It was broad daylight and I was still having full on hallucinations.
We got back to our hut, collapsed into mattresses and slept for two hours. The breakfast bell rang and we got up slowly and walked over to the shed where they make the aya for that night's ceremony. Half of the people were scrubbing cut sections of the root and the other half were taking mallets and beating the sections until they shred and tossing them into a giant vat. It was 7:00AM, I had gotten about 3 hours sleep total and felt like I had been dragged behind a bus.
They asked me which task I would like to take, I opted for beating the shit out of something.
I sat on the ground near the new guy with the good face that was in the same row as us. He was downright cheerful and had I not been so physically exhausted, I might have been right there with him. He smashed one, then held it up and addressed one of the women in the washing section, "This one is for you!" I didn't see who had had said that to, I was concentrating on the task at hand that took every ounce of strength and attention I had left in me. The root in front of me had a stubborn knot that would not crack even though I had been beating on it steadily with a fat ended wooden mallet. I asked the girl next to me if I could borrow her hammer. I took one solid swing with it on top the root and said, "take that bitch!" He looked at me smirking and said, "that one is going to come back to you and tell YOU to take that bitch!"
There was no doubt in my mind he was correct about that.
I decided I had had enough physical labor for the moment and went to have breakfast. I ate cornflakes with tepid soy milk. The short Brit with Newman eyes was sitting next to me eating his cornflakes. I thanked him again for last night. He remarked that it was a really nice moment between us. I agreed surprisingly with no shame or humiliation, although I was curious. "Did you, uh... happen to see that blue light?"
He did not look up from his cornflakes,"Yep."
We did not speak of it again.
Paul and I dragged ourselves back to the hut and slept literally until lunchtime.
When I awoke I had a strange sensation. I wasn't sure what it was exactly although I felt distinctly lighter. We walked to the lodge to get food and I noticed that butterflies were out en masse. There were so many different species that the moment I tried to identify one, another larger, more beautiful, more exotic would sail in front of my face. One of my favorite butterflies actually landed on me, the Diaethria Clymena or "88" butterfly. It is a brilliant red with the number 88 clearly written out in black and white on the posterior wings. It is why I like that number even though modern Nazis like it too. I will not let the Nazis ruin my favorite butterfly.
We ate a very bland lunch.
One of the guys at the table gave a disclaimer about him not trying to be inappropriate, but wanted to tell me that I was "absolutely glowing." I am not sure I have ever had anyone ever give me that particular description, but I took as graciously as possible. Shortly after went to a meeting with Don Alberto at the shed where they cook down the aya. It was pouring down rain and the noise created by water hitting giant leaf fronds in the jungle sounded like the drum beats of a miniature army about to attack my ankles. Two adolescent boys stood over the fires mixing the boiling aya with boat oars. My little black and white dog came out of the jungle and curled up in the corner.
This was a Q&A session with the Maestro, we mercifully had a translator. I knew Don Alberto was speaking Spanish, but he had a Quechua accent and I couldn't make out most of what he said. The older South African woman whose mannerisms reminded me a little of my oldest sister asked her question. She asked something that had gone through my own mind, but I knew better than to ask it because I already knew the answer. She spoke of her positive experience the night prior and did he think she needed to take it again?
He smiled a little, I wondered if that question gets asked every single session. He told her that she should take the medicine again, there was more information to get. It was my turn to ask a question and I asked one that I already knew the answer to as well, but I wanted to hear him say it. I told him of having hallucinations until well past daybreak and continuing to be in the mareacion for much much longer than anyone else seemed to be. Was there a way to slow it down or have more control?
"No" he said simply. "The medicine wasn't through with you."
After the meeting I decided to take a walk alone through the jungle. There were several paths that were clearly marked. When I think about nature being perilous, I generally think about the northern extremes where you can freeze or the desert where you can perish from lack of water. Walking in the dense jungle I quickly gained a proper amount of respect. There were obvious dangers, large predatory animals or lack of shelter but, it was the smallest of entities that seemed the most perilous: insects, mold, viruses, bacteria, infection could all take you down as easily as a jaguar leaping from a tree. Above my head attached to various tree trunks were at least half a dozen termite nests. Massive and bulky, they looked as if human bodies were being hung like hams amongst the trees. It was creepy and exquisite.
I started talking out loud to myself, "The air is so close in here, there is so much sensory information."
