Feel the warm sun on your face, a gentle, tropical breeze fanning your cheeks, playing with loose tendrils of your hair. Hear the ocean waves crashing against the shore, the tropical birds singing their exuberant songs. See the palm tree leaves slowly dancing in the breeze. Welcome to the Rainbow state. Life goes on in the natural world, unfazed. Take a big deep breath. Smell the salt air. Ahhh. AND – bonus -no jetlag!
We find ourselves today at the Merwin Conservancy, a palm forest in Haiku, Maui. The forest is the embodiment of hope in the face if futility and death. In the late 1970’s, William S. Merwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. Poet Laureate, came across a parcel of agricultural wasteland in the small valley of Pe‘ahi Stream. The soil here was decimated and eroded by a failed pineapple plantation. Merwin and his wife, Paula, set about a nearly 40-year journey to give back to the land, cultivating seedling-by-seedling and tree-by-tree a lush botanical garden, transforming a once-barren space into one of the largest and most extensive private collections of palm trees in the entire world (adapted from the Merwin Conservancy website).
The Conservancy’s Executive Director, Sonnet Coggins, wrote last week that “We are in the garden this morning, finding and keeping stillness as turmoil swirls around the globe. I am coming to understand our current moment of uncertainty and isolation as an invitation. We are lifted out of our daily routines, maybe our ruts, and invited into a place where imaginations awaken. It brings me to a deeper understanding of the way William lived his life—always fully awake to the world around him, honoring its possibilities through daily actions and practices.
Today we will read, walk, and remember William and Paula among the palms, and will imagine that many of you are doing the same, in places that are dear to you.”
In order to fully immerse yourself in this place, watch the one-minute video of Merwin reading his poem Rain Light in his Maui garden. “my mother said I am going now, when you are alone you will be alright…even though the whole world is burning”
You will be alright.
Find your stillness. Dive into simplicity and quiet. Read and walk among the natural spaces in your area, and really notice what’s going on around you. Make space for yourself, for all of your feelings, and honor them. Turn this moment over, slowly, in your mind. Consider it fully from all sides, and see what it may have to teach. It is through silence, reflection, and adversity that we learn the greatest lessons. It is our time to rise up; it is our time to stay home. This is where we must be and what we must do for now.
Be strong, be resourceful, be wise, be resilient. You will be alright.