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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Polka Dots

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When I was an adolescent in my mother’s kitchen, eating ambrosia salad and pork steaks with gravy made from canned mushroom soup, I was surrounded by the latest pop design. We had just moved back to my hometown after living one year in a depressed town up north. I was about to start sixth grade, and my twelfth (or eleventh?) birthday was imminent. When Twiggy cut her hair short, my sister cut mine like hers.

We moved into the house across the street from where I had spent all my years before the move. The house was my dream house: big, old, oak trimmed, and where I’d played with my childhood friend Jimmie. But the kitchen was a disaster of rusted out white cabinets someone had decided were a good idea when they were shiny and new, the same time they slapped white aluminum siding on the outside. So my dad had the kitchen completely gutted and refurbished with wood cabinets and a pretty wood kitchen table for us who were left at home: Mom and Dad, my brother and me, and an array of foreign students mostly from Thailand.

I remember drawing mushrooms between meals at that kitchen table (along with Snoopy flying his bullet-dotted doghouse Sopwith Camel in battle against the evil Red Baron). Some of the mushrooms had polka dots, which I copied from orange, yellow and olive green placemats, napkins, canisters and glasses Mom had bought for the kitchen. I thought they were cute. I thought they were cartoon imaginings. I didn’t know until walking the farm eight years ago where our own magic mushrooms sprouted, that polka dot mushrooms are real. So yeah, you can assume correctly that I wasn’t ingesting anything psychedelic in the 1960s and 70s. I don't plan to grind these into powder any time soon, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like, after reading stuff like this at wiki:
Spiritual and well being

In 2006, the United States government funded a randomized and double-blinded study by Johns Hopkins University, which studied the spiritual effects of psilocybin in particular. That is, they did not use mushrooms specifically (in fact, each individual mushroom piece can vary wildly in psilocybin and psilocin content). The study involved 36 college-educated adults (average age of 46) who had never tried psilocybin nor had a history of drug use, and who had religious or spiritual interests. The participants were closely observed for eight-hour intervals in a laboratory while under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms.

One-third of the participants reported that the experience was the single most spiritually significant moment of their lives and more than two-thirds reported it was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences. Two months after the study, 79% of the participants reported increased well-being or satisfaction; friends, relatives, and associates confirmed this. They also reported anxiety and depression symptoms to be decreased or completely gone.

Despite highly controlled conditions to minimize adverse effects, 22% of subjects (8 of 36) had notable experiences of fear, some with paranoia. The authors, however, reported that all these instances were "readily managed with reassurance."

There are many psilocybin mushrooms on our walking path, 
more this year than ever. 
Maybe the heat and extra rain are good for them.

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43 comments:

ellen abbott said...

Psilocybin was my favorite hallucinogen. Not as readily available as acid though. My personal experiences with it were very spiritual. I remember on experience in particular spent by a lake in the woods of New Hampshire among the living and sentient trees. Yes I believe trees are sentient. It was very powerful.

Ginnie said...

"...any time soon." Are those the operative words, Sister? :) Save some for me and maybe we can "do it" together. HA!

Shari Sunday said...

That Ellen! We grew up at the same time, but she had the guts to try things I never did. I would like to have the greatest spiritual experience of my life and years of well being afterward, but I'm scared of trying mushrooms. Interesting post, Ruth!

annell said...

I always loved dots.

hedgewitch said...

Interesting tie-ins, your placemat mushrooms, Twiggy and the psychedelic experience, which, like so many things in life, is shaped almost completely by what we bring to it. That's an interesting study, and I think the focus on those with a spiritual interest gives it relevance. That's the part of the brain that's in play, the 'doors of perception' of this and other worlds, and I think you need to be wanting to see what's on the other side for it to be worth anything at all. When it becomes about a kick, a thrill, a sensation, it's a terrifying and ugly thing. Or such are my subjective opinions. ;_)

C.M. Jackson said...

Ruth--I am always so amazed by where your writings lead us ---from twiggy to Snoopy to magic mushrooms...quite a trip...;-)

thanks for making me smile and wander off into a lovely daydream-c

Grandmother said...

Envying Ellen but more like Shari. These mushrooms have cropped up a couple of times on my spiritual path but the availability wasn't there. After reading this, I'm not ruling it out. I'd love my later years to be about spiritual maturity. What a great post.

