A Favorite Quote from a New Dimensions Guest : Terry Tempest Williams

POSTED February 26, 2020 IN
Archived Inspirational Quotes

I want to tell what the forests
were like

I will have to speak
in a forgotten language.

W.S Merwin in poem “Witness”
This poem originally appeared in The Rain In The Trees (1988)

“I chose W. S. Merwin’s poem called Witness for two reasons. He passed this year (2019) and he was a beloved friend and mentor of mine. I think of what he did with his own hands and the love he and Paula, his wife, shared at their home in Maui. They planted over 600 different varieties of palms. Prior to that it was a burned out, desolate pineapple field and now, if you go there, it is a thriving, breathing, healthy forest. This quote, this poem, 4 lines, is called Witness. “I want to tell what the forests were like. I will have to speak in a forgotten language.” I feel, perhaps, our greatest task right now, as the world burns with climate crisis before us, is to bear witness. I feel that one of the most important acts we can participate in right now is the act of bearing witness. It is an act of real consequence and consciousness. It is not a passive act, but an act of deep attention and I think that’s one of things that Merwin is calling for here. The other thing is I do think we’re going to have to speak in a forgotten language. And what does that look like, what does that sound like? I think it begins with listening, to learn the dialects of trees. To learn the murmurs of birdsong, to hear an elk bugling at the end of fall and know that life will survive in the spring with rebirth. To me learning a new language begins with listening and once we have that experience of deep listening our worlds expand and a new vocabulary emerges.”

Terry Tempest Williams, Naturalist,
impassioned defender of our public lands
and author of many books including
Erosion: Essays of Undoing

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