If you’re finding yourself depressed, but not clinically, locked in a myopic worldview, or simply unappreciative of the fact that you’re alive in one of the most fascinating times in human history, you really need to lose your mind… literally.
Fortunately for us, God made this big beautiful green Earth, and filled it with unexpected natural treasures, one of them being the small miracle of allowing hallucinogenic mushrooms to grow in cowshit.
So go get and get yourself a handful, clear your schedule for a weekend, go somewhere safe, like a beach, or a camp ground, or your bedroom or the pyramids in Egypt if you really wanna blow your head apart, and ingest the natural poison that the Mayans built a civilization on. It will help. I promise.
I had tortured myself over law school. I ended up going ‘cause like thousands of philosophy majors before me, I had no clue what else to do. I thought, here’s another weapon in the arsenal. I’m not sure what war I thought I was fighting, but armed with a law degree, I could hopefully blow some shit up.
Once in the soup, I was stunned how many others had arrived without the slightest intention of practicing law. The majority had defaulted into the decision “to continue their education,” as the mantra went. They were smart and knew how to compete, and most had the money to do it without going into debt. Those that didn’t were all about scoring high paying jobs once they were out to pay off their loans. They called it the Golden Shackles and from what I was hearing, it all got more intense in the real world.
It wasn’t long before teeth grinding dominated my evenings. Clammy hands turned the parchment of legal briefs and sleep deprivation became a comparative badge of honor. I wondered if I had made the wrong decision. I wondered what I would do if I left? Was it too late to do anything else? I was losing my proverbial goo.
Fortunately, a dear friend we’ll call Nels had gotten into drugs instead of law school and she coaxed me to get away from it all for a weekend. She was hiking the Appalachian Trail a few hours north and she promised me that nothing “legal” would be within a two hundred mile radius of my brain. She meant it.
We say little on the drive. Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky acts as our soundtrack. We park, grab gear and settle at the foot of what I’m told is a five-mile hike. Nels pulls out zip lock of dried mushrooms and drops a few stems and caps into a steaming thermos of Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange tea. A sprinkle of the blueish powder from the bottom of the bag clouds the water, embitters it. A squirt of dark agave nectar bring it around to nothing short of scrumpdeliuptious. We sip ceremoniously amidst the autumnal breeze.
A Frisbee flies between us as we wait for the neo-tryptamines to kick in. Talking roams through current events as we contemplate picketing a WTO conference, or heckling the Preacher at a mega-church… when slowly, the backs of my knees start tingling. My instinct is to sit, but Nels is like, “No, that’s the sign. We gotta move.” So we stash our gear and start to hike the trail and in less than ten minutes, like someone had cleared away the cobwebs, it hits.
I had never
. . seen color
. . . in three-dimensions before.
I’d heard about “tracers” and “color bleeds” and “melting” and “synesthesia” but never did I imagine anything so absolutely present tense.
I forgot to mention, we’d each taken an extra thousand milligrams of vitamin E cause one of Nels’ bio-chemistry cronies told her it enhances the atocopherals in the retinal fluid or some such… It totally works.
The trees are a shade of green I can swim in. The clay trail is a pulsating burnt sienna. The texture of soil is like Challah French toast. Ten o’clock in the morning, sixty-eight degrees, blue skies with spun sugar cloud coverage… and I’m about to go cubist.
I remember my last rational thought before surrendering to what can best be labeled a psilocybin-induced autism: Why can’t our planet be this beautiful all the time?
I pace ahead of Nels on the trail cause I’m like a kid who can’t keep his pants on and I end up at the stream first, which is our first destination. By the time Nels finally catches up to me, she somehow ends up on the other side of it. So the stream split us, which I found very symbolic, sort of like, man and woman and water in between? At the time, it made perfect sense.
I end up squatting on this huge rock in the middle of the brook, and the water is rushing right towards it and splitting at the base in two new flows and as far as I’m concerned it’s the most exciting divergence on the planet. Talk about population differentiation. The biodiversity in that tiny spot alone was amazing: all oxygenated and oligotrophic? You’ve never in your life seen a healthier riparian ecosystem. Just perfectly balanced.
And though I’m the furthest thing from religious, believe me, I have this lightning bolt revelation that we all live in a Pantheistic world where God is everything natural in the Universe and everything natural in the universe is God. He is us and I am them and we are all the Walrus, goo goo g’joob.
