Just a Ferry Ride Away
A few summers ago, our friend Dawn who was visiting from Hawaii, suggested we all take the ferry across the Straits of Juan DeFuca and tour Buchart Gardens, fourteen miles north of Victoria, BC. Since I’d never been there but wanting to, it sounded like the perfect thing to do. Michael declined as he knew we needed “sister-time.”
Our port of departure was Port Angeles, approximately a half-hour ride to the west of our home in Sequim, Washington. We were to board the Black Ball Ferry Line “M.V. Coho” for the ninety-minute trip across the Straits. The “Coho” wasn’t the only vessel on the water that day. Besides the normal marine traffic of fishing fleets, cargo and container ships, oil tankers, tug boats, military ships and nuclear submarines, the indigenous tribes of Washington and the First Nation peoples of Canada were setting out on the continuation of The Paddle to Swinomish, WA. in their traditional cedar, ocean-going dugout canoes. The long dugouts, decorated with traditional designs and paints, were departing Port Angeles when we arrived and we took time to watch them being blessed and launched into the waters.
The first thing we noticed when we got to the ferry terminal was that since it was the height of the tourist season, we quickly had to adjust to standing in lines. Queuing up for the ticket purchase to ride the “Coho”, to get on the ferry proper, to get off the ferry, and then winding our way down the ramps and through Canadian Customs got us firmly into the habit.
Victoria is a lovely city, vibrant and full of cultural and architectural wealth spun into a world community. It was difficult not to make Victoria our destination and spend the day, but after a few questions on how to get to the public transit bus that would take us out to The Gardens, we became American tourists in a foreign land off on a botanaical adventure. According to a brochure I picked up on the ferry, once a limestone quarry and cement factory operated by her husband, Jennie Butchart began reclaiming and transforming the future site of Butchart Gardens in the late 19th century into what today is series of gardens now covering fifty-five acres. The closer we got, the more intrigued we became.
The following is a prose poem I wrote describing our July 18, 2011, visit to the astonishingly beautiful Butchart Gardens.
“Meeting the Weaver of Butchart Gardens”
Upon arrival at the Butchart Gardens bus terminal, we tourists descend the steps of world-renown BC Transit Route #75, search out the loo and relieve ourselves of a long, herky-jerky, stop-and go, winding ride.
Then adjusting camera straps, pulling out the credit cards, we simultaneously charge the ticket booths and pass through the turnstyles like horses at the Derby sprinting out of the starting chutes, determined to make it around the floral track at a fast trot only to be slowed to a snail’s pace as we encounter congestion at the first garden entrance.
I notice bickering spouses, sniveling children, bored husbands and pouting teens with texting fingers ablaze, looking neither right nor left but eyes on screens following the shirt tails of the person in front as we slowly snake along making me think if this was a good thing to do.
We adjust, spread out, leaving room for the slow walker, the sad, the flamboyant foreigners posing for photos, the boisterously-happy- finger-snapping yappies, the snuggling lovers, the plant fanatics, the photo junkies, the cane-bearing shufflers and the wheelchair-bound needing to do their own thing at their pace.
Meanwhile my judgements arise and pass away…descriptions noted and filed.
Soon these queues begin to form threads of humanity dispersing throughout the gardens ultimately guided by our thoughts and emotions and supported by the the fae and spirits who reside here, for they know there is magic in the social web co-creatively being woven as the mystery invites us to explore.
The Weaver of Butchart Gardens plies these impulses into our own personal thread. She entices breezes filled with fragrances and pheromones wafting about the Garden to assist in igniting within our souls a need to search out a fulfilling experience or memory. We begin to follow our thoughts and intuitive insights hither and yon, around and in-between plants, strangers, lovers, insects, creeks, along pathways, around sign-posts searching for the elusive adventure or hint of future possibilities.
I began recognizing that the Spirit of Beauty entices the visitor to traipse down every path, wander under every canopy and search out every floral-covered corner in the Garden while maintaining a restricted vocabulary of “oooohs and awwwws.” The Spirit of Fragrance bids welcome through coaxing and subtle aromas softly sifting through on the breezes. The Spirit of Touch adorns the plants with soft, fuzzy leaves or velvet-like petals inviting the hand to pet and caress, squish and fondle. The Spirit of Impatience herds us to the displays of conifers and hollies, cacti and thistles. And the Gazing Ball in the Rose Garden invites us with its crystalline-filled magic to linger, reflect, and imagine a world filled with peace and love.
At times the individual gardens become crowded and more like riding bumper cars; at other times a party atmosphere prevails; some gardens are cosmopolitan with groups of Japanese, Italian, German tourists talking and laughing throughout; while in still others, sedate energies swirl by tugging at our feet, encouraging us to walk slower, more attentively.
And as we walked the floral track, the flowers called out their names and told us about themselves: “Hi, I’m Yellow Rose, full of friendship and joy.” “Hello, I’m Peruvian Lily. I also offer friendship and give you my devotion.” “Hi there! I’m the spiky Gladiola, full of strength and passion.” “Ho! I’m Oregon Grape. I’m bitter and will help tonify your blood and clean your liver.”
Not only the Spirits of Nature but the Spirits of Hunger and Purchase propel us via the homey fragrances of baked goods, of a finely brewed cup of coffee, the sound of clinking silver on china in the open-air restaurants, the sight of tongues lapping up the lemon ice, and tinkling of cash register bells behind the gift counters reminding us to fulfill our needs, rest awhile, reflect.
Through four hours of time and the six principal gardens, we weave our threads into a tapestry of color, fragrance, texture and sound embellished with nodding of heads in passing, faces softening in smile, and finding ourselves sitting on benches listening to the melodious tones of languages foreign to our ears becoming as pleasant as the bird song filtering down from the tree tops.
And as we approach the finish chute and the major exits, the children seem less fussy, the husbands hold on to their spouse’s hand, conversations are quieter and the pace becomes even slower. It’s as if all who have walked the paths want to finish this race together, savoring the moment not just as a camera impression or a photo on a post card, but one held in our hearts and woven into our memories.
The trip back on the bus was still herky-jerky, stop and go for Dawn and I, but we had lots of talking about plants and impressions of our day to share. Fortunately once we arrived in Victoria, we had time to stroll the Inner Harbour, admire the artwork, listen and watch as the buskers performed, catch a light supper and buy a few gifts. Then back to queue status to get on board.
Leaving the harbor, we got to check out the scenic house boats moored along the wall, the yachts in the marinas and the cute little water taxis zipping by to pickup and deliver their customers. I do enjoy spending time in marinas and harbors, imagining what it must be like to be aboard ship and away from land for weeks at a time!
Our trip across had a few more swells to ride out which made me wonder again of what it would be like on a larger ocean-going vessel! Alas, I was hoping to see some whales from onboard but the fogs closed in and we saw only a few waterfowl and gulls close by the ferry.
Our approach to Port Angeles was beautiful, the city aglow through the lightening mists. Another few queues to get off, to go through security and customs and even, ha! to get past road construction on our way home; but by then, we were pros.
I do hope you consider visiting Butchart Gardens. It’s a particularly beautiful space and graciously cared for by a friendly staff and knowledgeable gardeners ready to answer your questions. And in the gift shops, there are seeds for sale. This is where I fell in love with the Tibetan Blue Poppy! I came home with several postcards to remind me of it, and my time with Dawn. Lo and behold, just the other day, my neighbor pointed it out to Michael and I growing in his nursery bed. Memories of my love affair with it came rushing back and I knew I needed to put my notes in order and revisit the Weaver! Thanks for visiting. Aloha!