These are not the words. Words, at least the ones that pass through me, are unwilling to render the anguish. Maui smolders, and I am shaky.
And yet, I find steadiness in the aloha shared among survivors, neighbors, community members as they care for one another, in the love and support that arrives across the waters, and in hope as a thing enacted. I find steadiness, too, in the convictions that shaped W.S. Merwin’s kinship with Peʻahi, the revived and thriving place from which I try my best to write: we must belong to the place we love, listen for and to its pulse, and participate in its well-being; we must enact our care for the world, even on its last day.
We deepen our own commitment to these convictions, in service of recovery, resilience, revitalization of this island. This is both an urgent need, and a multi-generational responsibility, and here is how we have begun this kuleana. Within 24 hours of the fires, our Board of Directors came together to commit more than $10,000 to the Maui Strong Fund. Many of you did the same. Board members and Merwin Conservancy supporters alike made comparable contributions toward the Conservancy’s own commitment to support and participate in recovery. We surrounded our colleague Joannah Thomas with love and support; her parents, sister, and brother all lost their homes to the flames. We volunteered and delivered supplies, and extended invitations to all of our Kula and Lāhainā Stories subscribers to walk in the palm garden, or find stillness in the garden dojo – if and when they feel ready. We offered our office space to several organizations that have swiftly mobilized community support and action.
All the while, we listen — to those who envision a future Lāhainā on new, or old and pono terms. We stand ready to offer William and Paula’s house, the garden dojo, the garden itself in support of their imaginations. Even as we focus on the immediate needs of recovery, we have begun to explore new partnerships that can forge pathways toward revitalization, in hopes that these might bear fruit on the long road ahead. Through emerging collaborations, we will offer poetry as a vital component of healing, and seek to propagate West Maui species of loulu, the native palms that once thrived in a verdant Lāhainā, and can again. And on William’s September 30th birthday, we will plant a tree.
Where my words fail, William’s resound:
We are the echo of the future
From the flames rise the stifled stories of the past, and the potential futures that the people of Lāhainā will imagine into being. These futures coalesce now by way of our collective care, and our hope enacted.
With gratitude for your kindness, generosity, and support,