Bamboo shadows on a rice paper floor


Today is the first warm sunny day since last fall, and every square yard of earth is covered with shoots, buds, tendrils, flowers, and new leaves. By afternoon, I was drowning in…what? Fecundity? No. Reality. I became confounded by the thought that being alive is so intense that I can't imagine how I've pulled it off all these years--or how I can possibly continue to pull it off. It's usually a bad idea to smoke pot when I'm anxious, so I contented myself with 30 mgs of oxycodone. Thirty is a wee small dose for me, but it's frightfully high by most standards, and I've vowed to never exceed it. Odds are that 50 would make me feel really good, but after a week on 50, I would need 60 to feel really good, and then the day would come that I would lie down to enjoy my opiate euphoria, and I wouldn't get up again.

At bedtime, I added 600 of Neurontin (another painkiller) to the oxycodone and, curiosity getting the better of me, smoked some pot. As soon as I turned out my light, the hallucinations started. A long procession of indistinct gray images appeared one after another after another until they exploded in a blinding barrage of light, color, and movement. Afterwards, the darkness pullulated with images that passed before me like so many room-size flash cards. Some were still lifes. Others were in motion. The one that touched me deepest was that of my dead neighbor, Belle, and her dead poodle, Lily. I liked Belle, but I loved Lily. (How I wish I could draw close to humans the way I draw close to dogs and, now that I have Brewsky, cats.) I fought to stay awake, but the Neurontin eventually won.

It’s now 2:50 in the afternoon on the following day. I feel hyper and am so near the edge of reality that I could easily start hallucinating again. 


Oh, NOOOOO!!ll! Leg cramps! WHOA! I had to to throw myself to the floor to massage them, only I would scarcely start on one before another one stabbed me. Paul Butterfield (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaV-S5ivX3E) is starting into "East West" again. I've listened to all 13 minutes and 14 seconds of it scores of times since yesterday because I want to go deeper into whatever trip this is, and psychedelic music sure helps. 

The room is now pulsing ever so slightly, and I am very close to being dizzy. Everything around me—my monitor, the pictures on the wall, the chair in which Brewsky lies sleeping—appears to be slowly moving further to my right. Objects are also expanding and contracting as if breathing, yet I'm less surprised by all this motion on the part of inanimate objects than I am that I never noticed it before. In other words, I don't feel like I'm hallucinating; I feel like I'm seeing reality more clearly than ever, yet my rational brain keeps suggesting that it's pretty damn unlikely. I'm also jerking and trembling, almost too much to write, and I don’t even know why I'm having this wild trip. My best guess is that I’m high on some medication that I’m not supposed to get high on, although the only new drug I'm taking is the antibiotic Cipro (to hopefully rule out prostate cancer), and the only problem I've ever had with antibiotics was the runs. I definitely like this better. But what if it's not a drug behind the weirdness? Would I be okay with that? Probably. This will surely sound strange in the kinds of experiences I'm having, but I feel secure enough in my sanity to allow myself to be insane.

...I did it. I looked up Cipro, and sure enough, running amuck in a blind panic while having outrageous hallucinations are two of the 150 or so side-effects, and they actually looked pretty good compared to some of the others--liver failure, tendon rupture, cartilage destruction in weight-bearing joints, death! The website advised that I contact my doctor immediately about the hallucinations. Yeah, right. The odds that I’m going ask a doctor to fuck-up a really good drug trip are WHAT exactly?! Years ago, some other drug had euphoria listed as a side-effect that I was supposed to call the doctor about. I thought it would be pretty funny to get my internist out of bed at 3:00 a.m. to complain that his pills were making me exceedingly happy.

...Now I'm lost in the spaces between things. What is this nothingness that exists between us? Neither matter nor energy distinguishes it, yet we all agree it's there, and that entities which do consist of matter and energy couldn't exist without it. What, then, IS it? Is it a void—whatever that means? Might it swallow me up? Has it already swallowed me (all of us) up? Is that the problem, and does it go all the way back to the Big Bang? I often feel desperate for answers to questions that don't even make sense to a lot of people. Unfortunately, the questions that plague me most don’t necessarily have answers. They’re the SCARY questions, the ones that make existence too ironic to be believable, and so it is that I tremble.

