After Taize my original plans were to go to Chartres outside of Paris. I had my train and hotel reservations in order and then a strange thing happened. During the silence of the Taize prayer service, that inner voice came to me and said, “I don’t want to go to”. All that day I had worked to make those reservations. The internet wasn’t working right, the machine that provided phone and internet cards was down. When something is right, plans usually fall into place. When each step along the way seems forced, it’s time to reconsider.
Finally, after a couple hours of frustration and forced actions, I had the reservations. It was later in the quiet of the prayer that I listened to what was deeper. I cancelled my reservations in favor of the unknown. I told my new friends in the Taize group this latest development. Then one of them, a German, said, come with me to Germany, I’m driving. It was that simple. I still didn’t know how the schedule would shape up, but it was time to let go of scheduling and see what happens.
Volker and I drove with one of the Permanents from Taize whose time had come to a close - ironically for that title. The six hour drive from Taize to Ulm was full of talking about our experiences and companionable silences.
The side trip to Germany allowed me to do two things I had not thought to be able to do. The first was to visit a good friend who moved to Munich from New Jersey about a year ago. The second trip to Prague was a rather last minute decision to join up with some other friends from Massachusetts who were part of a tour going from Prague to Vienna with stops along the way.
My handy Eurail pass allowed me to make these changes in itinerary without any problem. I enjoyed the spontaneity and have become quite enamored of traveling by rail. Flying doesn’t let us see all the subtlety that land changes offer. Houses and towns, fields and lakes roll by from country to country with a character all their own. The distances are not so great that it’s a burden and it’s calm - for the most part.
Crossing the German border into the Czech Republic we were going through a beautiful, dense forest when the train slowed and stopped in a small town with a run down station. Police came on and with no English motioned for us to get off. I remembered to breathe, though also remembered having detoured from my original plan, no one knew where I was. We were loaded onto busses and traveled for about 30 minutes, without explanation. Brought to another train station, we were told to board with another person’s cryptic English. The train was more rustic than the first one, and smelled of stale cigarette smoke. We made it to Prague but I still don’t know what that unscheduled stop was about. I met up with my friends from Massachusetts and was able to tag along on their tour of the city.
The trip is taking some other spontaneous detours as a result and I’m glad. I used to be nervous about making connections - or more to the point missing them. But the trip has been easy when I let it be easy. Self imposed deadlines and schedules get in the way of some really wonderful blessings. Meeting friends and spending time with familiar people in unfamiliar places is a magical treat. Exploring and discovering is part of the spiritual way and over planning can threaten some of it. Travel, like faith is moving ahead confidant in the ability to find the way or be guided, it doesn’t always require a blueprint. In fact the blueprint will likely block the view of subtlety and magic in the uncharted path.
I’ll make it to Chartres, but after the rich experience of Taize I needed a break to process some of it. To go immediately into another very different spiritual setting would have been too much, almost like eating fudge after chocolate. I don’t know exactly where I’m going after Prague, and that’s just fine.