Friko said...

Oh dear me, there is so much I have missed. As far as I know I have never ingested anything more toxic than alcohol and tobacco. Although I got seriously drunk twice in my life I can't say that either experience was very pleasant and certainly not spiritual.

A walk in the woods, such as the one in your picture, just me and the dog, the birds and beasts and the clouds visible through the canopy, that'll do me. I can wax as spiritual as you like there and then.

PS I love mushrooms with butter, garlic and parsley, but I don't suppose that counts?

Shattered said...

Fascinating. I'm from a different generation but I know my husband would appreciate this post. I love your vivid memories and how you write enabling us to feel like we are there.

Jennifer

Oliag said...

I do love having some time to spend here at synchronicity catching up! I loved the new poems...you can probably guess I particularly loved the ode to those difficult to catch at the right ripe moment pears.

I also loved meeting Dr Pam and your father-in-law. Wonderful people!

And here I love traveling with you wherever your thoughts take you...from Twiggy to tripping. Oh where those lovely mushrooms will take you! Lots of them about here this year too...

Barb said...

Funny, Ruth! I just did a post on our CO Magic Mushroom, Amanita Muscaria, which is red with white polka dots. I'm not ingesting them anytime soon, though. I can just hear the grandkids saying, "Grammy must be on mushrooms again..."

Babs-beetle said...

I can relate to the Twiggy haircut. I had minecut at Vidal Sassoon's Bond Street hair salon, none the less. It was called the Vidal Sassoon cut. Can you believe that in 1970/71 I actually paid £50 for a haircut? I wonder how much it would work out today. *Remembering when money was so plentiful* Sigh.

I can also relate to painting mushrooms but that's as far as it went with me. I was too good for my own enjoyment - aside from cigarettes and a drop of alcohol.

missing moments said...

Your posts always amaze me! This one was delightful. Sadly, though, the morel mushrooms we picked and ate while growing up were nothing more than tasty morsels!

erin said...

what i want to say...and i pretty much always say what i want to say, is: whachutalkinaboutwillis?

i want it ruth, without the mushrooms. i want it. you know?

xo
erin

Jeanie said...

I was seeing lots of mushrooms like this up at the lake over the weekend, so it's good to know a little more about them. And yes, I drew mushrooms, too -- with big dots (only mine were all red with white dots!)

who said...

I cannot believe your family used those place mats. It brings back very old memories.

About the mushrooms, while they are a fairly safe substance that will open your mind to receive realizations that might not otherwise be realized, mushrooms may not be the best fit for everyone's spiritual needs. I am sure it's good for the big bang type, "one day with God is good enough" kind of people who will hold fast the iron rod from just that one experience.

But if you are the type who needs some sort of regular conversational visitation to keep the spiritual fire burning then magic mushrooms just aren't practical for daily or weekly use. In this case, if your local distributor isn't just about reaching sales targets, they would probably steer you towards a different illicit substance all together.

Ruth said...

Ellen, I believe trees are sentient too, after a powerful experience I had with some beech trees in a churchyard in Ireland.

Ruth said...

Boots :-)

Ruth said...

Shari, part of me can see the appeal, and another part of me would wonder how to do it safely.

Ruth said...

annell, me too.

Ruth said...

Hedge, the study cited, and other things I've read in various spiritual books, talked about shamans and other spiritual seekers who use these regularly. Your opinion makes sense to me.

There's always the question, What are the "doors of perception" opening into? My friend would say it's all in the mind, which, granted, is a pretty extraordinary and magical place.

Ruth said...

Hi, C.M., yeah, trippy. :-)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Mary. I'm feeling a bit weird about all this, 'cause I'm not promoting it. But I am trying to be more open, to understand the worlds of experience I know nothing of.

Ruth said...

Friko, "oh dear me" is right. I was posting every day like a madwoman.

It's true, a walk in the woods, first through the meadow, is a grounding and centering practice. Why'd the path have to go by those damn mushrooms?

Mushrooms with butter, garlic and herbs are pretty bliss-inducing, I agree.

Ruth said...

Hello, Jennifer! It's been ages. I hope you are well. Thanks for reading.

I just think it's humorous when people like me claim cultural icons for whatever purpose and know nothing of their meaning and "purpose".

