He is running through a green summer field right now, his nostrils full of grass and summer and magic. Now he is called back to the eternal golden summer and in the here, he will live forever in our hearts and minds until we too are called home. And our children, and our children's children, and their children's children, forever.
The eternal boy, Ray Bradbury, is gone in his body. He already put his spirit on so many pages, speaking so truthfully to us, of the best we are, of our dreams, our hopes, and the worst we are as well -- our terrible fears and frailties. Those pages will live forever.
Mr. Electrico told him in a dream: "Live forever!" And indeed, the old magician was right.
This picture is as I remember him. It was so long ago, these horn-rimmed glasses were not "uncool." He was . . .
Mr. Electrico. He spoke at many schools and libraries over the years, and three times that I know of, at the A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands. It was there I heard him, and I think I was even a bit younger than the boy Ray Bradbury who heard the charge from Mr. Electrico and was touched by his sword in a dream, ordered to "Live forever!"
People like me don't really think about living forever. But little girls like me could hear Ray Bradbury's eloquence, and could think, I think about magic and summer and dreams! I want to go to outer space! I could . . . I could . . . I could imagine things too.
Everything I've ever written is because of Ray Bradbury. Because I heard him speak at the Redlands library, three times. I had already decided at age 6 to "be a writer." Ray Bradbury was the first real writer I ever saw in person. I shall never know a better one.
And then, of course, the stories. Those strange, disaffected men on Mars. The eldritch Martians! Books, burned, and heroes saving them. What sort of terrible people would burn books? The worst.
And the Illustrated Man. The circus. The smell of summer, and Douglas and magic and wonder . . . and that strange, lonely creature who fell in love with the fog horn - the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.
Today I learned: Douglas was his middle name. Well, I knew Douglas was Ray all along, even as a girl reading the stories.
As Ben Jonson wrote in eulogy to Shakespeare, whom he knew well as a man:
Thou art alive still, while thy Booke doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
It appears to be my imagination that gave Jonson the line that Shakespeare was "the most human of the great writers." Which is to say, the greatest writer of them all.
As we have grown, as our minds and imaginations have grown, so too has what it means - to be human. Oh, Waukegan, what you gave the world will live forever.
In no other way have people grown so much since Shakespeare's day as in the capacity to dream, and capacity to make real that which we dream.
So, Ray Bradbury, greatest of dreamers and great poet, and shining spirit, I say farewell to your earthly body, but must never have to say farewell to your dreams nor mine. Nor shall anyone, so long as words be writ and words be read, until the end of days.
* * * *
I hope this solves the disagreement with Russians as to "Which language is better?" So long as words be writ and words be read, in endless summer to the end of days.
* * * *
He was ice cream made with fresh cream, sugar and a vanilla bean, smooth and sleek and sweet on our tongues. He was a strong brown hand on our freckled arm: I am your friend! He was running across a field of grass forever under the summer sun. He was what we all believed when we were young and strong and loved the world. He was ever and all summer in a single day. He was Ray.