In the summer of my eighteenth year, so that would be 1968, and beyond any reasonable human decision making process, I decided to do a solo peyote trip in the woods near my family’s home in Bedford, New Hampshire. Why I thought I could just cruise through that experience without guidance is still beyond me—but, hey, I was just a feral kid, Mother Nature’s chosen child.
My girlfriend, Nancy, had a ‘53 Chevy that had formerly been a Checker cab, a huge boat of an automobile that she named “Glide.” She had driven back to NH from southwest Texas with a bushel of peyote buttons in the trunk that she had picked with some sketchy hitchhiker. She dropped off a few buttons for me and then continued on to Canada in search of more misadventures, I guess.
I decided to ingest my peyote on top of of a steep, rocky hill behind our house that we called “Indian Tower.” On top of that hill there were huge bushes of mountain laurel and scratchy junipers and a tall tower of piled up rocks that looked very ancient. Ever since my younger siblings and I were kids, we had created a legend that it was built by peoples native to our land as a sacred ceremonial site. In retrospect, it was probably built by some farmer, or even the Boy Scouts; but I loved that place with all my heart and spent a lot of time there growing up.
I can’t really remember the specifics of how I actually got the peyote to stay down. I do remember it tasted like earwax and made me gag, so I mashed it and mixed it with coca~cola and struggled to gulp it down, fighting my gag reflex the whole time. Somehow I knew to avoid the fine hairs inside the button as those contained strychnine. But I did it, I got it down. One button? Two buttons? I don’t remember, but whatever it was…it was way too much.
I was lying on the rocks basking in the sun when the first wave of anxiety washed over me. Uh-oh. This didn’t feel right at all. I became very disoriented. My heart started racing. My lips and fingertips got numb. I got impossibly hot and started sweating profusely. I was panting. I had just enough time to flip over on my stomach before the vomiting began. Huge gallon buckets of green slime ejected from my heaving body. Oh my god. What had I done? How stupid was this? I had just wanted to “be one with Nature” and now I was pretty sure I’d poisoned myself.
And then an evilness crept into me…terrifying me. Something wrong and strong and awful and I was never going to escape it. I had to fight. Shaking. Crying. Overwhelmed by fear, I pissed myself. I fought and fought and fought for I don’t know how long, my breath coming in huge gasps of terror, an inescapable, powerful grip, strangling me with panic. I couldn’t walk. I could barely crawl. Was I going to die? Then a sadness came with tears streaming down my face. Shaking. Exhausted. I blacked out. I don’t know for how long. Then I saw a squint of sunlight.
When I opened my eyes and raised my head, I saw I was still lying at the base of Indian Tower. Fortunately the debilitating nausea was gone. I actually felt a lot better, although I could tell by my impaired vision that I was still incredibly high. I tentatively tried sitting up. I got my bearings a little bit. Not so bad. I believed I had survived some kind of brutal initiation from Hell. I was sitting quietly, consciously regulating my breathing, when silently a beautiful Monarch butterfly landed on my hand. She was poised on my knuckle, methodically washing her antennae with her front legs and mouth parts, bending first one antenna, then the other. I swear she looked right up at me, nonchalant, and then fanned her gorgeous orange wings up and down as if to dry them.
I felt a burst of joy and awe at the beauty of this simple gift from Nature. Tears sprang to my eyes. This world is so complex and extraordinary and breathtaking! But..when I looked out over my fanning new friend to the forest beyond…I realized everything was orange. EVERYTHING. I lived in a surreal orange landscape for the rest of the trip. I adapted but it did serve to illustrate to me how crazy fucked up I still was.
Then I noticed that the surrounding forest was shining before me. The leaves on the trees were emitting light and the trunks of the trees were luminous. The dappled forest burst into bird song, almost as if to the music of the spheres. I saw more shades and nuances of color than I had ever seen before, although my eyes were still seeing as through an orange filter. My sensory gating was thrown wide open. I felt companioned. The feeling of unity with everything was pure bliss. I was one with all sentient beings, merging with the surrounding environment, exploding into the universe. Each bird was aware and brought a powerful message from beyond.
I was pure energy, one with all being, at peace with all that could be perceived. Being permeated all. And I knew in that moment that the Cosmos wasn’t created out of chaos but out of LOVE. A love for all that ever was, a love for all that is now and a love for all that will ever be. I was bursting with love from the stars in all the still exploding heavens.
And this love was God.