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Spring Festivities Writing Contest 2022: Calib's entry

Theme: New Beginnings


The old bobcat stirred amid fallen leaves at the base of a big old tree. He yawned and stretched. What time was it? Did it even matter? The scent of heavy moss, charred wood, and ashes lingered in the air. It was his reminder: everything was gone.

The fire was an accident. He thought all the candles were out before he went to bed. He thought wrong. A single candle must have burned too low. Perhaps it even tipped over? Either way, the results were the same. He woke up to unseasonable heat and choking smoke. He barely made it out with the clothes on his back. He never was a mage. At best he could throw buckets of water from the well. All it did was make the doorstep damp before the heat and smoke drove him back. Back into the woods.

He propped his back against the tree, wrapping his arms around the trunk to steady himself. He started to rise, slow and stiff. Sleeping on forest floors is no good for old joints. He ached inside and out. Thoughts ran through his head. He had lost it all. Everything he had worked for over the years. His home. His greenhouse. His life's work. Ashes and memories were all that remained. His paws slid along the rough bark as he pulled himself up off the ground. He froze. Something dry, harsh, and dusty was beneath his paw pads. He turned around.

The tree was blackened. Half of it's bark was gone. In fact, this great old oak seemed to be half charcoal. He looked around. Broken half rotten branches were strewn across the forest floor. He rubbed his forehead as he turned back to the tree to appraise the damage. His decades as an herbalist came in handy. Lightning strike. It hit high and deep splitting a wedge into the tree. The lightning caused the tree sap to boil. Some branches fell immediately. The remaining limbs immediately dried from the inside out. The tree caught fire from the heat and burned like tinder. In an instant a thriving ancient oak was burned alive.

Yet as his eyes scanned the destruction, he spotted something bright. Small tender green leaves poked up from charred branches. New shoots for new limbs forced their way past ashes. The old tree was alive and still fighting. It had survived the lighting, the fire, and the long cold winter all alone. Now spring was here. It would recover and grow into something beautiful and new. A small squirrel was busy building a nest in a hollow where a limb had fallen away. Life would continue.

The bobcat poked among the fallen branches. He found one that was still in decent condition. He used it as a walking stick. The great tree would live on and so would he. He would rebuild. Could he even use this as an excuse to go somewhere new? New friends, new sights, and new adventures for old bones. Yes. He could.

And so he did. He traveled. He made new friends. He rebuilt better than before. And no matter where he went he kept that walking stick as a reminder. You're never too old to start over. Even charred old oaks can grow new leaves. Enduring the winter can be harsh, but after winter comes spring. And spring means new beginnings.