We met Julie on a holy mountaintop outside of Barcelona in 2007. It was late December, mist covered the peaks. Dean and I boarded the funicular and settled in for the ride. There were 15 or so other passengers; everyone wore a look of expectation, eager to reach the trail. Hermits’ caves dotted the vista, temporary dwellings for men who closed themselves off from others in an attempt to find nirvana, holiness, solace. I do not know if they found their peace, but if they did not find it on Montserrat I doubt they did anywhere.
The sun was shining, but not enough to coax the mist away from the peaks. The climb was not easy, but the company made the trek fun, even spiritual. As we hiked, Dean and I began to talk to Julie, who was teaching English in Barcelona. She is an American, from Florida, and as Dean and I also have Florida ties (we attended the same university there, though years apart, just one of the odd coincidences that tie us together) there was common ground.
An hour or so later we reached the top, far above the Spanish plain. Dean asked Julie if she would like to join us in Sweden for our New Year’s Eve party, in a beautiful house in Aneby, in the white and cold Swedish countryside. She said yes, and we began our descent, back down past the spirits of the hermits, their caves protecting shrines and incense and messages scrawled on the stone walls.
The next several days in Barcelona were spent walking around the city’s streets and alleys and sitting on stools in tapas bars drinking Txakoli and cava and eating shrimp and foie gras and chorizo. (Food is a constant when we gather.)
Dean and I flew back to Sweden (one day before Real visited Barca; we had no choice but to get back to Scandinavia) and Christmas with his family. Julie flew in the following week and the Cox/Knutsson household was full of holiday spirit. Dean put together a Mexican buffet, the wine and Aquavit flowed. (We had cooked a moose roast earlier in the week, but I don’t recall if there was any left for the taco meat. I hope there was.)
After the holiday, which included launching fireworks into the frigid, starlit night, Dean, Julie and I took a train to Stockholm, and from there Dean continued on to an assignment in Eastern Europe. Julie and I spent a few days in Stockholm, and I then flew to Iceland for a week, where I had arranged a layover on my way back to New York. Julie was headed back to Barcelona.
Before we parted ways, Dean, Julie and I made plans to meet again, somewhere else in this magical world. We did so this week, in Hong Kong.
Last night our palms were read, and the man told us that we would have further adventures together. (He also said Julie should quit thinking so much, that she should calm her mind, that Dean should not live in Moscow, Norway or Sweden, and that I was aggressive on the outside but a kind man on the inside and the owner of a keen intelligence. Should we believe him?)
The journey continues.