Thank Earth You is a terrific memoir by Armand Daigle about his transformation from cubicle slave to a free-spirited creative force. Central to the story are two profound psychedelic experiences, one with mushrooms on a camping trip, and the other a traditional ayahuasca ceremony.
I interviewed Armand last week, and today we’re sharing a chapter of his memoir for free. In this chapter, Power-up Pelt, you get to know Armand’s wolf pack while witnessing the early stages of the mushroom trip that stretched his consciousness and changed his life.
You can buy Thank Earth You here.
The four of us are holding hands in a circle—one hand up, one hand down—seeking to find balance in the fold. After a moment of silence, Antonio says he wants us to speak our intentions and bless the journey we’re about to take.
I’m just a pup with these outward engagements, and I have to admit I’ve been shy to embrace them. The process is a huge departure from my rigid upbringing; it requires a wrench that was never placed in my toolbox. I’ve also been toiling for so long in the A-through-X columns of project spreadsheets that it’s taken a while to shake myself from the grid. But Antonio’s light shoulder touches and the way he leans into his conversations relaxes me and reassures that he’s here to support me however he can. There’s a thickness to him, an inkling that he really wants to listen.
Still, it’s hard when you’re as fresh out as me. You gotta take the time to get acclimated. During all those long days that ended before they began, there were so many distractions that kept me in my comfy shell, kept me from broadening my reach, or maybe I’m just placing blame because it’s always easier to shift responsibility somewhere else. And why not? I have so many culprits to point my finger at: putting up with my job because it pays well and I only hate it every other day, feeling safe in a relationship, unlocking the magic amulet, “next year will be different,” the taste of ice cream when I put it in between Oreos, making long digressions, etc. But I’m not thinking about any of this now. It all seems miles away tonight.
What Diego doesn’t know is that later in the evening, I’ll become a starchild on a planet at the other end of the universe, gazing up at a moon that I don’t know the name of.
Across from me is Cyrus. He’s a little on the stocky side, and also does well in the hair department. He’s a laidback dude with gentle eyes, but when he needs to throw it in gear he can flash a mean, cheek-flexing side bite. His enthusiasm for art is more than impressive, and he speaks of progress for our group. He yearns for our advancement, for us to conquer the mountain we’re working to climb. He wants to create art that kicks and backflips and snarls; in other words, he wants the animal in us to come out. But at the heart of it, he’s a feral man who loves nothing more than to dance and howl his hide off with his friends.
Taking his baton of betterment, I circle on, imagining each of us as one paw, one leg, all working together to run as one wolf. Since I was a child, I’ve wrestled with a stutter, but after years of speech therapy I learned to hide it, shaping me into a short, quiet observer. Other than why I don’t talk much, I’ve always been asked what my cultural background is. And though I like to wear bright colors at metal concerts and black at peaceful gatherings, people say I’m reliable. What I’m intent on is finding the new idea, somewhere past the edge of perception where no one’s been. I want to catch it and bring it back so we can nurse it, nurture it, and share it with everyone. In my utopia, as the sun comes around in the east, we’ll be feverishly building the horizon, laying the foundation brick by brick from just beyond the shadows, where every second our feet narrowly avoid the arms of dawn.
The last but strongest paw, Diego, talks about action. He keeps a tan, slim figure, and often raises his eyebrows when he talks, but whatever he says is usually followed by quick work and etched in gold. He’s a concrete man who enjoys doing, getting in the trenches, bringing ideas alive. He wants us to realize, catalyze, and improvise; hopefully, before the night runs out, we’ll put a few projects in motion.
What Diego doesn’t know is that later in the evening, I’ll become a starchild on a planet at the other end of the universe, gazing up at a moon that I don’t know the name of. I’m guessing it’ll have some sort of letter and number combination like S/2011 P 1. But the point is this: even there, on that remote planet, our pack feels right. We’re together—all of us—under one pelt.
So when Antonio wants to climb up the hill on the other side of the creek because he feels like he needs to get closer to the sun, we all want to climb up the hill on the other side of the creek to get closer to the sun. Preparing for the hike, we select our power-ups, drink orange juice, grab some road beers, and go find our walking sticks. With all the necessary preparations complete, our trek begins single-file up toward the wind-chimey, gardeny plot on our side of the creek. The excitement of the soundtrack for this part of the journey—the immaculate pinging and ringing of nature and man shaking hands—is just setting in when Cyrus breaks up the yonder soothing by farting from the back of the line. Methinks he’s either nervous or tonight will be getting weirder sooner than I thought. Or both, mayhaps. Probably both. A few moments later, my suspicions are confirmed when a fat burp interrupts my yawn.
