Monday, September 7, 2015

Autumnal Equinox 2013 - Dark, Twisted, Exposed Roots

My Libra Friend wanted to have a camping trip with a few close friends for her birthday. This friend had been to Burning Man before, but didn't get to go to in 2013. She had lots of camping and nature experience. She was very familiar with and involved in psychedelic culture, but had never had any psychedelic experiences before.

My Libra Friend and I both identify as witches, and therefore we both celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, also known as the neo-pagan/ Wiccan/ Celtic holiday called Mabon. The equinox marks the end of summer, and the beginning of fall. The days are of equal length, just as they are during the Spring Equinox (aka Ostara, for Pagans). Mabon is the middle harvest, a time to gather what we have planted that year. The Sun God wanes in the sky, and will die at Samhain (pronounced 'sah-when', not 'sam-hane'.)

Photo Credit: Sodahead.com

I owed another friend money for clothing she made for me for Burning Man that year, and she was one of the friends who was also invited on the trip - So that was how I ended up giving my Seamstress Friend and her Loverboy a ride. I also covered their food costs. The trip was planned for 2 nights, 3 days. 

The first day, we didn't take off very early like we had wanted to. My seamstress friend was having some emotional difficulties with getting prepped for the trip. She is an awesome person with some emotional issues which are really difficult for her to function with. The preparation seemed to trigger a sort of cycle, or maybe a downward spiral. She had been working on a sewing project ALL NIGHT, and literally had gotten no sleep. She was having financial issues (me paying their trip was how they were able to go), so she had been too stressed to put off the sewing project until later. So she hadn't even started to pack by the time I got there to pick them up. Her Loverboy did a great job of taking care of everything he could, but there was some stuff she just had to compose herself enough to do.

Finally, we met up with the rest of the crew: My Libra friend was bringing The Mad Scientist friend, and The Drummer friend. There was a Fairy friend who was supposed to come the next day. The weather report said there may be rain, but we headed up anyways. We went East on I80 to Tahoe National forest and camped there. Pretty immediately after we left paved road, it began to snow.

Photo Credit: gardenersofthegrove.org


We found a camping spot before the last of the light went away. My Libra Friend found an enormous uprooted tree. It looked as if it had been burned. All the twisted, exposed roots were black. We both felt so much energy pulsing from the area of the roots and underneath. It was like a small, not-as-threatening portal to the underworld. Perfect for the observation of the beginning of Fall.

It continued to snow through the night. I had decided not to camp in my tent, but to sleep in my car so I didn't have to worry about the tent. I had done this before, but I hadn't counted on it snowing. The fact that it was supposed to rain was what had prompted me to decide that in the first place. 

It was miserable. I didn't really sleep. My car was too small for me to build up a warm air pocket. I was too close to the sides of the car - it was like a huge freezer. As dawn was just starting to wake itself up - I tried to open a water bottle. It was a glass bottle, which probably became pressurized as the journey led us upward. As I picked it up and opened it, the water must have become depressurized and started freezing before my eyes. I was afraid the bottle would shatter right in my face, so I set it down on the floor of the car, sat up, and waited. Eventually when I was convinced it wouldn't explode on me, I picked it up and tried to drink from it. Not a drop.


Video Credit: Sick Science
This is basically what happened.

This is something to be aware of when camping in places where it could potentially snow on you. This could happen. Being a native of Sacramento, I've never had to think about snow or my water freezing. I don't go camping in the snow because I don't know how to handle it. Luckily there was plenty of water that hadn't frozen outside of the car. As dawn shown herself, I found that it was actually warmer outside the car. I tried to warm myself up by walking around. 

There was no one else in sight at that point. Just me and a bunch of forest. The little micro-climates seemed a bit more diverse than at Icehouse, where I had often camped, but with the same types of plants overall. Eventually, the sun began to warm us up, and the others awoke. I was very tired, but others had gotten better sleep than me. The Drummer friend hadn't brought a sleeping bag or any blankets, somehow, but luckily someone brought an extra blanket for him. I don't know how that guy survived sometimes. I once saw him fall asleep right on bare, open playa - without a sleeping bag, without a pillow, without a tent, just clothes - face in the dust. He always pushed the limits. 

