“As a young child, I would lie in bed at night and listen. I was sure that I heard the sound of the whole world groaning. No one else seemed to hear it and after a while I stopped listening. Now I know that the sound I heard was real – and if I become deaf to it I will also miss the great joyful song of praise that all of Creation is singing to its Creator.”

Rabbi Shefa Gold

I remember the first time I saw that last stretch of US Highway 84 before reaching the gates of Ghost Ranch. I had driven my college boyfriend’s 4-door Ford Escape all the way from Alabama to the ranch in New Mexico where he and I were supposed to spend the summer working and choosing the next step in our lives, where I would later find out that he had planned to propose to me, probably at the end of a hike to one of the gorgeous vistas that O’Keefe had painted during the 50 plus years she lived at the ranch.

He could not drive with me because of a last-minute opportunity that he could not pass up. I would go ahead of him, two weeks before his arrival. It just made sense, except for one problem. I had no idea how to drive a stick.

My mother graciously volunteered to drive hundreds of miles West with me and then fly back from Albuquerque so that she could teach me how to drive a standard along the way. Two days into the trip, she was entering an on-ramp, grinding the gears and jerking the car as if we were on a ride at the carnival, and it dawned on me that perhaps she was not the expert she claimed to be. I calmly looked over and asked her, “Mom, do you actually know how to drive a stick shift?”

“No,” she replied
“No,” she said again.
“You’re telling me that you don’t know how to drive this car? This one, the one we’re taking across the entire fucking United States?”
“Not exactly,” she looks at me flippantly.
“Not exactly? MOM! You couldn’t have told me that three state lines ago?”

She pulls over onto the shoulder, manages to get the car into neutral, and jerks the emergency break into place, and then looks over at me with her famous incredulous look.

“Ashley, how hard can it be?”
“Uh, well, seeing as how we’re stuck here on the side of the highway—”
“Ashley, stop being so damn dramatic. We are not stuck on the side of the highway. Now, get over here in the driver’s seat.”
“Absolutely not, I’m calling Ry—”
“No,” she interrupts me, “You are not calling someone to save us. You are going to get behind this wheel, and you are going to push in the clutch, and then you’re going to release it and slowly give it some gas, and then shift the gears until you are able to set the cruise control on 65, all the way into Texas.”

I heard what she was saying, but from a young age, I had learned to deflect my ability to listen, even to myself, onto my humor.

I nodded into a large grin, and asked, “Do we have to go through Texas?”

To be continued…