Each walk in the garden and visit to W.S. and Paula Merwin’s house offers an invitation to see this special place anew, and to understand its resonance and potential more deeply. I relish this unfolding. I delight in each discovery of a handwritten note tucked in a book, or trinket that suddenly reveals itself on a bookshelf I’ve looked at many times before. And I am grateful that my sense of each new encounter is further deepened by the thoughtfulness and creativity of those alongside whom I am preparing this place for its next chapter. Today, a wise friend and collaborator opened up a new way of thinking about this unfolding: we are witness to a critical moment in the life of this place—a tender one suspended between how things were over the decades that William and Paula shared here, and how things will be for all who will come to spend time here through our residencies and programs.
One of our latest finds bears witness not only to this moment, but to the moment when the house was first built, in the late 1970s. A few weeks ago, I was lying on the floor in the great room, listening to music while Paula’s beautiful table linens swirled in the wash downstairs. My eye traveled up to the ceiling, along the beam that runs the length of the room where meals were shared, and poems found form. Along that beam, I saw for the first time the word RIDGE, scrawled in white chalk in handwriting that was unmistakably William’s, ostensibly labeled at the time when his idea for a house itself found form, and its perch 25 feet above the Pe’ahi stream bed. (You’ll find a link to this “Storied Object” video below).
Even as we move through this transition, the legacy of endless inquiry and astonishment will remain. Forty years from now someone else will be lying on the floor, and through stillness and attention will notice the traces of some early, beautiful gesture that has yet to reveal itself. They will share not only the story of that discovery, but the stories of those who will have come to dwell in this house as artists or scientists in residence, adding their own imaginative energy to this place.