It was many years ago.
I went to Germany on a whim, I'd say, if I didn't know [now] how important it really was. At the time, though, I didn't know why I was going, I just knew I had to. Ostensibly, it was to attend a 'by-invitation-only' conference I had invited myself to.
I spent 3 days in the Atlanta airport on a stand-by buddy pass ticket, trying to get a flight to Germany. I'm still in touch with at least one of the people I met during that time.
Ultimately, I flew via Dublin - a most creative routing - courtesy of the Delta manager who finally took pity on me and got me on the last plane out before they suspended all buddy pass tickets for the rest of the week, they were so backed up. A year later, I would be living in Dublin.
The conference came and went - apparently without incident except for a passing reference to 'conscience' which I would work on for the next five years - and I found myself in Frankfurt at the end of the whole affair with nothing to do and no set place to stay for the weekend. An American woman I'd tried to steer clear of at the conference found out I was at loose ends and said "You must come back with me and stay at the castle!"
I have a rule: never turn down an invitation to a castle.
So an hour later, I found myself in her banger of an old Volvo station wagon, heading to a small village outside of Heidelberg. The morning I was to leave, we were up before dawn. A light dusting of snow had fallen, and my hostess had prepared coffee and a light breakfast. We ate by candlelight. I've never had candles at breakfast before. It was lovely! The sun slowly rose and took over from the candles. Now, whenever I'm up before dawn - or when it's a horrible bleak drear of a morning - I light candles and think of her.
Like this morning.
The sun is well up now, but the candles are still burning in the darkened living room. My checkered mug has only half a slug of coffee left and it's time to get up and moving and start the day. I'll blow the candles out when I get off the sofa. It's been too long since I've seen my friend, though, and it's been nice to think of her this morning.