Mushrooms - P. cubensis
Citation: shroomster. "The Language of Nature: An Experience with Mushrooms - P. cubensis (exp108754)". Erowid.org. Nov 2, 2018. erowid.org/exp/108754
We meant it to be both a literal and figurative trip, having rented a sprawling compound smack dab in the middle of the desert two hours outside our city. Five of us had set aside the Summer Solstice weekend just for this.
A gifted visual artist and craftsman who I’ll call Albus was the oldest (post 50, as the French would say) and the most “experienced.” While the rest of us could only boast of long histories with cannabis, Albus had met Tim Leary, tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. When I invited him on the trip, my motive was obvious. An “inexperienced” cousin of mine, let’s call him Manny, had that year turned one year older than me, 25. In one of Marilyn Monroe’s immortal lines, “That’s a quarter of a century! Makes a girl think.” And Manny clearly was thinking. More and more, our conversations began revolving around psychedelics.
I’d told him my story about getting “dosed” at a party when I was 19 and the terrifying acid trip that followed. Now nearly six years later, I shared with Manny a growing interest in mushrooms, but I couldn’t shake the memory of my paralyzing first trip. Then the idea struck: what if my loss could be someone else’s gain?
“We’re going to the desert,” I promptly informed Manny, Albus, and 2 other close friends; Jimi, a musician whose weekend luggage included his ever present guitar and Wes, a horror movie junkie/astronomy enthusiast who had only recently moved to the city. Everyone with the exception of Albus had little to no psychedelic experience. I had tested, in three varying doses, the Penis Envy strain batch of shrooms we were set to take, but that was it.
We arrived at the desert compound on our chosen Saturday to find a quirky space - private and isolated behind no less than three gates, the rich green grounds peppered with tree houses, fountains, and Greco-Roman statuettes. The delightfully like-minded owner gave us a tour of the property, adding that she grows weed on it before bidding us, “a blessed stay.” The next few hours were spent stocking the fridge, unpacking and exploring. At around 5pm, we threw bananas, strawberries, cinnamon, cayenne, avocado, apple, ginger, turmeric, mint, and almond milk into a blender. Oh, and of course, the shrooms! A lot of ingredients, yes, but we were starving; breakfast had consisted of a single bagel followed by juice for lunch, per Terence McKenna’s recommendation to fast. After drinking the elixir, we jumped into the van.
The initial “fight or flight” stimulation of the central nervous system made for an eerily quiet, anxiously expectant car ride. Our original plan had been to visit a nearby national park, but the closest entrance proved farther than expected. We sat in silence, feeling the butterflies. Words broke seemingly involuntarily from a stoic Manny (“I drank the most the quickest.”), sending us into nervous peels of laughter. Jimi, navigating from the passenger seat made the wise recommendation, “Looks like a dead end road close by, with mountains at the edge…Let’s just go there.” The fact remained unspoken but shared: we weren’t going to make it all the way to the park. The shrooms were already coming on strong. [Erowid Note:
Driving while intoxicated, tripping, or extremely sleep deprived is dangerous and irresponsible because it endangers other people. Don't do it!]
The dead end road had gorgeous, majestic rolling hills towering at its foot. Wes and I raced up the first, dodging snake holes and cacti. The heat felt like a separate drug unto itself, it hit you so damn hard. Real or imagined, I spied a patch of cloud covered shade at the top of the tallest hill. That combined with the lure of a probably incredible view drew me like a magnet.
By this point, the colors of rocks on the sandy ground had turned unearthly vivid. Mercurial faces blinked up at me, each rock signifying a tiny yet significant piece in the great living puzzle of Mother Earth. My eyes fell on one rock in particular, which “looked” back at me with a somehow reptilian expression. I stopped dead. It’s a snake! No, a rock. The mushroom was playing tricks.
I recalled a story from the Arabian Nights about a mountain whose numerous rocks indicated the number of people who’d tried to climb it before. Legend had it that if, while climbing the mountain, you turned back or so much as glanced over your shoulder, you turned to stone. Intriguing, but I was more concerned about snakes, which my dilated pupils could no longer distinguish from rocks and sand.
I was more concerned about snakes, which my dilated pupils could no longer distinguish from rocks and sand.
I called up to Wes, several yards ahead, “Hey, man - I’ve hit a wall. Tell me how it is up there, though!” He put two thumbs up before recommencing the climb. I turned back and did not turn to stone, however, my insides did.