Trembling is actually a big part of my life when I’m alone (I try to avoid experiencing life deeply when I'm not alone because people commonly interpret my intensity as something to be fixed or pitied, and this makes them a complete drag to have around). Drugs like pot — and Cipro, it would appear—that have the power to cause hallucinations, crank up my intensity many times over, which is why I’m drinking coffee and smoking marijuana right now. Life would be easier if I gave them up while I was on the Cipro, but it would also be less rewarding.... I just restarted "East West" for about the 100the time.

It's now another day—I don't know which one—and I'm still lost in a world that looks surprisingly different than any world I've ever seen. I went early to my second ever Qi Gong class today so I could stand directly in front of the teacher, Matsuko. I was very much enjoying the music she was playing because I imagined myself on a rice paper floor that was being slowly encircled by bamboo shadows cast from plants that were swaying in a soft breeze. This pleasant fantasy soon turned into a compelling hallucination in which I lost all awareness that I do now or ever did exist as anything other than Matsuko’s hypnotically undulating arms. I had been mirroring her body--but especially her arms--for nearly an hour with complete concentration from no more than eight feet away, and that, combined with my Cipro-altered state, bewitched me so profoundly that I ceased to exist in my own mind. All too soon, an internal (and maybe infernal) spring snapped me back into myself, and, remembering where I had gone, my eyes moistened with affection for this person whose arms I had experienced as if from the inside. I was so moved that I was contemplating leaving the room so I wouldn't make a spectacle of myself, but then my eyes looked of their own accord into Matsuko’s eyes for almost the first time since the lesson started. She was back at me as if in accepting acknowledgement that whatever I had just experienced, it must have been a doozy. After class, I very much wanted to tell her all about it, but I'm seriously considering becoming her student for the long haul, so I didn't dare risk it. 

By Jove, I feel inspired to write a proverb. Here it goes: "You should neither assume that your experiences during a drug trip have anything at all to do with the people about whom you have them, nor should you imagine that those people would be pleased to hear about them!" 

It is now yet another tomorrow—at least I think it is; I’ve edited this so much that I’m about to fall over—and I just took my last Cipro. I've been in a significantly altered state of consciousness for five days and have even gone out of my way to intensify an effect that the drug's manufacturer considers a grave problem; I'm tired. Really though, if they want you to call your doctor, shouldn't they give you a better reason than that you just embarked upon a five-day, all expenses paid, psychedelic vacation to the mountaintop of the holy mystics?

I finally put aside "East West," and have since been listening to various artists (Yanni is currently doing a great job with "In the Bleak Mid-Winter”). I want to share one of those artists with you. Please do me the favor of listening to Suzanne Ciani's "Silver Ship" for ten seconds. If you're not hooked by then...well, I would be astounded. In the presence of such perfection, I'm ever struck by the thought that it only takes a few minutes of absolute beauty to erase an entire lifetime of mistakes. Unfortunately, this speaks to the rarity of absolute beauty.



32 comments:

kj said...

Snow, you are a wonderful writer. I'm tempted to offer praise for your journey and your description of it, but I can't.

I'm no prude to drugs and I'm no prude. It's your life and your trip and your decisions. But I have escalating concern. I've had it for a few months now. I take the liberty of saying this as your friend. It's easy to slip into somewhere that can hypnotize but not sustain. Please be careful, snow.

Love
kj

Helen said...

I read your post slowly, carefully and felt as though I had taken that trip with you --- you, Mr. Snowbrush, are an amazing writer!

Snowbrush said...

KJ, I just came back and deleted the response I made to your comment because I might want to do an entire post regarding drugs and addiction. My love to you, dear.

Snowbrush said...

Thank you, Helen, your words mean a great deal to me. The hardest part for me as a writer isn't to write my truth, but to discover it so that I can write it. Hallucinogenics can be a significant aide to that, but of course they can also leave me throughly confused and deluded.

rhymeswithplague said...

