“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you,” said Ray Bradbury. These words echo in my head just about daily.
Rest in peace, Ray. Thank you for these very important words of wisdom. Thank you for writing, writing, writing and inspiring me to stay drunk on words and sit in my chair and make my fingers work with my brain and…”unwind the world like a rubber band on a golf ball’s insides” on the page that sits in front of me.
Bradbury’s books have always been the kind that I swallowed up before knowing I was turning the last page. The kind that kept me up reading until the sun started stretching up above the horizon and whispering to the moon to take leave for a bit. Sometimes I would read a page, or just a paragraph – and stop – and start writing. His simple eloquence stirred up my own thoughts and urged me to pin them down before they could fade away. The pictures he painted so carefully, word by word by word, could make my pulse quicken and slow; make my heart cry for summer’s end in “Dandelion Wine.”
Bradbury was a close companion through the summer of 2011, while I was traveling, discovering the world and expanding into it, and cementing my place in the universe as a writer myself.
Bradbury came out from the Midwest and made Los Angeles his home. He wrote for the sake of writing, wrote out of love for the world and the craft and what words could become. He wrote because we needed stories, and he needed to tell them. He was self-educated and dedicated and intense – all the qualities essential to staying in love with the world. Bradbury said, “Love is the answer to everything. It’s the only reason to do anything.” And he advised: “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds.”
I can’t think any better advice on how to live than that.
And he bathed death in romance too. In “Dandelion Wine” Bradbury wrote the most beautiful description of death that’s ever been uttered, when Grandma Spaulding dies:
“A long time back, she thought, I dreamed a dream, and was enjoying it so much when someone wakened me, and that day I was born. And now? Now, let me see… She cast her mind back. Where was I? she thought. Ninety years… how to take up the thread and the pattern of that lost dream again? She put out a small hand. There… yes, that was it. She smiled. Deeper in the warm snow hill she turned her head upon her pillow. That was better. Now, yes, now she saw it shaping in her mind quietly, and with a serenity like a sea moving along an endless and self-refreshing shore. Now she let the old dream touch and lift her from the snow and drift her above the scarce-remembered bed.”
To paint death so preciously is a gift. Fortunate are we who have taken the time to read these words and weep for the elusive truths they speak.
So here’s to June dawns, July noons and August evenings… to lime vanilla ice… and here’s to you, Ray.
Read more. Write more. Write more now. Stay drunk and remember: “The sun did not rise, it overflowed.”