Monday, July 7, 2014

The Anonymous Traveler

There is no finer feeling than sitting on a train platform on a sunny day in Europe en route to 10 days of nothing to do. Been holed up at the Orff Institut in Salzburg with some fifty colleagues and friends from around the world talking about this magnificent work that unites us. It’s stimulating and important to spend time in the think tank with articulate and intelligent people, affirm what we do and why, hear new language to describe it and occasionally get a new insight or a new idea. (Some of that dialogue will surface later on this blog.)

But a think tank is still a tank, closed off from the splendor of the mountains outside the window and the morning birds and the flowing river. This was my shortest time ever in Salzburg (three days) and first time ever I never rode a bike. I was longing to pedal to my old, familiar and heartwarming places that I revisit religiously each trip, but the schedule was tight and not even time to rent a bike. The most I did was take the hour walk from the Institut to the Mozarteum downtown for an evening performance, including a stop at my favorite ice cream place, still there and still delicious. That helped. But after a morning of meetings today, had to leave immediately to make the five-hour car ride to Verona. A sunny Salzburg Sunday was beckoning, but alas! I could not accept.

The ride to Verona is quite stunning, from mountain to mountains and always a distant fort or church perched on a peak, small towns in the valleys, lush green everywhere and not a single industrial or shopping-mauled place in the whole five hours. Didn’t know the name of any of the towns or even the region, but all of it seemed worthy of exploration.

But now here I am at the Verona train station, with my slightly-too-much and slightly-too-heavy two bags and a backpack, hoping to make the connection in Milan to make it to Santa Margherita Liguere. There I hope to be greeted by my wife to navigate to a quaint pensione she found that she reports is simply lovely (she’s been there four days). Waiting on the platform are all the young foreign travelers in Europe and with no mirror, why not imagine that I’m one of them?

Here I am where nobody knows me and anything can happen and anyone could become an acquaintance or friend, an anonymous traveler just passing through from one place to another with nothing particular in mind but to observe, enjoy, think my own strange thoughts and be ready for new feelings. A train comes and whisks away just about everyone, but I’m reasonably confident that my 18:32 train is indeed the correct one and I have 20 minutes until it comes.

Last night, I took my last malaria pill, another farewell to Ghana. Ten minutes ago, I bid farewell to my gracious, fun and hospitable Italian hosts— and so goodbye to Verona. When this morning’s meeting finally ended, I said goodbye to James, my traveling companion these past three weeks (and indeed, past 24 years in another sense!) and quickly hugged goodbye all the others who I always enjoy seeing so much— my international family of folks from Iceland, Finland, Poland, Scotland, England, Russia, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Czech Republic, Iran, Russia, New Zealand, Thailand, Korea, Argentina, Canada, U.S. And new acquaintances from Slovenia, Croatia and more. It’s a dizzying whirlwind of cultural diversity united by dance and music and love for children and fun to feel a sense of belonging to it all and a sense of contributing.

But now I need to feel that I’m nobody in particular, unattached to my identity as a music teacher, unencumbered by my accomplishments. Those bags carry many treasures, but they’re still heavy to lug around! So time to listen to the clickety-clack of the wheels, watch the world speed by outside the window, bury my nose in a book, write in my journal and see if I can stop planning and checking off lists and remember how to daydream.

Oh. And watch the last World Cup games while I’m at. Go, Brazil!!!!

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