Monday, January 07, 2013

Off Again

Yeah, I know, off again...Gorman's off his rocker again... Probably, but what I mean is that I'm off to Peru again for a six week trip. Got some great guests and while I'm there I'll be there. So I probably won't write. So I'm letting you know that I miss you all already. Have a great start to the New Year and I'll be back in touch again before the end of February.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Someone Asked about Ayahuasca's Sustainability

Someone wrote to me asking what I thought about the ayahuasca vine's sustainability, given the number of people utilizing it not only in the dozens of retreat centers in and around Iquitos and Pucallpa in Peru but all over the world. My answer was short and sweet--or sour, really. This is what I wrote:
Dear X: You've hit on one of my sore points. In terms of ayahuasca use, god forgive me, but I am responsible for a lot of this. It would have happened without me, but would have taken 20 more years to start and might not have evolved as it has since I invented Alan Shoemaker and he invented Iquitos.

    No, ayahuasca is not sustainable the way it is going. Not by a long shot. In the old days, I'd just cut enough vine for Julio and I for ceremony. These days, with sometimes 12 guests, we need 20 pounds of vine. That's a lot. That might be 30 feet of 7-year-old vine. 
   Now my team has planted hundreds of vines and within the next few years they will be able to harvest a ton or more. BUTTT.....they are being asked for 20 sacks a month by the ayahuasca retreat centers in and around nearby Jenero Herrera and in Iquitos--about 1000 pounds. So for the wild ayahuasca, they are stripping it all for miles around. And they're just a few of the people collecting to provide the retreat requirements.
   Still, people will plant and there will be enough. But wild animals and wild fruit and wild vines have a strength that fostered animals/fruit/vines just don't have. 
   So if your real question is why are these novices opening ayahuasca centers when they don't have the right experience, well, I'm with you. I have met lots of people who have ceremonial centers who have never spent a day in the jungle. I'm not happy about that but I'm not the boss of the world. 
   So I'm hoping for the best, but not necessarily expecting it.

If I had not responded simply out of anger, I might have added that the value to the lives of those who have taken ayahuasca has often been immeasurable, and those changed/charged humans then go back to daily life and probably positively affect those around them. So while I'm not thrilled personally when someone with little experience decides to cut primary forest to build a camp that will probably be abandoned in a year or three, and then contacts people like my team to provide them the medicine they need for those camps, the better half of me understands that the net result, while bad for the jungle, might be very good for the world at large. Bit of a conundrum, but if people are a bit more careful, not one that cannot be fixed. Those people who open camps should plant ayahuasca before they ever start cutting forest. That might give vines several months head start on taking hold. And ayahuasca will grow quickly once it's taken hold. Then those people would be less dependent on people who know the forest to collect wild vine--a process which by it's nature disturbs the forest and habitat near those vines. That would certainly be a beginning to correcting the balance. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

That's It, I'm Spent

That's it, I'm spent. I've been back in Texas since July 17. I've written three cover stories, four inside features, eight short pieces, a couple of official blogs on the Fort Worth Weekly Blotch page, contributed to the Best of and Turkey (worst of) editions of the paper, done freelance work for a business mag and written 5 Drug War Follies Columns for Skunk magazine. I've prayed and done sings for a lot of people who asked for help. Don't know if I helped but tried. I've hosted a dozen or more people here in that time, fed a lot of good people good food. I've taken care of the dog and cat and seen to the house. I've tried to be there for my kids--though I'm probably a second rate parent. I've loved those I love as best I can, I've mowed the lawn, I've dealt with the people taking part of my meager acreage for the new road entrance, dealt with a 15-year-old Madeleina through the travails of being 15 years old, made recommendations to sick people, sent out the medicnes I had until there are none left here in the house and now I am nearly done. Time for me to spread my wings and take people out to the jungle and up into the high mountains. Time for me to breathe good air. Time to forget computers and read a good mystery or two. Time for a drink on the boulevard without having to think that I need four more interviews to fill out my story. Time to rejuvenate with life that has different parameters. I know I will miss my kids. I know I will miss my desk, my house, my own cooking. But I also need the open space, the canoe at night in the jungle, the stars overhead, the intensity of catching the snake without getting bitten. And so now I'm one Drug War Follies column away from leaving for Peru with a clean conscience that I did my work here. And then there is a list three feet long of things I need to get done before I leave but none of it makes me beholden to publishers or editors. I love my work. I'm one lucky bastard for getting to do what I love, but I also get tired of it. I need a break every five months or so for 6-8 weeks to get the juices flowing again. And now I'm nearly on it. And I'm already crying about leaving Madeleina. And I'm praying Boots, the blind wonderdog doesn't bite anyone while I'm gone, and hoping my kids remember to feed him and the cats and to keep the rodent population down in the house while no one is living there. So I'm torn. But what I know is that it is time to get away. To see the world through my other eyes. To get refreshed. And now, tonight, having put to bed the last story I have to write for my regular publication, I'm feeling suddenly lighter.
   I will miss you all. Thank you for having the patience to read through  my stories and comments. When you feel blue, just imagine me having a drink on the boulevard in Iquitos after 10 days out in the deep jungle, dirt under my fingernails and a smile on my lips. I wish you could join me. Happy New Year, everyone. Hold those you love tight.