Ambition

I went to the island just because. I know it’s kind of expected that I have a reason, and then I tell you about it, and then you can judge the rest of what I’m going to tell you by what I wanted in the first place. I know that’s how this usually works.

But I don’t know why I went. I mean, I probably did have a reason… I liked the peace and quiet. I liked to get away from the city, and I didn’t have a car, so my options were pretty limited. There were definitely things I liked about the place.

But I still don’t know exactly why I went. Sometimes I took music out there, and sometimes I didn’t. And sometimes I needed to relax and reset, and sometimes I was already feeling fine. And because I was feeling fine, I wanted to get out on the island where I could feel even finer.

I’ll tell you why I stopped going to the island. That was a clear reason and so you’ll like to hear that. And you can decide if it’s a good reason or not.

I had bought a canoe just to get out there. I always pulled it up into the bushes to keep it hidden when I had gotten back. It was often a fair bit of work, but I figured it would just get stolen if I didn’t hide it away.

So, I pulled the thing out of the bushes and dragged it carefully down to the water’s edge. I was always worried that while I was dragging it, I’d put a hole in it. I never did though, and the thing always floated fine. Thank God.

Then I made sure my life jacket was on right, and pushed out from the shore. The lifejacket was pretty old, but I hoped it was still going to be able to do the job if it needed to. I’d never fallen in yet, and wearing the thing was more about checking boxes than actually being careful.

I paddled out to the island. The current always tried to carry me past, but I had learned when to fight it, and how to make sure that I actually got where I was going.

It sat toward the south bank of the river that ran through the city. It was a small patch of land, too small to develop, and so it had just stayed pristine while the city went up around it. It was covered in poplars and pines, and gave me plenty of places to pull the boat up. Obviously, the thing wasn’t going to get stolen over there, so I just made sure it was high enough not to float away, and didn’t bother trying to hide it.

Then I would just find a spot to sit. Sometimes I would sit so I could see all the condos on the south bank of the river. And sometimes I sat in the middle of the island so all I could see were trees. Either way, it always made me feel calm. It was a bit of work to get out there, but it seemed worth it.

On that day there was a beaver. The first thing I saw was some stumps that had been gnawed on. And then I saw his paddle-shaped tail disappear into the water.

I didn’t know what he was doing out there. There was no way he could dam that river. I don’t know how deep it is, but it’s gotta be a couple hundred feet across.

And also, I was a little mad that he was chewing down my trees. It was getting kind of hard to even find trees, and the last thing I needed was to lose these ones just for a crazy attempt at damming that river.

But then I realized there wasn’t much of anything I could do to stop him anyway, so I might as well get on board with it. If the beaver wanted to try to dam that river, he could give it a try. It was nuts, but I wasn’t going to get in his way.

So, for a month or so, I kept coming out to see how he was getting on. He kept chewing further and further into the forest, and other than a little bit of wood sprouting from the island, it never looked like he was getting anywhere with it.

And then I couldn’t get out there for a few weeks, and I didn’t come back until it was starting to get cold. All the trees looked fine, and it didn’t look like he’d taken any more. And the dam was still just a few logs sticking out from the shore into the river.

I liked having the trees to myself again, and not having anymore get chewed, but I wondered where he’d gone. I looked around for him, but I couldn’t find him.

I went out for the last time that summer in October. There were still no new trees down, and even that little bit of dam had floated away. It seemed pretty clear that he just wasn’t there anymore.

And the next spring I didn’t go back. Over the winter I’d thought about it, and I knew that every time I looked at those stumps, I’d remember him and his failure. And that’s why I didn’t go back. I knew that he’d probably moved on, found himself a smaller stream to dam and just didn’t think about it anymore.

And so, I’d get hung up on it for him. I’ve never been too good at getting over stuff, but that was the first time that I’d taken somebody else’s failure to get hung up on. It seemed like someone should and even he didn’t. So I did it myself.

Share