Monday, August 6, 2018

A Vein of Fire

A Vein of Fire


Preparing the brew took several days’ work. The brew is just over two pounds of peeled cactus flesh and half a lemon reduced to 16 ounces of opaque green liquid. It looks like a jar of olive drab paint, and it’s just about as appetizing.

Most plant medicine tastes awful. In this case, awful would be a vast improvement. The juice is slightly salty, and so intensely bitter that it causes your tongue to recoil. Only the acid bite of the lemon allows it to get past the gag reflex. It is nasty stuff. 

   I was going to brew all three 9" sections, but at the last minute my guardian angel said, "Two. No more. No less." Wise choice. It was 3:00 when I took the mason jar out of the refrigerator, and set it on the kitchen table with a bottle of Italian mineral water, a fresh baguette, and a big container of sliced mango. The quart jar was half full, and I had to shake it a little to stir the sediment. I poured four ounces of the bitter green liquid into a measuring cup and took it down in two gulps.

Mary walked into the kitchen. She  was on her way out to spend some time with her brother’s family. “Well”, she asked, “How was it?”  
 I shudder a little, “It was awful. Not that bad, really. I’ll be able to do this.”

Mary gave me a kiss. “You have fun.”
Not many 65 year old guys are into this kind of thing, and fewer have wives who tell them to “have fun” on their trips. I am richly blessed.
 I ate a small slice of mango, and a little bread. Ten minutes later I swallowed the next four ounces. I chased each gulp with a swallow of mineral water, a mouthful of bread, and some mango. I knew I’d purge, and I wanted something for the belly to expel, so I wouldn’t dry heave. The jar was empty at twenty to four. 

 Nothing to do now, but wait. Of course, I’m nervous, full of anticipation, a little apprehensive. I walked around the house, checked the computer, went out front, watered the yard a little.  I was planning to just enjoy the afternoon at home, in familiar surroundings. Maybe later on I’ll walk to the park for a smoke, or take the bike for a ride.

The first wave of nausea bubbled up around 4:00. I knew I had to keep the juice down for about an hour, but I doubted if I was going to make it. By ten after four I was heaving. I drank some mineral water to cleanse my mouth and ate a mango slice to settle my stomach. I still felt a little sick. Soon I was pacing aimlessly around the house- a good sign that things were under way. By 4:30 there was no mistaking it... 

I’m coming on hard. Holy cow, this is going to be big!
 A soft electricity is streaming through my body, ringing in my ears like a sustained chord from some windstring instrument. It is strangely pleasant, but mostly- just- strange. I’ve never felt anything like it. And  I know this is just the beginning. The voltage on that soft electricity is creeping upward, the chord growing ever louder, and more intense. How intense will this get? Somehow I’m neither frightened, nor worried about it. This powerful body humming feels good.

 But I gotta’ barf again. Again, a little mango, a little mineral water. I’m sitting in the big green chair in the living room, sliding into this hazy soft drowsiness. Things are becoming dreamlike. Strange electric spasms charge up the back of my legs and into my groin. My pelvis involuntarily thrusts forward. This power bursting through my loins! A sleepy, soft dreaminess is slowly filling up my head. I fade into a slow trance, and then pop awake, and start sinking again. Then I’m restless, up pacing the room until the dream fades me out, and I return to the chair. 

By 5:30 I’m full of restless energy, and I decide to walk around the block. I barely make it to the curb before I have to run back in the house and barf again. But mineral water and mango, and I’m out the front door and I’m walking and it’s a relief to move, but I want to get back home, and it’s a long block, but I make it back. And so the cycle repeats. Sit, fade, dream, pace, sit, fade, dream, pace.

 6:00, and the dream trance is growing more and more hallucinatory. Things are suffused with the light of their own perfect essence. Wood grains are flowing; patterns and images drifting through the stucco ceiling. Deep golden sunshine  pouring down in the yard.  My artwork coming to life on the breathing walls. But I gotta’ puke again. I realize and accept that this is just going to be part of the experience. After this one I feel OK. 

Huge waves of euphoria wash over me. I am bathed in pure sensation. Energy fuses with lethargy in  the strangest blend of opposing forces. By now I’m dreaming all this.  But I’m restless again, and I need to walk. I’m in this sort of looping pattern where I sit in the chair, feeling like I’m falling asleep, but I don’t fall asleep. I fall adream, and begin sinking down into a trance… and the electric muscles pull me up on my feet. I  stand up, pace the floor, maybe barf. Sit down, and begin to fall adream… And the buzzing in my ears is getting louder. The soft electricity charging through my body, the dream trance embracing my consciousness grows thicker, and deeper, the hallucinations more pronounced. This is another world, a floating world, and it is wonderful, wonderful.

