Jul 042010

Butchart Gardens - Sunken Garden Overlook, Victoria, BC, Canada

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.”.

I still remember the first time I walked to the edge of the Butchart Gardens’ Sunken Garden and looked down the valley into the explosion of color you see above. I admit I was a little ambivalent going in that first time through. Even though the Gardens are world renown for their extravegance and beauty, gardens in general really aren’t my thing in the grander scheme of Pacific Northwest scenery. I had read the reviews, looked at pictures on-line, but nothing prepared me for that first moment, that first look into paradise that completely took my breath away.

I was traveling on one of my mega road-trips that I’ve become a bit infamous for with those who know me well. The Gardens were at the end of a week-long trip that started along the Washington coast, working my way up into the Olympic Penninsula, and culminating with my first trip to Victoria, BC and Vancouver Island. Time was at a premium as it always seems to be when I’m off on one of my photo adventures. I went into the day focused on schedules, working out the timing to be sure I had plenty of time to navigate ferry schedules and international border crossings in addition to visiting Victoria and the Butchart Gardens. After a week on the road I was ready to be home, so my mind was already turning toward the long trip ahead and all of the steps I needed to take to make that journey; what I would find at the Gardens was secondary to the longer journey home.

By the time I made the crossing from Port Angeles to Victoria, I was a little frazzled. The ferry was a different type of vessel than I was accustomed to riding on, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca was up to it’s usual tricks with the currents charging through the channel. I’ve never experienced seasickness before, so the feeling caught me a little off-guard. Fortunately I had a stronger stomach than I gave myself credit for, but it was an interesting ride all the same. I eventually made my way off of the ferry and onto the bustling streets of Victoria. From there the Gardens are about a 30 minute drive away, depending on how heavy the traffic is during the day. I was still focused on my schedule. I knew I only had a few hours to give before I needed to be back in line to catch the 6 p.m. ferry to Anacortes, so I was mapping the itinerary for the day so that I could fit in the Gardens along with everything else I wanted to see before heading out that evening … well best laid plans and all … it all changed the moment I stepped into the Gardens.

The first thing I noticed about the Gardens was how green it all was, not to mention how tidy everything is kept. There’s a calmness that descends as you begin your journey through the many pathways found throughout the property. Paths shaded by massive pine trees give way to sparkling fountains and an explosion of color that can only come from summer blooms at their full potential. It was all very pleasant, but it did nothing to prepare me for that first look into the Sunken Garden.

At one point the land that is home to this particular part of the Gardens was a functioning, producing limestone quarry. As the limestone was mined, and the quarry exhausted, the land was gradually converted to the lush garden we see today. There are stories of Mrs. Butchart sitting on scaffolding planting ivy into the sides of the quarry walls by hand, of the master gardeners brought in from around the world to plan and plant the beginnings of the Sunken Garden. One hundred years later, the majesty of their work still shines through with a maturity and splendor that looks more like a work of art than an ordinary garden … it’s truly a sight to see.

As I walked the Gardens, soaking in the peaceful nature of the place, I realized just how much I was missing out on by charging through the day. I tend to get so caught up in getting from Point A to Point B at times, that I miss out on enjoying out on what’s right in front of me. It’s something I’ve been working on as I go out on my photo adventures. I’m trying to take a little more time as I journey on my way to just step back and be in the moment, focusing less on what’s around the bend, and more on what I have right in front of me now. It’s a hard lesson for me to remember at times, but one that is definitely worth the effort to pursue.