After he woke up, Drummer Friend decided to make pancakes. He accidentally confused a bag of ginseng powder for a type of flour (he mixed several types of flour together to make the pancakes), and so added a great deal of ginseng - a powerful stimulant herb - to our breakfast. He informed us after we finished eating it of his mistake. So, then I wasn't tired anymore at all! It was easy for me to stay up all day even though I had barely gotten enough sleep the night before. It was an happy herbal accident. I should note, though, that too much ginseng like too much of any herb can be dangerous, and herbs are nothing to trifle with. Know what herb you're working with, as well as what doses you're working with, whenever you use herbs!

Photo Credit: plantdex.com
American Ginseng

The fairy friend arrived, and we did some daytime exploring. My Libra friend set up an alter at the pit under the uprooted tree. I packed my beverages (kombucha, mostly) inside a tree stump with a slightly hollow space. It was full of snow, and I kept packing in more snow as the snow slowly melted. Not quite all the snow was gone by the time the sun started sinking that night.

We got a fire started and decided to take the magical trip we had planned for my Libra friend's birthday. I gave one dosage of the magic to my Seamstress friend, someone else gave one to her Loverboy, the Libra friend took one since it was her first time, as did the Fairy friend and myself - to be on the same level as her. The Mad Scientist didn't take one, and went to bed instead. He thought he might be coming down with something, so he didn't want to chance it. The Drummer friend took two. That wasn't an unheard of amount, but in hindsight now it seemed like it could have been indicative of his lifestyle. He pushed the envelop, and saw this as a chance to go crazy in the forest. The Libra friend was on more of a quest for self-discovery. The two goals may have been different, but we all went through our own journeys that night just fine together. 

In my opinion, one dose of the magic was plenty. Our Seamstress friend went to bed, still having a headache and not feeling social after the initiation of the trip. We went walking around the woods, and I felt like I was a wolf - like we were wolves, prowling over our territory together. I had a brief thought that we were, in actuality, the intruders. Eventually, we realized we didn't know which way was back to camp, and that we had lost the Loverboy. Eventually, we found him, trying to find the way back to camp - and then a few seconds later we were back at camp. It was all very whimsical and strange. We were so, so cold away from the fire. I could feel myself losing body heat more the longer I was out. Usually I don't feel cold as much on those types of trips, so I suppose it must have been worse than I could even tell. 

We got back to the fire and stared at it for a while. The Loverboy went to bed. I played some music. The Drummer friend was just... on a whoooooole other plane of reality until the next day. At one point in the night, the fairy friend was using a stick to try and extinguish part of the fire that was creeping out of the fire pit. The end of the stick that she was using, however, was also on fire. I laughed: "You're fighting fire with fire!" I saw firsthand that this technique doesn't work at all literally, and vowed to keep this in mind whenever I felt like doing it metaphorically.

Photo Credit: quotepixel.com
This came up when I searched "fight fire with fire" in Google images.

Eventually the Libra and Fairy friend went to bed in their respective vehicles. It was too cold for me to go to sleep, I knew from the previous night, so there I was, in the cold, ego all tripping, waiting for the sun. And yes, I'm sure I played that doors song at some point, it's one of my favorites. But I also enjoyed the deep silence. It's something I don't get back home in the city. I did notice, though, a few times when I went to pee, that I could hear people - not too close, but not too far away either. So, while it's a good place to go, just know that it is not by any means secluded, even at the end of September.

When dawn finally started showing up, I tried sleeping in my car for a while. Eventually I gave up on this idea and slept outside on my ruined yoga mat instead. I had put it down for people to sit on while it was snowing the first night, and it got trampled and covered in snow-mud (thus defeating the purpose of keeping people's butts dry). Once most of the snow was gone the mud was dried on the mad in a way where only a good pressure washing might help it come clean.

Eventually, the Fairy friend and I went to a small nearby lake to bathe ourselves (which I highly recommend after any magical psychedelic journey). She started yelling some Sanskrit chant and the wind began to suddenly pick up, and was really strong. We decided to get clothes on at that point because we were freezing in the wind chill.

After that, we packed up and went back home. My Seamstress friend was still sick, and actually threw up right before getting in the car to leave. Luckily that helped her feel better, and there were no mishaps on the ride home.