“Make haste to live.
Oh god, yes.
Live, and write, with great haste.”
- Ray Bradbury
Like fingerprints forever preserved in the glazed surface of a clay statue, so the imprints of those who molded us into who we are today remain to remind us of our shaping. Should we ever falter or question our path, we need only retrace those whorls and arches. No matter how long we may be separated from those who touched us, their marks will never fade.
I was very young the first time I watched The Halloween Tree. To a child who had never traveled far from her home among cedar trees and rocky shores, the vivid animation of Hannah-Barbara brought Halloween’s ancient history to life in a burst of dark glory and burned into my mind images of candlelit Mexican graveyards, dusty Egyptian tombs, and the great jagged shadow of Notre Dame rising to block out the moon. I longed to sew a kite of nightmare animals myself and sail to the dark lands beyond, to hunt down forgotten gods and breathe the cold night air of Hallows’ Eves past.
In short, Ray Bradbury reached out and lit the unquenchable spark of creation in my chest just as, so many years before, a magician touched a sword to young Ray’s forehead and cried “live forever!” No other writer has ever inspired such passion in me, nor comforted me when I felt cast adrift in a sea of words without a companion in sight. When I felt myself the only one, I found in his work a kindred soul, someone who understood me fifty years before I was even born. Questioning my purpose, my skill, my very devotion to the craft, I had only to open any book of his to any page and find him speaking straight to me, urging me ever onward to greater heights. Bradbury taught me to write like I would stop breathing if I put the pen down; like I would drown in the words if I didn’t spill them onto the page. I lived through his work, and in turn mine burst to life.
Today is not for mourning. If Bradbury taught us anything, it is that death is not to be feared, nor is it ever truly the end. We are preserved in our words, our deeds, in the way we touch and shape others. The influence Bradbury had on so many writers, artists, dreamers, and creators will continue to spread like ripples ever outward. May we be for even one person in our lives what he was for so many generations during his. “Make haste to live,” Bradbury wrote. “Oh god, yes. Live, and write, with great haste.” Ever since I read those words, nearly weeping at the pure beauty and drive of their command, I have strove to live up to Bradbury’s ideal. I lose myself in the rush of words, the thrill of creation. I reach out to other writers and creators like myself to share experiences, trials and tribulations, painful lessons and glorious triumphs. Bradbury kindled this flame within me and in his honor I can only endeavor to use this flame to light another’s. I will not mourn him; I will continue his legacy.
To close, I’d like to share what is for me one of Ray Bradbury’s most influential passages. Although I cherish so many of his works, especially The October Country and Dandelion Wine, The Halloween Tree will always hold a special place in my heart. That book introduced me to the man who would come to shape not only my writing, but my life as a whole. The passage below itself helped inspire the solstice mythology which has since defined the very nature of Tanim and Daren, my most precious creations. For that alone, and for so much more, I am eternally grateful and in awe of Bradbury and the incredible impact he has had on me.
Rest in peace, Ray. You’ve achieved true immortality through your words, and the world of literature owes you an incredible debt of gratitude. There will never be another like you.
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The boys raced down the linen path in Egyptian darkness.
“Watch for murder, boys, murder!”
The pillars on both sides of the rushing boys flashed to life. Pictures shivered and moved.
The golden Sun was on every pillar.
But it was a Sun with arms and legs, bound tight with mummy wrappings.
A dark creature struck the Sun one dreadful blow.
The Sun died. Its fires went out.
The boys ran blind in darkness.
Yeah, thought Tom, running, sure, I mean, I think, every night, the Sun dies. Going to sleep, I wonder, will it come back? Tomorrow, will it still be dead?
The boys ran. On new pillars dead-ahead, the Sun appeared again, burning out of eclipse.
Swell! thought Tom. That’s it! Sunrise!
But just as quickly, the Sun was murdered again. On each pillar they raced by, the Sun died in Autumn and was buried in cold Winter.
Middle of December, thought Tom, I often think: the Sun’ll never come back! Winter will go on forever! This time the Sun is really dead!
But as the boys slowed at the end of the long corridor, the Sun was reborn. Spring arrived with golden horns. Light filled the corridor with pure fire.
The strange God stood burning on every wall, his face a grand fire of triumph, wrapped in golden ribbons.
“Why, heck, I know who that is!” panted Henry-Hank. “Saw him in a movie once with terrible Egyptian mummies!”
“Osiris!” said Tom.
“Yesssssssss…” hissed Moundshroud’s voice from the deep tombs. “Lesson Number One on Halloween. Osiris, Son of the Earth and Sky, killed each night by his brother Darkness. Osiris slain by Autumn, murdered by his own night blood.
So it goes in every country, boys. Each has its own death festival, having to do with seasons. Skulls and bones, boys, skeletons and ghosts. In Egypt, lads, see the Death of Osiris, King of the Dead. Gaze long.”
The boys gazed.
–The Halloween Tree, Ray Bradbury