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An Unexpected Encounter

by Holly Cook about a year ago in nature
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A short story about springtime and coming out of a long period of physical and mental hibernation.

Sunbeams streamed through the window, a subtle breeze with displaying hints of sweet onion and sounds of song birds returning back home after a long, brutally chilling Pennsylvania Winter. Olivia rubbed her eyes awake as she stretched, waking her sleepy muscles out of stupor. Another glorious day to be alive, she thought to herself. Melody, her calico cat sprawled in a similar stretch, letting out a long yawn with claws fully extended.

“Well, good morning there, Melody!” Olivia sang. Melody replied in a high trilling sound, now alert and ready for her morning meal. Fixing her catastrophic bed head into a bun, she danced her way to the kitchen. “OK Google, play Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bob Marley on Spotify.” Google complied, playing her favorite reggae tune to start her day. She cracked open a fresh can of Tuna Surprise and plopped it in the cat bowl, Melody waiting nearby, licking her lips in anticipation. What a morning tradition to really get in the spirit of consistent beautiful weather. That truly is something to celebrate after this past winter, battling the cold and seasonal depression. A cycle that is entirely avoidable by travel, temporarily hindered due to COVID-19 travel guidelines.

This year just feels different. Like this spring is one of new beginnings, following a long awkward year of social distancing and face masks that basically felt like a null year of everyone’s lives. However this past week, up to the mid-70’s Fahrenheit has been a breath of fresh air with a breadth of new life all around. Olivia grabbed her mini baby blue JanSport backpack, stuffed it with an apple, almonds, notebook and pen, then wandered down to the nature path near her apartment building. Through blue skies and sparse stratus clouds, she could feel the sun on her skin. Thawing her from her six month depression, she smiled and inhaled deeply, embracing the sweet scent of spring flowers. She crawled through some half bare shrubs, not fully recovered from the harsh winter to reveal a thin makeshift path leading towards the creek. Batting away spiderwebs and stray branches, exposing a dingy sand bank with a large log fashioned as a makeshift bench for the teenager’s ultimate creek hang experience. Ignoring the litter sprawled carelessly left by other rude individuals, she made herself comfortable and took a seat.

Olivia closed her eyes. She could feel the parts of the log where the bark used to be, worn away by rain and lots of butts, left coarse and uneven. She wiggled her feet against the ground she heard the crinkle of old leaves leftover from last fall not yet decomposed amid the patches of mud and grass within the sandy bank. She listened to the soothing sound of the water rushing over pebbles in the creek, with sounds of robins, blue jays, and chipping sparrows singing whilst jumping about through the trees. She could pick out smells of various fragrant foliage surrounding her and the slight fishy smell of freshwater. Slowly opening her eyes, light flooded in with the shimmer of vibrant colors mirroring in the stream. It was just beautiful, taking in the gorgeous scenery and examining details of various trees and animals also feeling revived by the springtime aura.

New beginnings after this long hibernation, that was Olivia’s goal. No more sad days feeling sorry for herself watching reruns of cheesy 90’s chick flicks. She was determined to shake 2020 off, like shedding away the additional layers required for Pennsylvania winters. Fresh and new experiences await. Soon enough she will be eligible for the vaccination that will allow for her self-confidence to return, once lost through the threat of the deadly virus. After all, this pandemic is what caused her to get off track to begin with, losing her job she worked so hard to obtain just to be lost within one moment. Olivia busted out her notebook and began scribbling away. Brainstorming plans for the future, writing off frustrations from the past, engaging in full cathartic writing sparked from this liberating annual rebirth of mother nature.

All of a sudden something caught her eye in her far peripheral view. Something flailing, moving erratically off in a freshly budding bush. She watched for a moment, confused and intrigued at what that could be. Perhaps an injured baby animal? She thought to herself, Hmm should I help the little guy out? She pulled out her apple for a snack, seeing if whatever it was would hear her and somehow reveal what they are. The bush stopped moving, the mysterious thing freezing from the loud crunch. Pausing for a few moments, it began shaking yet again. Hmm. She set her apple down next to her backpack and crept quietly toward the bush. Just a step away, Olivia crushed an old stray shriveled up leaf letting out a crisp crunch. She took a deep breath, still wondering what it was she was about to uncover.

Another deep breath, Olivia brushed the branches back to uncover a small speckled turtle. A Eastern box turtle to be exact, looking quite defeated flipped over entangled within vines, littered disposable face masks and branches. Poor guy, Olivia thought, I wonder how long he’s been trapped here. A sudden sadness came over her as she freed him.

“There you go, hun. All better. Now you can go back to your little turtle family.” Olivia sat back on the log, staring into the sparking creek. She felt a nudge on her foot, the turtle took a bite at the laces of her beat up Converse, looked up at her and gave what only she could assume was a grin. Olivia let out a short burst of laughter, look at this joker. The turtle settled in the sand adjacent to her to do some much needed sunbathing. Minutes turned into hours, as the sun changed positions in the sky signaling the imminent evening sunset displaying an array of cotton candy colors. Olivia continued writing, letting this evident divine intervention influence the outpour of creativity pent up inside her. That’s it! She had a sort of revelation of a newly found drive she hadn’t thought of before. Why waste my time working up in a company when I could just have my own, or better yet, freelance and do all my work out here enriched in nature. Her thoughts running rampant excited at her new dream immersed in nature.

Another nip, Olivia looked down. “Oh hey buddy, you heading out?” Expressing her habit of talking to animals like they’ll somehow respond, although knowing fully that they most definitely won’t. She could sense this strange connection, like this cute little turtle was looking up at her as if he were thanking her. “You’re welcome, hun. I hope I see you again down here, just not all tangled up again,” she said with a slight snort. The turtle looked around, grounding himself to the present surroundings then slowly wandered off down the bank, disappearing into the brush. What a day. The sky began darkening as she peered into the distance, past the dancing water and treetop animals preparing their young for bed, admiring at how mother nature creates art all around for each and every living being to enjoy. Olivia became overwhelmed with gratitude as she wiped away a stray tear. The brilliant orange sun hovered over the horizon projecting shades of all colors through the thin clouds with the reflection glistening upon the stream, she gathered her belongings to head on home. She hoped if she returned to that spot near the creek she would see her new friend again, also thawing from the long hibernation, preparing to take on the world one day at a time.


About the author

Holly Cook

Animal enthusiast and writing hobbyist.

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