I need to walk. So I close up the house, and go out front. Once more, I barely make it to the curb before I have to barf again. So we go through the loop: barf, mineral water, mango, pace, sit. But now I’m OK. At least now…

 I’m OK! Holy cow, am I OK! Euphoria surges into the dream. The electricity powers me forward. I step  into the glowing solstice afternoon, and I am weightless. My body moves without effort; the neighborhood is washed in sunshine mellow gold, and energy flows through every living thing, and they all celebrate the pure and perfect essence of their being- the tree-ness of trees, the flower-ness of the flowers is all aglow in the dreamlight.

But my sense of pattern recognition is gone. I glide down my street, but the neighborhood is not familiar; it’s all new, somehow. I reach the end of the block, and wait.  I know where to go, but I don’t feel it. It is unfamiliar. I’m worried about getting lost out here.
In the midst of all this I realize that I did one thing right- I didn’t have anything else going today. I’m almost totally incapacitated. Getting up. Sitting down. Walking around. These are all great and difficult undertakings. There is no way I could socialize, or do anything else but be stoned. Take the bike out? No way. Walk to the park? Too dreamtired sleepy, I’d get lost. 

And I am very. Very. Just. Plain. Stoned. I am as stoned as ever I have been, and that’s saying a lot. The full-body humbuzzing, this glowing haze in my brain is as powerful as anything I’ve ever felt. It is not drunkenness, but I would be less intoxicated if that jar had held 16 ounces of moonshine.

 I‘m flying at full capacity. My thought stream is murky, the inner dialogue  reduced to vague murmurings, moodclouds, and shapeless feelings rather that articulated thought. I had been angry over some unpleasant business from this morning. As I round the block the discontent flows into the stream. It takes a thick, slow effort to steer my path away.  I am not safe from anger here in the dream. The ugly thoughts are quicksand traps. I can feel the danger of wading into one.

It’s cooling down quickly; I feel the wind pass through my T-shirt. The breeze swirls around my skin, and it feels like a full body tickle. Only cold. I’m skinny, and I chill easily. Round the corner and head back toward the house; it’s getting chilly and..

Get there just in time to be sick again. Now I feel it. There’s a devil in my stomach, a black nasty squirming thing, and he needs to be expelled. I make it to the bathroom. Heave and heave again. I pitch out a lump, and the devil is gone. I’m on my knees at the bowl. Thank God for Mr. Mango. He’s been such a friend through all this. 

I need water. I need warm. Warm water comes from the bathroom. Takes too long in the kitchen. But there’s no cup in the bathroom. The cup is in the kitchen. So that means I have to go to the kitchen and get the cup, then take the cup into the bathroom. I can do this. I get the cup. I take it back. I fill the cup, but I have to take it back to the kitchen to drink. Warm water on my stomach. Oh, my God. Nothing in the entire experience of the whole human race feels as good as  warm water. Surely God loves us, if He created warm water. I am so very grateful for this gift.

Back in the living room I’m sweating, feeling washed out and a little weak. Sitting in the green chair, the electricity charging up the back of my legs and out the groin. The living room floating in the haze. Am I falling asleep or just awakening? Always falling into the dreamawake. Again and again the pelvic thrust, and I see my legs looking so, so thin in my loose jeans. A surge in the voltage brings me to my feet.

  A moodcloud flows into the stream, this amorphous yearning for God. That God so loved the world… I think of the Christ, and say the Lord’s prayer aloud. The sound of my voice is startling.  The Word rolls through me like thunder, and at once I know in the depth of my bones that I am old. Old and thin. This body. This thin frail body that I’ve ridden so hard for so long. I am desiccated, withered as a mummy, a thin, dry chip of a man. I am a vein of fire at the center of a brittle husk, and I know that soon this husk will  crumble and return to the earth. Only the fire will continue. Somewhere. I know beyond all shadow that my time is mostly gone. I know that death is immanent in all. This is not horrifying. This is not frightening. This is Truth and I embrace it.

I stand at the open door. The back yard glows in the orange fire of a deep, late sun. The bottle brush tree is a torch of neon green, and scarlet flame. It sings beauty for the sheer glory of life. I am rapt in an infant's joy, a memory from the time before speech, and the days before words. I feel the grand maternal love radiating from the colors of the foliage. I was called here to see this. I traveled all this way to live this moment. This is what I came here for.
 The sickness doesn’t matter; it doesn’t matter at all.  

It occurs to me, even in the depths of this dream trance, that it is the same sense of divine love that I felt from the Salvia so many years ago.

