cover image Seed to Dust: Life, Nature, and a Country Garden

Seed to Dust: Life, Nature, and a Country Garden

Marc Hamer. Greystone, $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-77164-768-7

Hamer (after How to Catch a Mole) delivers a lyrical if navel-gazing memoir of this time working as a gardener in Wales. Describing himself as a man with “broken nails and skin-cracked fingers” whose “deepest relationships are not with humans, but with wind and rain,” Hamer lives a “sixteenth-century kind of life” with his wife of 35 years, Peggy, and is bewildered by his grown children’s decisions to live more modern lives, leading him to wonder, “Am I the last of the simple ones?” In the garden, he works by instinct and impression, and dismisses the importance of plant names, noting the temporary nature of labels. Hamer frequently refers to the authors he’s reading (Sebald, Bukowski, Rimbaud) and his own poems, and writes in a luminous prose: Unopened daisies are “fields of pearls straining... to blink open their eyes”; peonies are “strong, closed baby-hands reaching for the sun.” Such beautiful descriptions come often, but the effect is spoiled by Hamer’s unrelenting man-of-the-earth posturing: he’s a “tramp,” a “vagrant,” a “wildflower,” and, by the end, it’s overpowering. Still, gardeners and armchair philosophers will find his musings strike a chord. (May)