I read your post, and as Gladys Hardy once said to Ellen Degeneres, "Well, I'm sure that means something."

Here's Gladys.

Do you think the drugs might make you the teensiest, weensiest bit overly self-involved?

Gladys and Ellen -- now, that's reality.

I wouldn't speak this way to you when you're yourself, but you're apparently not.

The Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow:
Please take care, you matter so much to more of us than you probably realise.

On the drugs issue: Someone once told me that there are no side effects. They are all effects - it is just that we only want one of the many possibilities.

Marion said...

You're an incredible writer, Snow...I look forward to your post regarding drugs and addiction.

I sympathize with you about those leg cramps. They have the ability to turn me inside out and upside down...and they happen so often!

Take good care, Snow...for someone who was hallucinating for much of five days...your thoughts come through very clearly. xx

Beau's Mom said...

I want to hold you, rock you, and tell you that everything will be okay as I massage your temples. So many people care about you that I am just a needle in the proverbial haystack.

I read every word and gathered together the astounding elements that can cause hallucinations to be so intense.

I once had a large window in my hospital room and after everyone would leave, I could watch the riverboat as it passed by. On some nights I was paralyzed by fear as aliens descended upon me by climbing through the window.

I never thought to mention these things to the nurses or visitors as I tried to shove it from my mind in the daytime.

One day, as the doctor's drugs wore off, I sneaked a glance toward the window in the daylight:

I HAD NO WINDOW IN THE ROOM.

And to this day the memory instills fear in me.

Your daytime feelings prior to taking the drug were: "By afternoon, I was drowning in…what? Fecundity? No. Reality. I became confounded by the thought that being alive is so intense that I can't imagine how I've pulled it off all these years--or how I can possibly continue to pull it off. "

Compare that to the five days you had to travel on the drugs.

Doesn't it make the feelings you had seem (by comparison) not too large to tolerate? It seems you tolerated a LOT while trying to escape.

I've been on Cipro for four years now. I'm the ONLY one who cares a whit about the giant cartilage and joint pain I'm having and the medical 'professionals' don't see a connection.

I love you, Snow.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Strange trip indeed Snow. I was on Cipro for about six weeks a few years ago. No trips for me... but, it kicked my butt! I've never slept so much in my life!

Thanks for your email... The stuff going on with my family is just too painful to process at the moment. While I'm sure I will write about it someday, for now, I write about cute dogs... much easier on the psyche.

ellen abbott said...

I think, in your altered state, that you were actually seeing more clearly. The invisible stuff is the stuff from which we create reality, and by that I mean the appearence of this physical existence. what we see and experience here only exists in our collective minds. It's the stage upon which we have all agreed to play out our parts. We all create a collective reality and within that we create our own personal realties. In our conscious state, because we invest ourselves fully in it, we forget or have purposely hidden from ourselves this fact in order for us to more fully act out our play. But our unconscious mind kinows this. You simply peeked behind the curtain.

PhilipH said...

Excellent piece of writing again. What puzzles me is how you can remember all these 'trips'. If I have a dream, which is often, I can remember some - but not others.
The only medication I've used on an 'on-off' basis is prednisolone, for breathing probs. This used to make me feel quite euphoric at times. Cannot keep taking this drug too long as it has unwanted side effects - but it's good while it lasts.
Qi Gong - must look this up and see if I can benefit from it.
Regards, and take care.

Snowbrush said...

"Do you think the drugs might make you the teensiest, weensiest bit overly self-involved?"

What were you FEELING when you wrote this? I think you were feeling critical (maybe exasperated, maybe judgmental) as opposed to loving, but I recognize that love doesn't cancel out criticism (in fact, the closer people get, the more critical they often become), so I have no problem with that. I just want to understand you better.

"What puzzles me is how you can remember all these 'trips'. If I have a dream, which is often, I can remember some - but not others."