Even though I had thought to cover myself with as much spray poison as I could get from the bottle, a mass of mosquitos buzzed around my head like a rotating nimbus. I was a reluctant jungle queen with a swirling crown of blood suckers and black jungle dirt under my fingernails from examining bizarre plants.
Just then I startled upon a large condor feeding. He whooshed his five foot wing span causing all the leaves to rattle loudly and flew up into the canopy to wait until I had passed by. I peered over where the large decomposing animal lay, the skull was exposed. I thought it might be weird if I came traipsing back into camp holding a mammal skull, so the queen honored its burial place and moved along.
On the way to the lodge I stopped a girl from New Zealand who was there to assist with the ceremonies. I had told her about some odd symptoms I was experiencing, random weeping for no reason and a heightened sense of things. She told me that was totally normal.
She explained that one of the things that happens during the first ceremony is that you get "opened up by the Shaman." She explained most people use the word chakra to explain the process, but however you refer to it you are walking around wide open. Everything is going in and coming out.
I conjured an image of a Peter Max drawing I had torn from a magazine as a child: a man with the top of his head lopped off with a great spectral explosion issuing from it.
I wasn't sure what it was I was expelling into the jungle but I hoped whatever replaced it inside me was beneficial - maybe upon returning home I might magically be able to play the banjo.
6:00PM Paul and I were in the ceremony tent. I thought to do some stretches this time not only to prepare for any vigorous upchucking that might happen but also the fitful sleeping I had been doing on thin mats on the floor had irritated a pinched nerve in my right shoulder and it was making my fingers tingle mildly. It was fascinating to me that when I had told Paul the night previous that I was absolutely not going to do Ayahuasca again, I meant it. I meant it when I said it this morning and I assumed he had meant it when he repeated the exact thing back to me and yet here we were.
There was something remarkable about this place. I hadn't quite put my finger on it.
We were laughing about the night prior when I had come out of a bout of nausea and the mental rodeo had slowed a bit. I said out loud that I was going to make myself a t-shirt that just said "Amateur." The guy with the good face had responded one of his friends uses that acronym frequently "AFGO ---> another fucking growth opportunity."
I told him I would print that on the back and I would send everybody one.
The Shaman's entered and everyone got served.
They turned off the lights and I waited for my AFGO
There was no gentle introduction this time. I did not wade into the water, I got pushed into the pool.
I was seeing the sacred Shipibo patterns on everything and there were scrolling numbers small, mixing and creating formulas the way I mix paint, I wanted to understand what I was seeing but couldn't. I was being matriculated in a language I did not speak. There were some repeated scenes, beautiful and awesome although they differed slightly from the night previous. One of the Icaros ended and in the pause one of the repeaters piped up and said, "This IS 100 percent natural disco!" The whole room broke out into giggles and every time one of the women laughed, a delicate glittery pagoda with tiny bells would shoot up from the ground, become airborne and jingle as it sailed away into a swirling tangerine sky.
There was more Tibetan and Indian imagery, elephants and clouds and giant lotuses would expand and contract and morph into a new panoramas.
I had returned to my awareness of the being in the hut and what was going on around me. I wondered it it was time to throw up or go to the bathroom. There was no anxiety connected now with these events, they just were. Neither of those things were happening, so I took a personal inventory. It was my right hand. Was it numbness? Pain? Was I having a heart attack? I knew I was not able to clearly determine the correct level of my physical discomfort because I was in the mareacion and everything was either very far away or grotesquely huge. I began to obsess about my arm.
This ruminating must have called in my guide. It again identified itself as the root, but this time it was female and decidedly parental. The night before I felt was about the root providing me wisdom and guidance, but this was more about protection. I wondered casually what I might need protection from. I knew my overblown narrative about my arm now potentially turning black and falling off was interrupting my lessons. The root told me to stop worrying that there wasn't anything wrong with my arm. I continue to fret about it and she asked me if I wanted her to "fix" it even though it wasn't broken. Yes, I pleaded with her to fix it.
My arm lit up then from shoulder to fingertips with a bright blue light, then it transformed into a wide broadsword with unfamiliar hieroglyphics etched into to the blood groove. Before I could try and read them it burst into blue flame. My right arm had become a flaming broad sword.
"Wow this is pretty cool!" I said out loud. I swung it around a few times. I wanted to stand up and go find something out in the jungle to cut in half, but a lucidity came over me and I realized not only could I not stand, let alone walk I doubted once I left the mareacion my arm would continue to be a flaming broad sword. At least I hoped that was the case since a flaming blue sword for a right arm would look great for Dragon Con, it might make day to day living a tad difficult.
