I’ve been on alot of trips that were planned by others this past few months.
In May and early June it was a week in Somerset, England with the Friendship Force (www.FriendshipForce.org) where our accomodating hosts treated us to breakfast, lunch and dinner with trips from Bath to Stonehenge and many in between. We didn’t have to do anything but unpack our suitcases, eat, dress, bathe and sleep. Everything was planned.
Except for my unreasonable request to my dear hostess, Pat Hollocombe, if we might visit a town called Todmorden.
Of course, I had no idea where Todmorden was, except I knew England was a smallish country. Todmorden is home to the Incredible Edible Project started by Mary Clear and four friends at the Bear Cafe overlooking the Victorian library with the clear mission to feed everyone in town eventually.
It was 7 1/2 hours by three trains to Todmorden, but my indominable hostess took me anyway, all the way to Yorkshire! It was a true God Trip. She had not even heard of it, nor the project, but she was a true trooper in the “Life is a God Trip” mold.
We arrived on the train platform and there were three barrels filled with forget me nots, an apple tree and broccoli. Not your normal train platform. Down in the carpark there was a huge raised bed with a sign that said, “Donkey manure working.” There was a sign with all the vegetables that would be planted there in a few weeks and how to cook them. For you see, in Todmorden, these vegetables and fruits are for the taking. It’s all a radical plan to save the world, one person at a time, planting on public land, cared for by volunteers, creating fellowship and becoming sustainable. Sometimes, all you need in life is someone who says “Yes,” to your unreasonable request.
Sometimes you just need a friend!
My daughter, Christine and I chose a blue highway out of Boston headed to Northampton, Massachusetts today and that made all the difference. We found out that her book, “The Power of Slow” is on the shelves of not one but two local libraries when we needed to stop in Greenfield. What I miss in Virginia is the God-made ponds that dot the landscape here, with red buds of maples mingled with white birches. We found Louisa Mae Olcott’s home where she wrote “Little Women” and had the most wonderful guide, Sigrid who told us this was her second home. Louisa’s sister, May, her model for Amy, was a wonderful artist and their Mom and Dad unlike mine, let her write on the windowsills. That was in Concord, where the colonists turned back the 700 redcoats and our Revolution began. We also found on Route 5. the Yankee Candle Company, which sells alot more than candles — and Christine found Andreas a great pizza cutter. It’s fun to take the back roads on God Trips. Especially when you find a frisbee catching cow.
My sister, Patricia and I still take God trips together
My sister and I grew up in a family which I only recently realized was not entirely normal. Most people who start out going to the movies, go to the movies. Not our family.
Dad and Mom called them “mystery trips.” My younger sister, Patricia and I would think we were going to go see a “Ma and Pa Kettle” movie but in the trunk of the Buick were out little blue suitcases packed for who knows where. One time we ended up in Cape Cod. Dad followed the red lights of the car in front of us because that was all we could see in the pea soup fog. We ended up following the man’s car into his garage. Guess where we slept that night? (The family did take us in. After all, we had our pajamas and toothbrush.)
Another time we thought we were going to an amusement park and we ended up in the Thousand Islands. Another time our car broke down in a town so small they didn’t have a motel, and we stayed in the home of the local banker who just happened by the gas station.
God Trip Rule: What I learned from those trips is to simply let go.
God trips are all about NOT knowing where you will end up. All you need to do is follow where God leads you. You might have an idea of where you think you are going, but as Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
I am writing this blog because it is on these trips that I have learned the most about trust. I am never late, never in the wrong place, never with the wrong person, never lost. Rather I am on time, in the right place, with the right person and always where I am supposed to be.
As Mitch Hedberg once said, “I’m sick of following my dreams. I’m just going to ask them where they’re going and hook up with them later.”
Meanwhile, enjoy the trip…and let me know where you end up. And pack some pj’s.
God tripping with someone who has never been on one before, is a true trip when that person has just gotten his driver’s license. Eusebio Pires wanted to drive. Why not? His gas mileage on his Toyota Corolla was alot better than my Crown Vic’s!
He was great! Just a few weeks into driving, he did U-turns in the middle of downtown Lynchburg like a pro. Two of them.
