Tuesday, November 8, 2011

buen camino (and a thank-you to Emilio Estevez)

A few weeks ago, I went to see a film called The Way, starring Martin Sheen and written and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez, and haven't stopped thinking about it since.

Sheen plays an American father named Tom who, under tragic and unexpected circumstances, embarks on the Camino de Santiago, also known as "The Way of Saint James." And, of course, what he finds along the journey is also beyond his expectations.

I'm being deliberately vague in my description of the film. This is one of those times where I want to give nothing away. I want you to come to the journey as ill-prepared as Tom.

I had to wait at least a week before The Way came to a theater near me. When I was on Long Island two weeks ago, I tried to find a theater close enough so I could take my mother to see it, but we had no luck. I was disappointed; I knew she would be as profoundly moved by the film as I was, and I so wanted to share the moment with her in person.

The Way contains no CGI. There are no explosions, no vampires, and no American heartthrobs. No sex, no guns, and no killing. You can see why Hollywood wanted nothing to do with this film. This is also not a religious film. But there is death, there is love, there is hope, and there is the journey. Not to mention the scenery. The scenery alone is worth it.

Last night I had the opportunity (and honor) to speak with Emilio Estevez via a "fan phone chat" thanks to a contest posted on the Facebook page The Way The Movie (Go there. Click "Like". Now. Please.) Because there were many in line to speak with him, we were each allowed only one question. However, we were able to listen in on his conversations with the other lucky callers while we awaited our turn.

A friend of mine on Facebook remarked how cool it was that I was about to talk to a celebrity. But when the call ended, I realized that was not the case. I hadn't talked to a celebrity. Kim Kardashian is a celebrity. Justin Bieber is a celebrity. No, I had conversed with an actor, writer, and director. Better yet, a fellow storyteller. We talked about writing, and there was a moment when Emilio spoke about writer's block ("as I'm sure you know all about," he said; oh dear God, yes) when I knew I was talking to a kindred spirit. In fact, I was nodding my head throughout the entire conversation, and not just the one he had with me.

All that was great. But that's not what inspired me to write this post.

For the last few months, I've been going to a park near me with a walking path, three to four times a week, and completing anywhere from three to five miles in one stretch. Lately I've been feeling somewhat like Tom--frustrated, fearful, head down, eyes in front. I've had my iPod Shuffle on, yet my mind has been a one-track-thought, looping incessantly.

This morning was no different. Despite having a great night, I woke up deflated. I walked head down, music on, frustrated, fearful, the whole nine yards. Interestingly, I had forgotten to put on both my watch and pedometer (two days before that I'd forgotten to bring my water bottle, to give you an idea of how distracted I've been lately).

At some point I started to replay not just my conversation with Emilio, but some of the other conversations I'd listened to. I thought about some of the things he said (and I'm paraphrasing, at best):
"I'm interested in making films that are uplifting, that feed the soul."
"I'm still on the journey. I get to re-live it every day by hearing all of your stories and experiences."
"I'm a storyteller."

And then it hit me: I'm on the Camino. Right now.

I turned off my iPod and started listening to the ducks quacking, the leaves rustling, the other walkers chatting while their dogs explored. I took notice of how beautiful the foliage is (it's piquing here in North Carolina), how the sun was dappling on the water, streaming between the branches. I exchanged friendly hellos with other walkers.

And sure enough, the fears and frustrations melted away. I found myself mentally composing again: Ideas for the novel-in-progress (the protagonist is a screenwriter, after all--what kind of movies does he want to make?). Ideas for this blog post. Solutions rather than problems. I even remembered a scene from Ordinary World, when Andi begins to write a novel about two travelers on the Appalachian Trail. Her working title was called Walking. Maybe she was on to something. Or maybe I was when I wrote it.

As writers and storytellers, we're all on the journey. Writers so often walk in solitude. But we need that connection with others to make it from place to place. And not just writers. We all do.

