Two new palms took root here this month – loulu planted by poets-in-residence Carol Moldaw and Arthur Sze at the edge of W.S. Merwin’s garden. A new grove will emerge there as each writer, artist, scientist-in-residence plants a new palm. I picture this spot in the garden as it will look five years from now, after dozens of residents have put their hands into the soil. I imagine the canopy that will emerge from their gestures. By that time, inside the house, the pages of our guest book will be filled with the stories of those who come to dwell here for a time, each one adding a new layer to the unfolding story of this place. But for now, the keiki palms are small, the guest book still mostly blank, and we are carefully crafting our residency program with the help of our earliest residents. What is it like to create here in this place, where both tangible and intangible traces of William and Paula’s vibrant creative lives remain so very present? How might we usher these spaces along such that what was remains palpable, and what will be has space to emerge? Natalie Diaz, Sean Connelly, Carol Moldaw and Arthur Sze have generously helped us navigate these crosscurrents as we cultivate the conditions for imaginations to thrive—in the house, in the garden, for residents and garden visitors alike.
In the last week of Carol and Arthur’s stay, Salman Rushdie was attacked while preparing to speak about sanctuary for those who dare to beckon new ideas into being. The practice of tending William and Paula’s house as a generative site felt all the more vital, as did our continued commitment to crafting a residency that supports the essential work of the imagination. By its very nature, the imagination gives rise to possibilities beyond what exists in the present. There are telltale signs of its surge: astonishment, elation, ecstasy, head scratching, consternation, fury. No matter the aftershock of its expression, imagination is the engine of expansion. Where it is tended, new ways of being and making open up. Our realities are stretched and can be enriched beyond what we know to be possible. Making space for the full range of the imagination is the most vital thing I can think of doing.
A few days ago, as August waned, a dear and wise friend of the Conservancy quoted the poet Theodore Roethke: “What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.” Here in the garden, may we long welcome new poets, thinkers, gardeners, visitors who, by way of their imaginations and actions, make the world new.