The physical terrain; metaphysical detailed below.
The wind slithers into the slightly open backseat window. Virgil, seasoned psychonaut, sits in the passenger’s seat gazing contentedly at the trees whooshing by in green blur. Soren has both hands on the wheel. He is staring calmly ahead, elbows comfortably bent, body tracking the ribbon road over which we glide.
We pull into a dusty lot twixt cow-dotted hills and leave the car to start climbing a shallow hill, our feet on a narrow path. Last night the two psilocybin neophytes were nervous as they contemplated the mystery of what lay ahead. Today we are calmly expectant. The lot is quickly lost behind us.
A little while down the path Virgil stops and pulls out a round tin from his backpack. From it he quickly swipes a fat-stemmed specimen and begins chomping. Soren and I peer hesitantly at the tin. Then we make our selection tentatively, cheers our stems, and begin to chew. I enjoy its earthy chewiness. We eat a few more and keep hiking.
The landscape rushes up to meet us as we pass single file across the hills. Then we drift along the path as it begins to snake through a forest. It looks as though some somber being moved before us covering the branches and limbs with shale-colored seaweed. Tall and gangly sparse wood ushers us deeper into the forest and closer to communion with each other and with the land. We are a small pack of humans, assembled from mostly similar parts, here together on this path, together as humans rarely are, like how I imagine Jack London's wolves are together.
Once outside the forest, we use a bridge to cross a bit of tide-barren land. We move onto Hawaii’s tectonic plate and Virgil’s indication of this transition immediately sweetens the air and lightens the brush.
Soon an ominous purple pool expands into shape ahead of us, the water milky and heavy with mystery. I feel drawn to it and creep onto its luscious perimeter to see a city of activity seeping over its nutritious edge.
A wind-battered eucalyptus tree leans almost horizontal near the edge of our journey’s third main hill. He is a personable tree, a definite socialite — alone by circumstance, not choice. We all near him and drop our packs along with any formalities. I walk up to him and touch his dry skin. I can feel some residue of the many conversations he has had with the wind. Each passing ensemble of air a small utterance which registers in some invisibly minute way, changing his personality, slowly bending and shaping him, giving him opinions and making him beautiful and unique. One thick branch, half the girth of the main trunk, shoots upwards and then arcs back to the ground looping beneath the sandy soil only to ascend once again into the air. This arm blocks the sun as I meditate facing the ledge overlooking the bay. We are high up now.
I stand up and turn away from the ledge and the sun. A coyote jogs across my field of view on some trite errand. Virgil recounts a tale of coyote trickery: how while pretending to be wounded dogs they have lead sympathetic humans back to their ravenous pack. His words conjure up the unfortunate scene. We leave the tree and continue as the hot sun beads my neck with sweat.
A deer sees us before we see it, assessing us with bright-eyed caution. It prances away over cliff-side thickets. Soon after Soren spots a few cows in an impending valley.
“ HI COW !”
He yells without inhibition, turning his head upward in gleeful amplification.
One turns to look at him as the others continue to graze unperturbed. I smile.
A hill lies ahead of us and my arms and legs are flimsy as I fall into a light skip, relishing the drop in my foolish limbs, my legs carrying me over the ground effortlessly, each leap propelling me into weightlessness, the landscape bobbing up and down in front of me
‘ Am I choosing to do this ?’
Wonders a disconnected mind.
Turkey vultures wing overhead, their pink wrinkly heads skinned, as patient as they are ugly.
Virgil is up ahead now. Soren and I walk side by side.
“ I feel love .”
He says smiling at me.
The sun seems warmer and the greens around me deepen.
“ I feel it too .”
I respond honestly, still too afraid to respond with all his freedom.
Sun dried brush surrounds us on all sides, the path obscured at each turn. We hold hands briefly. I repeat his words silently to myself. We collapse into a grassy enclave, a momentary Eden. Wondrous eyes affix on the pale blue heavens.
We catch up with Virgil, and soon with park workers and their machines as well. Their work is routine but they labor fresh-faced, pounding fences into place on the path: artificial and artless stumps. Our two groups, not so different after all, cheerily greet each other as we pass.
