I remember being shocked when I found out that he was dead. My girlfriend or sort-of girlfriend or whatever you want to call her at the time had recently rekindled a love of reading within me and I had just finished The Illustrated Man no more than three days earlier. We were sitting on a small patch of grass in a courtyard encircled by Girvetz Hall on a brown and orange tapestry I brought back from Africa underneath the warm sun that shone down on the University of California, Santa Barbara. Not a cloud was in the sky and after she had told me that he was gone, I laid down and gazed up through the leaves of a growing oak tree that shielded my eyes from the sun and thought of the day before when I had seen through a special telescope the transit of Venus which for those of you who may never have the pleasure of seeing is when once in a century, us earthlings get to witness Venus crossing over the sun. It reminded me of a story in The Illustrated Man where a group of space travelers wander aimlessly on the ceaselessly rainy, constantly gloomy planet of Venus in search of the sun dome. There is no sun visible from Venus, and each astronaut slowly goes insane until only one is left. He reaches the sun dome and everything; all his worries and insecurities and feelings of helplessness vanish. It smells like home and it is warm and there is hot chocolate and the familiar light of the sun within the dome makes him happy.
I guess when someone dies you have to be positive. You have to hope that they lived a fulfilled and happy life and that when it was their time to go they were ready and satisfied with everything they had done up until that point. I guess that’s why I like to think that he saw the transit of Venus and he smiled and then when he felt himself passing along, he saw the beautiful, full sun as I did on that gorgeous Wednesday morning and felt at home and ready in his own sun dome.
By some act of luck or fate or maybe his own feeling that it would soon be his time to pass, Ray Bradbury published a piece in The New Yorker entitled “Take Me Home” only a few days before his death. There I learned that he too had people he looked up to, that he admired and who inspired him; to read, to write and to imagine, and that without those influences, the rest of us may never have had the pleasure of reading The Martian Chronicles or The Illustrated Man.
And I guess that all a really great writer can hope for is to inspire others to do the same, to write well and often and from the heart. And if this is any indication I guess Mr. Bradbury did that to me, and so for that I am eternally grateful. He’ll never know, but he left quite an impact on me, which is a bit strange to me considering I loathed reading Fahrenheit451 when I was forced to in High School. But as with most things in life, when you find something you truly love, like a book or a girl or an unforgettable sunrise, something that has a profound impact on you, you don’t forget it. And when it’s gone and though you’re sad, you’ll never forget it because you can’t. It will always be there, it will always remain deep down, securing a truly meaningful place within.