With the grief came memories of the wonderful times I shared with Adrina as her teacher for six years. I remember the first documentary she produced on the Underground Railroad in junior high and how she seemed smitten on film at that very moment. We did a lot of hokey things in those days to achieve film effects. To create the illusion of slaves running through the forest, I rolled down my car window on the Old Edgerton, positioned the camera on the door and drove, capturing the rush of trees as they fluttered by. It was certainly not the worst effect we created as neophyte film producers. In the credits, Adrina even thanked my Old Dodge Ram 50 for its service to the cause.
Adrina went on to co-produce a documentary about the Barrow Duck-in, the 1961 protest of federal hunting laws by Barrow duck hunters. This documentary won the state History Day competition and took Adrina to Washington D.C. On my wall I have the picture I just referred to of her and her dear friend Dana Betts.
Adrina had a poetic touch when it came to film. I remember asking her to put together the Social Life section of “Bonanza: The Story of Kennecott,” and when it came time for our trip to the mine, she had everything ready: script, cue cards, costumes and a vision of what she wanted to achieve. She was a born organizer, one of those rare people who could take stock of the resources, form a vision, and figure out a way to make it reality. Her Social Life chapter is still my favorite section in the documentary. Adrina went on produce “Stampede: The Story of the 1898 Valdez Gold Rush.” As always, Adrina handled that challenging task with grace, composure and artistry. It was a joy watching her work with the other students when filming. She took charge, telling the students where to stand, what to say, and how to say it with expression.
Adrina went on to use film as a vehicle for exploring her passions. She produced a short documentary on the battle against AIDS in Africa, which I think helped shape her commitment to use film for social good. She produced an award-winning film on Martha Graham, the great American dancer. Martha was a bit unorthodox, perhaps a bit clumsy, but yet she danced. At the end of the documentary Adrina could very well have been talking about herself when she said this: “Martha Graham was an individual in history because she did not give up; she followed her dreams, she pursued them; she worked hard; she had passion. She was an individual because she stepped out of her box, and created a stage of her own.” One could say those very words about Adrina.
But perhaps Adrina’s greatest Opus had nothing to do with film: During Adrina’s senior year, and I’m not really sure how it happened, but a cold wall formed between us. These things sometimes happen when you are a teacher, and they just linger on, but not with Adrina. One year later she sent me a letter, saying she was sorry for what had happened and thanking me for inspiring her as a teacher. She took it upon herself to remove the wall of bitterness. Her example proved what we all know instinctively -- that life is too short to hold a grudge. If we really want to honor Adrina, we should remember her courage and emulate it. We should rake our hearts of bitterness, go up to a person who we are not on the best of terms with and say, “I know there are hard feelings between us, and I am sorry. It is wrong to feel this, and life is too short to continue on this way.” In Colossians 3:13, it says we should “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
We could honor Adrina through this action, and we know it would make the world a better place, and it would make us better people. But do we have the courage to do it? Life is too short to dwell in bitterness.
I will never forget her passion for life, her willingness to take chances, to live on the edge. I will never forget trying to teach her to act like the mildly insane Sir Toby Belch when we performed Twelfth Night, or how to play Bottom, a character transformed into a donkey, in a Midsummer Night’s Dream.
At 21, it seems that Adrina had an unfinished life, like a fireweed cut before it fully bloomed. But in a world where so many people define success as a number in a bank account, Adrina recaptured that independent Alaska spirit that I believe came from her grandparents, her family, and the beautiful homestead on which she lived. She was not preoccupied with the making of a living; she was focused on making a life.
Adrina loved deeply; she laughed constantly; she was passionate, forgiving, eccentric, all of which were held together by her wild, yet gentle Alaskan spirit. Her life certainly seemed unfinished, until you realize that when she threw her nets onto the water, she captured so much of what is good, so much life. We should all be so lucky. She understood what many of us take a lifetime trying to figure out: it’s the memories, the human connections, the passionate pursuit of art and truth, and the love we have for each other and God – that matter most.
Adrina’s showed us the importance of following our dreams, to do what we do with passion and a forgiving heart. When the troubles in this world became too much, Adrina adapted the best way she knew how. She stepped out of her box, and created a stage of her own.
And then, she danced… She really danced.