Mayor Myles was taking a much-needed break and Sophie had persuaded him to take a walk in the forest in the glow of autumn. She loved her father and loved to spend time with him.
“How’s business?” she asked cheerfully as they strolled beneath the towering Douglas firs. Now and then she patted the rough bark as if she were shaking hands with old friends.
“How’s school?” he countered. He loved this forest too. His father had taken him on long walks here when he was young. He loved listening to the stories of the First Nations people.
“I asked you first,” Sophie teased.
“Well, we’re just about to close the deal for the Canadian Condo Company to begin clearing the forest and building much-needed housing,” Mayor Myles said, knowing that his daughter didn’t want to hear this news but there was nothing he could do about it. The council had voted for it, to a man.
“Uh, uh,” Sophie said.
“You’ll see,” she said, grabbing his hand and swinging on it like she used to when she was much younger.
Mayor Myles was relieved that his daughter wasn’t giving him a hard time, but he wondered just what she was up to.
“We need to get back,” he said, “Mom is making lasagna tonight and my mouth is watering for it.”
“Me too,” laughed Sophie.
In the forest, Munro and Megan waited patiently for Sparrow-Girl to come.
It was late afternoon before they heard the soft sounds in the glade where she usually appeared. Megan swooped down from her perch and Munro hopped joyfully through the yellowing ferns. The tree shadows seemed to be going out to meet her too.
She had her long gold hair tied up and thrust through a ball cap so that it hung down behind her. She wore beige pants and a brown tweed sweater. Her backpack looked a bit like folded wings. She looked like a big beautiful sparrow, thought Munro.
“Sit on my shoulder, Megan,” she directed. “Munro, you perch on my arm. We’re on our way to find Thunderbird.”
As Sparrow-Girl followed an invisible trail through the forest towards the setting sun, Munro asked: “Where is Thunderbird anyway?”
“Everywhere and Nowhere,” she answered.
“Then, how...” began Munro, looking up at her from the crook of her elbow. And that wasn’t easy to do because doves need to walk in order to thrust their heads forward.
“There’s an In-Between Space. Very few creatures know about it,” Sparrow-Girl said.
The sun had almost set when Sparrow-Girl finally stopped. She sat down on a moss-covered boulder to rest. The birds hopped down.
“Listen,” she said, “do you hear that?”
Megan turned her head almost all the way around. Munro cocked his to the right and then to the left. They listened intently. Megan heard it first.
“A humming sound,” she informed Sparrow-Girl.
“Indeed, good for you, Megan,” she said ruffling the owl’s neck feathers a little.
“Hmmm, “ said Munro, “ I don’t...oh yes, I do now.”
As soon as he said this, the humming grew louder and louder and soon began to sound like a helicopter in volume. The sky suddenly grew dark and the branches of the trees overhead began to shake.
“He’s coming,” announced Sparrow-Girl. Megan and Munro fluttered as close to her as possible. “Don’t be afraid,” she chided.
Thunderbird’s entrance was spectacular. He seemed to have brought the setting sun with him. Rays of red and orange shot out of his feathers and there was a golden halo around his massive head.
Sparrow-Girl’s face glowed and even Megan and Munro appeared luminous. It was no longer dark in their shady glade.
“Greetings!” boomed Thunderbird. “Sparrow-Girl, I want you to become a sparrow again and then I want all of you to climb on my back. We are going on a trip!”
Mesmerized, the birds did his bidding and Thunderbird shot up like a flaming rocket into the twilight above the treetops. The little birds were unafraid. It was marvelous soaring so high.
Risking a peek downwards, Munro saw a sea of green with blue threads running through it. There were no open brown patches at all. Was this the forest? It looked different. He wanted to ask where they were, but Thunderbird’s speed cutting through the air was rather noisy. He wondered if Sparrow-Girl knew.
They kept going and going and going and the sky began to turn deep purple. Finally, just as Munro thought Thunderbird would fly right off the earth and into space, the huge bird braked and landed in the top branches of a prickly pine.
