A couple of boys pried the Gentle Ben bear statue from its moorings in Morey Park last week. Then they left it in a ditch. Prodigious example of ingenuity and strength aside, those asshats were willing to destroy, figuratively and literally, the character created by author Walt Morey. Why are people so willing to steal beauty from the world? Hammer it out of existence, if necessary.
Walt Morey. I met him once, a white haired man, seemingly ancient to an eight year old. He slouched comfortably in the small town library, well-versed in the hub-bub of kids in love with his big bear, and his Kavik the wolf-dog, and his Sandy the cougar . . . oh, his books were worn and battered by many grimy fingers at our elementary school.
I sat cross-legged in the crowd at his feet, barely listening as he talked, imagining instead the courage it would take to talk to him, the questions I wanted to ask. I’d set my alarm an hour earlier that morning, giving myself enough time to french braid my hair, slide on white tights and a ruffly dress, a skosh too small but the only piece of clothing good enough for the god of books (I’ve acquired a pantheon of book gods since, Morey among the first). Crinkled in my be-skirted lap, I clutched my own manuscript, a twelve-page booklet filled with crayon illustrations and loopy cursive exhorting the wonders of running. I repeatedly wiped my palms on the library carpet so as not to soak the paper with sweat.
Finally, he finished. The kids jostled and jiggled and jacked around, swarming over their teachers, freed from the agony of sitting still. I sat. Walt Morey, leaning against his stool, just looked at me, not saying a word. He waited. When the room hung with silence, I creaked open my lips.
“I want to be a writer.”
Morey sighed. He crossed his arms, ran a hand through his hair. “Honey, I bet you can write. But spend most of your time reading. Reading. That’s what really counts. Then, later, you’ll be ready to write.”
Then he left.
I didn’t get a chance to show him my book.
He was right. Is right. Reading is a gift to the reader on every level. Humans -- from beach readers to anthology readers to aspiring writers – are given the ability to see the insides of another human being. I’ve never sweltered in an Ethiopia heat but I was THERE while reading Cutting for Stone. I’ve never clung to the side of boiling volcano but I was THERE with Frodo. I will never vote for a member of the Bush family but I was THERE with Laura Bush in her biography.
I strive to achieve the level of storytelling Morey hit, mark after mark, but I’m extraordinarily grateful I AM a reader. And this reader would like to find the two bear-vandalizing ignoramuses (ignarami?), leave them with book-sized dents on their foreheads.