Nights like these I turn into a ninety-five-year-old or a tribesman in the Amazonian jungle who’s never seen a cell phone before.
“I’m going to be in this one place for my entire life.” That’s what the tree says. But think of the timelines she’ll see.
Through the years, I’ve learned that this is why nature rewards patience. You gotta wait for her, and at the right time, she’ll turn up the volume. She’ll make sure nothing else eclipses you; she’ll show you the flower that you really are.
A raised cave comes up on our left. Antonio—channeling his best Ava—wants to explore the innards. He scales the rock façade in no time and peeks inside while Diego takes pictures with an old camera that looks like a cross between an early sci-fi spaceship and one of those fake binocular-flasks. “We can use it as a prop on our next project,” Diego says, meaning the camera. I’m glad he’s taking pictures now and not later, because if Diego is anything like me, he’ll either be getting shots of his shoes for fifteen minutes or forget how to turn it on.
Nights like these I turn into a ninety-five-year-old or a tribesman in the Amazonian jungle who’s never seen a cell phone before. We’re not that deep yet, though. Right now, I could still operate devices, even ride a bike for a short while. Entering the animal realm is what my old boss used to call it, and while the expression’s stuck over the years, tonight I’ll discover brand-new meaning in the bizarre and the bubbly. But all that peace and viciousness comes much later, though. Time drags its feet from here on out.
In my utopia, as the sun comes around in the east, we’ll be feverishly building the horizon, laying the foundation brick by brick from just beyond the shadows, where every second our feet narrowly avoid the arms of dawn.
Antonio reports back that the cave is shallower than he once guessed. His head then perks up, like a dog’s when he senses someone or something coming.
“We gots to go.”
No one questions him, we just nod our heads and follow because something is calling for him, something beyond and above the wind chimes, the waterfalls, the grotto, and the creek beside us—and that’s good enough for now.
He walks fast, each step more purposeful than the last. We stay in stride as best we can, but we all notice we’re a pace or two short of jogging. Antonio pushes harder, and it doesn’t take too long until we’re four legs of an animal, loping and bounding up the creek, hopping across the half-submerged rocks that may have once been used for skipping by the Tree Giants I’ll see later. We pass by two women soaking their feet in the swimming hole down on our left, and I know we’re all thinking the same thing: interaction with other people is less than optimal right now. Other people? Oh no! I’m afwaid. A part of me also can’t help but think their feet must be freezing. And another part of me fixates on the awesome reality of that even being an option on the first full moon of the year. I love you, Texas. I love you, mucho.
We keep ascending, rock by rock, guided only by the sun and an inkling, and halfway up the slants, the great assembly of saffron daggers make their stand. It’s not that I see them beam off of the rocks, or leaves, or streams, it’s that I see the rays themselves. I mean just thick and there. They appear like stoic fire cutting through the clouds and canopy, still fresh from their 92 million-mile journey to see me, as if the sun was saying, Just reminding you that I can touch anything I want! Anytime, anywhere, I’m always here. I’m always doin’ it.
You do it, Sun. Sunshine, do it!
“You guys feelin’ weird yet?” Diego asks.
Cyrus and Antonio mutter responses, but my attention isn’t up to par.
I drop my walking stick to the side of the stream beneath us, wanting to be free of such devices, to travel light. I grow weary of your presence, stick. Go be with your friends. At this point, whatever I hold I’ll probably lose or drop in water anyway. Too many objects on my person means the subconscious is constantly banging around in my wrinkly piece of head-gum. That constant attention on superfluous items takes away from the focus on what’s directly in front of me. (I also prefer little to no condiments on my food, thank you.) Up high on the hill, our ascension is halted by a fence with a red-and-black sign: NO TRESPASSING.
Maybe it’s just my heightened sensitivity right now, but the aggression cuts me—a banner flown high and frequent, a remnant of a time of great tumult, anger, fear, and isolation. Though it turns us back for now, our spirit remains steadfast, for there’s much to do and we know we’ll cross each other’s path again soon.
Splendor, Hilarity, and Epiphany will be arriving shortly, so we leap and bound back down to our camp, eager like young pups to see what comes next.
Armand Daigle is the author of Thank Earth You. Tune in next week for the next chapter, when the mushrooms really kick in!
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