Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane have been described as “one of Canada’s powerhouse literary couples.” Their words, as Crozier illustrates so beautifully in her new memoir, “are inextricably linked.”
Through the Garden begins and ends with excerpts from Lane’s exquisite memoir There Is a Season (published as The Stones Remember in the U.S.), written following his treatment at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center about twenty years ago.
Although Crozier and Lane, who died in March 2019, had met a couple of years before, they “ran off together in 1978,” leaving partners and Lane’s children in passion’s wake. “I’d say to anyone who’d listen that you shouldn’t settle for a life without it, that nothing else can take its place: not friendship, security, not mutual respect,” Crozier says. She agrees that you need “those as well” but “love without passion is tepid, and surely you want to burn.”
During their forty years together, thirty of them on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, “poetry and lust” made time and space for the smallness (Lane’s love of spiders) and the largeness (with Crozier’s prairie scope) of every day. Their lives, along with ferocious arguments and other menaces of the human kind, are reflected in the tentative beauty of the garden and the koi pond, always threatened by a heron or an otter. The fragile old cat, Basho, unseeing and unhearing, makes his way by scent. The poet elder, Lane, with his autoimmune disorder without a name, puts up, very slowly, one fence board at a time.
From the beginning of their relationship, Crozier knew she had to continue to grow as a writer and not to become cheerleader and muse to “the great male writer.” The pair “aspired to flourish together” and flourish they did, through teaching, residencies, and travelling the world, together and separately, always returning to their garden.
Her lived wisdom of intuition and experience guided Crozier through the writing she did during Lane’s illness, beginning, in the book, with February 2017. She “found words for the darkest and most resplendent of things in [their] forty years together.” Those words are woven into poems and reflections, through grief, through joy, each sentence tenderly and skillfully wrought.