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.


My Swiss residency at Maison Binet conjured some surprising commentary.

Polly Glover sent me this remarkable Facebook message, and I wanted to share it with you.

My aunt, whom I loved dearly, lived in Trélex for 50 years right across the street. As a child, I met Mme. Binet and saw her weaving studio. She was such a beautiful woman, inside and out, as I remember. Madame Binet was close friends with my aunt, who kept up with her family until her death last fall.

When I googled Trélex, with the hopes to return there for a visit one day, your name and adventure came up. The family’s activities surprised and delighted me! How fabulous the artist in residence must be, especially in the village of Trélex.

Please take the strength from Trélex with you as you go out into the world, knowing you have been touched by an angel in Mme. Binet. Do what you love. She would want that. I have enjoyed reading about your adventures while in Trélex and wish you the best of life.

I love the thought of her protecting and inspiring the artists and writers who visit. Given everything I’ve been through in recent years, her message gave me much comfort.

And surprise! Even meticulous writers like me make gaffes.

A few corrections on the information I posted about Maison Binet, straight from the Trélex Residency’s curator.

Small correction on the story. Nina Rodin merely rents the place. The landlady’s father was Jean Binet, a composer. She was born in the house 80 years ago. The house is named after the composer now, but construction started in the 17th century. Some of it, including the yellow facade, is 19th century. It was a trading post for horse drawn transport between Switzerland and France. The space under the roof, now the studio, was probably the main warehouse space.