Ruth said...

Oliag, thanks for reading and catching up with my frenetic posts that popped out of this laptop like popcorn in the last week!

Ruth said...

Oh Barb, I will come check out your Amanita Muscaria. We've had a few of those before, though not this year.

Oh yes, there is always the grandmotherly responsibility to consider ...

Ruth said...

Babs, that is one legendary haircut. Wow. I bet there was proportionate currency laid out a couple decades later after Princess Di got her do.

Your statement about being too good for your own enjoyment is something I can relate to. I guess I don't really have any regrets about it, but sometimes my curiosity lifts her little head.

Ruth said...

Hi, Reena!

Oh, not sadly at all. For me, eating morels sauteed in butter with salt and pepper is one of the "ecstasies" of life.

Ruth said...

erin, yep, I know. Me too.

And I know these curious rumi-nations about what lies beyond certain doors will probably keep popping up, and I'll keep leaving them on the other side of the door.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, we've had those red ones too. I was just blown over when I saw them the first time, couldn't believe they really existed! I'd read Alice in Wonderland, .... naively ...

Ruth said...

Dusti, I'd be afraid of getting it right, and that once experiencing it, would I want it all the time? When I sit and work it out in my head, I know it will remain a curiosity.

Shari Sunday said...

I forgot to say that I thought your drawings were beautiful and you were just a kid. I remember when mushrooms were "in" as a decorating item. I would love to see a picure of the remodeled kitchen you described and, for that matter, a picure of you with that Twiggy haircut.

Mama Zen said...

That's a fascinating study. I wouldn't be willing to try it, though. I lean a bit too much toward paranoia as it is.

Brendan said...

Great lace of memoir, with that mushroom figuring repeatedly in the gravy, the drawings and the sprinkling of wowza mushrooms on the land. I haven't had pork steak in mushroom soup since that afternoon in Chicago in 1973 after seeing, on the sly, my first x-rated movie - "The Green Room" at a greasy downtown theater with a buddy. That mushroom sauce almost made me ill, remembering the goop I'd seen onscreen in such naked detail. I've only eaten whoopie mushrooms a couple of times, way way way back when, but all occasions were singularly happy -- like going to an underwater circus. My memories of those events have an indelible aesthetic glow to them. On the other hand, I read yesterday that frequent marijuana users have a high chance of developing schizophrenia. Happened to my cousin ... great write .. Brendan

Ruth said...

Oh, Shari ... no, I didn't draw or paint the ones here. I found that online (and didn't even give credit). Mine didn't look this good.

I think there might be a couple of old Polaroids of the kitchen, and a school pic of me in the Twiggy cut, looking rather uncute, if I recall. ;)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Mama Zen. Yeah, it seems a bit iffy, doesn't it?

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading and for your great comment, Brendan . . . which itself is laced with some mighty interesting americana. I swear you've lived more lives than a cat! (But now you're breathing underwater, so ... maybe you are indeed in some sort of life after life.)

Lil Coyote said...

hey ellen! whaddya doin this weekend?
oops! sorry
i've always had a fascination with shrooms and really can't imagine why-maybe it's the danger they sometimes present.
and i had a HUGE crush on twiggy when i was twelve, still kinda do.
Thank you, Ruth, it's always nice to be invited on a visit to another's memory.
Rick

Marcie said...

This is so interesting about the effects of these magical mushrooms. Here - too - they are everywhere..and - no - I wouldn't dare eat one!!!

Loring Wirbel said...

Amanita muscara and its many cow-flop variants! See, there is a community consciousness about such things, which is why you were drawing polka-dots on mushrooms at a young age.

amy@ Souldipper said...

Other than alcohol, I only tried the sissy drugs. I didn't like the effect of the drugs at all so never tried anything more "exotic". In her 60s, my mom agreed to be part of a test group for L*D. A psychiatrist had advertised and was managing the study so she felt quite safe about participating. She told the family after the experiment was all done, the stinker! She told us the best part was having her father appear as Methuselah. She felt a breakthrough with that visual as she was able to forgive him at long last. If she experienced anything more spiritual than that, she didn't mention it.

Stratoz said...

while the first comment (by Ellen) showed that uncontrolled studies could lead to positive results, it is troubling that so much drug use is done by youth who are not mature in any which way let alone spiritually