Not long ago, I was sitting at the big table alone in a cafe one early Saturday morning. I always go for the biggest table if I could because I like to spread out my computer, books, notebooks, newspapers, or whatever I have brought with me all over the table. On this day, I sat down with just a newspaper and before I fixed my eyes to the front page, I abandoned my paper on the big table and while my hot coffee was cooling down, I vanished to my reflecting thoughts. I was looking at the empty chairs, trying to place my friends in the chairs one by one, having a hard time picking out which one I want to place where. I had 5 seats to fill. My friends were all over the places.
If I ever want to own a private jet, it will be because I want to collect all my friends. Maybe we could get together on my birthdays, once a year, and have a party somewhere in Gatlinburg, one of my favorite places. I will rent a giant cabin up in the Smokies Mountain, somewhere high where we can enjoy the smoky atmosphere way down below, and we will feel like kings.
But this morning, I felt like a lonely little duck.
What made Carl Barks popular was not the duck itself. It was the humanness in the duck. The anthropomorphic ducks Mr. Barks created were full of characters. Duckburg is governed by the mayor Pig, and its inhabitants include Scrooge Mcduck, Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Daisy Duck, Gladstone Gander, and so on. It’s a small universe, but nonetheless a universe, and there is a distinct sense of community there.
And you would think that Carl Barks had quite some adventurous, diverse childhood to have come up with this fun community. Against one’s guess, Mr Barks had a lonely childhood on a ranch where the closest neighbor lived half a mile away, and two miles of long walk to school awaited him everyday.
Surprisingly Carl Barks worked in anonymity for most of his career. He devoted to his vocation for 20 years until he got his first fan letter. At least once in a while-in this case, once in two decades-, somebody recognizes that there is a ghost artist behind the Disney Production.
I can easily picture him sitting at his desk alone, in his own studio, or in the public space if he preferred to work on his art outside. I have no problem feeling a shared sentiment toward the loneliness he must have felt at times when he was working alone.
Perhaps, he was able to endure those long periods of lonely moments because he went through the lonely childhood.
Perhaps, deep down, he enjoyed those deep solitary working hours, which appears to be somewhat lonely on the surface.
Perhaps, when he was creating his timeless cartoon, he was really just revisiting his childhood in his heart, walking to his old school on the country roads.
He might have only ducks and chickens to play with back then.
But look who’s playing with what now.
So I, too, am contently happy being a lonely little duck.