And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22: 1&2

Preoccupied with gardens, I finally notice the shapely oak tree on the east end of our pergola looks rather strange. Upon inspection, I discover malformed buds and leaves and tell my husband.

“I didn’t want to say anything, but I think it’s dying,” he says.

“I hope not. I can’t imagine the pergola without the tree’s shade. Do you think May’s snowfall damaged the buds?”

“Could be.”

For days I neglect to call Uncle Luke’s Feed Store in Troy, our long-term lawn, tree, and garden experts. But I’m leaving town soon for my annual pilgrimage back home to West Virginia and Kentucky, and speak with Will. It’s Dale’s day off. I relay my concern.

“Is it a pin oak?” Will asks.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

“No matter what kind of tree or problem it is, you can’t go wrong with a fish oil and kelp foliar spray.”

“Thanks. Is chicken manure water a good treatment for the roots?” I ask.

“Yes. A good root soak at the drip line will nourish the tree and relieve stress. But wait until the temps cool down before you spray and soak.”

I fold laundry and consider my affection for the oak’s function in our backyard’s landscape. Not only do her gorgeous limbs shadow the pergola, the leaves and wood muffle the road and lawnmower noise.

And when a breeze blows upon the hill, the leaves speak calm and assuring words to those enclosed within wisteria covering the iron structure.

The same sensation occurs when sitting in the pine cove where our hens dust bathe in the dirt beneath fallen needles–and when I walk through the tunnel of trees on the Polly Ann Trail or my country roads.

I track this tranquility to my childhood home, the McCoy Bottom, a flatland surrounded by mountains and divided by a creek, and the hill overlooking the bottom. My cousin Kathy and I sit swinging on her front porch upon the knoll, curtains of rain pouring down on the green mountains. We sing and tell silly stories.

A child, I didn’t know this intimacy with trees strengthened my spirit, mind and body. The granddaughter of a man who knew the name of every Appalachian tree, herb, wildflower, berry, and critter, I’ll never grasp the pleasure of God’s Creation to the measure Grandpa Floyd did.

Yet, I know a pin oak and how to feed it.

Dear Reader, I believe there’s healing in the leaves. The Japanese term this cleansing “shinrin yoku,” or “forest bathing.”

Yes–that’s exactly how I recall those mountain rains.

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