This summer I was blessed to visit one of the most beautiful places in the world: Victoria, British Columbia. The trip was amazing—and for so many reasons. To start with, my expenses were paid by a wonderful organizations called Caregifted. My cousin actually heard about Caregifted before I did. She attended graduate school in Colorado and learned from her Alumni magazine that one of her colleagues started a foundation with the goal to provide respite for long-term family caregivers. Many people don’t realize how many of us are out here, since a hefty portion of our lives are spent in relative isolation. (It’s just so much easier to stay home with a severely handicapped loved one than to go out where so many things can go wrong.)
And so when I heard about Caregifted, I immediately submitted the necessary paperwork to be considered. Much to my delight, I was awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to beautiful Victoria. We paid for my husband to come along, since the trip is awarded to the main caregiver only, but needless to say the expense and the planning was made easily doable because of Caregifted’s generosity and vision.
Victoria, I was told by a resident, is Canada’s Florida. The weather is always mild, it rarely rains in the summer (although you wouldn’t know that to look at the incredible gardens everywhere) and they offer all kinds of attractions. Whale watching, castle tours, museums, shopping!, a Victorian tea, a vast selection of the best restaurants ever, and the most beautiful gardens anywhere.
I wanted to mention the gardens in particular, because Butchart Garden has come to mind so often since having been there. It is a place of true respite. Except for paths paved in limestone rather than gold, I thought it must be a lot like Heaven. Colors more vibrant than I imagined and in every variety. Incredible designs, every plant so healthy I think they must snip off a leaf or petal the moment it starts to wilt. When I first saw the pictures I assumed it had been enhanced somehow, but having been there to see it in person I know it’s real.
Butchart Gardens is the result of Jennie Butchart’s vision and hard work. Her husband, a cement magnate, mined limestone to use in his cement factory in the early 1900s. When the quarry was mined out, leaving only one large section untouched in the center because it was inferior quality, Jennie had the idea to make a garden of what was then just a big, rather ugly hole in the ground—smoke stacks of the factory looming above. She brought in countless wagon loads of black dirt from surrounding farmland, even did some planting herself. She tucked dirt and ivy along the steep edges of the quarry and on the remaining block of limestone in the middle so the result would be a stunning display of living beauty no matter where a visitor’s gaze traveled.
Above is actually a picture of a picture that my husband took at the garden, showing the history of the spot. You can see the early planning of the garden, with a pathway, a small original arborvitae bush to the left (one of two on each side of the path) and the design around the remaining stand of limestone. The white pillars in the background were later removed, two of five smokestacks used to make cement. Only one smoke stack remains today, not pictured, a tribute to the garden’s history.
And this is what the sunken garden looks like today:
The colors are every bit as beautiful as depicted here, in this photo from the Butchart Garden website. Over a million bedding plants are on display every year! Beside the sunken garden shown here, they have an incredible rose garden, a peaceful Japanese garden, a formal Italian garden, and the loveliest array of hanging plants I’ve ever seen.
These two pictures remind me of how God might view us, because of His incomprehensible love for us. I don’t know anything about Jennie Butchart except for the amazing garden she left behind. But I wondered if she worked under divine inspiration when she had her idea for the garden. What the world might see as just a worthless, mined-out hole in the ground, God sees as beautiful. Jennie’s garden seems to me a perfect example of how God might view each of us right now.
And so my summer respite continues, every time I recall one of the loveliest spots on earth.