Oksana, Age 10, Calgary, AB
Iím a senior now, been through a lot.

I remember when I was just a sapling, carefully rooted to the ground, bound to the earth, feeling proud standing there protecting that little house. Shading its tiny windows with my stubby branches. Giving it all my love. For it gave me a place to break free from my sprout. A place to live and grow strong. A place to take root and call home until death.

Fairy tales donít last forever, so there came a time when the house grew cold and the radiant, endless flow of colours faded to grey. The laughter of children swinging on my young sturdy branches tapered off and eventually the starter of my life, the home of my loved ones, was wisped away by the same winds that formed my trunk, blew the crispy leaves off my twirly branches and brought my seed to the hands that gave birth to me.

Soon, time brought my limbs to flower and caused the surrounding grass to turn green again. My roots hardened and my trunk grew stout and strong along with my unbreakable branches that stretched out from my core with pure hope. Hope that I might give shade to more people in my life, please others who needed help or wanted someone to listen to their troubles and take in their sobs.

I remember the sudden thud that crusaded over the hilltops echoing through my woody base like an axe. Then came another, and soon there were sounds of men parading through the valley, all wearing matching camouflage suits and marching in identical formation, columns and rows. They were mostly young and probably had families and loved ones, like I used to, but they were taken away to join the war. As their silhouettes marched by and slowly disappeared, I wondered how many proud fighters would come out alive.

They were days into battle when a young man staggered out of the battlefield and tumbled into my warm grasp. I shaded the injured soldier and took him out of the icy hands of the wind with my now strong, lengthy arms. He rested his tired head against my welcoming bark. His quivering fingers reached into his small battered pocket and slowly retrieved a single bent up photo. Two little girls stood happily hand in hand with a beautiful lady and the soldier all smiling in a grassy meadow. Protecting this father from all winds, rain, sun and darkness reminded me of when I was just a sapling protecting that little house. But just like the house, I can help to only a point, so he soon slipped peacefully away and became cold. Fellow soldiers carried his empty shell away.

As the days droned on I heard that the war had ended. We had won and the tired champions marched back out of the battlefield. I was happy that at least the young father sacrificed his life for a purpose. But my heart still ached with sorrow and cried out to the wind that was carrying this icy conflict away to another place.

I aged, and my childhood was just a faint memory. My roots slightly stiffened but I was still spry and full of energy. A storm was cast in the distance and gave me no fright when a flash of yellow lighting struck. It was miles away, but when that smoky smell crawled through my splintery wood I knew something was wrong. Over the hilltops slithered a spark of red, yellow and orange light. Fire crept around the valley ever so slowly then pounced down shrieking its words of pain. Its mighty flames danced around me while its limbs were sparking the measly shrubs and bushes alight with fire, awakening their sizzling souls as they joined the song of fright. Thankfully with the fire also came the rain. It started pounding against the blaze to the rhythm of defeat. Soon the smoky fire was gone and I was not to worry.

Now I am old. My strong, firm bark is now gnarled, crusty and dry. New saplings have sprouted to take my place in this world. I know I will not flower this spring, but Iíve done my job. Iíve sent joy and shade to farmers and gave a resting place for a father. I've survived some amazing things that no others have. At least I know that my trunk will rot away to soften the dirt of new heroes, new trees on the road to make others happy just like that little old house did for me. So as I leave my shell, I remember all the good memories, all the things I did for others, and what so many others have done for me. Iím happy because I know lots of other souls will experience the triumphs and wonders of a life lived too.
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