i went on a press trip to hawaii last month. i told you about this, yes? i climbed into a plane in new york at dawn and hatched like a chick twelve hours later in honolulu, where a handful of writers and i were coddled and hustled all over the islands for a week. wellness-themed press trips are sort of a cross between the amazing race and america's next top model: at each new destination someone draped a lei around my neck and someone else put a drink in my hand, and each time i retired to my room i found a little gift and a note wishing me a pleasant night's sleep. one night there was a photo of me on my nightstand.
our last day on oahu began when we crawled out to greet the sunrise with a cleansing ritual on the beach, where the morning's first surfers already bobbed like flotsam out near the horizon. we considered water deities: hey, kanaloa! hey, namaka! there was unironic chanting. the woman leading the cleansing encouraged us to think about the constellations of choices that had resulted in our gathering on the sand, everything that we and our ancestors had done to generate that particular smattering. the implication was that the smattering was fortuitous—outside of honeymoon in vegas, it seems like most people consider themselves fortunate to end up in hawaii—but it was a gentle implication.
i'm estranged from a few of my relatives and dislike most of the rest. i know little about my grandparents' parents and almost nothing about anyone who came before them. at some point during world war one we pretended to be french, and some cousin of my grandmother's kept a pet lion in upstate new york. my grandfather's mother was known to light a cigarette before picking up the phone if someone called her in the middle of the night. as i walked into the waves on waikiki, i thought about how my aunt ran away from home and ended up at her sister's nunnery in san francisco, later the site of my sister's wedding. i thought about how a tiger decided not to eat my great-grandparents on the road to nham khan. i floated on my back in the amniotic water and considered my grandfather, too old and sick to go back to england, and the coins he gave me to buy myself a pint from him when i married joe in oxford. various writers' toes brushed against me as we pinwheeled in the water. "thanks, grandpa," i whispered.