The House of Entheogens

house

She met him in October on the Georgetown campus. He was wearing a red a blue baseball cap. The wind blew it off and she picked it up. Returned it to him. They started talking about the weather, then science, and soon philosophy. Quickly, they became friends.

 

They spent several Sundays taking walks to the local farmer’s market to pick out apricots, then going to eat them on a blanket in the park. It was the most romantic thing she’d ever done. But they remained nothing more than friends, yet something more than casual acquaintances. After all, she had recently finished her journalism degree and worked at a restaurant part-time, and he was pursuing his Ph.D. at Georgetown. Both of them, divorced. Neither had time for dating – or at least – no desire in walking the path to another broken heart.

 

Once it got cold, he invited her to his house. When she walked in, she wondered why he had a rice cooker with aluminum foil on top. A device to make gold out of, he told her. He explained the whole process. His alchemy. She trusted him. He studied quantum mechanics after all.

 

The house was full of strange things. (No, not the kind of strange things mothers warn daughters about before they sneak away with a glass of wine and the latest E L James novel.) The kind of strange things that made her curious and ask a lot of questions.

 

In the kitchen he kept tiny bottles on the shelves, full of substances that looked like chemicals or powders. Others were full of herbs, leaves, and varieties of tea, with perhaps a few strains of medical marijuana in the mix.

 

“Entheogens,” he told her. “Meaning ‘generating the divine within.’ Or more simply put — plant medicines. They produce non-ordinary states of consciousness. People around the world use them for religious or spiritual reasons.”

 

“Oh, right,” she said. “I knew that….and what exactly do you do with them?

 

“Oh, sometimes people come to me and buy them. If enough people are interested, I’ll lead retreats where people could take the entheogens within a safe container, like a Santo Daime church, someone’s backyard in the woods, or a yoga studio.

 

There was nothing ordinary about him, she thought. And maybe that’s why she hung around.

 

 

“So….you’re dating a drug dealer?” Penelope gasped.

 

“Well, no, not exactly,” she said. “I don’t know if we’re actually ‘dating,’ we’re just friends. Anyway, he’s more of an um…urban shaman.”

 

“Is that what he calls himself, or did you just make that up right now?”

 

“I mean….I guess it’s the term he uses, but I still find it pretty fascinating.”

 

“Come on Nat,” Penelope reached out to touch her hand. “I’m worried about you.”

 

“He’s getting a Ph.D.! In quantum physics!”

 

“Hah….Denver worked as Noam Chomsky’s literary agent, and you saw how that turned out when I needed someone to drive me to Planned Parenthood last summer!”

 

“What, you prefer I date a nice normal guy? Like the guy at the coffee shop with muscular arms and the compass tattoo who talked to me about The Unbearable Lightness of Being and then asked for validation for the quality of his pictures on his Bumble profile?”

 

“No! No…that’s not what I’m saying. I just think you deserve someone who genuinely cares about you, Natalie. Drugs and things…whatever. I just don’t want to see you settling for someone who just who only cares about himself again.”

 

 

She enjoyed exploring his house. She experimented with the musical instruments he collected from his travels around the world, like the Aboriginal didgeridoo and Malian n’goni. She watered the twenty potted plants and herbs sitting by the window. She bought him a bamboo plant, a snake plant, and a bonsai tree, just to add something a little more ordinary to the most exotic mix.

 

The jars of entheogens were meticulously labeled with the common name and its psychoactive constituent:

 

Ayahuasca – Harmala alkaloids and DMT

Bolivian torch cactus – Mescaline

Fly agaric – Ibotenic acid and muscimol

Magic mushrooms – Psilocybin and psilocin

 

“When did you know you were….you know….a ‘shaman?’ ” she asked.

 

“Maybe as young as twelve,” he said, not noticing the glint of sarcasm in her voice. “I started out having out of body experiences. Lying in bed before I would fall asleep, it felt like my body was being submerged in water like I was about to cross over into spirit realm. Started perceiving what was going to happen in the future. Sometimes clairvoyant. I didn’t know what was happening to me. When one of my college professors gave me some of C. G. Jung’s literature on archetypes and the collective unconscious, some things started to make sense.”

 

He paused to take in the confused look on her face.

 

“Don’t worry,” he laughed, almost reading her mind. “I’ve looked into mental health issues – I don’t have schizophrenia, not possible. Doesn’t run in my family line. I believe my ancestors carried this knowledge, and it’s coming through me in this generational incarnation of the bloodline. And of course, Western medicine doesn’t have a name for these types of things. Hence, a lot of people do end up getting a mental health diagnosis. What I experience is just that – what I experience. Weird things happen from time to time, but it doesn’t dominate my life. And I find the plants guide me to what I need to know.”