We finally found a place to park near the James River Heritage Trail, unpacked our lunch of spicy chicken, diced potatoes, curried goat, grapes and cherries courtesy of Mahabuba whose party we visited earlier in the day and watched kayakers paddle lazily down the river. If you had told me this God Trip would include delicious food from Bangladesh on a rock, I would never have believed you. But Eusebio is from Mumbai, and it fit.
God trips never cease to amaze me, as I had wanted to go hiking, but didn’t mention it to Eusebio when he said he had never been to Lynchburg. I wanted this to be his trip. What did we end up doing? Can you believe Lynchburg has a wildlife paradise downtown along the river, and then up a creek near a beautiful mansion called Point of Honor once owned by the personal physician to Patrick Henry? We crossed the creek with skyscrapers in view, turned right through a green tunnel of foliage to find the old railroad tunnel they told us about at the Visitor’s Center. (The video there is done in fast forward and is one of the funniest introductions to a town I have ever seen.)
Sure enough, on our way, skyscrapers just up the escarpment, a small deer came out of the greenery and looked at us as if to say, “What are YOU doing here?”
Kayakers on the James from Percival Island where we had lunch
I want to go back to this fascinating town and take another look. There is so much to see, and thanks Eusebio for the great hike!
Today I am taking my friend, Eusebio on his first God Trip. We met when Alan and I asked for a student at UVA to share Thanksgiving several years ago, and he has become a member of our family ever since. His post-doc work at UVA is extraordinary in the field of ovarian cancer.
- Eusebio Pires and Willow at my 70th birthday party
All we know today is that we are meeting in Charlottesville at 9:30 a.m.
All I know is that God trips are the ultimate in using our gift of free will. As Proverbs 16:9 states, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Will let you know where we end up. Later.
P.S. Willow is my nickname (another story for another time)
OK, now I should not be surprised.
When my daughter, Christine reached for her camera on the boat trip around Manhattan, May 10th, it was gone. It had all her family vacation pictures from Florida, Virginia and New York City and special ones of her visit with her best friend, Amy in Alexandria. But as my friend, Kate always says, “God’s delays are not God’s denials.” We both had faith it would show up some day.
So where did her camera go? Read the email I received yesterday:
I am emailing you because my mother found a hot pink camera in a taxi in NYC and
I found a picture of a computer with this website and recognized you! I’m sorry
for looking at the pictures, but I wanted to see if I could return the camera.
Please let me know where I can mail it to you. I live in Venezuela, but I can
send it to you during the weekend of June 18th because I will be flying to
If it is not yours but you know who it belongs to, please let me know so I can
Yes. Christine will get her camera back from someone in Venezuela and as God trips always go: we have made a new friend. Thank you, Alexandra. You have a great Mom. Maybe some day we can all meet in New York City.
Christine on the boat just before realizing her camera was missing out of her shorts pocket
“The greatest of all human needs is to feel connected.” Darryl Kollman
God trips invariably include food. I mean the body needs its fuel, right? One of the best kept secrets in deliciously prepared Slow Food can be found at the University of Virginia International Students’ sponsored cooking classes. They are open to the public and free. But you will need to register (see link below).
Yesterday afternoon I gathered with about 25 international students at the Lorna Sundberg International Center with my friends, Eusebio, Ryan, and Mahabuba for India/Bangladesh spicy food, featuring something I have never eaten before: goat. They called it mutton, but it was goat, from the Afghan Market in Charlottesville. Tender, spicy, tingly to the tongue, with a flavor all its own! And what people you will meet — Kate from Boston who taught with World Teach in China, Jennifer who was in the Peace Corps in Morocco, Eusebio from Mumbai who could open his own restaurant when he isn’t searching for the cure for ovarian cancer. Mahabuba from Bangladesh even sang her country’s songs with two of her countrywomen as the dishes were placed on the big diningroom table for all of us to savor.
Check out their website: http://www.virginia.edu/iso/ic/for upcoming programs. Next is French food, I believe. They are also on Facebook, University of Virginia Lorna Sundberg International Center.
Lorna Sundberg International Center
God Tripping usually includes delicious food, and this is the best, prepared in front of you, and you get to eat it too, meeting some very special people. It is a spiritual experience putting your feet under the table at 21 University Circle, Charlottesville, VA 22903.