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

Magical Landscape of Renewal

the view at Big Pocono State Park with a pink flowering Mountain Laurel in the foreground overlooking a mountain range.

Hello fellow readers, We are one week shy of our 10-year mark—column 519; thanks to you and The Press for encouraging me all these years. I look forward to sharing a new adventure leading to a book version of our weekly chats. So, I will be pulling from the past, tweaking, updating, and, where relevant, adding a personal side to stories paralleling our journey of learning and growing in the garden of life. It seems appropriate to start with a reflection of a magical landscape of renewal.

white-stemmed birch trees amongst pink flowering mountain laurel with a golden retriever along a grassy path.

Miss Ellie Mae at the Top of the World

The story of a magical landscape …

I came upon the enchanted trail long ago while in the thick of a merry-go-round of a marriage ruined by addiction. I felt helpless, dreadfully sad, and unable to turn things around. Sara was my sidekick then, a golden retriever adopted eight months after marriage. She became my faithful companion, filling the void of loneliness and isolation.

One drizzly day, Sara and I ventured to Camelback Ski Mountain in Tannersville, Pennsylvania. A place I call the Top of the World. Its real name is Big Pocono State Park, with views of eastern Pennsylvania and portions of New Jersey and New York.

More than that, there’s a serenity and sacredness in walking amongst the magnificence of nature’s glorious landscape—where I often would go to find respite.

We headed north to a trail inviting me in with white-barked Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) leaning towards the light, embracing us from above as we walked through a swath of tender grass, a fresh, early summer green. The fog felt like walking through a cloud, and the drizzle kissing my face comforted me.

A mass of white flowering Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia.

Mountain Laurel – Kalmia latifolia

Mother Nature’s glorious garden

Along the sides of the trail, Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) was in full bloom, thickly colonized, and covered in soft pink and white flowers like a fluffy cream topping above the dark shiny leaves. Below them, a carpet of pale green ferns tickled my ankles as we walked. I paused to cherish a flower, each petal masterfully brush-stroked with dainty pinkish-red stripes pointing to a starburst center.

After Sara passed away, I found the courage to let go of the marriage, a difficult time as I still loved my husband. Miss Ellie Mae unexpectedly arrived months later. I’m doubly blessed as Curt came into my life about the same time.

Mary Stone with her golden retriever Miss Ellie Mae along a trail at Big Pocono State Park

Our first Column Photo – 2012

The history of our column photo 

When we began our weekly chats, a snapshot of Ellie and me on the magical trail became the column photo. Years later, Curt updated our picture in the same cherished spot. It was the Fourth of July.

We made our way back to the parking lot, where families gathered around picnic tables were grilling an array of foods, some unfamiliar. A few folks feared Ellie; I could tell by their gestures. We were respectful and maneuvered around them.

How fortunate we are to live where we can speak many languages, where bountiful food prevails, where we can choose a religion or no religion, and where we can have faith.

We are finding happiness and respite at home.
a blond woman in a black t-shirt sitting with a black and white dog

Our New Column Photo-taken in 2021

Ellie crossed Rainbow Bridge in August 2020, and we adopted our new rescue, Jolee, five months later.

It hadn’t occurred to me until writing you today that the photograph of Jolee and me is in my garden, rather than Mother Nature’s glorious garden at the Top of the World, though a place we still love to visit. How fortunate I feel to have happiness and respite at home.

As we celebrate Independence Day, observing when the fathers of our country signed the Declaration of Independence, let us not forget or take for granted our freedoms and the beauty of the world around us. Let’s embrace our differences in the spirit of knowing we are all the same – seeking happiness, peace, and caring for our families.

Garden Dilemmas? (and on your favorite Podcast App.)

There’s more to this story in Episode 63 of the Garden Dilemma’s Podcast

A link to a story about Birch Tree’s Strength in Flexibility 

More about Big Pocono State Park, I call the Top of the World :^)

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

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