Seven minutes. That’s the length of time I was able to focus on my script before boomeranging once again into my Yahoo! account. What if some unexpected job offer or a missive from someone I love, like or have passed a biz card to recently has sent me a message? How could my blasted, pain-in-the-ass, “Why did I ever even start this stupid story?” screenplay be more important than instant e-mail gratification? And so I check it again. Just one more time.
I’m not always this easily distracted, but recent events in my life have thrown me off my normal course. An excuse to spin time as I resist my destiny. Yes, you’ve probably heard it from other writers or pronounced it yourself: Writing is, sadly or gladly, my destiny.
So why do I procrastinate? Why do I want to run from the table after seven minutes and eat something, call a friend, clean my room, anything to get away from engaging in my fantasy world? If I love it so much, why not just swim in it?
Why do we ever sabotage anything we love?
One of the stumbling blocks I’ve been dealing with in this screenplay is my concern over stretching the reader’s disbelief beyond its maximum limit. Too many coincidences, I warn myself. I hate it when a movie’s plot rests on one too many accidental meetings or clues that conveniently show up for the main character at just the right moment.
Come on. Life’s a series of chaotic and random actions. Who actually believes in a universe that takes time to arrange these aforementioned actions in some meaningful order for the enlightenment, education or fulfillment of a solitary character or two?
And then, just when you’ve finally accepted that there is no rhyme or reason to life, something happens to remind you that fact is, truly, stranger than fiction.
Edwin Schiernecker came from Amsterdam in 1992 on a visit to his aunt and uncle. We met on the set of a short film, The Big Bowling Ball, and two weeks later were married; just the two of us, the minister and a bouquet of wild flowers we’d picked on the way up the mountain.
Two years later, we were divorced.
A couple months ago, I was on my daily walk when I glanced up at the deep blue sky and saw two hawks flying in unison, circling around my head. In that instant, I had a vision, a perfect little movie in my mind of my wedding with Edwin. I asked myself, “I wonder if Edwin knows how much I loved him or how much I love him still?”
Ten minutes later, on my way back home, in the exact spot where I’d had the vision, a truck pulled up and Edwin stepped out. I almost fainted. ‘What are you doing here?’ He looked at me oddly and said, “I’m visiting Sue.” I’d momentarily forgotten that our mutual friend lived across the street from where we stood.
I told Edwin about my vision and my thoughts. We expressed our love for each other and forgave each other the past. We hugged and he proudly showed me pictures of his beautiful, seven-year-old daughter.
Two months later he was in a severe motorcycle accident. He died in the hospital soon afterwards.
If I hadn’t been on my walk at that exact moment, if I hadn’t had this vision of my wedding and wondered if he knew I loved him, if he hadn’t pulled up in his truck at the very moment I was walking by, we would not have had the profound opportunity of sharing our mutual love and affinity and creating a closure to our past. And I was reminded again what a beautiful soul he was.
Yes, sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Magic occurs that stretches my disbelief and gives me permission to write events that seem divinely driven. Chaos? Yes, I do believe in the arbitrary and often painful nature of life. Mercy? Yes, I believe in the beauty and compassion inherent in the universe. How to reconcile the two? Acceptance. Forgiveness. Wonder.
For Edwin Schiernecker
September 18, 1964, Amsterdam
November 11, 2008, Los Angeles
Anne Norda is an award-winning artist, writer, director and producer with one feature, Red Is the Color Of (Best Feature Film, 2007 LA Femme Film Festival), under her belt. She was born in North Hollywood, schooled at the Parsons School of Design and was a Fulbright Scholar in photography. She’s a Finnish and U.S. citizen and has lived in Paris, Helsinki, LA, NY and Bangkok. Her dream is to run a major movie studio. Or be a Pulitzer prize-winning poet and dedicate her life to art and the transformation of humanity. Whichever may come first.