A garden is never finished. In that sense it is like the human world and all human undertakings.
~ Karel Capek, The Gardener's Year, p. 92
Karel Capek's little gardening book, The Gardener's Year, is a charming account of the gardener's joys and agonies throughout the year. Because it's a slim volume, a reader might easily dismiss it as a mere trifle. However, any gardener will recognize the age-old truths about which Capek writes.
The Gardener's Year takes the reader through a twelve-month cycle, from January through December. It is obvious from the beginning that Capek is a real "dirt gardener" (as Elizabeth Lawrence would say). He agonizes about the weather regardless of the season. If it's winter, it's either too cold or too warm. If it's summer, it's either too wet or too dry.
If nothing else proves that Capek is a dirt gardener, it's his fascination with the soil. Besides devoting an entire chapter to the making of "this noble and humane work which is called the soil," he refers to it continually throughout the book. In the chapter "On the Art of Gardening," Capek writes, ". . . I find that a real gardener is not a man who cultivates flowers; he is a man who cultivates the soil. . . . He lives buried in the ground. He builds his monument in a heap of compost. If he came into the Garden of Eden he would sniff excitedly and say: 'Good Lord, what humus!'" Later in the book, Capek continues on the theme of heaven-sent soil amendments: "Yes, improve the soil. A cartload of manure is most beautiful when it is brought on a frosty day, so that it steams like a sacrificial altar. When its fragrance reaches heaven, He who understands all things sniffs and says: 'Um, that's some nice manure.'" I just wonder if the original Czech word was "manure!"
I think it would be impossible to choose my favorite chapter - my favorite changes with the seasons. However, if I was forced to decide right now, I think I would choose "Buds." Here in the still-brown and muddy upper Midwest, we are waiting for just this moment, the moment the buds beging to open: "You must stand still; and then you will see open lips and furtive glances, tender fingers, and raised arms, the fragility of a baby, and the rebellious outburst of the will to live, and then you will hear the infinite march of the buds faintly roaring."