At one point, I suggested I might start a list of books gardeners might like. I’ve found a book worthy to add to that list in There is a Season by Patrick Lane – a beautiful, moving, and sometimes disturbing book. Part memoir, part naturalist’s notebook, part love letter to a garden, There is a Season is a must-read for gardening bookworms.
Lane hails from my corner of the globe, and in fact, he taught the poetry writing class I took during my first year at UVic. He terrified me at the time – physically intimidating, opinionated, fierce – he was alternately growly and quiet, and wrote poems of despair and sadness. The one that stands out in my mind, for obvious reasons, was about witnessing a Tijuana back-alley stage show during which a woman and a mule had sex. Talk about impressing 18-year-olds!
Anyway, it turns out that he was, at that time and for the 25 years previous, an alcoholic and cocaine addict. In 2000, he went into rehab and, in the first month of the new century, returned to his beloved garden, shaky but alive. It was then that he started writing There is a Season:
“In his memoir, Patrick Lane takes readers on the roller-coaster ride of his first alcohol-free year, expertly weaving memories of his hard early life in the interior of British Columbia with wondrous descriptions of the activity in his garden – his own and the lives of the plants, animals, and insects that also inhabit it. Lane has gardened for as long as he can remember, and his garden’s life has become inseparable from his own. A new bloom on a plant, a skirmish among the birds, the way a tree bends in the wind, and the slow, measured change of seasons, invariably bring to his mind an episode from his eventful past.” – McClelland & Stewart
Here is an excerpt:
Grasses, their stalks flattened and flung by the winter snow, lay like fallen hair upon the earth, and their new green spears caught the wind with frail hands. A mountain meadow and a boy in the long-ago of the last century. Did I know then it was a garden I looked out upon? Had I been asked I would not have understood the question. Garden? Wilderness? I gave the meadow no thought. Had someone asked me if what I saw was beautiful I would not have known what he meant. A boy is a boy and he is the place he inhabits. He is what surrounds him and the boy I was remains with me in the image of yellow lilies and creamy anemones among the grasses and scattered stones.