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Wendy has her say

In September, when I wrote about my pure Alaskan friend Wendy and our adventures 24 years ago, I had no idea if she was dead or alive. Wendy owned a chainsaw but not a dress.Her relentless optimism overwhelmed me. She required only opportunity, and a grubstake. In my minds eye she stands before the window in her Sitka cabin. The rain finally quits, and she spies a distant tiny patch of blue. She turns and smiles ever so faintly. Her arms arch over her head, and her fingers touch. She does a little sidestep dance routine and sings something about a beautiful day.Thats all you need to know. Sometimes its all I can remember.The other day I found her in Hawaii. After I sent her my column, she corrected me on a few points. And she wanted equal time. She wrote: I think what the reading public wants to know is, Does the gal still sing, or did time and trials destroy her spirit? Wendys reply:Time takes its toll on all mortals! I affirm I still bear some resemblance to the Wendy of Eds story. At 6 feet even, I am fairly tall, all arms and legs that may have evoked Olive Oil in some earlier incarnation. The fall of 79 was a great cosmic turning point. Ed, my short friend Mary and I caravanned south from Sitka in search of our futures. I decided there was no need to worry about a dress just yet. We carried salted black cod, a chain saw, cross country skis, guitar and fiddle, a somewhat petulant cat, and as much cold weather gear as we could stuff in the Pinto. When Ed peeled off for Colorado, we took the left turn that goes to Boston all the way to Lubec, Maine, and the frightening funnel of the Bay of Fundy. It was as far as we could reasonably go.Winter wouldnt hold off indefinitely we figured, so we fled back west to Winnemucca and then across the Black Rock to Surprise Valley home for Christmas! Im not pure Alaskan, or pure anything else. Im quarter-cowboy, quarter-schoolteacher, and about 80 percent imagination. I grew up in the Great Basin, a place you in Glenwood Springs may actually know, following my buckaroo dad and schoolteacher mom to the middle of nowhere and back again. The trail is in my blood. That is how I got to Hawaii the irresistible lure of the unknown land flowing with milk and honey. I found my man. A real tall man at 6-feet-4. We homesteaded (1980s style) on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, gave birth and succor to three children, followed the mesmerizing glint of fly fishing water to the Umpqua River of Oregon. What does it take to make Wendy settle down? Cant be done. We tried. We threw caution, and our grubstake, to the wind and moved to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Landed hard on a humid, subtropical lava plain, bought an acre off-power and started building a house. Twelve years later two of three kids are grown and gone. The house is unfinished. I sing the sun into the sky each morning, put on a sleeveless flowered dress and go teach children (who have never seen the very large island we call America) about journeys of discovery. Were socking away a new grubstake and planning our escape. What other end could this story have? None. Its going to be a beautiful day! Wendy Schaefer is a member of the Ola`a First Hawaiian Congregational Church and a founder of the Hawaii Academy of Arts & Science Public Charter School in Pahoa, Hawaii, where she teaches language arts, music, construction, and the 4-H Adventure project. She and her husband, Steve, plan to fly fish and build musical instruments when they make their escape from Polynesia.


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