Pages and Petals
Ana Rita Guimenes
There was a time in Ana’s family when everyone was ready for a change. Grown daughters prepared to leave home and the parents sought new challenges. The inseparable foursome made the courageous decision to move to Canada where each of them would find what they were looking for. Despite the unforeseen difficulties of immigration, the most important thing for Ana was that her family was together in this enormous test of resilience.
Two things define my life: books and flowers.
I am from Brazil, and I can trace my roots to the country’s native, African and Spanish ancestors. I am the oldest with two brothers and one sister. Together we shared a carefree childhood. We swam in lakes, climbed trees, danced in the rain and felt the ground under our bare feet. Our family lived a simple life. We were cheerful, dynamic and noisy, framed by my mother and grandmother who inspired courage and determination.
I am passionate about books and have always loved to learn. I enjoyed being a student. Years later, my siblings would tell me that they were inspired by my commitment to studying. We all earned a higher education. My rural lifestyle and interest in flowers and plants led me to pursue a degree at one of the best agricultural universities in the world, which, by chance, was in my neighbourhood.
At 23, the world of flowers blossomed for me. I graduated as an agronomic engineer and was granted an internship at a plant production cooperative in Holambra, a city known as Brazil’s capital of flowers. I met my husband there, and we built a wonderful life with two book-loving and studious daughters.
Our flower business has been unique, covering all areas of the floral industry from production to consumption. In 2005, we started an international floral design school in Brazil that continues today, providing an unprecedented exchange of knowledge between thousands of students and masters of the trade, with flowers and books as the main players.
I have been fortunate to have walked in hundreds of beautiful fields and gardens around the globe, all of them filled with spectacular flowers. On every trip, I have worn my leather boots. They are strong and long-lasting and have allowed me to tie together the freedom of my childhood to the adventures of my professional life. They have helped me mark the special moments of my trajectory.
One of the most important trips these boots joined me on was an exploratory visit to Canada in 2017. As I hiked there, I thought a lot about the life we had at home and the possibility of immigration. We spent three weeks getting to know the west, five days in Canmore and the rest of the time in British Columbia. Vancouver was our first choice, but a family connection led us back to Alberta’s Rockies. Impressed by the beauty and grandeur of the landscape, we fell in love with the Bow Valley.
A new start here would allow our daughters a better choice for university in a safer and fairer country while my husband and I still had the vitality to begin again. Immigrating would mean leaving behind an established life, relying on the courage and faith of our family, and trusting destiny. Although this was not an easy decision, it was the time for us to do this together.
We moved to Canmore in 2019, along with more than 500 of our books. As for flowers, we are already touching many people’s lives at their most precious moments.
On my first hike here, I noticed the soles of my boots were coming apart, which reflected how our plans for a new life changed with the COVID pandemic. I have since had the soles replaced. I realized that they’re like flowers. I am meant to enjoy their beauty while it lasts, and if I encounter thorns, I am to greet them as a challenge to test my resilience.
Ana Rita Gimenes is from Holambra, Sao Paulo, Brazil. She is an agronomist with 25 years of expertise in all aspects of the flower business. Her husband is Dutch and they have two university-aged daughters. Since June 2019, she and her family have been living in Canmore, Alberta. As business partners, Ana and her husband run Blue Lakes Floral Design, a company specializing in decorations for weddings and events.