intensely connected to the natural world. He digs deep into plant love through his words. Not only did he believe in the importance of preserving the environment, he lived for years in Hawaii, gradually restoring a palm forest on Maui. It now houses almost 3,000 palm trees. Within that collection, there are 125 different tree genera, which subdivide into 400 species and 800 varieties. Botanically speaking, that’s incredibly impressive.
A Vision Early On
I also admire W.S. Merwin (as well as many poets) because he understood the important relationship between our mental health and the natural world. Decades ago, he noticed what we lose as a society when we go indoors. Here’s his thoughts from the 1990s: “We go into a supermarket and we have artificial light, canned music, everything’s deodorized–we can’t touch or taste or smell anything, and we hear only what they want us to hear. No wonder everybody wanders around like zombies! Because our senses have been taken away from us for us a while. A supermarket brings the whole thing into focus. The things that are there don’t belong there, they didn’t grow there. They have a shelf life, which is being tented, so that we can buy them. It’s only about selling things. This is a very strange kind of situation, but it’s typical of our lives.”
A Moment of Peace
Here’s a lovely poem by Merwin about a tree. Notice how the poem travels to different places and where it ends. So simple and ephemeral. I hope it gives you a moment of peace.
Place On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree what for not for the fruit the tree that hears the fruit is not the one that was planted I want the tree that stands in the earth for the first time with the sun already going down and the water touching its roots in the earth full of the dead and the clouds passing one by one over its leaves
Photo by Maria Maliy