10:30 at night, and Mary is getting home. The peak has passed, and the visuals faded. I’m glad she’s back.  She asks me how the trip has been, and I try to explain, but it’s too hard to form coherent thoughts, and I drift out mid-sentence... But the mescaline! How very strange. 

Mary fixed me some broth and egg, and I sipped it spoon by spoon while she went to bed. 
Midnight.  Now there was just the humming in my ears, the all over soft current still flowing in every cell, the drowsiness, and the  restlessness. Sleep seems so near, but too much energy in the loins, and still slow dopey. This waking dream so drowsy... 

I so wanted to sleep. But there would be no sleep that night, just a slow winding down of the cycle. I didn’t want to spoil Mary’s night, so I stretched out on the couch, tried to breathe deep, and relax. The body slowed, but my mind sank only 99% asleep, and dangled above the darkness like Tantalus craving water.
 So I’d get up, drink a little water, sit on the futon in the den, relax, breathe deep, and again I’m so close to sleep. Each breath draws me halfway there but I never quite arrive. Blessedly, my mind was still and quiet. Eventually I just gave up and sat in the living room.

These are the Limbo hours: no stream of thought, no metaphysical speculation, no deep and profound pondering of anything, no recounting the troubles and worries of daily life. Just a dull gray  fog. I could vaguely acknowledge that the insomnia was frustrating to madness, but I was neither frustrated, nor mad.  

 It was limbo,  a blank and empty place, soft, gray, and effortless. A mercy from whatever spirits rule this world. It sort of makes up for the barfing going in. (Not really.)  

The house was dark and cool, the sliding door open. I sat on the sofa looking at shadows, listening to quiet, and feeling time drip by. Now and again Littlecat came in to check on me. She’d bounce into the living room, rub against my ankle, want a pet and a scratch and then dart off into the night again.
 And so.
 Hour after hour, the night ticked on, my body winding down, my headspace blessedly empty. 

There would be no sleep all the next day, either. I could nibble at food, and sip water, but that was about it. I’d been beaten pretty hard, and by 3:00 that afternoon even the merciful sense of limbo was gone. All I could do was lie there and crave sleep. I could still feel the buzzing 24 hours after drinking the brew. All in all I was awake for about  forty hours, and on my ass for two days following. 

It was a tough, and amazing journey into the mescaline dream, like climbing up the roughest mountain to get to the most wonderful view imaginable, and crossing endless miles of flat featureless desert to return. You understand that the rough climb, the amazing view, and the desert are all parts of the trip.

 The nausea, the insomnia, the sheer level of intoxication all sound awful. I won’t sugar coat things and say that the sickness did not spoil much of the trip.  But the buzz was wonderful, and sickness and insomnia were integral to the experience. Just part of it. That’s all. Consider, that there was no time in the trip where I felt regret, panic or terror. Even during the sickness I never thought, ‘Please  make this stop!’ Even though I was tripping at my limit, I never wanted out. Even during the long empty hours I simply understood that this, too, was  a part of what I had asked for, and that it would pass eventually. All in all it was a magnificent experience.

I decided to revisit the world of psychedelics a little over a year ago, but like a lot of things, I sat on the decision for some months, and actually chickened out the first time I had a chance to get some LSD. When I set out I didn’t expect mescaline to be on the menu. Glad that it was. So what was I looking for? And did I find it?

Psychedelics can’t teach you anything that you don’t already know, but they can show you what you didn’t know you knew. 
Psychedelics aren’t  religion, but they can facilitate a religious experience. 
  I see these substances as natural wonders, strange  awe-inspiring places to visit  like the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone. 

These things are here for a reason. We can only speculate as to why God saw fit to create them, just as we may wonder that the Creation itself is suffused in beauty.

 I wanted  the experience for its own sake. I wanted a transcendent event. The Achuma gave it to me in spades, and for that I am grateful. Sickness and all. But it’s no game for an old man.  If life is a book, then the thick part of this volume is in my left hand. At this point I think I may have finished a chapter. But I always say that…


  1. Wow...While this was certainly a more grueling ride than anything I've ever done in my amateur career of playing with stuff like this, I have learned enough to be able to understand a little bit about how your ride went. No way I could ever embark on something like this, but thanks for sharing your voyage. It also kinda reaffirmed that I really have no desire or ability to embark on such a journey.

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  3. John, thanks for sharing your experience. i enjoy your writings and what a good idea to document these 'National park' biological adventures...or...NATURAL peak biological adventures of pineal gland DMT. Very deep, very droll and very dynamic!

  4. Superb writing. A perfect blend of a scientific-like study and gripping visuals. Bravo, John!