"I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done. I knew there would never be another night like this.
No one said anything. We all just looked up at the sky and we breathed out and in and we all thought the same things, but nobody said. Someone finally had to say, though, didn't they? And that one is me."
— Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
My fixation with Zen in the Art of Writing has probably spiraled out of control, into a strange place. (Not probably, clearly: after all, inspired by said book, I’m writing things like THE LAMP and THE MOUSE.)
But lately, I keep opening the book, in a desperate search for some inspiration, and keep feeling drawn back to the passage above. Out of context, it can mean anything and nothing. To give you the actual context, though: he's describing a final memory with his grandfather, lighting a fire balloon and releasing it into the sky on the Fourth of July in 1925. It's incredibly beautiful. It even inspired him to write a story called "The Fire Balloons," many years later. Bradbury also wrote about that night, and about his inspiration for the story, for The New Yorker:
But I could not let it go. It was so beautiful, with the light and shadows dancing inside. Only when Grandpa gave me a look, and a gentle nod of his head, did I at last let the balloon drift free, up past the porch, illuminating the faces of my family. It floated up above the apple trees, over the beginning-to-sleep town, and across the night among the stars.Fire balloons or no fire balloons, I'm still drawn to this idea from the passage in Zen, of sitting quietly, looking up at the sky and relishing the moment. Not sure when, if at all, to say something.
We stood watching it for at least ten minutes, until we could no longer see it. By then, tears were streaming down my face, and Grandpa, not looking at me, would at last clear his throat and shuffle his feet. The relatives would begin to go into the house or around the lawn to their houses, leaving me to brush the tears away with fingers sulfured by the firecrackers. Late that night, I dreamed the fire balloon came back and drifted by my window.
It's like how I feel about writing; how I feel, specifically, about this blog. As I've strayed from posting on this blog—even neglecting my beloved Monday Mix Tapes for months, gasp!—I found myself losing inspiration in general. After only publishing a post here and there every couple of months, it's easier to think, maybe this blog has almost run its course. I don't know. But the more you wonder when is the right moment to say something (to write, rather), the more you continue to merely sit quietly. (In my case, this means getting an idea, thinking about it, and watching Frasier instead of writing, and sharing it.)
Maybe, like many things, this blog, and what I get out of it, is just not quite what it was before. And that’s okay. Maybe it’ll just be exactly what it is. Whatever that may be. Ultimately, though, I hope to never lose the inspiration to write, and to share, however that happens. And wherever it goes on the Internet, or even if it just stays in my journal.
Would releasing a fire balloon into the night with his grandfather have remained such a poignant memory for Bradbury, had he never written about it? Probably. But luckily he shared it, so we could see, if only for a moment, the way he saw it, looking up in the Illinois sky in 1925.
I’m certainly no Ray Bradbury, but I like the idea of saying something. There may never be another night like this, after all.
Like he wrote:
“And, after all, isn’t that what life is all about, the ability to go around back and come up inside other people’s heads to look out at the damned fool miracle and say: oh, so that’s how you see it!? Well, now, I must remember that.”