The rolling hills below stretched toward the horizon like gargantuan waves mid-swell, vibrating and pulsing as if each hill was one finger of a giant claw - Atlas’s claw. In its peculiar, esoteric language, the mushroom had begun its mysterious dialogue. See how powerful the earth is, it seemed to say, see how infinitely mightier, wiser, and more beautiful than any human, a speck of dust by comparison, could ever imagine? “Yes,” I said aloud to no one in particular.
Meanwhile, the members of our trip tribe at the foot of the hill were in less than blissful states. Manny, having succumbed to hunger and broken his fast was bringing up the chicken he’d wolfed down with gusto just prior to drinking the smoothie. Albus stayed by his side like a protective, loyal sentry while Jimi more or less hovered in one place, experiencing stronger auditory hallucinations than visual ones. He seemed like an animal focused entirely on listening, his ears perked up and his head jerking around at every little sound. We would later learn that Jimi’s keen ears picked up on something before either Wes or I had begun to climb: the sound of a flag flapping against a pole. “I swear, it sounded like it was coming from the top of that hill,” Jimi recounted post-trip, “But I thought I was nuts. Every time I looked up, there was nothing there.” And yet, unbeknownst to Jimi at the time, something did in fact turn out to be up there.
Wes had reached the top of the hill in mere minutes. “Oh my God,” he exclaimed, panic in his voice, “Someone died up here! There are flowers and stuff…it’s really sad.”
A lump formed in my throat. The word, “sad” seemed to reverberate around every corner of my soul. Sober, I would have asked detailed questions about whatever makeshift memorial was up there. I might have even scrambled up to see for myself. This time, however, I couldn’t speak. “Atlas’s claw” still seemed magnificently powerful but less friendly. Don’t underestimate me, it seemed to warn, I hold life within, but also death. Jimi’s voice from below broke the ringing, revelatory silence: “Hey! You know what sounds good? A pool!” The heat really did sting one’s skin like a swarm of bees. I passed Jimi’s message up to Wes, who agreed to depart for the compound. He too had had to turn his attention away from the growing despondency of “death” and back to the majesty of the mountains.
Back in the car and roughly one hour in, the nausea reared its ugly head at me. Though clouds swirled playfully outside, I felt too sick to do anything other than stare at my feet, willing myself not to vomit in my dear old friend’s clean and faithful van. The ride lasted 20 minutes; millennia in “mushroom time.”
All of us nearly fell out of the van. Manny and Jimi made beelines for the pool and I for the bathroom. Waves of nausea coincided with my skin appearing to turn yellow and the walls magenta. I had the disorienting sensation of not knowing which way was north or south, east or west, even up or down for that matter. Though queasiness returned in waves throughout the trip, it gave me a reprieve just long enough to teeter out into the living room where Albus and Wes sat on plush couches, commenting on the compound’s undeniable quirkiness.
Everywhere you looked, Jesus was visible - in pictorial or idol form. “So many Jesus’s,” observed Wes. “Yeah,” agreed Albus, “They’re scaring the bejesus out of me!” Infectious laughter followed more Jesus jokes and word play. Although I laughed too, a sense of vague melancholy threatened to turn into a tidal wave of despair.
Noticing my discomfort, Albus took his trip sitter title seriously. He retrieved “a surprise” from the van - a newly finished drawing he said he hoped I especially would get a kick out of. When he unveiled it, I gasped. Clearly, this beautiful illustration mirrored a photograph I’d taken after stumbling upon a solitary chair in a dark, dusty, empty barn one day. It was marvelous, better than the original photo; I really wanted to gaze longer but every object in my vision was breathing, swirling, bulging, and shrinking, the contents of Albus’s picture included. The more I stared, the more it moved, and the more I panicked.
Obeying the urge to change the scenery, I went outside to wander the grounds alone. In a small clearing surrounded by swaying palm trees, I stopped to take a page out of Jimi’s book and just listen. The wind made the trees go, “Ssshhh,” like a mother gently hushing a small child.
“The mushroom speaks,” may be the easiest Terence McKenna quote to remember. His strong recommendation to engage in a dialogue (or at least, try to) spurred my vocal chords into action.
“You sound sad,” I told the trees, “But is it true? Or do I think so because I’m sad?”
Death popped thematically into my head; I thought not only of Wes’s discovery on the mountain but of the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, which had made headlines just days before. I thought of the carnage seen round the world as a result of guns, bombs, and other manmade vehicles of destruction.