“Here we are.” he said, not even gasping for breath.
“Where is here?” asked Munro and Sparrow-Girl together. Megan just looked around as if she sensed something, something very much to her liking.
“Listen,” ordered Thunderbird.
Low-toned hoots were all around them. Megan’s dark eyes grew as round as plums.
“My cousins,” she said. She could hardly keep her wings from flapping in her anxiety to join them. “Thank you, Thunderbird. I’ll never forget your kindness.”
“Away you go, ma’am. May you find a mate and try raising a family again.”
Before Megan slipped off Thunderbird’s back, she turned to Sparrow-Girl and Munro.
“Thank you both for your friendship. Perhaps I’ll see you again one day.”
“Good luck! Be happy!” said Sparrow-Girl.
“Be safe,” said Munro.
Megan took off with rapid wingbeats and then she glided to the top of a tree with broken limbs, probably from a strong wind. Hoots of welcome could be heard.
“Well, that’s that,” commented Thunderbird, “ She’ll be happy for a few years, but I’m afraid that in the future spotted owls will be extinct...if there is no greening.”
“What do you mean?” asked Sparrow-Girl, gingerly hopping down to a branch closer to Thunderbird’s head. Munro followed her. He was curious too. Future? he thought.
“We have flown into the past,” Thunderbird said, “five hundred years into the past, to be exact.”
The birds were silent, thinking about this.
“So this is the way it was in the forest before my kind began to take trees for industry,” mused Sparrow-Girl.
“Trees were used for firewood and other things,” said Thunderbird, “ but only a few, then. There were so many, new settlers thought that they would never run out, but they are starting to do that. In fact, at one time, loggers cut down thousands of trees in one place just like a wheat farmer harvests a field today.”
“And there were landslides...” Sparrow-Girl put in. “ Animals lost their homes. The forest was wounded.”
Munro couldn’t help it. A fat tear rolled down his cheek.
“Things will get better,” comforted Thunderbird. “ People are learning to put back what they take, but I’m afraid they have a long way to go.”
Sparrow-Girl began to hop about. She seemed to be agitated.
“What’s the matter?” asked Munro.
“Are we to stay in the past?” she asked.” I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but...”
“Of course not,” chuckled Thunderbird, “but before I take you back I have to ask Munro a question.”
“No, I’ll ask the question!” Thunderbird said severely. He was getting entirely too chummy with these birds. He had to retain his authority and respect after all, not show a soft side.
“Do you want me to take you back east where you came from, where you cam find more of your own kind, like Megan did?”
Munro had to think about that. A couple of weeks ago, he would have said yes, but now? He had met Thunderbird and Sparrow-Girl and was no longer lonely. And then there was Midas. He had some unfinished business with him.
“No, thank you,” he said.
“Very well, climb on again, both of you. I’ll take you back to the future and home.”
Thunderbird rose into the air. The moon was just rising and myriad stars began to twinkle. Sparrow-Girl stared in wonder. The sky was just the same in the past as it was in the future.
Some things seemed to be eternal.
Later, when Thunderbird swooshed down to the glade, he had one more thing to say.
“Sparrow-Girl,” he said looking intently at the sleek little brown bird with the white crown mark on her head, “ you have done well. You have learned to care about the environment and will grow up to be a responsible citizen of this planet.”
Sparrow-Girl was elated. Thunderbird’s approval meant a lot to her.
“I’ll be back, Munro,” she said, stroking the dove’s silky head as she knelt in the ferns. “In fact, I’ll be here in two days with a big surprise.”
Sparrow-Girl wanted to hug Thunderbird, but his awesomeness stopped her.
“Thank you for everything,” she said to him.
Thunderbird ducked his head a little. Sparrow-Girl turned, became a teenage human again, adjusted her backpack, and started for home just as the sun was coming up.
And the great bird from the In-Between Space rose into the air and was gone. Munro was alone again but he wasn’t lonely. That was curious.