On the Way to Italy

from Charles Evans

“Black ice” was a concept that always held unique terror for me—that thin layer of all but invisible ice on the road that makes driving treacherous. Not that I’d ever seen it, what to speak of driving on it, or suffering any of the myriad tragedies the news media told me it could cause. I grew up in Florida where even the idea of “winter” was pretty foreign.

Later I moved to the West Coast. For many years I’ve made my home at the Ananda Meditation Retreat in the Sierra Nevada foothills. So by now I’ve seen my share of ice and snow. My life is fairly self-contained within the Retreat, however, so when the weather is bad I drive as little as possible.

In the year 2000 I felt the guidance to go on an extended trip, starting in Italy. I left in December to drive my truck across the United States, visiting friends and relatives along the way. I planned to leave my truck on the East Coast and fly on to Europe.

Along the way, in the middle of Utah somewhere, the temperature began to drop and it started to snow. I was going down a highway at about sixty-five miles an hour when I found myself in the middle of a convoy of eighteen-wheelers. Their tires kicked up so much powdery snow it was a virtual whiteout. I couldn’t slow down to pull over. In those conditions no one would see me and I’d get rammed from behind.

It was too dangerous, though, to stay where I was, so I had to gather my courage and blindly head out into the left lane to get ahead of the convoy. As I sped along, passing truck after truck, the thought of black ice was never far from my mind. Fortunately I made it without mishap and found clear sky, clear road, and, in a manner of speaking, clear sailing. Or so I thought.

Minutes later, my lifelong fear manifested. I hit black ice and my truck began to spin. I knew the convoy of eighteen-wheelers was not far behind, and if I kept on like this, they would plow into me. Time slowed down. Seconds felt like minutes.

“Why is this happening?” I thought. “I’m following Your guidance and going to Italy just as You inspired me to do. This is not the plan.”

Then it occurred to me to try to gain control of the spinning truck, but I couldn’t remember what to do. Do you turn into a spin or away from it? Do you hit the brakes or do you push on the accelerator? In Florida they never taught us these things.

To make matters worse, even if I could have remembered, I am a little dyslexic. In those circumstances to figure out which was left and which was right, and then get my brain and hands working together to respond appropriately, seemed a dim prospect indeed.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Suddenly a creative new idea came to me. I lifted both feet from the pedals and both hands from the wheel.

“Master, this one is yours,” I said.

My truck did three high-speed loopity-loops down the middle of the highway. Oddly, I wasn’t frightened. It was like a carnival ride. Finally we slid off the road backwards at the only place where there wasn’t a ditch. Seconds later, fifteen very large eighteen-wheelers sped by.

Even then I wasn’t excited or scared. I felt protected and watched over by a Power greater than me, greater than those trucks, greater than anything this world could throw at me, including black ice.

“Thank you, Master,” I said, “for taking such good care of me.”

Since I was facing forward, I put my truck in gear, pulled onto the highway, and continued my journey. Five minutes later I had to slow down for a major accident. Many cars and big trucks had crashed because of, yes, black ice.
If I had not done my carnival ride at the moment Master had chosen, I would have been right in the middle of it.