I don't know if there's a relationship between dreams and hallucinations, but, for me, hallucinations often seem more real than ordinary reality and are therefore impossible to forget. I also tend to write them down while the details are still fresh. I just thought of another difference. I often know when I'm dreaming, and I often have the power to control my dreams, but I have never, when hallucinating, thought I might be dreaming, and I only tried to control a hallucination once (because it was scaring me), and that just made it even more scary. I act on the belief that it's okay to distract myself if I'm scared while on drugs, but it's really not okay to try to make the experience go away. And of course, I sometimes don't know I'm hallucinating. I want to make it clear that I'm no authority on this stuff. I you want an authority, read: Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines His Former Life on Drugs by Marc Lewis. It's a terrific rewarding book on several levels.

Snowbrush said...

"It's the stage upon which we have all agreed to play out our parts. We all create a collective reality and within that we create our own personal realties. You simply peeked behind the curtain...."

Ellen, I don't know how you know all this. I can read it and think, "Wow, it would be so beautiful if things really were like that." But my best guess--based upon what little science I know--is that the universe consists entirely of energy in the form of heat, light, matter, and maybe other things. I furthermore believe that everything that happens--including everything that we think, say, write, and do--became inevitable at least as long ago as the Big Bang. As for hallucinations, I see them as metaphors (in the minds of sane people) or else as symptoms of a disease state. If you want to say more about your beliefs, go for it, kid. I'm not trying to talk over you here, and I'm wanting to argue. I'm just sharing what I believe, and feeling appreciative of you for sharing what you believe. It's so easy to back away from doing that. I love you, sweetie, from your delightful blog photo all the way down to your toes.

rhymeswithplague said...

Exasperated comes pretty close. Also disappointed. But hey, you're a big boy now and can do whatever you want to.

One of the things you can do is write extremely well.

Snowbrush said...

Creekhiker, Marion, Elephant's Child; thank you, darlings. You know, it's getting to where we've been friends for years now rather than months.

"Doesn't it make the feelings you had seem (by comparison) not too large to tolerate? It seems you tolerated a LOT while trying to escape"

Hallucinations, per se, don't scare me--I'm strongly attracted to them. Extreme anxiety is another matter, and I experienced that once WHILE hallucinating (although I think the anxiety caused the hallucinations rather than the other way around). This is one of the reasons that I've never gone for broke with hallucinogenics. I figure that a fellow who can see demons on marijuana had best stay away from some of that South American stuff that's supposed to make LSD look pretty tame.

"Exasperated comes pretty close. Also disappointed. But hey, you're a big boy now and can do whatever you want to."

I had rather you shared this than that you paid me a compliment. Indeed, I interpret it as a compliment because it's not the kind of thing you say to someone you don't care about.

An analogy. Some people enter the Christian ministry because they see it as a way to do good; others because they see it as a great way to molest children; and still others do so for some reasons that come from their higher selves and others that come from their lower selves. People also take drugs for different reasons. I fall into the third category in that I take them for reasons that are good and for reasons that are weak. Here's the complete list: sleep, pain relief, euphoria, to escape boredom, and to gain insights into my own deeper truths. This post describes the first time that I ever took a drug to relieve stress, but it was and extreme situation (a week ago today when the Cipro first started making me trip).

In our society, the general view is that NO reason for hallucinogenic experiences (at least) is to be respected, although we do grudgingly allow a few Native Americans to use peyote. I, of course, see America's view as a cultural bias rather than a rational position. The important thing about such drugs--in my view--is to observe the Middle Way so that disgraceful extremes may be avoided, although, in practice, I lean in the direction of conservatism. Now that I am out of Cipro, I might very well go through the rest of my life and never have another drug-induced hallucination, and the ones I had on Cipro were by accident. Yet, I honor them. If you can imagine a moment during your devotional exercises when your spirt soared so high that you'll remember it for the rest of your life, that's what I have gotten numerous times over the years on various drugs--LSD, psilocybin, marijuana, nitrous oxide, speed (I heard music coming from a toilet while on speed), and now Cipro. To me, these things are holy; to you, they are disgusting, and I can best understand your disgust by reflecting upon the fact that I take a similar view of your religion.

