...and from this place

August 13th, 2014, 11am

It was 30°C with few clouds. The wind was light.

Sometime in the early ’70s, as an adolescent, I discovered the wider world beyond the Southeast Asian archipelago of 7,000-odd islands on which I had lived; born, in 1960, somewhere in the northern mountains of Luzon, then growing up in the southern island of Mindanao on which a Muslim secessionist movement raged.

Dear Sanna…

I imagine you could be the daughter of my first (and only) pen-pal. (How quaint to think of such a thing now!) I discovered her, a Swedish girl, probably in the back pages of some comic book, I think, on which were ads for pen-pals from all over the world. Or it could have been in something classier, like Life magazine or National Geographic, volumes of which I’d devour at the local US Information Service center on Claveria Street in Davao City which, I would later learn, was allegedly a front for the CIA, but that’s another story for another time. I can’t really recall where I found the pen-pal ad.

That I also cannot, for the life of me, dredge up her name from my harrowed and fragmented memory bank, is also another tangent for another time. Perhaps when I’m old and doddering (should I be lucky enough to get there), her name will come floating up to the surface of consciousness.

Maybe it was O’i, or Lois (although that doesn’t sound very Swedish?), or Kirsten. Kirsten Malcolm?

Whichever it was, she and I exchanged a few letters; that much I can recall. She was a year or two older than me, and was in the equivalent of high school, whilst I was in the 6th grade. I also cannot remember what we corresponded over but it was most likely about the basic fabric of our lives, separated in space by many thousands of nautical miles. School, family, friends, stamp-collecting. Which was my passion then. I remember these nouns on those remarkable, monochromatic postage squares: Sverige… Svenska… Svensk…? I’m not Googling this right now, as I prefer to call these things up via the imperfection of memory.

Your skies aren’t all that different from mine, here above Maui. But your description of a party by a lake might as well suggest that you live on a different planet. I love it. Those bright red shellfish against the subtle darkness of the water on which you float. :-) And this: adularescence—a wonderful new word I’ve learned again from you. And from one who prides himself on a vocabulary as vast as time itself, this is saying something.

At the moment I snap this photograph, there is nothing adularescent about any of it. But that is a perfectly common phenomenon in the sky above the mountains above that valley there in the middle, particularly on moonlit nights. The gathered clouds and the silver light yield that effect, and it is breathtaking; now that you’ve gifted me the word for it, I am complete. It is complete.

Sure, it’s a fantasy, that you could be that girl’s daughter, my Swedish pen-pal of yore. But give me that, too. And, in return, I will try and find skies here to match and balance yours there, a place far and two lifetimes away.

as ever,

Sunny, Sanna, Christine and Shu 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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