Building My Wings on the Way Down

“My gosh, if you’re going away, we got a million things to talk about! All the things we would’ve talked about next month, the month after! Praying mantises, zeppelins, acrobats, sword swallowers!”

I’ve been teary off and on all day, since the announcement came that we’ve lost Ray Bradbury. He was 91; that’s longer than a lot of people get, maybe even longer than most people get these days. His writing career spanned seventy years. Nearly eighty, if you consider he started putting pen to paper when he was twelve.

In every interview with him I’ve read, he talked about how much he loved imagining things. He wrote with enthusiasm and joy and love, and that’s what I want to do, too.

I don’t remember when I picked up Dandelion Wine, or even why I chose it over, say, The Martian Chronicles or Fahrenheit 451. I know I was expecting science fiction elements, or maybe a bit of horror — this was the man who’d written “There Will Come Soft Rains,” after all, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Instead I got a story about summer in a small town, in an era that was over long before I came along.

And oh, how I loved it. Every word.

He wept the night man walked on the moon. Watch this video, in which Mr. Bradbury addressed NASA’s JPL team on the fifth anniversary of the Mars Rovers. He starts speaking at around the 33 minute mark. Forty years after the moon landing, he still got choked up:

I love him for that; I know the feeling.

So thank you, Ray Bradbury, for all the wonderful words. For capturing the chill of autumn and the summer’s languid heat. Thank you for pouring life and love and curiosity and joy onto the page, and sharing those stories with us.

“I want to feel all there is to feel, he thought. Let me feel tired, now, let me feel tired. I mustn’t forget, I’m alive, I know I’m alive, I mustn’t forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that.” — Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

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