Daniel Coleman is looking to find a home. After a childhood that left him feeling placeless, he ended up in Hamilton, Ontario, one of Canada's most polluted cities at the time. Yardwork is his attempt to put down roots in a place he never expected to be. Coleman decided he wanted to truly know and belong to a small piece of land, his patch of garden on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, to deeply understand its ecology, landscape and history. Starting with the creation myths and geology, moving through the settler era and up to the present, Coleman pours his considerable talents into learning, and sharing, as much of the story of the land as possible. Most books on ecology focus either on protecting the wilderness or analyzing a toxic dump. Most books on gardens focus on plant health or landscape design. Most books on Indigenous-settler relations focus on politics or social inequities. Yardwork meditates on the sedimentary layers of ecological, cultural and political stories that make up Hamilton, the escarpment city at the Head of the Lake. Along the way Coleman strives to build a new awareness of the place where he lives as sacred land.
Daniel Coleman was born and raised the child of Canadian missionary parents in Ethiopia, an experience he has written about in The Scent of Eucalyptus: A Missionary Childhood in Ethiopia. He moved to the Canadian prairies in the 1980s and completed his PhD in Canadian Literature at the University of Alberta in 1995. He went on to publish scholarly books on Canadian immigrant writing and on how Canada became a white, British place. Since 1997, he has lived in Hamilton, Ontario, where he teaches Canadian Literature at McMaster University.
"In Coleman's work, paying close attention to the ground we stand on becomes a spiritual act. He reminds readers too that the more we focus in on a small space, the bigger it grows — and the more it can tell us about the larger world, the global network of which the one small place and all of its inhabitants are a part. The book will encourage all readers to engage in this kind of intensive "Place Thought" as a way to connect with the natural world to which they belong." - Hamilton Review of Books