By Rhea Miller
Special to the Weekly
Around a campfire on the bluff at Odlin Park in 1976, a young man courted a young woman with his guitar and folk songs, which they sang together. This was Carol and Al’s first introduction to Lopez Island. That same year they bought 10 acres of land overlooking Hummel Lake and started building a tent platform on weekends and holidays. In June of the following year, they moved into an 18 by 52-foot green army tent with a parachute liner.
For the next four years they raised four kids, 6 through 12 years of age, without electricity or running water. Old-time islander Jerry Graham brought in his sawmill and milled boards from downed trees for their house. Bit by bit they built home with the help of Hugh Lawrence and other dear friends.
They have adult children and grandchildren on the island, nearby in Anacortes, in Winthrop and just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. According to Carol’s son Scott, a carpenter living on Lopez with his wife Janet and two children, “To us, as children, living in a tent wasn’t a burden.
I was able to venture into my backyard and climb trees. I raised animals and felt as free as I can imagine a child feeling. Morning chores, like breaking the ice on the drinking water buckets and filling the lamps with kerosene, contrasted sharply to the life I had led for 11 years in the city turning faucets and flipping switches. Herding goats, riding horses and hauling hay were all daily activities in my life. I was born into a family of dreamers and doers.”
Today, Carol and Al have a spacious five bedroom home, complete with a large vegetable, herb and flower garden, an unheated glass greenhouse for starts and tomatoes as well as a small orchard of apple, plum, pear, cherry and peach trees. Raspberries, strawberries, kiwis and grapes round out the food sources on the land. There is always a bountiful repast at their dinner table where they share gratitudes as a normal dinner ritual.
Al worked for 25 years with the Lopez School District as a bus driver and custodian. Thirty-eight years later Al is still singing, most recently with Chicken Biscuit, which usually appears at fundraisers for the local radio station KLOI. Despite the fact that Carol commuted for 22 years in a career at Catholic Community Services in Everett, Wash., she became heavily involved in the Lopez Community.
Carol created Lopez Community Theatre in the early 80’s with the production of “The Crucible.” She has since directed fifteen productions, including the Wizard of Oz and the Grapes of Wrath.
Carol served on the school Board, and was very active in the starting of the ARC program (alternative classroom program) at the elementary school.
She served as a founding member and chairperson of the board of Lopez Community Land Trust, and continues to serve on the county’s housing advisory board. She has housed dozens of interns for Lopez Community Land Trust over the years. She was the prime mover in the establishment of KLOI, and produced the radio show “Kitchen Table Wisdom.” She served as chairwoman of its board for several years. Currently, she serves as volunteer coordinator at the Lopez Dump.
Carol and Al host the annual Juggle Fest in their home that has inspired many a young person, and taught them new skills. They have taken single mothers, new widows, and difficult teenagers into their home, giving them a safe, nurturing environment. Al often is head cook of the household, including fresh bread baked weekly and tasty granola. Because Carol has limited mobility, she is particularly grateful for the steadfast support of her partner Al Lorenzen to do the work that inspires her. They are a team. Al and Carol have created a place where people, young and old, sit and discuss their lives. They have made their home a sanctuary for those who need it. The motto that hangs over the woodstove at their Hummel House states: Bien Faire et Laisser Dire – Good Work Speaks for Itself. Nothing could be truer of their own lives.