September brought good friends to the Conservancy once again, to help sort through W.S. Merwin’s extensive library. It’s an ongoing process of discovery and wonder as we clean, inventory, and consider thousands of books. With each book pulled from the shelf, stories surface. Some of these stories may one day be carried along by words, and others will continue to rest among the pages, or linger in these rooms without us ever knowing them through language.
Our friends have gone now, and I sit here at the old dining room table with gratitude and the widest of eyes, taking in the new stacks of old books, and piles of yellowed envelopes that William used as bookmarks and scrap paper. And I find I’m drawn to a particular book that’s been right here at the corner of the table since I first met William almost five years ago. Red Pine’s translation of Lao-Tzu’s Taoteching has served as a kind of anchor as change has swirled around it here in the house. In his last years, William kept this book here, close at hand and quite often in hand. It’s well worn, thick with the little love notes Paula left for him in its pages. Here and there, William’s handwriting stretches across margins. The book falls open with ease and habit to the verses about the Valley Spirit—to emptiness that holds form, emptiness that is responsive, and inexhaustible. I wonder what William thought about as he sat here with this book in hand and mind, looking out the window and across this valley he had come to call home. I wonder about the note he left here on the page about the Valley Spirit: “it has no end nor beginning.” I think of the Conservancy’s commitment to tend this stretch of the Peʻahi valley well into the future, and to offer it to others as a place of possibilities.
It’s this unfolding story that we offer in “Garden of Verses,” our third virtual benefit event and poetry reading on the occasion of W.S. Merwin’s birthday, September 30th. I hope you will join us for an hour of poems and palms, and glimpses of the Conservancy’s commitments in practice. We are grateful to the special guests who will join us. Each of them opens up new possibilities through their own investments in the world around us, ahead of us, and under our feet.
With warm wishes,