Don Gayton, Interwoven Wild

I don't have a clear recollection of Don Gayton's 1990 The Wheatgrass Mechanism, which I came across and read while living in Edmonton, writing a dissertation about environmentalism and eighteenth-century English poetry. (Oh, now, don't make that face.) I remember liking how the prose sounded, but at the time I was more taken with Mark Hume's Run of the River and Terry Glavin's This Ragged Place, and The Wheatgrass Mechanism has had something of a question mark in my mind ever since.

At the end of December I bought Gayton's new book, Interwoven Wild: An Ecologist Loose in the Garden. It's been teasing me for a while from the gardening shelves at Bolen's Books, as I saw it facing out every time I wandered by either the BC books section or the First Nations section. With my poor haul at Christmas, I felt entitled to pick up something on my own. In some respects it's not a surprise that Thistledown Press would have put out both Interwoven Wild and Theresa Kishkan's Phantom Limb (which I praised in the summer), but what's a Saskatchewan publisher doing with these gems of BC nature writing?

Kishkan's essays aren't quite traditional nature writing, and Gayton's linked texts aren't exactly essays, but there's good reason for placing these volumes near each other on the shelf. The presence here of Spud, Gayton's longhaired dachshund, was unexpected at first, but it works well with what he's trying to accomplish here. These are chatty, thoughtful pieces about what it's like to be a keen but amateur gardener, though a top-notch ecologist - the knowledge doesn't transfer precisely, and neither do the skills, so in the end the ecologist turns out to be only a slightly more able companion than I am myself. (Or at least, than I could be if I had a decent memory and some free time....)

It's a light book, in the end, but that's not meant as a slight. It joins the quite short list of books I've forced myself to read slowly the first time through, so I could longer enjoy the experience of coming to know it. This was a good'un, most definitely, and like Phantom Limb, Don Gayton's Interwoven Wild was fully deserving of its nomination for the 2008 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize. This book would be a terrific companion for anyone to listens to Brian Minter on CBC radio talk about gardens, if that helps you decide whether to pick it up!

Ultimately, this book made me think I should go back to The Wheatgrass Mechanism, because I suspect that an older me would be more interested than I was the first time around, when I was more taken by the drama of Hume's rivers and the grit of Glavin's characters and communities. Yeah, I'm wondering if maybe I was a tad callow in my youth....


Anonymous said…
Wheatgrass is my favourite of Gayton's books, but you'll also really like Landscapes of the Interior and Kokanee. If you want to shift gears and read a lovely little history of the Nelson Forest Service that's also more than worth a look. You can also download that one for free.
richard said…
Kokanee is on my radar, because I've got a long-range plan to read all the Transmontanus books, but where can one download the Nelson Forest Service book?
Anonymous said…
Here's the link for the Proud Tradition book which is a history of the Nelson Forest Service:

If that doesn't work google A Proud Tradition History of the Nelson Forest Service and you'll get the link.

You should get a copy of Landscapes of the Interior if you enjoy Wheatgrass.
richard said…
Thanks for the reference! I'm downloading it as I write this.
Don Gayton said…
Ran across this when I was looking for reviews of my books. If you would like a review copy of my latest, The Sky and the Patio: An Ecology of Home (New Star, 2022), let me know and I will send it on.
Don Gayton
richard said…
I really should have been paying attention to the blog, Don! Sorry for missing your kind note. I've got a copy of The Sky and the Patio already that's waiting for me to read it, and I'm very much looking forward to the experience.

As it happens, at Russell Books last week I fondly pulled Interwoven Wild off the shelf just to take a peek, but then I couldn't help buying it when I saw your autograph (albeit only with your name, and no dedication). I'm always strangely tempted by additional copies, when they're autographed!

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