It seemed as if the whole town was in the forest the next day. Midas was gone and Munro was hiding in the undergrowth. He could hear the chatter and the happy laughter as the posters were taken down and his little heart was light and happy too, for now he knew the forest was safe. He peeped out when the noise subsided, expecting to see Sparrow-girl.
That’s funny, he thought, this rescue was all her idea. He was sure of that. Why wasn’t she here? Munro fretted most of the night. He couldn’t settle. Something was wrong. Even Midas wasn’t around. Things were out of kilter.
When the morning sun gilded the eastern side of the trunks of the trees, Munro stretched out a wing that also caught the brilliant rays and brought out the pink in his feathers. Th rays also glinted off something very shiny a meter away from Munro’s nest.
Before Munro could investigate, Midas arrived crashing through the branches. He knows how to make an entrance, Munro thought with a smidgen of admiration.
“Well,” the big black bird said hoarsely,” back to normal are we? Business as usual?”
“Not for us,” Munro said in a confident voice,” I don’t need your friendship any more.”
Before Midas could pursue this conversation, he spied something. Something that drew him like a magnet. He hopped past the little dove. Just in time, Munro saw what he was after and with a sudden burst of speed he half-flew, half-hopped ahead of Midas.
He clamped his little beak around Sparrow-Girl’s charm bracelet and gained a low branch, out of Midas’s reach.
The chase was on! Munro weaved in and out of branches that grew close together while Midas flew above trying to dive bomb the smaller bird. The usually silent forest was full of strange sounds: scrapings, rustlings, dry twigs falling and the harsh voice of the raven. There were no soft “coos” because Munro had to keep his beak closed tightly as he dragged his treasure on his wild flight trying to get away from Midas.
“It’s mine, it’s mine!” Midas rasped. “Give it to me, you little thief!”
Munro was determined to save Sparrow-Girl’s bracelet at all costs. He still regretted taking the young wife’s rings from the picnic table to try to curry the raven’s favor. No more would he be Midas’s lackey. He would be his own man, or rather, bird.
However, the situation did not look good. Midas was gaining on him and Munro was tiring. He almost dropped the bracelet once. If only Thunderbird were here, Munro thought. But it looked like he was on his own.
Maybe Thunderbird was there because suddenly a black cloud hid the sun and Midas looked this way and that trying to find Munro in the shadows of the tree trunks and the suddenly darkened branches. Munro sat very still but looked around too. He saw just above him a hole in the bark that a woodpecker had made searching for his lunch. Very quietly the dove gained a branch very near the hole and was able to stuff the bracelet into it. Then he dropped soundlessly to the base of the tree and pulled a feather from his breast. He stuck it under a protruding root. This was a marker. All the trees looked so much alike, he thought.
That cloud wouldn’t stay there forever blocking the sun and then Midas would be after him again so Munro moved as fast as he could to the edge of the forest where he could see the town. He hid himself among some tall grasses.
In the twilight, he heard Sparrow-Girl coming and came out of hiding. He knew now why she hadn’t come earlier with her friends. She was trying to find her bracelet. Munro quivered with excitement with the good news he had to tell her.
“I think it’s time for Midas to meet Thunderbird,” observed Sparrow-Girl as she and Munro sat companionably on a branch near that raven’s condo. Earlier the teenager had taken on her bird persona and was wearing the shiny bracelet draped around her sleek feathered shoulders. Munro kept an eye out so that it didn’t fall off again.
“He’ll watch for a chance to grab it,” warned Munro.
“Thunderbird won’t let that happen,” she said. “Where is Midas anyway?”
“He went off in a huff when I got away from him and hid the bracelet.”
Sparrow-Girl changed back to Sophie Myles, slipped the bracelet on her wrist and kicked and banged on the trunk of the raven’s tree. Munro flew up to her shoulder.
“What do you want now, you little chiseler?” Midas asked, sticking his head out of his condo, seeing only Munro at first.
“This is your forest, too,” said Sophie, “there are some things you should know.”
“All I know is that it IS my forest and that dove doesn’t belong here. And I am not too sure about you, whoever you are.” Midas spread his sooty wings and dropped down to a branch where he could stare into Sophie’s face.
“The forest belongs to all of us,” said the girl, not showing any fear of the fierce-looking bird.
On cue, the darkening sky and the inky shadows were suddenly lit up by streaks of red and green and silver and gold sparks as the great Thunderbird pushed aside branches with his mighty wings. Even the formidable raven shivered in fright and was about to take flight when Sophie reached out and placed her hand on his broad back.
Thunderbird settled in front of the trio and looked steadfastly at them for a minute. Then he said, “ I am going to tell you a fable from long ago when the world was very new.
“At that time,” began Thunderbird, “ all the trees on planet Earth were the same size when they became mature. Sometimes there were windstorms that uprooted trees. Sometimes there were fires that burned them to ashes. And sometimes no rain fell and many trees died from lack of water. But the worst thing was that mankind cut down trees for many reasons that they could not understand. So the the trees called a meeting to find a solution. At the meeting they decided that they needed a king. A king would protect them.
“First, they asked the maple tree, but he declined. He said he didn’t have time to be king. He was too busy producing sap. Next, they asked the apple tree. She also declined saying she didn’t want to give up her fruit to hold sway over such a multitude of trees.
Many other species of trees were asked to be king, but they all declined, except for one young sapling who hadn’t reached maturity yet. He thought it might be fun to be the king of the trees.
“What would I have to do?” he asked.
The leader of the meeting said that he would have to grow as big as a giant so he would be feared by all and be tall enough to gaze over the rest of the trees to see if danger was coming.
“But I would need to live where there is plenty of water and food in order to grow so big,” said the sapling.
“True,’ agreed the leader, “ but here on the west coast next to the big blue water is perfect. Here you will grow into a gigantic fir tree and be our king.”
All the trees on Planet Earth agreed and thought that was an excellent idea. They felt safer already.(2)
“Sir,” ventured Munro, “ it didn’t work. Trees have been destroyed. The giant firs weren’t able to save them.”
“Avarice,” announced Thunderbird. He looked severely at Midas who was still eyeing Sophie’s bracelet.
And like the good teacher that he was, Thunderbird asked the birds and the girl what they had learned. They thought carefully.
“I am only lonely if I choose to be,” said Munro, “ and I don’t need to ‘suck up’ to anybody.”
“My friends and I have a lot of power when we work together., said Sophie, “and that we must respect Nature and the way everything works if we leave well enough alone.”
Thunderbird nodded his majestic head in approval. Sophie stroked the coarse black feathers of the raven, but that bird remained silent.
“Well?” asked Thunderbird.
“I am who I am,” croaked Midas and with a jerk he escaped Sophie’s caress and flew up to his tree and disappeared.
“He’s right, of course. We are all who we are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change,” said Thunderbird with a smile. The forest was filled with pulsating light at that smile, and in its near-blinding glow the giant mythical bird disappeared too.
In the following year, two more mourning doves found their way to Munro’s forest of Douglas firs on the west coast of Canada and he chose a mate. Spotted owls were still absent. Midas mellowed a little bit and was known to spend a little time now and then with Munro. Sophie, the Sparrow-Girl, still visited the birds in the forest, but not as often as before because high school kept her busy. Mayor Myles was elected three more times and the town was known as the greenest in the province.
Birds can still talk, but only if you listen well. The next time you meet a bluejay in the woods or even a chickadee, be very still and you may understand what they are saying.
1. myth taken from the writings of Edward L. Keithahn
2. loosely based on Judges 8, the Holy Bible