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Huachuma & The Sacredness of All Things

Huachuma is a rank-tasting, amber-coloured tea made from the psychedelic San Pedro cactus. It’s hard to hold down for the first 60 minutes or so and induces a twelve-hour trip throughout which one can’t really eat. We wake up at 7am, have some herbal tea, and then drink around 8:30. The queasiness is nearly instantaneous and I head to my room as soon as David’s meditation is finished. I sit on the bed, breathing through the nausea, and manage to hold it down until about 9:10.

Throwing up does bring some relief and I am unequivocally tripping by the time I finish. I stay in my room writing until late morning and the huachuma brings clarity to the chaotic shambles of hand-scrawled notes I made during the ayahuasca session two days prior. I can see the others gathered under a tree in the garden through my sitting room window and feel drawn to join them in the sun. I'm cold. I still feel sick and the writing has hit a bit of a lull.

I wrap myself and my laptop up in the fluffy white comforter from my bed and lumber out to the garden, collapsing under the tree into a pile of sunsparkles, down, and nausea. The others sympathise. They tell me the queasiness will settle down. They know because they all drank huachuma on the second, while I was still recovering from the altitude sickness.

Socialising starts as a tremulous, tentative dance and gets more sure-footed and robust as we go. The path is mollified by tears and seasoned with stories and buoyed along by laughter. Victoria asks me where I have to go next for work and I explain that I don’t actually have to go anywhere, I just do. It strikes me that I take a lot of tries to understand. I remember when the cast of the Naked Tempest first met in a yoga studio in Brooklyn and we sat in a circle introducing ourselves. We gave our names and told the others something particularly interesting about us. The interesting factoid I chose to tell was that I didn’t have a permanent address. I remember everyone laughing, and someone said, “That’s all of us.” Actors move a lot. They let and then sublet, they travel for shows, but they still have an address where all of their stuff lives. They didn’t understand at the time that everything I own fits into a 62-linear-inch suitcase and travels with me, that I move every 1-8 weeks, living in other people’s houses while they are on holiday.

It was similar when I first arrived here at Munay Medicine. Everyone asks everyone else where they’re from. I say I was born in Texas. When they ask where I live, I say nowhere, I’m always moving. Stacey presses further, “Where do you live right now?” I smile. “Here.” I sometimes think I should just take it easy on people and tell them London. It’s where a large part of my heart lives year round. It’s where my Facebook profile says that I live because I can’t be bothered to change it all the time. And even though I don’t have a flat there with worldly possessions inside of it, I do spend more months there than anywhere else in a year. I often tell people that London is my spirit home, and then I jump right into trying to explain that. I should give people more credit, wait and see if they understand what I mean by spirit home. And if they don’t, I should let them ask their own questions, I decide, and only if they feel like it.

Remember, I think to myself, this is life: the dance of discomfort around what-do-I-say and what-do-I-not-say, everybody afraid of looking, sounding, seeming weird when none of it really matters. Some things you say will resonate with people and other things won’t resonate. Anyone who chooses to focus on what doesn’t resonate with them in particular? Well, they are doing it wrong. And that’s not your problem.

I’ve been writing for hours, stopping intermittently to chat with the others or watch the little mercury-coloured lady beetles landing on my hands and my lap. At some point, I stop being able to focus on the shape of the words. Stubbornly, I persist for awhile, until I look up and see the whole universe breathing around me, which only makes me want to describe it even more. Anxiously, I glance back down at the black and white letter soup dancing around on my screen. Indecipherable. Then I realize how futile it is to try and define things in the first place. So I shut my laptop and lay down in the pillowy white cloudscape of my comforter, savouring the sun. And for a long time, I bask in the colours and the immensity and the indefinability of all that is.

Maybe definitions are always futile, I think, but remember this: it’s only ever the moment. The compendium of ideas and images and emotions and fleeting things all around and within you are only a constantly changing constellation. The flux of constellation does display patterns but you are the one who gets to decide them, and they are only ever “what they are” for a moment. Nothing more.

