Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

“Leaf Therapy” fills emptiness

a red maple leaf resting on the edge of Catfish Pond

Hello fellow readers, Camp Mohican has been a place of respite and contemplation since I moved to Blairstown, NJ, 21 years ago. Contiguous with the Appalachian Trail, it’s one of the reasons I relocated here. Walking amongst the trees always helps my heart. Yesterday, I desperately needed leaf therapy, feeling an emptiness over our country’s discord and recently no longer being allowed to serve others at the Home for Hospice.

On a whim, I brought my podcast microphone, a cute clown-nose gadget that attaches to the iPhone to share the walk with you. Though many leaves are down, I admire those remaining and reflect on the Halloween snowstorm ten years ago how it toppled trees still laden with leaves causing massive power outages for days. It brought people together.

a red maple leaf on the foreground of Catfish Pond with a blaze of fall color on the hill behind it fills a feeling of emptiness

It was marred with fungus yet still radiant.

What’s causing great grief

What’s causing great grief is we no longer are the United States of America. It’s been unraveling for years, and since the pandemic, it seems to be accelerating.

I drop a maple leaf marred with fungus, showing endurance yet still radiant red and gold. It stayed steady despite the soft current of Catfish Pond. Below are leaves sunken into the shallow depths, their color still visible and glorious.

The grand finale of the fall leaves is a surprise given the wetness of the season—a sign that brings hope that there can be beauty, healing, and growth after a trying season.

I sit in contemplation on an outcropping as a canoe paddles by with a young couple enjoying the ride. More have found respite in nature and their gardens which brings a smile. I snagged a photo after they were well beyond me, honoring their privacy.

A bald eagle circles above, and I pause to relish its flight. “Your timing is perfect,” I say under my breath. Miracles of nature, the reason I walk amongst the trees.

Feeling an emptiness, no longer allowed to serve
Canoers on Catfish Pond with a hillside of fall color reflecting in the water

More have found respite in nature.

Speaking of privacy, I felt silly asking for a note, though my doctor graciously provided one.

You see, I’m not a candidate for the Covid vaccine because of a severe anaphylactic reaction to a shot with similar ingredients. However, I continue the routine of other vaccines. But these are “unprecedented times.”

Being recently excluded from serving others adds to a hurting heart. Thankfully my singing buddy, Ken Roberts, can continue visiting our friends at Karen Ann Quinlan Home for Hospice. And someday, I pray they’ll invite me to return to help share a bit of joy during the sacred time for patients and their families.

My walk leads to the bench where I wrote to my soulful twin, “I love you, Brother Bill,” after he passed away just before Christmas coming up on eight years. Fast forward a few, I sent my love in the snow to Mom too.

an elongated shadow along a road with fall leaves fills the feeling of emptiness knowing we don't walk alone

We don’t walk alone.

We don’t walk alone

As I meander, I relish the crunching of the gravel path, a sound I adore, which is why garden paths of pea gravel are one of my favs. I stop to cherish a maple in a blaze of yellow and catch a glimpse of my elongated shadow, reminding me we don’t walk alone. I thank God in humble gratitude.

The swim spot comes next, where a scrub pine (Pinus virginiana) with a hollowed center still stands after all these years. In the wound, I first began placing heart-shaped stones that pop out of nowhere during walks at Camp Mohican.

Now, a guardrail is a favorite spot. A poison ivy vine has grown around them, maybe offering protection of “Bill’s Stones,” I call them. The vine is leafless now, but don’t let that fool you as it can still cause a dreadful rash. I giggle, recalling a column advising, “If it’s hairy, it’s best to ask Mary,” after Curt finds out the hard way.

a woman with two dogs sitting on a circle of wooden benches in front of a fire pit

Christine – the angel who helped Ellie and I

“Is your dog with you?” A woman’s voice comes from behind. “Not today,” I say.

We talk about her two rescues, and I share what I know of Jolee. Her mix of thirteen breeds from the streets of Mississippi “and she’s one percent golden,” the woman smiles.

Then it came to me; she’s the gal who rescued Miss Ellie and me on the side of the road, one overly warm day in May. Curt was traveling, and we didn’t yet know that Ellie was sick.

“I’m a dog person.” Christine opens her hatch equipped with a blanket to give us a ride home.

No compliance required—only love.

As I write these closing words, it occurs that serving others can come when you see the need. No compliance required—only a bit of love. Big love, even better.

Garden Dilemmas? (and your favorite Podcast App.)

Link to The Story of Bill’s Stones and Lesson of the Leaf 

This story is featured in Episode 35 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

About the Big Love, the Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice provides families-


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Mary Cafarelli Reply

    These are, indeed, very challenging times.
    Thanks for bringing us along on your walk.

    Have you heard of the book, Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild
    by Lucy Jones? She’s a British writer. I think you might like it.
    I started reading it this past week and was able to get it from the Sussex County library system.

    Best wishes,
    Mary Cafarelli

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Hello Mary, Thank you for your kind words and for joining me on the walk. I appreciate the book referral, too – looking forward to reading it. It sounds much like the Forest Bathing book I delved into a bit ago –

      Nature (and our gardens) indeed help our hearts. It’s a joy to share a bit of the garden of life with you :^), Mary

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.