That Time I Took Shrooms and Became Convinced That I Could Communicate with All Things
Including Princess, the American red squirrel
The squirrel in the picture — I called her Princess, only because her energy was girlish and dainty and entitled in the funniest way — I met around hour three of tripping on magic mushrooms. I spent the first two hours floating on a raft alone in the middle of the lake.
My main goal when I went out there was to vibe out, paint my toenails lime green, take hot pictures for my Instagram feed, listen to Drake and suntan, but as these things tend to go, I ended up trying to decipher the birds' songs like they were hieroglyphs. I tried searching for the meaning of life in the gooey web of rainbow light the sun was putting down on the the water.
I felt good. I felt chill. I felt like a Pink Floyd song.
Ah, here comes the universe.
I’ll be real with you: my trip on shrooms was pretty damn trippy.
This was last summer, in the muggy blanket of August, when my two sisters and I rented a cottage for the weekend two hours up North from Toronto. It was a little wooden thing cloaked in miles of giant woods and surrounded by other cottages scattered here and there. All of the land was owned by this eccentric nature-enthusiast that wore tie-dye t-shirts and cargos 24/7 — him and his wife lived in their cottage, much bigger than the one we were staying in, all year round, even in the winter (You should see the lake when it snows, man!). They rented the other cabins out via AirBnB to city-dwellers like us who fantasized about micro-dosing peace in the form of weekend trips out of town.
When the sun got too hot on the lake, and the only answer I could find was to just be, I rolled my towel up and headed back up for the cottage. On the way, though, I was distracted by the trees. Not the trees, exactly, but their energy. I never felt a tree’s energy before that: I read a lot about it, how they communicate with each other underground through their roots, and I intellectually understood that they were alive, but — I still don’t know how to explain it. I could feel that some trees were young, some were old, some felt like brothers, some like uncles, some like moms. Some felt funky, some felt serious. Towering above me, their leaves were neon and real. Are they breathing?
“I wonder what you know about the world,” I remember saying to the tribe of trees, out loud, clearly tripping. “I wish I knew what you know.”
And that’s when Princess skittered past me.
An American red squirrel. At least, I think.
This girl has got family all over Central North America, even northern Southern America, but she was the only squirrel I saw that day by the cottage. I was mesmerized!
And then, overtaken by something strange happening in my heart, I thought of how different it might have been to be a squirrel, in those same woods, hundreds of years ago. Before the rental cottages, the summer tourism, the chopped trees and the canoes and all of the people, with their big feet and their BBQs, their drunken nights splashing on the water. Disclaimer: I love humanity. But it probably felt to be so much bigger of a forest at one point, before the trees were removed to make pathways.
I ran back up to the cabin, yelling goodbye to the trees, crazed and maybe a little bit overemotional. I wanted to give her something!
Inside the cabin, the girls were painting abstract designs on some canvases and blasting music. I went to the fridge, “What’s good to feed a squirrel?” My sister laughed and said, “I feel like in your past life, you were a mother. I got, like, this message in my mind.” Grapes! I noticed the grapes! Like little jewels shining on the almost empty rack. Grapes, blueberries, done. I set them on a plate, a cute flowery one to suit her, and headed out. And when I got back outside, it was like she knew I’d be there.
There she was, at the edge of the porch. When I stepped towards her, she skittered back down into the trees but I didn’t let that deter me. I was a woman on a mission. I set out Princess’ plate on the ground and sat down at the nearby picnic table, just because I wanted to see if she’d come back. And she did!
I was actually amazed, because I’d never seen a squirrel so close-up.
They were usually so skittish. Honestly, I was usually afraid of them.
But on this day, I was mellowed out. I was in tune with my surroundings, my place in things. I didn’t take a picture for the first few times she came up to those porch steps to dine. I felt like any movement I’d make would disturb the air and my oldest sister had already lectured me about the dangers of pimping out sweet personal moments on social media. I didn’t even take the picture when Princess came up, quick and curious, towards my feet (I think she was sniffing me? I’m not sure), I just asked her if she wanted more grapes. I felt like she did, so I put a few more out.
“We want to go canoeing soon,” one of my sisters shouted out to me from inside the cabin, when Princess was on her way back towards the woods. She kept running back and forth, stopping by for a snack and leaving again. “But first, we need to dissect everything that’s happened, and like, metabolize it, you know?”
“Coming,” I said, but at the same time I saw Princess again, bouncing up the porch’s side stairs this time. “You still hungry, girl? I’m about to go.” I was sad that I had to leave her and take the plate back — she probably thought she found a never ending food buffet.
I didn’t want to leave her more grapes because I was afraid she’d eat too much and die. (That was before I read The Pleasure Trap by Alan Goldhamer and Douglas Lisle and learned that humans are practically the only living creatures in all of nature that overeat to the point of sickness. Princess was probably super in tune with her nutrient receptors.)
Princess came right up to her plate, took a little grape in both of her paws, and started nibbling away. Even on shrooms, I couldn't speak her language, but I was so wholly aware of her. Her aura said she was comfortable.
It was a weird, telepathic thing.
That’s when I took the picture.
It’s one of my favourite pictures from that summer. Maybe from any summer.
In her psycho-spiritual manifesto Exquisite Mariposa, Fiona Duncan writes that real life is the most psychedelic thing of all. More psychedelic than ayahuasca retreats with makeshift shamans (because what could be better than healing with the real ones?), more psychedelic than tripping on acid tabs to Planet Caravan in your dorm room, more psychedelic even than meditative circles in Bali or taking DMT to see God or glow in the rapture of giant reptilians from a parallel universe, or a deeper universe within ours, as some anthropologists claim (Jeremy Narby’s The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origin of Knowledge is a book you need to read if that last line piqued your interest).
Basically those things are catalysts for the suppressed awareness within each of us that the REAL is always present, nature is always nature, we are always connected not just to our fellow humans but to all living things: the trees, the water, the ants, the bears, the crocodiles, the rabbits, the wind. We just have to be willing to step out of our thoughts and worries and patterns and slip into it.
I don’t deny the therapeutic elements of the activities I listed above, but sometimes I think about how there are people, gifted people, centred people, who feel intoxicated all the time. But they’re sober. And their wine is nature, their advice is fresh air, and their peace is the connection they have with the world around them.
I wrote on my blog in the back of the car on the way home: "Love is a frequency. Don't have to wait on it to arrive, you just gotta tap in."