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W. S. Merwin




Photo by Matt Valentine


"On the last day of the world 


I would want to plant a tree..."












American Poet


1927 -














From time to time people have predicted the end of the world and their followers have given up their worldly goods and waited — only to find they waited in vain.  Yes, the world as we know it will come to an end one day.  But none of us now living will be here to see it.  In the past, civilizations have come and gone.  Think Mayan, Aztec, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Chinese.  One day our civilization will also pass into history.  





And even the animals and plants come and go.  Remember the dinosaurs?  The human animal too will disappear from this earth and a new species will appear.  But don't fear neither you nor your children or grandchildren will be here to witness it.





So if by some freak accident, you had the opportunity to be on this earth on the last day before the total destruction of the earth, what would you do?  Would you plant a tree as Merwin suggests?  Talk about optimism in the face of disaster.





Over the last thirty years, Merwin, who lives in Hawaii, has planted more then 4,000 trees on 19 acres that were once considered a wasteland.  He has planted 850 different species of trees. Here is the complete poem from which this quote comes.





Place


by W. S. Merwin





On the last day of the world


I would want to plant a tree





what for


not for the fruit





the tree that bears the fruit


is not the one that was planted





I want the tree that stands


in the earth for the first time





with the sun already


going down





and the water


touching its roots





in the earth full of the dead


and the clouds passing





one by one


over its leaves








Here is W. S. Merwin reading his poem, Yesterday.











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