Beau's Mom said...

How can (and why would) someone express disgust at what they read on YOUR blog? If something disgusts you, move on: there's nothing here to interest you.

Go to a place of higher authority and higher self-righteousness. As in: return to YOUR blog and read of your own greatness.

Pardon me Snow, but the mother tiger just got the best of me.

Snowbrush said...

"How can...someone express disgust at what they read on YOUR blog? If something disgusts you, move on: there's nothing here to interest you."

That would be the last thing I want--what I mean to say is: OH, HORRORS! I WANT to make it safe for people to tell me their truths ON MY BLOG, and I worry constantly that I'm either overdoing my efforts to create safety, or else I'm not doing them enough. I don't care if someone agrees or disagrees, and I always TRY to keep the tone respectful. I might talk bad about THOSE people OUT THERE somewhere, but this is my home, and all of you are my guests, and I welcome your thoughts.

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, disgust was your word, not mine. I never said disgust. I said exasperated. You interpreted it as disgust. You were wrong. Exasperated was not the right word either. More like a complete failure to understand why you choose to do certain things, and even your exquisite writing can't help me there. I do fear that you are taking way too many drugs, though.

But you did manage to get in a shot at me in the process in your comment's final sentence. Thanks a bunch. If you are trying to drive me away with insults, it ain't working.

Please tell mother tiger she can return to her lair now. Any uproar was more in her own mind than between you and me.

Gaston Studio said...

I agree that you are an awesome writer Snow. You're also a much braver person than I but maybe a little foolish too.

Snowbrush said...

"But you did manage to get in a shot at me in the process in your comment's final sentence. Thanks a bunch."

I said "Thanks a bunch"? I can't find it, and it doesn't sound like me, so I think you must have meant my remark about your feelings regarding hallucinogenics paralleling (in some ways) mine about Christianity. But that wasn't a "shot." You surely understand that I hold your religion in low regard, so my purpose is saying that was to clarify, not to insult. If you ever feel insulted by me, it will almost surely be because I expressed myself in a way that didn't work for you as I had intended it. I wouldn't waste a moment of my time insulting you, and I wouldn't toy with you or with my affection for you by insulting you. Furthermore, I would consider it a serious personal loss if I should ever "drive" you away. I think of you from time to time everyday and always with fondness.

Jane, I'm so glad you're back in the blog world.

"You're also a much braver person than I but maybe a little foolish too."

Bravery is a bit like the word terrorism in that the same act that one person holds in high esteem, another person holds in contempt.

rhymeswithplague said...

I don't want to get into a "war of words" -- far from it -- so I will make one last comment and then consider the subject closed. I was referring to your saying that things that were holy to you, I found disgusting, and that you could best understand my disgust by reflecting on the fact that you take a similar view of my religion.

The thing is, and I am repeating myself here, I never said I found your holy things disgusting, but you have made it quite clear that you find my holy things disgusting. Hardly a case of simple tit for tat. There was no tat.

I must identify more closely with my holy things than you do with your holy things, because I definitely was stung by what you said although you were directing it at religion and not at me personally. Friends do not intentionally hurt one another, I understand that. I will get over it as soon as I can distinguish between calling me disgusting and calling my religion disgusting. Again, I never ever said I found drugs disgusting.

Snowbrush said...

"I will get over it as soon as I can distinguish between calling me disgusting and calling my religion disgusting."

I answered this already, but I just deleted my response because I wrote in haste and want to clean it up a little and enlarge on it.

