Dream of: 29 March 1997 "Peyote"

Mexico City, Mexico. Just arrived and found a small room in an unimposing hotel. Standing in my modest room, my thoughts drifted to other times, and other countries I had visited in this fashion. Especially Germany. And how I used to love pulling into a small German town and finding a little hotel close to the center of town, near the dazzled-up tourist section, maybe with a beer hall nearby. I knew most of the German town would stretch out dully in the background where the burghers lived. But I liked the lights and action of the center, superficial though they might be. I puzzled why I hadn't gone to Germany this time. Mexico City didn't hold mucho charm for me. Besides that, as I looked out my small window, I saw that I wasn't even close to the center of town. On the other side of the few pitiful shacks just outside the hotel window stretched miles of farm land. A few hungry animals milled in the street. I was definitely not going to be able to stay here long. But I didn't have a car. I would have to find someone to take me downtown, or at least somewhere.

***

I was sitting on the prow of a small wooden boat which appeared to be a dugout. Behind me, although I couldn't turn around to look, were several other people, including a Mexican guide who was taking me to peyote fields in southern Mexico. I was anxious to get to the peyote, excited that I had hit up on such a wonderful plan; but I was having serious doubts about our method of transportation. Only after we had launched our little boat had I been informed that the muddy swamp through which we were plowing was infested with huge alligators. I didn't quite believe it, until I saw several of the monsters swimming close to the boat and I had to pull up my feet in fear that one of my members might be snapped off. What was worse, as the boat sped through the muddy water, the prow would sometimes go several centimeters under water, terrifying me with the thought that an alligator might just slip right up on the front and snatch me. I finally had to grab my feet and pull them up in the air in front of me, so that my knees were at the level of my head and my feet up above my head. It was quit uncomfortable and I was beginning to think I had made a definite mistake. At least I wished I had brought a knife with me to defend myself if necessary, and I thought if the boat stopped again, I was going to buy a machete to have with me. But soon the ride improved. We whisked out of the swamp and into a fast-moving canal, roiling muddy water, and I became less concerned about the gators.

***

We were standing on ground, I, my guide and the other members of our party. I didn't know exactly where we were, only somewhere in southern Mexico. All my hopes were resting on the assurances I had received that we would soon find fields of untouched peyote cacti, peyote buttons they were called. My guide, a young swarthy fellow (not more than 20 years old) was eager to lead, but I soon had the definite impression that he had never been here before. He admitted that he had never tried any peyote, and I detected his surprise that anyone would come all this way for the peyote. Yet his incredulity in no way impeded his desire to lead, and he eagerly continued on.

We soon reached a large field of cacti, but they were far from being peyote buttons. Huge thick cacti two foot or more in diameter stood before us. There was barely enough space to walk through the intriguing plants. I touched the skin of one, but immediately pulled back my hand, fearing that the cacti might contain tiny stickers which I had painfully experienced before on certain types of cacti, stickers so small that they couldn't be seen, but which could stick in the skin and become difficult to pull out. I was relieved when I felt nothing.

My guide was ready to forge forward through the forest of giant cacti, but I was a little less enthusiastic about going in. The huge cacti seemed to go on forever, and I was afraid that once inside the cacti field, we might lose our direction and never make it out of the labyrinth. So instead we walked a little ways around the edge of the field, until to everyone's surprise we found a small farm. The land had been cleared and I saw a bulldozer sitting nearby.

The guide now seemed to have his bearings, and he led us on until we came to a steep forested area. All the others climbed up the steep area without problem, but when my turn came, I had difficulty and I couldn't climb up. Finally I saw that I could walk a little farther down into the woods to another spot where it was easier to climb, and I did so.

Heading down the path 20-30 feet, I came across some kind of marker in the middle of the forest and I read it. I was surprised to see that it was a boundary marker between Mexico and Nicaragua. I called back to the others to tell them that we were on the border and they also seemed surprised. I could see the path going off through the forest, apparently following the line of the border. But I circled back up the side of the hill, finally reaching my companions.

All of them were standing there looking down at the ground and now I saw what held their attention: 15-20 bright green peyote buttons. I could hardly believe it. This was the first time I had ever seen peyote growing in the wild and it was a marvelous sight. I had only seen and eaten peyote twice before, many many years ago. But the experience had always remained with me, and I had always clearly remembered the look of the peyote buttons. These were exactly the same. Each button was about eight centimeters across with small thorns grouped in little clusters all over the cacti. I knew that the thorns had to be cut off before the cactus could be eaten.

The only problem I saw at the moment was that not enough buttons were here for all of us and we would have to find more. I now knew that all together four people were in our group. There was the Mexican guide, myself, a third person, and a woman. I walked over and stood closer to the woman. Although I seemed to know her, it also seemed that we had never met. She was probably in her mid 30s, and a bit plump. She slightly reminded me of Willa Cline, a woman whose journal I sometimes read on the Internet, and to whom I sent my dreams. I had never felt particularly close to the woman, and I knew she led a colorless mundane life. However, I was so impressed that she had actually come all this way deep into the forests of Mexico, I couldn't help but feel drawn to her. This adventure seemed so out of character for her; but maybe I had been wrong and she had more spirit in her than I had thought. I moved closer to her, put my arms around her and hugged her tight as a sign of camaraderie with her.

The hug finished, I broke away and turned my attention back to the peyote. I clearly saw the problem. I estimated we would each need to eat at least ten buttons. As it stood, we only had about five buttons apiece, so we would definitely need to find more. I noticed some other type of cacti growing nearby, cacti somewhat similar to the peyote but not exactly the same. My guide saw my interest in the other cacti, and he informed me that some scientists were doing research on the other type of cacti, and it appeared that these cacti were also psychotropic. But the guide wasn't quite sure of the psychedelic powers of the other cacti, and I immediately knew we weren't going to try the other type; we would have to stick with the peyote. That meant we had to make a decision about whether we wanted to go ahead and eat the peyote we now had, and then continue the search for more, or whether we wanted to wait before we had more peyote and then eat it all at once.

I mentioned to the woman that the worst thing about eating peyote was the taste, which was one of the bitterest tastes imaginable. And we didn't have anything to eat with the peyote to kill the taste. Or at least that was what I thought before I turned around, and suddenly realized we were right on the edge of a small village. Indeed, not 20 meters away was a little grocery store, and I could see food, such as bags of potato chips, inside the store. I was happy to see the store, but at the same time a little worried. If we didn't pick the peyote now, maybe someone from the village would come and get it while we were looking for more. However it seemed strange that the peyote could be here so close to the village without someone having already harvested it. I could only conclude that there must be so much peyote in the region that it was growing in abundance everywhere. Nevertheless I thought we should go ahead and harvest this peyote so we would be sure to have it.

I had also decided that it would be best to wait until we had all the peyote we planned to use and eat it all at once. However when I turned back to the peyote, I was surprised at what I saw: the woman was sitting on the ground next to it with one of the peyote buttons lying in front of her. She had already cut into it and started eating on it. I was amazed. This woman was obviously not as wimpy as I had thought. However, brave as she might be, I knew she was inexperienced and that she needed a little guidance before she dived into a meal of peyote. I helped her to her feet, intending to explain to her that it would be better to wait until we had all the peyote and were in a safe place before we started eating it. I myself was anxious to begin, but I knew we needed to wait just a while longer.

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