 

Remarkably, Trevor was the most normal person she had been with, even out of her male friends. When she was with him she felt safe and calm.

 

“And how did you find the plants?” she asked.

 

“Maybe you should be asking ‘how did the plants find me’?’”

 

“Oh my friend,” she smiled and laughed. “You are such a mystery. I could write a whole book on you.”

 

“Oh? What would it be – fantasy?”

 

She blushed. Fantasies. She had a few. There was clearly some sexual tension between them, of course. But the two hadn’t had sex, or made love, or even fucked, or whatever you want to call it, in the time they had now known each other.

 

“Are you winking at me?!” she jested, then coughed. “No, you know I write nonfiction. And hard journalism.”

 

There was an awkward silence between them. She pointed to the stack of books on his table.

 

“Speaking of nonfiction, tell me more about the intelligence of plants they talk about in your books. What does it mean exactly?”

 

“Let me think…Well, you can’t compare the intelligence of plants to that of humans, exactly. It’s not as if they have a rational, thinking mind, like a brain or a computer. Scientists who study plant intelligence see plants as highly sensitive organisms – rather than passive players in their environment. Plants monitor their internal and external worlds for informational and functional shifts – like changes in soil, water, light, etc. Just like our eyes have a sensory inflow from the spectrum of light to perceive colors, plants have gates of perception that allow sensory inflow from a spectrum of what is going on around them. Then, they integrate that information into their own state of being”

 

“Yes, now, go on.”

 

“When I take the plants, they can guide my body into that same level of perception. I can’t explain it well, poems seem to do the talking for me from there.” He pulled a book off of the table and turned to a bookmarked page:

 

It is actually a kind of dreaming

And not the kind of dreaming you are thinking about either

But a different kind of dreaming entirely

(It’s like the dreaming you do when you are reading this book)

The dreaming is the central core of what this book is about

It is the kind of dreaming that Goethe was engaged in

When he learned about plant metamorphosis

And Luther Burbank when he looked deep into the plant

And saw every environment its ancestors had ever lived in

And the same kind that Barbara McClintock did

When she watched individual chromosomes in corn shift their structure

It is the same state of mind that writers enter when they create words

It is also how Gaia dreams the world into being

And is the kind of dreaming you can do, too, if you wish,

If you decide to walk through the doors of perception

And find out what is on the other side

 

 

“It’s lovely. I love it. You know I love poetry. But let’s go back to what you mentioned earlier – how DID the plants find you?”

 

“Ah! Right. Five years ago, not long after I moved to the city for grad school and was living in a condo, and I had a dream that I was wandering around this big house with secret passageways behind bookshelves, hidden staircases, and a big front yard. I felt curious and elated like I did as a child discovering life’s mysteries for the first time. The next day got a lead from someone I had met randomly at a bookstore in Adams Morgan. The price was unbeatable for the city, almost like a gift from the gods.”

 

“Yeah, really, it’s impossible to find something these days,” she commented.

 

“And the next week, I bought this house. Everything you see here, the books, the jars, the labels – all already on the shelf from the previous owner. An Italian immigrant, I heard, who had passed and left nothing to his grandchildren who all live in various parts of the country and want nothing to do with his past. The plants were the passageways waiting for me to explore their world of insight. Their potential to heal us and bring us more into our true natures.”

 

She stared at him in silence.

“Trevor, I think you’re pretty cool, you know that?”

 

He laughed and went to go prepare her a coffee. “I guess you’re not so bad either.”

As much as Natalie enjoyed hanging out with Trevor, she simply couldn’t bring herself to opening up to him intimately. Perhaps is came from her unhealed past. Her first boyfriend told her about his trips on acid at 17 and became a heroin addict by the age of 22.  In her last serious relationship before her marriage, her boyfriend smoked a joint nearly every time they saw each other, which would make him fall asleep during sex. And then in her marriage — the most disastrous of them all – her husband was a physiatrist who eventually began abusing the opioids he gave to patients and had convinced her she was both anorexic and had bipolar disorder. Neither of which were true.

 

Natalie was never sure why she attracted these types of men into her life. Aside from the usual alcohol and weed in college, she had never really taken drugs herself. Things had not been great, and her friends never knew what she saw in these men. All of them, to varying degrees, had expressed interest in social and political change, but never really seemed to put much action behind their words. Their drug use came first.

