I’ve walked with you through so many ages, smelled the odors of countless alien winds on a multiplicity of worlds, braved the frights of ghouls and felt summer suns shine on youth benign. Being a child with limited access to thoughts and Ideas (yes, Ideas with a capital I)- discovering your words was like being pulled from a turbulent sea, a sea lacking love or light or human virtue. Back on dry land I voraciously devoured your words-pulling your books from any thrift store stack, front yard sale or throwaway alley pile. Had I ever been to Mars? Had I ever witnessed a Wisconsin summer? Had I ever walked hand and hand with ancients; regaled by their own ancient mysteries- as told through you? Yes, now I have. My sleeping, dreaming, waking thoughts subsumed into literary languor.
I aged, exposed to so many things, a world shaped in hands both sure and pure. Christ, the Buddha, Sagan, men giving me the message of love eternal, a world without war and filled with charity, a universe made for man to contemplate. I filled with light, a love of the universe and science, of words and meanings, of art and truth. Still you spoke to me. And we met.
As I walked down corridors of dusty tomes and orange crate shelves-breathing in not decay but the snows of memories, the fall of word leaves in their autumns crisp and never fading-I saw you there. Your head silvered by decades, large, ruddy, a human being yet more than that.
What do you say to your hero, the man who pulled you out of insecurity and horror? He who breathed life back into a nearly dead vessel? I stopped, heart racing-staring no doubt rudely, at him. “Mr. Bradbury?” Feeble first contact words, “Are you Ray Bradbury?” stupid insecurity coming back-“Yes?” his reply. What now, what else now that I have the chance to tell him, tell him all I have been longing to say? “I really love your books-I’m a huge fan.” I can believe that’s what I told him! My one chance, wasted.
“Thank you young man…make sure you keep reading.” His less than verbose response.
“Make sure you keep reading?” What does that mean?
He left, no more words reserved for a young whelp that can’t even phrase a statement without choking. I walked on to step outside, my city breathing in California sea air and exhaling smog; myself perplexed. Asking over and over, “What does that mean?” Is it a straight forward extolment? Should I read more into it that just keep reading? Why could this cosmic poet not have had more beauty to his words?
Now, years later, I think I understand. Keep reading. Keep your mind sharp, your ears open for cadence, for whispers blown across now calmed seas. Keep your head up and eyes open. Face the world without fear and accept the truth of life:
As long as you live, you learn. As long as you learn, you live. Keep reading.