There are a thousand quintillion clichés for every sunset. So, how was this one different? This: "Mandelstam. Brodsky. Anja."

July 27th, 2014, 7pm

Thought it would be an ordinary extraordinary sunset this evening.

As, the last thing I expected out of this Honokowai lightshow was an audible echo of the literary giants who have defined a meaningful aspect of my life.

The last thing I expected to say out loud at just the moment the sun was setting were these (to me) hallowed names: Osip Mandelstam, Joseph Brodsky, Czeslaw Milosz.

As I sat on the beach’s grassy verge, ready to assay a surely futile attempt at catching this sunset in a unique fashion, snatches of Russian floated over to me from some people nearby… clearly, a family: a mom and the youngest son; the dad and their two older boys.

So, as I have been wont to do over the years when I encounter one of my acquired languages, I turned, smiled, asked if they were Russian. In Russian, of course.

What followed was a veritable feast for my famished self.

The thing I miss the most about living in Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay Area is, not to put too fine a point on it, existing amongst the intelligentsia. In contrast, Maui can be quite the intellectual wasteland. I’m sure there are bits and pieces to be found here, of the literary life I once reveled in, such as it was; but it doubtless requires work (and luck) to find. Literary culture and the intellectual life are to be found everywhere humans exist and cohabit, naturally; it’s just that there are differences of scale, quality and density, in geographical terms alone. I.e., Maui ain’t no Berkeley, for sure. ;-)

The man gestured to his wife frolicking with their son in the water, and proceeded to tell me that she had been a friend of Brodsky’s! To say I was stunned (albeit invisibly, I think) is to understate things considerably.

Before we knew it, he and I had chatted quite a bit, on topics ranging rather broadly in just a few minutes. A kindred soul, this fellow hominid, of Serbian descent to my Filipino/Spanish/Chinese.

I frankly would have wanted to talk a bit more, starved as I am for the artifacts of my history with Slavic languages, literature and culture, but my iPhone was pinging in that familiar way, my adoptive son paging me re the usual reasons: time to go, time to eat, time for the next thing. And the light was fading to deep gray anyhow, and the family, who had just arrived on island that very afternoon, surely needed rest.

So I bade them do svidaniya, but not after making sure the boys knew how to make the shaka sign, which may come in handy for them as they spend their time here.

On the drive home, I recited out loud to Pono some Mandelstam by heart:

Ot lyoghkiy zhizni miy soshli suma,
S’utro vino, a vyecherom pokhmelye…
Kak uderzhat na prosnaya visyelye
Rumyanyets tvoy, o pyannaya chuma?

…and so it went, for three more precious, vividly remembered, stanzas. Memory is delightful when it actually works. :-) And ‘twas all courtesy of a sunset moment at Honokowai, and a happenstance encounter with total strangers who, for some ineffable reason, touched me in a most unexpected way.

Spasibo, Chris and Anja.

Marlon, Sanna, Christine, Craig and 8 others said thanks.

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Lloyd Nebres

I lived in a village and homestead set aside for people of Hawaiian ancestry. I am not Hawaiian but had been adopted into the culture—to my profound gratitude.

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