A rectangular pool of deep, inky purple appears on my left and I feel weak with the surrounding beauty. The others have wandered ahead and I stumble, my face contorted with awe-inspired sadness. Mono no aware, 物の哀れ, which translates roughly to “a sensitivity to ephemera”, is a Heian period Japanese aesthetic style representing a heightened awareness of the wistfulness and transience of life. I can think of no better concept to describe that moment of revelrous intoxication. The world so bright with sunlight, my mind, only briefly, so dark with its impermanence.
We move closer to sea level and tall grass lines our dirt path. The path soon becomes a sandy, rock-strewn shore as we continue onto the beach. We come across a shape in the sand. The carcass of a pink squid lies there, its sunbaked tendrils beautifully wreath what little remains moist of its body.
We are starving and find a small shapely log to sit on. It is shaded slightly beneath a rocky outcrop. I take off my shoes and relish the sensation of my toes digging into the coarse sandy warmth. We eat prunes, dried fruit, and the delicious PBJ sandwiches Soren prepared. He and Virgil smoke the remains of a joint. I finish my food and walk out over the muddy plain in front of us. The tide has left a layer of thick mud behind which I at first tentatively and then erratically move across. Beneath its surface is a softness that sucks my feet down greedily.
We keep moving and the sand-peppered rocks turn to large stone slabs as the sands disappear behind us. Tide pools house small separate ecosystems — thousands of heterogeneously-shaped aquariums connect via tunnels hidden from sight. Each wave carries a new permutation of complexity, new ingredients for the aquariums. Soren excitedly calls me over to one and points out three crabs nestled beneath a rock, their blood-red and ceramic-white exoskeletons intensified by the still water.
The waves are more intense now and the crashing water pinches the land ahead where cliff and ocean kiss. I run ahead and between crashing waves peak around the corner of the cliff. We are too late. The moon grasping the water, its invisible hands reaching all those miles, has raised the sea level and submerged our path.
We turn around and a new path sits before us expectantly.
We depart the stone slabs and I hop from one rock to the next, Soren following my course. My mind watches as its body leaps from one complex surface to the next, balancing and righting itself with subconscious motor mastery.
We drift into tall, light grass and land on a massive driftwood tree afloat on its giant twisted limbs. We snack on some more of our trail-mix and I stare transfixed by the patterns in the wood, like waves frozen in time. The breeze creates soft currents in the ocean of grass around us.
As we walk higher we gaze down at the ocean now far below us. The sun is still high but now glistens the water at new angles. Waves march in slow progression across the water, swirling patterns proceeding across glistening purple. We stand overlooking the bay and spot movement in the water hundreds of feet below us. Turtles? Rays? Each passing second seems only to further ambiguate the creatures’ identities. We leave with the mystery unsolved.
We see our old friend the eucalyptus tree and the time since our last visit falls back into the world. Soren touches its skin, maybe feeling the kinship and character I sensed earlier. I lay down in its shade again.
The bridge from before now has water beneath it. As we start across I am pulled back by the sight of a colony of crabs on the shore. I put down my pack quietly and lower my body slowly down the rocks not wanting to upset their fastidious economy. The clicking grows louder. Aggressive diplomacy fills the air. Each crab defends its small, amorphous domain, strafing sporadically at gerrymandering intruders.
We pass again through the now dark trees, lichen ghosts now immobile wraiths in the windless and shady calm. The pine needle laden forest floor is still soft as before. Shadows cast new depths on either side of us as we make our way down the tree-lined road. We walk on quietly.
As we emerge out of the forest a giant field lies illuminated by a low sun. I spot a narrow, unworn fork in our path and we follow it on a whim, not seeing where it could lead. We crest over a hill and spot dozens of black cows dotting the plain before us. Their bodies, now so evidently shaped by the demands of human utility, look strangely out of place. Both parties are wary of each other as a path only humans recognize carries us through their untrusting midst. My heart pounds at the weight of them.
Soren spots a gentle looking young male and approaches it with an outstretched hand. But the bull is too frightened and turns its back to him, shuffling nervously away. Dozens of giant black untrusting eyes track our invasion, their eyes following us all the way to our car.
Body and mind found new kinship today. The body fell into performative trance while an uncritical mind accepted its role among the unfolding phenomena. Their union, strangely undemanding of any effort, bred a wondrous unrelenting attendance to this our unceasing cosmogony.
Thank you for sharing in this adventure with me Soren.