I’m turning Japanese.

As you read this post, I’m staggering around Tokyo after a fourteen hour flight. We’re turning Japanese. No Family Holidays With Family took MTM and me to Asia this year.

Well, that and a 60,000 medallion mile special on Delta.

Which was a sign.

For ages, I couldn’t write about my toxoplasmosis gondii diagnosis. And why should I share it? Nobody cares about my problems when they have baskets piles abundances of their own.

But everybody’s looking for ways to feel better. We’re crying screaming dying for peace. Everyone I know is out of sorts, confused, scared, angry, or hurting. In the quagmire of uncertainty, we’ll crawl toward any oasis of calm.

Japan is something of an oasis for me.

MTM read the signs and booked the almost-free flight. It’s up to me to undertake my pilgrimage to Nagano. To meet with the Zenkoji Temple monks at daybreak. To gain another layer of peace about my impossible health situation as I touch a statue older than Time.

Binzuru Sonja cocks his head and regards me with sightless eyes worn smooth my millions of fingers. His mouth is welded shut by a millennia of touch. “Do not let my warped head of my lacking features frighten you.” A voice pings inside of my skull. “I’ve healed more hopeless cases than you.”

For 1,500 years, pilgrims have traveled to Nagano to commune with Binzuru Sonja. When it’s time for us to meet, I hope his formless lips will smile, his misshapen head will nod, and he will let me join millions who’ve trekked to his mountain quarters seeking a measure of peace.

I’m working on a travelogue/memoir about finding peace with an incurable disease by studying human rituals throughout history. In March, I submitted to a Native American healing ceremony in Ecuador. Last July, I trekked to St. Ilga’s Well in the Austrian Alps.

Nagano is my third study into how mankind has sought peace with hopelessness. EVERYBODY’S STRUGGLING TODAY. I hope to find something to give you peace, Dear Reader.


For those of you who didn’t know it, MTM once lived in a little town called Chicago, Illinois. For six years, he ran his own architecture practice. He competed in worldwide architecture competitions, resulting in skyscrapers in Korea that he’s never seen. He was even a finalist in the Oklahoma City Memorial Competition and ended up on CNN.

Last weekend, he took me past a visible remnant of himself by showing me something he designed. On the front of a building in downtown Chicago, an entryway blared out MTM’s signature sensibilities, his clean lines and minimalist style. It was a piece of him that I could reach out and touch, from a time when I didn’t know him.

As we shivered our way around the city, I would catch our reflection, walking side-by-side in a random window glass. And, I wondered: did he ever walk this way and glimpse me? The two of us, together? When he ate fish and chips at his favorite pub, did a girl turn her head and conjure my image in her wake? Give him some clue of who he was seeking before he found me? Before he said hello?

I’ve studied photos of MTM from that time, scanning his younger face for the certainty of me. My favorite one of him from that era wasn’t taken in Chicago, though. It was shot in Japan. He is sitting alone in front of a glassy pond, broken by circular stepping stones, cherry blossoms dropping around him like pink-and-white confetti.

Somehow, I know I was there, too.

I just know it.

Too Much is Just Enough: Seeing the signs and knowing they are true.