To whom does a garden belong? In his work as a gardener, Marc Hamer (How to Catch a Mole) has heard tales of property owners who take offense when landscapers feel some sense of ownership over their work. Hamer’s employer, whom he has dubbed Miss Cashmere, isn’t so territorial.
But Hamer doesn’t crave ownership. He believes a garden belongs to all who see it. “This is not my garden, but it’s not hers, either,” he writes. “Just paying for something doesn’t make it yours. Nothing is ever yours. People who work with the earth and the people who think they own bits of it see the world in totally different ways.”
In Seed to Dust: Life, Nature, and a Country Garden, Hamer showcases his intimate knowledge of the natural world. The book is organized by season, resembling a diary of a year in the garden. It’s a lyrical reflection on days spent with hands in dirt and decisions based on close observation of the weather.
As he tends to Miss Cashmere’s land, Hamer also meditates on each plant’s history and place in the world. But his approach is never showy; in fact, Hamer often contemplates his own status with humility. His introspective ways led his father to devalue and dismiss him as a boy. Hamer later spent two years living without a home, and that experience colored his life, including how he approached parenting his own children, now grown.
As the year unfolds, Hamer reflects on the cycles to which all living things are bound. Little happens in the narrative, save for the dramatic living and dying of all things, but Hamer’s careful eye for detail and deep knowledge of the garden’s dozens upon dozens of plants are used to great effect, creating a lush landscape into which a reader can disappear. In Seed to Dust, Hamer invites readers to join him in quiet meditation on the earth.