I was swept back into astonishing scenery and pattern, although there was an odd background soundtrack bubbling up over the Icaros. It was the Russian behind me and to the right. He was speaking in a solid stream of consciousness in Russian. He would rarely stop to take a breath except to occasionally call out for someone he knew. I wondered if the person he wanted was here. I wondered if it was the guy up front near Don Alberto with the Russian accent. I recalled him on the morning before we got onto the buses talking about two local Shamans getting into a fight. I responded that I didn't think I would want to get into a fight with a Shaman, and he said thought "it would be fun." I made note of his crazy eyes.
The big Russian seemed to be in either distress or lost. It was hard for me not to respond to people who called out for help. I couldn't do anything even if I wanted to and each person here had to work through their own stuff and I could not get involved. Keeping to your own path was how you respected the root even though it was a solid bitch for me to accept. The root told me I had some work to do in that area.
Shortly after that I was struck by nausea and called out for the wingless red fairies to come and get me. It just now occurs to me while I am writing this that I may have actually called them that instead of just yelling "Baño!"
While heading towards the bathroom, there were several obstructions in our paths. I perceived them to be giant pods about to burst forth with some kind of giant insect. While I sat in the cold bathroom stall I realized they were people. People were laying on the floor. After my purging I peeked out of the curtain. I did not see the red elves so I started to step out and make it back myself except the hallway was lined with people. Most were curled in a fetal position shivering under blankets. A few were calling for help. Someone grabbed my ankle. Something rose in my throat, a helplessness. I gently took her hand, told her it was okay and put it under the blanket she was under and walked through the warm wet of vomit or whatever else I was walking through and returned to my mat.
A startling epiphany came to me then. Before I came to Peru I had read quite a bit about Shamanic method and there were more than a few accounts of how Shamans had battled demons in the mareacion. At the time, I wasn't sure what I thought about that. Were they talking spiritual demons or literal ones that were hairy, crook-legged, with rams horns sprouting from their heads? I wasn't really sure I believed in that sort of thing.
Right here standing amongst bodies of people whom I could not help, I got a slightly clearer understanding of the two sides of where we were. The only thing I can compare it to is one of those cheapo soap dispensers you used to see where there were two immiscible liquids, one is colored blue and there is usually like a tiny plastic windsurfer right at the line where the two liquids meet. if you shake it a little, that line becomes a little more blurred where the two are trying to separate and the tiny windsurfer go under the waves and over them until it stabilizes.
There was a darkness here. It was palpable and had a physicality to it. I still didn't know if it was some literal being with a hay fork but, I knew for certain it had a sentience and was manipulative and subtlety cruel. Instead of us collectively all being at the line with the tiny plastic windsurfer, some of these people sank like a stone to the bottom. The people laying on the floor writhing had sunk. The Russian behind me whose speech had become more urgent and compelling had darkness just pouring out of him.
I felt as if I was staring into an abyss. The root told me to hang onto the Icaros like a guideline so I wouldn't fall in. I wasn't ready to go there. The root said it at the same time I said it.
I called out "Jinx" and Paul laughed like hell when I said it like he was privy to the conversation.
I was swept back into the show which was stunningly beautiful as before but now I had context, everything seemed a little different.
An exquisite indigo sky with a pink horizon opened up before me. There was a frame of swirling Tibetan art style clouds surrounding a Sierpinski triangle which laid under an Indian yantra triangle with sacred numbers listed within. In the direct center was a small glowing dot that ran through the spectrum and back again like it was breathing. There was something there, something extremely important and I started to move through the scene to get to it. When I got closer the root stepped in and said no.
I argued the point with her, that it was tantalizing and I wanted it. She said she could not let me go there unless I had sunk to the bottom first and I wasn't ready to do that.
I argued further that this was extremely important to me and what should I put in place of the dot until I can get back here?
She answered, "You can put anything you want there until you can return."
I stared hard at the center dot and a sphere of quickly rotating images just spun out like I had pulled a slot machine handle. Then it stopped dead.
In the middle of the holy host cloud formation, and the Sierpinski triangle and the sacred Indian yantra was Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes.
I reached over and squeezed Paul's hand, "I know what I am getting tattooed on me when we get back home..."