Here we are in 2022, so the calendar reminds us, though the long stretch of the pandemic obfuscates the edges of the new year. Perhaps there is a reminder in this obfuscation to see the turn of the year not as a time for declarations of new resolve, but rather for renewal and reanimation of abiding commitments. In many ways this is the practice of the Conservancy—carrying forward W.S. Merwin and Paula Merwin’s commitments, and tending the unfolding story of a place made of them. It’s in this very way that I am thinking about the enormous losses and expansive legacies of biologists E.O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy.
I have learned so much from recent remembrances of Wilson and Lovejoy, who were friends and colleagues with shared concerns about species extinction, deforestation, and rampant human development. I am learning more about the friendship William shared with each of them. Not long ago, among William’s papers we came across a note that E.O. Wilson sent to William a decade ago, along with a newspaper clipping about fire ants. And quite recently we learned from a friend of the Conservancy and longtime friend of William and Paula’s about the afternoon in 2016 when Tom Lovejoy visited William, here in the palm garden. (How I wish I had been present when they planted that native loulu palm together.)
Through these stories I am struck by the capacity in each of them to care well beyond human-centric concerns, and to enact that care expansively, with extraordinary commitment. But I suppose what strikes me most is that their far-reaching impacts were rooted in their own intimate encounters with the world—the stuff of curiosity and wonder, attention and presence. From E.O. Wilson’s ants; and Tom Lovejoy’s forest fragments; and William Merwin’s palms grew a call to keep half of the world wild; the notion of biodiversity (and the very term); and a wild garden that in its own way makes manifest what even one person can do as an expression of care for the world.
Into the new year and always, may each of us carry forward, in our own ways, what these extraordinary people came to know and enact, and what so many others in our world have long known and never forgotten: in our care and attention is our continuity, and our joy.
With warm wishes,