You make a good point here, and I apologize for overgeneralizing. To answer you further, I have to ask myself what I'm referring to when I say that I find your religion disgusting. Do I mean your love of God? Your hymns? The joy you take in the rituals of your church? The love you feel for your Christian brothers and sisters? No, I don't have a problem with any of that--in fact, I envy you much of it because atheism is bleak by comparison. What I have a problem with is: (1) Christianity is notable for its oppression of non-Christians and even Christians. Perhaps, you have to be on the receiving end of that oppression to understand it because I've written my heart out about it--partly so you personally can understand--yet I don't think I've gotten to first base except in the case of those who have themselves experienced it. (2) I find the Biblical version of God abhorrent for many reasons. The first that comes to mind is that he requires the innocent to die (animals in the Hebrew Bible; Christ in the New Testament) so he can forgive the guilty. I can't begin to understand how you can love such a deity. I accept that you do, but I don't get it, and I DO try. All I can conclude is that you throw out all the awful parts of the Bible and cling to the few things that are is good about it. So, to be clear, I'm sorry that I sometimes go overboard. I want to be precise to the 70th decimal point, and I probably fail more than I succeed.

Charles Gramlich said...

For the last few years I've been having some awful shooting cramps through my feet and legs. Very painful and a little upsetting when I'm driving. All apparently related to a motorcycle accident.

Ed Pilolla said...

ciani's music is indeed beautiful. i also enjoyed your proverb, and of course your writing. my favorite was this: ... i imagined myself on a rice paper floor that was being slowly encircled by bamboo shadows cast from plants that were swaying in a soft breeze.
i wish we could hang out, but i'll settle for keeping in touch how we do:)

All Consuming said...

Wow, you really captured every moment of your experience succinctly considering your shakes. Antibiotics often have the side effect of making me shake and tremble, I find it immensely unpleasant, but I'm glad that I'm not getting any fear or misery vibes from your post. When you come down off drugs you know if you want to go down that path again. If you lived alone I'd be more concerned but as you have Peggy and I know how much she means to you I believe you'll be careful, or as careful as someone in a huge amount of pain on a constant basis can be.

"running amuck in a blind panic while having outrageous hallucination " - welcome to my world hahaha. I've had restless leg syndrome for years and some drugs make it go crazy so I can appreciate the horrors of leg cramps. Lots of love sweetie xxx

Snowbrush said...

"All apparently related to a motorcycle accident."

Charles, I stay off of motorcycles because I've never known a motorcyclist who hadn't had some terrible crashed or near terrible crashes. I bike almost daily, but even that scares me, what with being passed continually by multi-ton vehicles, many of which are driven by people who believe that bicyclists are always in season.

"i wish we could hang out, but i'll settle for keeping in touch how we do:)"

When I wrote this, I thought of you as at least one person who wouldn't mistake an interest in hallucinogenic experiences with being a drug addict. Funny how even a great many really bright people appear to think that marijuana, meth, and narcotics are all pretty much the same. As for hanging out, I only know one of my blog followers personally. I would like to know more, but I would also be nervous about meeting them. I wouldn't say no to it though.

"I've had restless leg syndrome for years and some drugs make it go crazy"

I have a l related disorder called nocturnal myclonus, and Requip helps greatly for that and, I hear, for restless leg as well. I assume you've tried it.

The Bipolar Diva said...

I need something to crank up my intensity. I wonder if I could score some cipro?

kj said...

Too judgmental # 39. There are two sides to every story and reasons that trump excuses, but I think you're missing the point when exasperation, disappointment , concern etc are expressed about our mr snow

Your comment sounded too love it or leave it and truth be told I didn't much like it

xo
kj

Joe Todd said...

I always thought people were stockpiling Cipro in case we had a bioterror (anthrax) attack.. Take care of yourself Snow

Myrna R. said...

Ed Pilola's selection is my favorite too. I love to read what you write and this one is especially mesmerizing to me. Almost makes me want to do drugs for the mystical experience. Almost.

We all make our choices. Thank you for writing about yours. You teach me something about that, all the diversity in life and the routes we take. You teach me about pain too. Some say it's the threshold to enlightenment. So you may really be up there with the mystics.

Take care Snow.

kylie said...

hey snow!
give my best wishes to peg for international midwives day, will you?

xox

All Consuming said...

I take Ropinirole for the restless legs, I'm not sure if that's the same as those you mentioned but it has helped immensely. As long as I take one tablet. Two and it makes it much much worse. And things like wine and certain other drugs can cancel the Ropinirole's good effect too. x