Karen Anderson


Credit Windborne Studios

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.

Since 2005, she has contributed weekly essays to Interlochen Public Radio. An illustrated collection of her essays was published in 2017, “Gradual Clearing: Weather Reports from the Heart.”

Karen has a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan and is retired from Northwestern Michigan College where she was director of marketing and public relations. She enjoys camping, canoeing, reading, writing, listening, learning.

Essay: Grilling Out

Jul 17, 2020

“What is that thing in the driveway?” I asked my mother.  It looked like a little flying saucer with a round metal body and four spindly legs.

“It’s a charcoal grill,” she said.  “Dad’s going to cook hamburgers on it tonight.”

I was guessing that Dad didn’t know about this yet.  None of us knew anything about charcoal grilling which was something my mother had heard about on television.

Essay: A Ride Home

Jul 10, 2020

When I was a little kid, I spent Saturday afternoons at the movies with my friends.  Somebody’s parents would drop us off at the theater and we would sit through two Westerns and a dozen cartoons, passing boxes of jujubes and milk duds up and down the row.

Essay: Fences and Neighbors

Jul 3, 2020


Our neighbors have put a fence around their yard. They have a good reason, wanting to protect their toddler from wandering into the street.


Jun 26, 2020

When my daughter was a baby, everyone remarked that she looked just like her father—which  annoyed me even if it was true.  Then, as Sara got older, people observed that she looked just like me.  I was delighted but Sara was not. “I don’t want to look like you,” she said.  “I want to look like me.”

Essay: Change of Perspective

Jun 19, 2020

When I was young, my parents showed me photos of themselves when they were young and I would laugh and shake my head.  How old-fashioned they looked!  My mother’s hair with its elaborate artificial waves, her hats and gloves and fancy dresses.  My father’s three-piece suits with striped ties and the classic fedora that he wore everywhere—except indoors.


Essay: Boy on a Swing

Jun 12, 2020

I walk by a school and see a boy on a swing.  Not a little boy but a young man of about sixteen, swinging in broad arcs—up and down, up and down.  He is all by himself on the playground and I wonder what has prompted him to get back on a swing.  Then I remember that I did the same thing, not so long ago.

I wanted to feel it again, the soaring magic of tilting up into the sky, of leaning back and pumping myself higher and higher until I am sure I’ll go right over the top.  Until I am sure I will catapult myself onto a cloud.  

Essay: Adagio Power

Jun 5, 2020

I am stirring onions in a frying pan when I hear a piece of music on the radio.  It has a brooding, soaring melody that seems to express all the joy and sorrow I have ever felt.


Turning off the onions, I sit down at my kitchen table to listen, convinced that this music has the power to change my life, to supply all the missing pieces, to redeem the losses and renew the dreams.

And I am poised with pencil and paper to get the title and composer:  “Adagio for Strings,” the announcer says, “by Samuel Barber.”

Essay: Glimmer of Hope

May 29, 2020

Somewhere in the midst of the pandemic, the local newspaper published a survey, asking readers what they were missing most—things like restaurants, bars, theaters, barbershops.  Nowhere on the list was what I missed most:  my local library.



Sure, I wish I could stop in at J&S Hamburg or Sleder’s Tavern.  And even more, I wish I could get a haircut.  But if I had to choose, I’d rather have a book.

Essay: Yoga Teacher

May 22, 2020

When I walk into my yoga class, I notice that there’s a different teacher and I’m immediately upset.  Where is our regular instructor?  Who is this substitute?  Why weren’t we told?  Maybe I should just leave.



The new instructor introduces herself as Laura and offers no explanation.  Instead, she invites us to sit cross-legged on our mats and center ourselves.  Center myself?  Impossible!  I’m churning with irritation.

Essay: Windbreaker

May 8, 2020

Many years ago, my husband gave me a blue nylon windbreaker—very simple and lightweight, with side pockets and a hood.  I loved that jacket and wore it everywhere—jogging, camping, canoeing, and just hanging out on the back porch.  I had washed it a hundred times and it always came out looking like new.

Essay: No Regrets

May 8, 2020

It was long ago now, but I remember it vividly because I still use her advice.  I was taking a workshop on “Assertiveness Training” and the instructor was talking about saying no.

“Let’s suppose your neighbor asks you to watch her kids tomorrow and you can’t do it or don’t want to do it.”  Everyone in the class nodded; we were all women and we’d all been in this situation before, either asking or answering.

Essay: Laughing Buddha

Apr 24, 2020

My mother had a lovely vanity table with a three-way mirror and fancy bottles of perfume and a little dish where she kept her diamond ring.  At the edge of all this elegance stood a small wooden statue of the Laughing Buddha.  



Essay: Helping Eddie

Apr 17, 2020

Fresh out of college, I took a job teaching eighth grade English.  One of my classes was a group of students who were struggling, academically and socially—and I quickly discovered I was not prepared for this challenge.      


Essay: Exactly As It Should Be

Apr 10, 2020

You’d never mistake U. S. 31 South for the scenic route.  It’s as ugly as its name and U.S. 31 North isn’t a lot better.  Still, this is the highway you have to take to get to Traverse City—unless you know the area and can slip in on some side road.


Essay: Brownie

Apr 3, 2020

I am picking out something to eat in a coffee shop when my eyes linger on a plate of  brownies.  

“The mocha frosting is to die for,” the salesperson says. 

Essay: Uneventfulness

Mar 27, 2020

Several years ago, I heard a woman give a talk about a trip to Greenland where she lived with theInuit people, traveled by dog sled, ate raw seal meat. It wasn’t the kind of vacation most of us would choose—but for her, it was life-changing.

Essay: Change of Attitude

Mar 20, 2020

I am sitting in my car waiting for the light to change so I can turn right.  It’s a long light and I have a short fuse, feeling irritable and impatient.


Essay: At My Worst

Mar 13, 2020

This morning I’m driving my daughter to a dentist appointment and she complains about everything—the weather, the traffic, the bagel she had for breakfast.  Neither of us talks about what’s really bothering her, of course. Her private worries about the dentist.  



Essay: Taking a Fall

Mar 6, 2020

I was walking downtown to meet a friend for lunch and tried to kick a chunk of ice off the sidewalk.  The ice didn’t budge but I fell straight down onto the concrete, cursing my stupidity. Slowly, I sat up and felt my forehead, seeing my hand covered with blood.


My husband and I are playing Monopoly with our granddaughter, Emmy. She’s 11 years old and loves the game, although she rarely wins.

Essay: On the playground

Feb 20, 2020

I live near Traverse City’s Central Grade School and whenever I pass the playground during recess, I can’t help but marvel at the noise.  There is almost constant screaming—but not unhappy screaming.  These are young kids having fun

Essay: Soul Mates

Feb 20, 2020

My good friend Kay has been asked to do a reading at her granddaughter’s wedding.  She sent me the passage which is from a popular novel called “The Alchemist.”



Essay: Mind and Body

Feb 20, 2020

When I was young and single, I lived in Chicago for a few years and worked in an office downtown.  Every day at noon, I grabbed my book and my lunch and found a place where I could read and eat.



Essay: Gift Box

Jan 23, 2020


Essay: Bad Boss

Dec 27, 2019

He might have been the worst boss I ever had. I’ll call him Roy and he could have been a giftedleader.