“No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. There is no need to shrink from illusions, for they cannot be dangerous. We are ready to look more closely at the ego’s thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it, you must be ready. Let us be very calm in doing this, for we are merely looking honestly for truth. The “dynamics” of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to see beyond it, since you have made it real. We will undo this error quietly together, and then look beyond it to truth.” – A Course in Miracles
I was a sixteen-year-old high school dropout. I was preoccupied with the spiritual and the occult. My friends were all older, college students and hippies who smoked pot and listened to music all day. I would smoke pot, but I never used other drugs, especially LSD, which terrified me more than heroin. I was so afraid of losing control of my mind. I had heard so many crazy stories about “bad trips” and “flashbacks”, and the possibility that I could be permanently affected and that I could have deformed babies. But I had also heard stories of great spiritual visions and revelations, and I wanted that.
My friends Chris and Bill ran a health food business, and I traveled with them to deliver teas and herbs to little shops throughout Colorado and New Mexico. We journeyed in a Volkswagen bus and we camped throughout the Rocky Mountains, meditating with groups in various communities and sleeping out under the stars. Chris had polio when he was a child and he had leg braces and walked with crutches. He was a very deep and spiritual person. Bill was a carpenter and former military guy who had fallen in love with yoga and meditation. We were a strange trio. When our van broke down in Steamboat Springs, we were kind of stuck for a while.
I lied about my age and got a job at the Edelweiss Hotel, a cheap rooming house for ski bums. The hotel was upstairs from a furniture store on the main street. It was very old and funky, with communal bathrooms and individual rooms down two long corridors. There were a few permanent residents, and the rest of the rooms were rented out by the night. There were a few rooms with double beds, but most of the rooms were fitted with sets of bunk beds, two or three to a room. This was popular with college and high school kids who came in groups. It was a wild place with lots of partying. Downstairs from the hotel there was an old diner, where lots of townies liked to eat. Chris and I both got jobs there waiting tables and washing dishes. As part of my pay at the hotel I got a room to stay in. Chris and I stayed there and Bill stayed in the van parked out back. Bill got work doing construction and soon was able to repair his van. Eventually he and Chris decided to continue on their journey, but I decided to stay in Steamboat. I had made some friends and I loved the town, so I was pretty cool. Of course, no one questioned that I was underaged. I started smoking cigarettes too, imagining that made me look a little older and wiser.
I loved being on my own. I woke up early every morning during ski season and cleaned guest rooms all morning. Fortunately, skiers liked to get up early and hit the slopes as soon as the lifts opened, so I could get my work done early and have the rest of the day until my shift at the cafe. I wandered the streets of Steamboat, meeting interesting people and making lots of friends.
Once while walking down the street I heard the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young coming from a house on a hill. I knocked on the door and it was answered by an angelic young blond woman who excitedly invited me in. Sitting at the kitchen table was a mysterious gypsy looking woman named Francine. The younger girl was named Merle. Francine had a husband named husband George, a sweet and gentle man who adored her.
Francine told me that they had been waiting for me, and she spread a deck of Tarot cards on the kitchen table and she began to instruct me on their meanings. From that day on, as soon as I was done at the hotel, I would walk to their house and they would teach me the meanings and proper interpretations of the cards. They encouraged me to develop my psychic powers, Fran read my palms and told me that I was fated to become a powerful witch. It was true that everybody was amazed by the accuracy of my readings, and I felt pretty special about that.
About that time, I also met Robert, a sweet, intelligent young man who became my friend. Soon I started spending the rest of my spare time hanging out with him.
Robert was an acid head. He loved LSD and he took it frequently. He collected different varieties and he kept a scrapbook with memories of each trip, including a tab or blotter of the actual drug in each entry. His favorites were made by a guy named Owsley, and he had many colorful sheets of various “blotter” acids and tablets with little owls on them. The sheets looked like printed pictures on a grid. The drug was dropped onto squares on the grid and the squares were cut up into individual “hits”. Once Robert took me down to Denver to pick up a supply. It was somewhere in the City Park area and he had me wait for him at the Natural History Museum. He told me that they were pretty paranoid, and I might freak them out. He was pretty paranoid too, he could have gotten in a lot of trouble. Fortunately, nothing went wrong, and we got back to town with a good supply of the highest quality of LSD that was available to the public.
Robert was a gentle teacher. I hung out with him when he tripped, and I never saw any unusual behavior, just sweetness and joy. I decided it was safe. We went to a local hot springs, in a place called Strawberry Park, a short drive from Steamboat. It was about a twenty-minute hike from the road. We ate the acid in the car, and then we hiked up to the springs. My stomach was twisting in anxiety, but I pretended to be cool. We had picked a full moon night, the sky was bright and clear, and, even though there was snow on the ground, hot steam rose into the night from the pools.
In those days, the hot springs was just a place where local people hung out, drinking wine and getting naked under the stars. There were a few of our friends there and we passed joints and bottles of wine. Soon I felt something like a pull at the nape of my neck and the next moment it seemed like the bright lights came on gently. I was entranced by the colors of the setting sun, the whiteness of the snowy hills, steam rising off the water, the music of laughter, the bright scent of mountain air, the warm aroma of marijuana. Robert had brought a bag of Jolly Rancher candies and he put one in my mouth. The world exploded in the taste of tart cherries. I was surrounded and immersed in a rich tapestry of sights, sounds, colors, sensations, and flavors. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had found an amazing drug that became my new best friend.
Having a ready supply of this magical stuff, I felt so blessed. I tripped every time I had the chance to. Everything became fascinating to me. People were fascinating. Everything was fun, every conversation was brilliant, and I laughed more than I had ever laughed in my entire life.
Robert had given me a book “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert A Heinlein. It was the story of a human, Michael Valentine Smith, who was raised on Mars by Martians. He was not conditioned by the world to believe what humans on Earth believed, so his mind was free to be natural. He was my hero, a mystical, magical spirit who had an idea of a way that people could live in love and unity. The story fascinated me and I became a firm believer.
A major theme of the book was freedom of sexual expression and the characters formed what would today be called polyamorous relationships. In 1969, free love was all the rage, but I was not sexually active at all. I had never had a boyfriend, and had not even gone on a date. I was too shy to have intimate relationships and I hadn’t met anyone I was interested in that way.
One night I woke up in my room at the hotel and there was a naked man standing over my bed. He was a friend of the hotel owner and he had been drinking. I jumped out of my bed and I ran out into the night barefoot and without a coat. I went to a friend’s house and woke her up. She called the police. When they asked him why he did it, he told them it was because I had been smoking pot in my room. The cops tore up my room looking for drugs, and when they found out I was only sixteen they arrested me as a runaway. They called my mom and the next day I was on a Greyhound bus going back home to Greeley. What the cops who tossed my room in Steamboat didn’t know was that I had three and a half full sheets of blotter acid in my sketchbook. I spent the next few years looking at illusions, and the rest of my life looking at the reasons I believed in them…..
“Salvation lies in the simple fact that illusions are not fearful because they are not true. They but seem to be fearful to the extent to which you fail to recognize them for what they are; and you will fail to do this to the extent to which you <want> them to be true. And to the same extent you are denying truth, and so are failing to make the simple choice between truth and illusion; God and fantasy. Remember this, and you will have no difficulty in perceiving the decision as just what it is, and nothing more.” (A Course in Miracles)
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book God is Free – Everything I know so far…
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