There Is a Season: A Memoir in a Garden


309 pages
ISBN 0-7710-4633-2
DDC C811'.54




Reviewed by W.J. Keith

W.J. Keith is a retired professor of English at the University of Toronto and author A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada.


Patrick Lane is an impressive (self-taught) poet and a dedicated
gardener—and until recently was a chronic alcoholic. These three
aspects of his life combine in this remarkable memoir, which tells of
his first year after a period in a treatment centre striving to rid
himself of his addiction to drugs and drink. He spent most of his time
in the garden he created on Vancouver Island, thinking back over his
life, making a new start at the beginning of his seventh decade.

Each of the 12 chapters is centred on the garden. Sometimes he is
planting, pruning, or sowing, sometimes just sitting watching the life
of the birds, animals, and insects that share the garden with him, often
reliving significant moments of his past. This past was tough, violent,
often heart-rending. Readers of his poetry will be familiar with
incidents in his life that he has already recorded in verse. They will
also have experienced Lane’s intense love for the things of this
world, which he expresses in his later poetry with a delicacy and
fervour that sometimes verges on the mystical. Both extremes are
creatively juxtaposed here. The painful memories can never be forgotten,
but they are calmed by what he calls “the eternal optimism of the

This is a slow-paced book—Lane is, after all, reacting against the
excessive pace of modern living, which leaves no time for quietude and
meditation—and it should be read slowly. At first, we may be conscious
of repetitions, but repetition is an intrinsic part of the natural cycle
to which he returns. Lane slows down to appreciate the beauty of the
life about him, and to savour his beloved poets—European, Asiatic, as
well as North American—from whose works he never tires of quoting. He
strives to achieve a reunion with the earth that recalls the work of
Sharon Butala.

This is a brave book to have written. That it is also a memorable,
beautifully written book is all the more gratifying.


Lane, Patrick., “There Is a Season: A Memoir in a Garden,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 5, 2023,