 

Trevor, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care about politics at all. When he wasn’t working with the entheogens, he put all of his energy into his studies. She knew there was something different about him. They kept their boundaries, and she let the man remain a mystery.

 

In February, Penelope and Natalie got their nails done for Valentine’s Day. She told Natalie she has a dream where she is pregnant. They stop by a drug store for the test and sure enough –

 

“I can’t believe it’s going to happen. I’m going to be a mom!”

 


TO BE CONTINUED

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Dream Stones

Dream Stones
Stream of Consciousness, Ethnography, Personal Narrative, Travel, Drugs
Dog
I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, because I don’t believe in writer’s block and even though I’m an expert at naval gazing I know I need to get out of the house and be around people, but no I don’t really feel like talking to them, I just need to watch them and their habits, kind of like how I watched this dog all week, who would wake me up in the middle of the night licking her wounds, a bad habit she’s acquired just like I have of picking my ears, so I’d yell at her to please stop and blame her for the reason I wasn’t really able to sleep but eventually I figured out she actually needed me to lift her legs onto the bed and then she took up all of it but at least she was peaceful.
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So I went out and I watched, I watched, I watched the whole world like I was traveling. I don’t have any money to take a trip but I can pretend that instead of those thoughts on is the path I always take and these are the same people I talk to rather to think this is the first time I have ever set eyes on this place and who are these people and what sort of culture do they have because I remember the time I went to Beijing for the first time and it felt like one week lasted me a whole year because nothing made sense but at the same time everything did because I just saw everything around me and felt free from wanting anything at all.
Dream stones
There’s a certain freedom when traveling but I can’t travel right now so I’m staying in this house with a meditation room and burning Chinese incense that reminds me of when I lived in Dali, Yunnan – the province of the Southern Clouds – and I am almost certain without a shadow of a dreamer’s doubt that in fact the people shaped the clouds descending over the mountainside with their thoughts and memories and dreams and hopes because the marble they mined from the mountain had the same look of the clouds and they sold that marble they called it dream stones.
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When my father came to visit me he went to every little just so he could stare at dream stones for hours before he decided to buy a whole suitcase full and I suppose they activated something in or I suppose it was the kind of shit he saw when he was high so maybe that explains why am I sitting here at breakfast Googling pictures of Ayahuasca for my desktop background because I remember that day after church we came back and ate bagels and talked about Jeremy Narby’s The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge for hours and how everything the Amazonian shamans told the anthropologist made complete fucking sense to me and now I hope every time I open my computer I can get activated and be reminded that life is not actually this but really that and be reminded there are some trips you don’t actually have to buy a plane ticket to take. 
Bus Stop Jamaica 
Sitting next to a Latina woman sitting at the bus stop, we are both watching the man across the street putting on a tie before he takes out two cases of bottled water from the trunk and I’m trying to remember that word…corbata…la corbata de civilization, it’s something like that, something like a choke hold that puts its arm around your neck and chokes you to death when you are just a man just a simple man and you surrender your whole head to the king of capitalism.
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He’s in front of a tire shop it reminds me of the kind in Jamaica because its yellow small and has some people milling about outside and when I went in 2010 with my jazz band it was the first time I could recall not knowing if I was awake or dreaming and it was the first time I could recall not having access to technology so I couldn’t call my boyfriend for a week and thank god because he called me every day ugh a way too co-dependent relationship I broke free from for a while but so I ended up cuddling with by the piano player in a hammock I couldn’t tell if it was okay to do that even though I really wanted to because there’s a certain way you can connect with people when we played music under the stars and the other piano player almost bought a ‘shroom from a guy on the beach but instead all of us when out to a trampoline on the sea and looked up at the stars and got high and thought maybe they made the shape of a cannabis leaf.
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The bus isn’t coming so I think maybe I should call a car but then I remember how I noticed the people who have white skin like me who have any bit of money don’t actually ride public transportation unless they are going to work, but at some point I learned that I’ll always get where I’m going anyways and at some point I learned time doesn’t actually exist and have you ever noticed that people think they need to be stressed out in order to get anything done and have you ever noticed people here use that word productive a lot but they don’t actually produce anything and at some point I removed that word from my vocabulary. 
Your Unreliable Ethnographer  
What thoughts are mine and what are not mine? I don’t really know anymore. 
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When you observe a different culture, you assume the people you watch are genuinely happy to be together. 
