"Love oak"

One day in the fall, when wandering with friends along a watercourse, looking for late autumn treasures with which to decorate the home where our Sunday services were held, I heard the dear children calling one another's attention to the beauty of the "love oak." In this way they designated a plant which adds to the landscape, in our mild California autumn, a dash of that vivid color which prevails at this season in colder regions. In masses of flaming shrubbery, or as a graceful, trailing vine, it glows with the tints of the Virginia creeper, from delicate coral pink to deep carmine. Yet this lovely thing is so associated in the minds of people with the thought of poison that the very sight of it often calls forth alarmed warnings.

To one who once shared this popular fear, but who has learned through Christian Science to look upon this plant with friendly eyes, it was sweet indeed to know that the children had found a way to lift the curse, perceiving a reflection of Love where mortal sense saw only its own erroneous concept. For years I had wished to write of this healing, long since complete, but waited, searching for a name for this form of the oak which would tend to improve the universal belief regarding it. Thought traveled back over the experience, which had developed a truer sense of friendliness with all outdoor things.

As a child I was not affected by the so–called poison oak, but handled it fearlessly, often, possibly, with a degree of bravado in thus defying popular opinion. Because there was no scientific sense of immunity, however, I gradually became influenced by the constant reiteration of the word poison, with its sinister suggestion, and at each contact became more susceptible to bad results. I struggled against this growing fear with all my will, for I could not bear to have my woodland freedom thus curtailed; but the day came when I was forced to admit defeat, and after a very severe attack of suffering, which incapacitated me for work, I could scarcely endure to look at the supposed cause; the very sight of it seemed to make me ill.

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July 26, 1919

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