Greta Garbo is making news again.

Sotheby’s will be auctioning a cache of Garbo private letters and photos, many of which outline her loneliness and frustration with being a female creative forced to perform what she deemed mediocre work.

To honor their release, I’m reposting a story about my accidental visit to her final resting place. Enjoy!

Just when I think being married to an architect couldn’t get more, ahem, entertaining, I am gobsmacked yet again. I spent a day riding a train to a remote suburb with MTM. We scurried along a grey stone wall, following it next to a road until it turned right into a gate, where the road opened up into what looked, to my untrained and tacky eyes, like Antarctica or that scene at the end of the movie “Alive,” where Aaron Neville sings “Ave Maria” as the cross comes into view on a range in the Andes. You know that place: where a plane crashed and they ate each other to stay alive.

MTM the architect took me to a graveyard.

Not just any graveyard, mind you. A UNESCO World Heritage site graveyard. A Gunnar Asplund designed graveyard. (I didn’t know who the heck he was either. Click on the highlighted link at his name if you are an ignorant non-architect like me.)

At the entrance to the graveyard is a cavernous sub-zero wind tunnel, I mean, a barren, snow-blanketed field with a mammoth stone cross set off-center and flanked by – dared I hope – a building. A modernist box that surely contained heat and some hot cocoa for me to sip while MTM flitted around snapping photos of screw details and blades of grass through the snow and handrails and the frame of the sky through a hole in the roof. When I finally dragged my frozen carcass to that building, I was devastated to learn that it did contain heat, an off-limits inferno for me – because it was the crematorium.

Who designs an inviting crematorium? Except an architect?

I steeled myself for more sub-zero wandering outside, following MTM down a graceful ribbon of drive that acted as – you guessed it – another wind tunnel. Only this time, there were trees on either side to break the gale. Or, to contribute to it. I don’t know which would be a more accurate descriptive.

Finally, we came to a snowy avenue through some trees. In the distance, I saw a white building with a pointed roof through an archway. Again, my ice-addled brain longed for a hot drink, hopes that were crushed once more when I discovered the little building was a funeral chapel. About fifty photos later – of the outside; a funeral was actually going on inside, making it off-limits for eager architects, even ones that wanted to hang around until the service was over and pretend to be part of the mourning party just to get a glimpse of interior – we wandered through one of the cemetery ‘rooms.’ MTM glimpsed what he thought to be a significant burial site on the opposite side, and I, who could barely move any limb by this point, trudged through the knee-deep snow behind him.

I made it to an aloof promontory, and who did I find buried there but Greta Garbo.

Suddenly, this was the best idea MTM had ever had, taking me to see gorgeous Greta Garbo’s grave, with her signature in gold on the headstone. Hyperactively, I took too many photos of my own and gabbed enough to disrupt her alone time.

I forgot that I was freezing. I didn’t want hot cocoa. The wind chill no longer touched me. I stood in the face of acting greatness, and I think it made me appreciate the architecture.


A little bit.

Skogskyrkogarden. Stockholm, Sweden.


A repost that I hope will be new to most of you.


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.


3 Generations Make A Memory In Italy

Sometimes, I open my email and find better stories than I can weave. Here’s three generations making a memory  from reader BJ McCafferty.

Hi Andra,

I was in the audience when you spoke at the History on Tap Series in Crandon, WI. After we met, I read all three books and love them.  I especially liked “Not Without My Father“.

You wrote as you signed one of the books, “Make a Memory”.

I told you I was taking my granddaughter to Italy this summer.

We are beginning our journey next week, and Sofie(8) says it is going to be an “Epic” trip!  I believe her! I will record memories, but sometimes I’ll leave my camera behind and enjoy the moments.

May your Days be long and your Memories Bright,
BJ McCafferty

Grandma and granddaughter

Dear BJ:

I’ve thought often about your upcoming trip with Sofie. My grandmother never saw the ocean and only visited three states. Your adventurous spirit is going to inspire and mold your granddaughter. I hope you’ll tell me all about the trip.

If you’re going to Florence, visit Aqua Flor. I love their soaps and scented waters. The place looks like an old lab, and the proprietor is charming.

I’m also glad to hear you enjoyed my books. The fiction is the most fun for me to write, but I understand why NWMF appeals to so many people. I love what it’s done for Dad and me. His 83rd birthday is tomorrow, and we’re going to celebrate with him.

Please give everyone in Crandon my regards. I enjoyed my time with you so much and look forward to returning someday.


granddaughter and grandmother

Hi Andra,

Just a couple of photos of our trip.  It was epic!

I am so glad to have shared it with my granddaughter and my daughter. The first day in Rome we walked over 10 miles…..not quite 15 though. I have been sorting over 3,000 photos since our return.

All my best to you,
BJ McCafferty

Read more stories of people who made a memory.