The Village of Arbour Trails in Guelph offers a unique continuum of care, with the main Village supporting residents who have a range of care needs and the Ailsa Craig apartments a short stroll away combining the independence of a condominium with the community feel of the entire Village. With each new Ailsa Craig resident, the community there grows a little stronger and, in recent months, its growth seems like the blossoms of the elegant raised gardens a burgeoning garden club there has nurtured.
Rita Munro, who moved to Ailsa Craig in late 2020, recently shared her views on how the gardens came to be and the comfort she has found in her new community.
When Rita was a young nurse, newly married and living in an apartment in East York, she used to walk to the hospital for her evening shifts. On the way, she’d often stop in a small memorial garden filled with beautiful flowers. It was a calm place of peace where she would often sit and reflect, away from the quickened pace of an emergency room. There was a plaque there adorned with the simple, uplifting lines of a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney that has stuck in Rita’s mind through all the decades since:
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s Heart in a garden,
Than anywhere else on earth.
Rita quotes those lines as she reflects on the path she followed through life, always in sight of a beautiful flower. She went from that East York apartment when she was a young newlywed through to the home she and her husband bought and raised a family in. They eventually moved to a retirement community in Whitby and, finally, Rita made the move to the Ailsa Craig apartments in the Village of Arbour Trails.
A gardener, Rita says, is a ‘merchant of beauty,’ and a carefully and lovingly-tended garden has always been a part of her life. For 15 years, the garden club in Whitby was a source of pride for Rita and friends and the garden she kept in her Scarborough home was a great source of enjoyment.
Rita moved in 2020 to a lovely suite in Arbour Trails with a large balcony overlooking quiet grounds, but it was a lonesome time after her husband’s passing and, with the isolation COVID imposed across Ontario, Rita looked forward to a meaningful project she could put her abundant energy into.
“I had no identity here,” Rita recalls. “I was no-one, and everyone needs an identity. I wanted to do something meaningful.”
When the call went out to residents of Ailsa Craig for ideas on how to improve the space, Rita leaned on her experience organizing the Garden Club in Whitby, and the idea for the raised beds came forth. The Village’s leadership was immediately onboard and seven other residents were right alongside Rita.
“We just ran with it; it was terrific,” Rita says. “We had so much support.”
As merchants of beauty, Rita and the friends she has made have created a space for first impressions where the peace and tranquility of that East York garden welcomes visitors and residents to Ailsa Craig. Inside, as they gather in the evenings in common spaces sharing stories and laughter over a glass of wine or a cup of tea, the residents who make their home here help the seeds of community flourish, and Arbour Trails as a whole is all the stronger for it.
Learn more about The Village of Arbour Trails