And then, through the surface of this eddy, beneath a naturally forming micro-foam, I notice a Brook Trout staring back at me from under a rock. This little dude with eyes popping out of his head and this unhappy mug, and he’s checking me out, you know, ever so politely curious.
And I stretch out on my stomach to get a better look at him and I can see his whole aquatic set-up. He’s got a rock-house with a slanted roof, the equivalent I’d say of a decent one-bedroom, a hole in back he can dash into for safety from the nasty Crayfish, a surplus of macro-invertebrates to snack on and the whole live action scenario is just blowing the Discovery Channel away.
I make eye contact with the Trout– and I report this as accurately as I’m able, even as the reality of my own opposing thumbs are becoming distractingly fascinating– the fucking fish starts talking. It may not have been verbal, I can’t recall his mouth forming words, but there was clearly some form of ichthyological telepathy going down here, ‘cause the Trout tells me, he beams to me, that he’s distraught. And I’m like, “Why, dude, you’re totally set up here?” And the Trout says, ever so slyly, “Look around, ya dipshit.”
And so I gaze upstream, and I see this tire sticking out of the water and it’s rotting. And just beyond the tire, I spot a corroded milk crate, the rust discoloring the silt bed. And as I take in the full scenario for the very first time, I can see it’s all over the place: little bits of garbage, beneath the tranquil ripples, floating on the surface, laying on the gently grading banks.
And I get this feeling, this compulsion inside me that I have been sitting long enough. And I stand up.
I plunge my arm into the water and I grab that Coke can, the Kit-Kat wrapper, the bottle caps. I wade upstream, against the current, stuffing my pockets with debris and I get to the tire and I heave the bastard over my shoulder and it’s filled with mud. But I’m on a mission now. I yank up the milk crate, which splits apart and slices my forearm open and, well, BLOOD IS A WHOLE THING WHEN YOU’RE BOOMING. Lacerated epidermis and bisected capillaries, platelets and plasma, LIFE is oozing outta me…. and I have no fear.
There’s litter in the trees and bushes, and in holes dug into the ground. I start to hyperventilate because aside from the sheer shock of the size of the mess, I am, at the juncture, officially tripping my tits off.
Vapors are whipping off a plastic bag fluttering from a tree branch, and I can see the toxicity swirling into the air. I’m breathing it into my lungs, as are the sparrows and hummingbirds sharing the season.
I know without thinking there’s no way I can clean this catastrophe up alone. I turn and face Nels, who is a hundred yards away singing Crosby, Stills & Nash to a flock of Canadian Geese. They join her on the chorus.
I scream to her, “Neeelllls! I neeeeeed yoooouuu!”
Penelope crosses the stream– full circling the symbolism– and she and I start working together to clean this mess. I find an industrial storage cylinder on its side, which we use as a central garbage hub. We fill it in minutes. I’m jumping up and down on it to make more room. Recyclables accumulate along side in piles of glass, paper, and plastic.
We labor for hours, four or five? If the sun hadn’t set, we would have kept on. Now our hair is in knots, and we’re exhausted, and we’re proud, and we’re finally coming down, when Nels asks, “What do we do with it all now?”
And I realize, we’re five miles up a mountain. There isn’t exactly a garbage route nearby. And it’s a sobering blow. All our work was for nothing. I become nauseous. I feel myself spiraling into a vacuum of despair, when Nels says, “Hey, maybe they can haul it all out in a boat.” And we look at each other like, “A boat! Because… it’s a river.”
The Park Rangers at base-camp are so thankful for our remediation, not only do they schedule a Monday morning flat-barge pick-up, but the head dude pulls open a drawer in a gouged oak desk and hands us both Deputy Ranger patches.
We took our time getting back to the city. The ghost of the drug still coloring our awareness, beckoning us to stay in its utopian spell.
I slept like a baby that night and let myself skip class the next morning. Sometime after breaking on through to the other side, I had unconscious brought back the verdict on law school. I would not be returning.
Before Alice fell down the rabbit-hole, her world was a hell of a bore. A place where you could fall asleep in tree while hanging out with your sister on a midsummer’s day and be ungrateful. It took caterpillars on mushrooms and a Mad Hatter’s tea to open her eyes to just how beautiful her ordinary world was. She swallowed her fear, traversed the chessboard and croquet fields, and challenged the Red Queen in a trial. I’d have gladly defended her before that jury.
It’s doubtful I’d have needed a degree to do it.