“We made guns,” something prompted me to admit aloud, “Humans made machines that kill. It was us. There’s no one else to blame.” The “ssssshhhhh” of the wind grew louder and the trees seemed to sway more forcefully. Something warm glowed in my chest. The plants were responding - not with words, but with feelings. They agreed completely and yet, anger didn’t figure into the equation.
“Why?” I practically yelled, “Why aren’t you angry? We’re not just hurting ourselves, we’re demolishing the rainforests, polluting the atmosphere, raping the earth. We’re hurting YOU!” My voice trailed off along with my sudden burst of passionate, indignant rage. The trees spoke more clearly than ever, again through feelings, not words.
My voice trailed off along with my sudden burst of passionate, indignant rage. The trees spoke more clearly than ever, again through feelings, not words.
Their sadness came from pity - pity for any species so hellbent on destruction. Their tranquility came from the understanding that the greatest collective goal is to facilitate life, not end it. Humans, as opposed to other mammals have become artfully cruel in their methods of killing. For this, nature weeps, as a mother would for a son who has made a tragically poor decision, her tears coming from an inner holy place of unbreakable, forever enduring love. In this tender way that afternoon, nature wept for man.
My knees shook as a line from the good old Brothers Karamazov entered my head, “Fall down on the earth and water it with your tears.” This would have happened had a voice behind me not asked, “How are you doing?” It was Jimi. “Good,” I responded, regaining my composure, “I was just talking to this tree.” He smiled without a hint of deprecation. His experience thus far had been intense as well; only now, three hours in did he finally feel comfortable listening to music. A monumental relief for a musician!
We sat at a table near a big, bubbling fountain. Jimi played the apropos “desert rock” album, Bright Size Life, from his portable speaker as the sun made its glorious descent across the horizon. Wes soon joined us, Manny appearing shortly thereafter. The splendor of the sunset dazzled our senses. Nature truly was a wonder to behold. So wonderful that now, 5 hours in and decidedly on the comedown, I still wasn’t ready to leave “the natural world.”
Wes and Manny went back inside while Jimi and I traversed the grounds by the light of the full moon. The sky looked strikingly close, like the oval roof of a planetarium just thirty feet or so above our heads. Jimi reminded me what the compound owner had told us: “This property’s on a unique geographical plane. Oftentimes, when a storm moves in, it will only rain here. The neighboring ranches won’t get a drop!” We stared up at the moon until we had cricks in our necks, then went back inside.
A delicious aroma greeted us; Albus was cooking. To my relief, inanimate objects in the cluttered living room had stopped crawling, though the sensation persisted in my periphery. The sight of a clean counter and washed dishes nearly moved me to tears. Albus was more than a trip sitter, he had taken on the role of “Papa Bear” with pride. Wes and Manny were already chowing down on sausages he’d grilled to perfection. A recurring mushroom theme for me seems to be gratitude; on a trip comedown, I feel so grateful for the simple things in life often taken for granted, such as food and drink.
After our late dinner, for it was after 10pm at this point, the five of us spent the tail end of the trip outside by the big circular fountain where sunset had us spellbound hours earlier. An enormous cloud moved in front of the moon, alternately cutting its light. Wes and Jimi laid on the edge of the fountain, flat on their backs so as to better observe the sky. Albus passed around a pair of binoculars. At some point, he and Manny walked a few yards away to, of all places, the clearing where I’d had my “dialogue” with the trees. The three of us still by the fountain could hear them chatting merrily in the distance.
Suddenly I heard a soft pop and hiss just above my head. I looked up in time to see a tiny patch of light fading away in the sky. Had I been alone, I would have called it a hallucination. But Jimi had seen it, and Wes had nearly fallen off the edge of the fountain. “It wasn’t a shooting star!” he cried, “But it may have been a meteor. I definitely saw flames!” The hallucinations, even the trails/traces had ended a while ago. Whatever final surprise nature had in store for us that day had apparently made its mark even without direct psychedelic aide. We felt truly connected to the earth and our specific place on it - this rambling, eccentric, wacky ranch.
The next morning found me roaming the grounds barefooted after one of the most peaceful sleeps of my life. The sun illuminated what I had not noticed the night before: A Greco-Roman statue of Atlas, painstakingly hoisting the earth, the incredible, animate, living earth high on his mighty shoulders.
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