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Essays by Karen Anderson: Beaver Tree

Illustration by Kacie Brown

On the bank of the Betsie River is a tree with the familiar hour-glass shape where beaver teeth have gnawed almost through the trunk. For some reason, the beaver gave up on this tree—and

left it to die slowly, standing straight up.

I point out the tree to my husband as we paddle past. “If only the beaver had stuck with it a little longer,” I say.

“Too bad,” he says and I don’t know whether he means the tree or the beaver.

The image of that gnawed trunk stays in my mind as we continue down the river. I think of all the times I’ve given up on projects or people when—with just a little more effort—I might have broken through to some kind of solution.

It was like that with my mother, both of us wanting to be closer but not knowing how. She was a homemaker and wanted the same for me—but I wanted something else, to have a career, to see the world. Although she praised my ambition, she gave me aprons for my birthday.

And I resisted her control by distancing myself, by letting irritations lengthen into silences. Looking back, I wish I’d tried harder to find common ground—at her kitchen table or mine.

“Do you think that beaver will come back and finish the job?” I ask my husband.

“Don’t know,” he said. “Don’t think so.”

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.