When the first powers of language return, I use them to talk with my companions. We tell stories. We decide which animals we would come back as. I choose a dolphin. Christopher chooses a clown fish. We decide these are appropriate since moving feels like swimming. I decide to swim to my room and take a shower. My body is fun to wash. Afterward, clothes feel restrictive and I go back outside in pants and a bra. I show everyone my tattoos. I roll in the clover. I make some tea. I find a four-leaf clover and then a five-leaf clover and then I find another five-leaf clover. I quickly lose them. Fortune is fleeting.

After a while (two hours? three? I can’t tell), linguistic form and narrative structure begin to rematerialize in my mind and I dive for my laptop, laughing at the eagerness to re-engage with the futility of description. Then I realise that it all comes down to this: what is your great futility? What is the thing you will throw your whole self into trying with all of your might to do, every day, no matter how impossible it is to accomplish? What do you love with all of yourself, completely helplessly, no matter how irrational it is? What is your great futility? Maybe B is mine. Loving him, and writing words, and becoming characters. What I do know is that I am here to tell the truth. I don’t want to hide anymore. I will publish this strange story of mine and who cares what people think. Maybe the whole thing should start out like this: “My name is Layne Tisdel Martin and I am a crazy fan. However, I have a whole lot of really good reasons to be. Here is what they are.”

Note from San Pedro Self to Aya Self: When you do trip out on B—because it is inevitable, you know. It’s going to happen sometimes. You love the man. What can you do?—but when you do trip out on him, trip out on the good stuff! Trip out on the gorgeousness of his eyebrow hairs. Trip out on the way his beard feels in the palms of your hands, on the face he makes when you tangle your fingers in it. Trip out on how incredibly much he inspires you. Trip out on the way he let you feel his heartbeat. Trip out on the way he felt yours back. Trip out on the way you remembered him from millisecond one. Trip out on how he remembered you back. Trip out on how you can speak to each other without saying words. Trip out on his talent—seriously, let yourself! You have been so afraid of being a “fangirl” that you really haven’t ever let yourself, quite. His talent is immense and rare and beautiful, and your talent is tripping out, right? So use your talent to trip out on his talent, not on how weird it is that he won’t talk. That's his neurosis, not yours.

The trick is to trip out on everything, all the time, in a happy way. I realise, standing in the kitchen watching Paradise slice pepino dulce, that I’m hovering just like my grandmother hovers in the kitchen. I feel terrible for letting it bother me when she does. Grandma’s just tripping out on whatever I’m doing, and she’s reached the point in her life when she has the time and the presence of mind to enjoy tripping out on everything, everywhere, which is actually quite wonderful. Note from grandmother-huachuma to self: Be interested. Be tolerant of interest. If you need a bit more space, just ask for it. Ask with kindness and compassion.

I do pretty well at blissing out on all the crazy in my life, in terms of travel: actually enjoying mile-long customs queues and admiring the chaos and the instability of homelessness and other such traditionally difficult things. My next order of business is to apply the same principle—the same capacity—to enjoying the chaos and the instability of B, work, family, and the rest of it. It can’t be that hard. All of life is really just travel. We journey through relationships and jobs and works of art just as we journey from Texas to Peru, from Ecuador to San Francisco, from New York to London.

Eating the fruit in the sitting room with the others, I comment to Christopher that I have a hungry-headache. He does too. It’s coming up on dusk and all we’ve eaten today is fruit. Tracy overhears our discussion of our hunger and decides to go and crack down on dinner. I notice that if you say your truth out loud with neither any hesitation nor any expectation of others to do something about it, they usually will. Expectations make too much pressure. No one owes us anything.

These plants make a person incapable of dwelling on things that don’t matter. And here’s the thing: important is not what you think. The beauty of a tiny green chrome-beetle? Pretty important. Your reputation? Not really. The fact that a mountain breathes? Important. Whether you can afford to move to that swanky apartment? Not at all. Entheogens instantly “fix” your priorities. They make it impossible to be bothered by things that don’t matter (like hovering in the kitchen) and also impossible not to notice the things that do.

The last thing I write to myself is this: Remember—please remember, my love—to do your very best to connect deeply with everyone you meet. Remember their divinity and acknowledge it always, even if all there is time for is a smile.

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