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I picked up a biography of Margaret Mead in a free library on the side of the street today and I don’t know anything about her much other than I agreed with her when I heard she said adolescence might really just be a sham invented by Western culture so why did I ever have to be a teenager I’ll never forget my remembered my first year anthropology professor who told us that when he was in Papua New Guinea the people worshipped sweet potatoes and even ate enough of them that they women used them as a form of birth control I have an IUD and people have all kinds of feelings about it but actually I probably eat like five sweet potatoes so I think I’m good.
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I went out to watch the world like the world wasn’t watching me
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When I got here I joined the spiritualist subculture because I started doing a lot of Kundalini Yoga too many days of the week until my body was beautiful and blissful and I had a killer set of abs but it’s about being spiritual right not the superficial way your body looks after a year of training so after I left that community I still found myself just as disconnected from people as I was when I lived in a place where I couldn’t speak the language.
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So turns out your manic pixie yoga girl thinks fondly of her favorite anarchist Christian anthropology professor who had us question multiple interpretations of movie Jesus Camp and who told me to read David Graber when he met me in the park for a beer and who had us read an article called “Spiritual but Not Religious” which always sounded good to me but it seems that anytime I really sit with myself I remember I was still raised in the Presbyterian church and turns out so was Donald Trump and so fuck you Calvinism and your theory of predetermination and welcome to the terrifying side of something I need to come to terms with. 
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I’m just here. Writing in a notebook and helping children climb up on top of the statue of Joan of Arc. Remembering no matter where I go in the world, this is what I’m destined to do every day. 
Yoga
There’s a man with white skin walking past some women with white skin lying in the grass on yoga mats and he laughs to maybe a woman who is his wife and says “Look – I could do that, just lie there” oh to just lie in the grass for a moment off my feet, it would feel so good, oh it would feel like I’m going home.
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Now watching this couple a smaller man maybe of Asian descent and a woman with brown skin and I’m not sure if they’re not a couple couple but the very adept yogi man doing handstands is helping this taller also beautiful woman try one for herself and you can tell it’s hard for her so then he shares his watermelon with her and she looks nervous sort of to have this gesture of human kindness but at some point in her life someone told her to just follow her heart and for some reason she thinks to share some fruit right now just really feels right and good and loved.
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Later I see her dancing around with two white flowers in her hands in sort of a freedom dance and she’s I wonder if this like a mating dance she’s thinking of that yogi guy from earlier and how he helped her with her handstand.
Drum Tribes
A lot of the people here have different colored rainbow hair as I imagine the Capital in the Hunger Games while on the inside I know they are caught up in an Arena of the heart, competing with each other to be sexier, slimmer, more booty shaking style smooth. 
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There are two drum circles and one side people say these are the real musicians who are commemorating a man who died and on the other side people are just banging really loudly and there is a guy playing a drum set and from this statue I can just see everything and it’s the best seat in the house and I can hear feel smell taste the palo santo burning 
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A woman with blue-colored hair is dancing and banging on a pot with a spoon and dancing with a guy who was spinning sticks with the people who reminded me of some traveling clowns I met in Argentina once who could juggle and had teardrops drawn under their eyes and the girl with blue hair is having fun and looks like the way I felt in a dream once. 
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A man with white colored skin is playing djembe pretty well and sitting next to him a girl wearing a black wide-brimmed hat with a button on it and she’s cute but looking kind of bored so I wonder maybe she’s a poet so I’ve noticed a lot of girls around here wear hats because so a few months ago I bought a black hat to make me feel like a New York Patti Smith or maybe a New Mexican Georgia O’Keefe and to make me feel like maybe someone would pay attention to me while I read poetry.
Bathrooms
I buy a cold homemade drink from a girl with brown skin wearing a black value hat selling juice from a cooler and it makes me have to pee and I can’t believe there is only one public bathroom for all of these people plus I don’t want to wait in line so I go back to observe the human phenomena even though it’s not going to leave and will still be here once I return but I keep feeling like I need to see more feel more be more do more
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I check my phone to see when I can catch the metro and I start to walk towards it but I can’t even last that long, and when I walk back and I girl walking with a boyfriend says I like your outfit! to me it seems like a friendly version of anonymous female-to-female catcalling, so I go back to the park to pee under a bush and it reminds me of that friend in college who insisted of peeing every time we went to the park to drink or get high and I walk back to the stairs and see this interesting inlet in the stone stairs and two women ask me if I’m looking for the bathroom because apparently this is where it used to be and I say no I just find it interesting looking, I just peed anyway in the bushes and they don’t reply back so is that appropriate for their culture I don’t know. 
Prayer
When I get back the drummers pause for a moment of silence for the man who died and I wonder is this how the tribes pray together? I’ve never seen anything quite like it except for in this temple of air.