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Aspen and Terra, A Tree Bird Tale

By Janina M. Carlstad


“Wow – look at ALL of this food!!!” exclaimed the young nuthatch.

“It’s so peaceful and serene here too!” he added.  Ned’s little tufts of feathers blew in the woodland breeze, while he and his sister, Nelly, poked about among the seeds of the bird feeder. The two white-breasted nuthatches looked out upon their woodland world in wonderment.


Nathaniel Nuthatch pecked at a sunflower seed and looked up at his son thoughtfully.


“It hasn’t always been this way, you know,” he stated matter of factly.  “this is a backyard habitat.  We’re safe here.  This food is here because we are visiting land that is set aside so that the woodlands will be safe for all who live here.  The people who own this land and forest want to preserve some green space for others to enjoy, and humanity and wild lands can be shared for years to come.  There is much to be learned from the wild lands, you know.”


“Like what?” inquired Ned, watching a downy woodpecker land on the other feeder.


Nathaniel replied, “Oh, that’s a long story… that’s a tree bird tale that perhaps I’ll share  at bedtime one night.  In the meantime, let’s enjoy this peacefulness and safety…it’s not something a bird can ever take for granted!”


“Safety, hmmm…  Is that why there are so many birds singing here?” asked Nelly.  “I can’t believe how many forest voices I hear all around!  And smell those flowers!  Can we stay here forever!” She looked about with her bright eyes.


Nathaniel gazed at the trembling aspen leaves, tall shimmering trunks, and the woodpeckers and chickadees that flew amongst the woodlands.  All around him, notes of orioles, thrushes, and grosbeaks floated on the breeze.  Overhead, a pair of ravens croaked lustily, and a red-tailed hawk soared towards the river.  A squirrel chattered from out among the flower-bright forest floor, and the warm aromatic scent of the forest refreshed his mind.  Children’s voices could be heard from the river flats, and a horse whinnied in the nearby pasture.  Life was good. 


He turned to his fledglings and replied, “Yes, daughter, I think we can stay here all year round.  The songbirds may come and go with the seasons, but we tree birds will stay.  Many other tree birds such as our cousins, the red-breasted nuthatch, the chickadees, the downy, and the hairy woodpeckers, will join us here for the winter, too.”




The fledglings continued to gulp down the seeds, cleaned their bills on the edge of the feeder, and continued looking about the yard, watching for cats, dogs, or any other possible dangers… then they flew back to their favorite poplar trees, to scurry up and down the trunk and look for insects. 


As the sun’s rays began to sink down behind the western horizon, the twilight breezes stirred the leaves in a quiet song, and the little birds gathered to roost upon a branch close to the aspen trunks…  Although tired, they began to pester their father for his bedtime story. 


“Alright,” agreed Nathaniel.  It’s a long story, but I think that as treebirds, it’s a story you  should know.  It goes something like this…” and he began to unwind a tale older than time while the little nuthatch youngsters snuggled in to listen…



Aspen had many occupations.  Symbol of the seasons… his fresh scent and green leaves heralded the spring.  Lush canopies housed summer residents and provided shade.  Fall’s golden leaves brightened darkening days and provided new fertilizer for the forest floor.  Winter trunks stood naked in the cold, but held stark beauty and a reminder of strength in hardship.  Aspen provided nourishment for countless creatures in his care, from the tiny mouse nestled in its leafy bed at the bottom of his trunk, to the orioles which sang rich, jewel tones from their swinging nests, high in his foliage.  Ravens roosted upon his branches, protesting to the jays and all who would challenge their existence.  Aspen welcomed the busy work of the tree birds… the woodpeckers, the nuthatches, the chickadees, juncos, and others who ran up and down his trunk, picking and pecking at the pests which harried him....


Terra tried to work with all of the elements to make earth become the best it could be.  She set forth flowers of all sizes and colors in the spring – linnaea borealis, bunch berries, mossy beds, whispering leaves, beckoning blades in flowering meadows and fields of thought.  By summer, Terra would have aided the new birth of countless animals and birds, had sent breezes through winding willows and rippling rivers, and had worked with her trees and bushes to render the reddest of berries and most golden of grains. She had left lumps of dirt for fox cubs to play with and anthills for bears to rip apart in search of food.  By fall and winter, Terra embraced the downfall of organic materials within her earthen heart…knowing that in such death there would be rebirth in the coming spring.



Seasons came and went.  Chills of winter woodlands embraced the crisp snow, crackling branches, icicles of light reflection…. and eventually, spring came again.   This spring, however, seemed different and somehow magical. The two who had always been together, grown together, nurtured each other, found this year to hold a new season in their lives. Long had they lived, loved, born life, in the nature of things, in the circle of life and creation, but somehow, within this season, this spring, with the blessings of the Creator, their awareness of life and all around them brought them to human form for a time. 




These are just excerpts from the novellette, "Aspen and Terra, A Tree Bird Tale".  I hope you've enjoyed sharing in them...


Aspen and Terra is a fantasy (or is it???) story about Mother Earth (Terra) and the aspen parkland, (Aspen)...  The story of how all life is connected through Mother Earth and the Creator, is told through a romance older than time, and woven through the woodlands with a natural and inquiring look at the relationship between nature and humanity.  The story ends with the challenge for us, as partners in this universe, to make a difference and carry the torch for our global future...  one of those ways to help heal our earth is to enhance our yards for wildlife and designate them as  backyard habitats....   


**The “Backyard Wildlife Habitat” is a program designed to help create greenspace for wildlife and humanity.  You can apply to have your land designated as a backyard wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.  There are many other ways to help enhance our earth’s health through connection with or action through various nature federations. I have listed some of those here:


Canadian Wildlife Federation


Wild About Gardening


National Wildlife Federation   or



"Be the Change You Wish To See In The World...." Gandhi
All Rights Reserved J. Carlstad 2008