For most of us summer is over. The kids are back in school and we are nursing our bruises and strained muscles from squeezing in too much fun and excitement into too few vacation days.
The weekend warrior needs mending.
And then there are those of us who never did quite get out of the starting blocks. Financial issues like plumbing leaks or unexpected illness or emergency travel ate up the nest egg leaving us disappointed and feeling a bit stranded in our hometowns.
Whatever our plans were for this summer, it’s a given that they were not totally achieved or without incident.
As the old saying goes, “Man plans. God laughs.”
It’s not that we worship a vindictive God, far from it! Rather, God knows our very nature and knows that we over-extend ourselves, in our promises, our desires and our plans. It only stands to reason that something will go wrong with the plan.
Many years ago (pre-cell phone), I decided to surprise Cheryl with a vacation to Vermont. In particular, I was going to take her to the village where the movie “Beetlejuice” was filmed. Beautiful fall foliage. Steepled church. And a covered bridge. What an idyllic scene. “Typical” Vermont travel poster image.
And one more thing… I had secretly gleaned the town’s name from the credits at the end of the movie. What could possibly go wrong with my plan?
For starters, West Corinth was not on the map. Corinth was, however, so I figured I could find its sister hamlet. Then I discovered that contrary to California’s street sign convention where every street corner is conspicuously marked with its name, rural Vermont rarely identifies its highways and byways, its lanes or its cow paths. Driving to and fro across dirt roads in search of a direction sign let alone a town marker proved to be more trying than even Job’s patience could be expected to stand.
At one point, the road through the woods that we were on we were on becoming gravel, then dirt, and finally, the dirt giving way to bare roots. The driver in the car we were following pulled over and motioned for us to go on by. They were turning back.
We checked our gauges. Gas running low. Car threatening to overheat. And still no sign of civilization, except for an occasional ramshackle cabin, replete with animal pelts dangling from the eaves of the porch. Thinking we could hear banjo music in the background, we sullied on. “After all, roads have to lead to somewhere, right?”
At last we reached the top of the grade and cresting the hill, we looked down upon a multi-lane Interstate, gleaning in the afternoon sun. Sliding to a stop, we looked both ways before choosing to go left. And within ten minutes we were back in the town of Washington. We breathed a sigh of relief. Got gas and drove past the same two men who had given us directions -- still sitting on their front porch.
“You can’t get there from here.” They had prophetically opined.
We chuckled at ourselves. If they only knew who they’d been talking to!
Turning around, I decided that my plan would have to remain unrealized and we headed on to Littleton, New Hampshire where we had reservations at a quaint and historic 1843 hotel called Thayer’s Inn. We arrived after dark and the proprietor greeted us warmly, “We were starting to get worried about you.”
He needn’t have worried. God was with us on that trip. And we are living proof that prayer works.
Years later, I learned that in my haste I had written the name of the town down wrong. We truly couldn’t get there from here after all…!
The joke was not lost on us then, nor in our reflection on our adventure all these years later.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.