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"WS Merwin's contribution to nature" by editor Brigitte Perreault

Mr. Merwin, who is a practicing Buddhist as well as a proponent of deep ecology, lives with his wife Paula on a former pineapple plantation built atop a dormant volcano on the northeast coast of Maui. Settling on Maui began a long and passionate journey of restoring the forest surrounding the former plantation, which resulted in becoming this rich and wonderful palm forest conservancy named: The Merwin Conservancy. The seed of this project was planted over three decades ago when Merwin purchased a plot of land in Pe’ahi Valley on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii. Over the span of nearly forty years, Merwin built an ecologically conscious home and garden for himself and his wife Paula. Every Aspect of the home and the garden reflects Merwin’s ideas and feelings about nature and art. To walk through this garden is to feel, hear and experience the sounds of nature, and to feel the deep and gentle peace which permeates the conservancy. When one stops walking and pauses, the only sounds are the rustling of palms, birdsong and the creaks of the trees as they gently sway in the breeze. The property is as close to self-sustaining as the Merwins could make it. While preparing the site of the house, Merwin wanted to disturb the land as little as possible, so no heavy machinery was used. The only cement—and Merwin tried to use it as little as possible—is in three cisterns, the floor of a small tool room, and the footings of the house. For 25 years, electricity has come from solar energy.
The forest of trees keeps the house naturally cool. Within the Conservancy,

Merwin has planted more than 6,000 trees over the last 37 years. Half of them have died over time, leaving nearly 3,000 that we have been identified, tagged and catalogued as part of the collection – and representing over 400 species of endemic, indigenous and endangered palms. The preserve is one of the most comprehensive private collection of palms in the world. He has transformed a place that was once considered “wasteland” into a lush and rare 18-acre tropical palm forest, a magical place where art and nature intersect. Mr. Merwin has produced brilliant poems using this forested conservancy as a backdrop, writing on a recurring theme of man’s separation from nature, and the disastrous consequences he sees as a result of that alienation.

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