That path in the park I go to may not be the Camino de Santiago, but miracles can happen there. And for seventy to ninety minutes, I can walk. Reflect. Heal. Just be. The path is a circle. I don't have to "get" anywhere.

It's not even about the walking. It's about the journey. It's about the way.

Find a theater. Travel, if you must. Go see this film. Tell your friends about it. Spread the word. Then find your own path.

Thank you, Emilio, for making this film.

Buen Camino!


Heather Grace Stewart said...

"Writers so often walk in solitude. But we need that connection with others to make it from place to place."

Absolutely. It's what gets me through all the rough times. I'm so thankful for my connection to you.

I loved this blog post. Just loved it. Thanks Leese, and keep on walking this path - you're on the right on!

Heather Grace Stewart said...

The right one. Can you fix that typo? Laugh.

Fenny said...

Before I went to NY, I told one of the staff at work I was going and why. He'd seen The Way back in May when it opened here (and was so much more excited about my trip than I was!). He said one of his friends was walking the Camino at that moment. He also said "It starts where we are, not on the start line."

Basically, we're all walking our own Camino and until we realise why, like Tom, we're doing it for reasons we don't understand.

Whether we walk alone or with others, there's somebody there for us to connect with when we need it.

janmilitello said...

"Writers so often walk in solitude. But we need that connection with others to make it from place to place."

You've expressed, so well, one of the many reasons we writers feel such a strong connection to this film.

Larry said...

I haven't seen it yet. But I am inspired by this post. I've been dragging a bit recently. I am going to get started now.


alexisspencerbyers said...

Elisa, thanks so much for these beautiful words of encouragement! I'm planning to see the movie later this week--in the meantime, I'll content myself with being grateful for all the really amazing people with whom my own meandering road has connected me. To the journey!

Katherine Owen said...

What an inspiring post~thank you! I've always been an Emilio Estevez fan. It's comforting to hear that others with so many accomplishments encounter the absurd doubt and even writer's block. Wow. It makes me feel better, perhaps, even ordinary and human. Thank you!

Katherine Owen

Elspeth Antonelli said...

This is a wise post, Elisa. Well done. I'll carry it with me as I continue on my own journey.

Danielle Monie said...

Thanks for writing this, Elisa. I really want to see this film. I love that Emilio is out there, wanting to create things that feed the soul. How refreshing.

becky said...

Nice post, Elisa.
Saw you on FB, "The Way" page & thought I'd come over for a visit! :)
I've seen the film... it was most excellent, I may have to see it again... and I don't do that often. I personally feel it's destined to become a classic. People really need to see this film!
Films "that feed the soul..." I think we can all use a little more soul feeding, especially in these crazy times, don't you?
Good luck on your journey...

Elisa said...

WOW! Thank you for all your comments! And thank you, Becky, for stopping by. Best to you on your journey as well.

I'm truly touched by the response.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had the chance to see The Way yet but now I will make a true effort . I have been dragging the last couple of years and the only thing that has shown me some joy has been in the sandbox. While I think the internet does isolate people, I feel a true kinship with the 'boxers. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Beautiful post, Elisa. A reminder why I enjoy your books so much.

Anonymous said...

That last post was from me. Sheesh.

Pam Purtle

Mary S said...

I was blessed to see a preview of the film in Chicago. Loved it, look forward to seeing it again. But how can you say "no heartthrobs" ? Emilio? Martin? They work for me, and have for some time now!

Very nice blog!

Elisa said...

Mary, that's an excellent point with the heartthrobs -- I stand corrected! I should've said, no twenty-something, Hollywood manufactured heartthrobs.

ToniRaki said...

Lovely post. Perhaps I should learn or to how to write and eventually how to publish. Being a writer is such a beautiful profession. I have watched [again] the movie, Becoming Jane. The film doesn't fail to inspire. I think the effect is the same with 'The Way'.