written by Vickie


Early September, 1971. Southeast Colorado. The sun is setting. It's getting dark. The pine Trees are beginning to play their dark night form games. The hilly half-desert, half-wood country is beginning to take on the fixed forms by which one guides oneself home at night; avoiding the cactus, up and down the arroyo, missing the scrub oaks, trying to find a path lit by the moon.

Glyn Straight, her eight-year old son Pace, our five-year old friend Judith and I are sitting in our tepee, our home for these past two weeks at the AAA. Adrienne is visiting. She is sitting on a mattress on the linoleum over dirt-covered floor. Adrienne, with her depths of wisdom and hard-man-city talk, is telling me that I have nothing to fear in a peyote meeting. Sure, you cant smoke for the whole night but she and Len are nicotine addicts and they manage it. Peyote is a lovely drug, not at all trippy like acid. I am picking out a costume to wear to the meeting, to set my mood, just in case I get the courage to actually go. I choose a long cotton dress with flowers, my AAA dress, and my bobby cape which can double as a blanket.

Adrienne leaves. See you later, she says. Glyn wishes me goodbye. Shell babysit tonight and tomorrow will be my turn when she goes to the gig. I wander down the darkened hill to the parking lot. Three cars are ready to go across the valley to the farm where the meeting is to be. Soon we are car-assembled and riding, riding cross the flat, then rolling badlands. Circling around the hill till we come to the farm. We drive the car as far in as possible. Jim Huberman and I get out and walk to the circle of gypsy caravans where the hippies from the Caravan (formerly from the mime troupe and diggers, etc.) Now live. All those loose women and children and occasional men flash me out.

They are, as usual, dressed in their raggle taggle gypsy-oh costumes. Real gypsies would be ashamed to be so dirty or torn, maybe even so theatrical. I can never figure out which children belong to which women. It is fruitless to guess if the men have any tart. Their silverware is all caked and dirty around the hearth. Their jokes are about stealing and the stream near-by being used for shitting as well as drinking. Maybe its a Fellini movie. More people begin to arrive. John Pedro and his four other Indian friends park in a station wagon. People gravitate to this man who knows. Bessy is even wearing face paint and a blanket and looks very Indian indeed.

As the night gets dark, people walk down the path from the caravan grounds to the huge tepee put up just for the meeting. Many people wrapped in blankets, jackets, , each other are outside the tepee, trying to keep warm, waiting. Huge logs are being brought into the tepee. The moon has been out awhile. We should have started at sundown but nothing was ready then. The few people organizing the ceremony are hurrying to get the ground, wood, sacraments ready. Many hippies from all the neighboring communes, the AAA, Red Rocks, Libre, Caravan, Farm, and the towns and their friends are gathered outside, walking talking, eating, smoking. Maybe one hundred are gathered. The tepee circle couldnt possibly hold half that number.

As it gets closer to going-in time, I wonder who I am going to sit next to. It seems important. Will I need comforting? I want it to be Adrienne. She seems so wise. For an unbeliever, she claims that previous ceremonies gave her much comfort after her auto accident. Finally the time comes to pile in. Somehow I am caught between Jim Huberman and Little Dawn. I think this is fortunate. Jim is a dealer and should know many drugs. Little Dawn is an ex-speed-freak and my good friend. The people continue to file in. There are too many. The circle sitting round the tepee doubles over on itself.

The leader of this meeting is Richard, he is roadman. The Indians from Arroyo Hondo are his advisors. Lars is Richards helper. Bruce is the fireman who must keep the high blaze going all night. The Indians and Richard consult. Richard asks those people who have been to previous meetings recently or are not here seriously or dont feel in need of the meeting to leave. At first no one moves. Than a few people do, then others. I kept meaning to, but I dont. Adrienne leaves. First I thought I should go with her. Than I realized that she left so that I and others who had never been to a ceremony before could stay. Finally there were just enough people left to make a tight circle. Very tight, enough people left to make a tight circle, very tight, hardly able to cross legs, just enough room to rest on your knees. Crossing legs bumped the person next to you.

The flap was closed. The fire was blazing. We were here assembled to celebrate the great god peyote who had given Richard and Lars the ability to find his buttons on their trip to Texas. No one was to come or go without the roadmans permission until daybreak. We were closed into this circle of sharing.

There were forms to follow. Four sacraments -- peyote, sage, tobacco and cedar -- to observe. Before the singing began, everyone was passed a spray of sage to hold. Everyone was given a dried corn husk and untreated tobacco to roll into a cigarette. Peyote, in the form of dried and cut up buttons, circulated. First we smoked the last cigarette of the night. Then we ate the peyote. I just nibbled. Then the singing and drumming began. The drum was passed around the circle. The person on the left of the drum could choose to sing or pass. You could drum, trying to replicate the beat of a heart, or pass it. The Indians and those very into the Indian way sang the ha-nay songs. Others sang American or religious songs. (I heard Tush once sang Home on the Range, much to everyoness horror). "May the Circle Be Unbroken," and other such folk songs were favored. Four times the drum and songs went around the circle. Between each circling more peyote was passed. Powder, and fine, peyote tea, besides the cut-up buttons. The fire kept blazing and when it threatened to go down, the Indians helped Bruce build it so the flames would soar upward. There was friction between the hippies and the Indians. The Indians, especially Harold, would stop Richards conducting the ceremony and way, that is not how it is done. We dont use that form, we dont allow people to vomit on the ground in front of them, we would have known to gather more firewood. Only old, round, wise John Pedro said, "Oh, I dont know about that, Richard is dong a good job as roadman, let him continue."

The night was very cold. It turned out to be the first frost of the season. I was shivering. Jim Hooberman next to me, shook for hours. Little Dawn, on the other side, kept asking for permission to leave the circle. Then shed run outside and puke and shit. I left the tepee once during the night and in the correct form, going around the circle to my left till I got to the flap, and for the correct reason, to pee. At the beginning of the ceremony, Lars and Richard offered prayers to the peyote god for giving these buttons. Peter Coyote of the Caravan, formerly of the diggers and Mime troupe, and currently Peter Cohan of Wall Street, gave a long prayer to the land and people in the valley, that we could live long and well together. Beautiful red-haired Linda from Libre talked some and listened more and cried softly as Lars offered a prayer for her young daughter recently drowned.

Lars called people to the fire. With quick motions he threw cedar flakes around them into the fire, using a tree branch to lightly dust the person. It was a beautiful series of gestures. I hallucinated slightly. The fire became a patio. The flames became a baby or a doll. It was not unpleasant. It was just curious. I was just a visitor watching my own fantasies without fear. Sometimes I remember annoyance. Pissed at being cold, being tired, really wanting to go to sleep, not to watch or smell Trixie vomiting, not to listen to all the songs or Richard hesitantly going on or Harold Indian challenging him. Why was I here? Why did I subject myself to such physical discomfort? Could you really believe Peter Coyote and others raps? When would it end? Then there was a change in my mind. . . no longer wanted to make a public prayer so much because you got to smoke a corn husk cigarette if you made a prayer. It was a combination of tiredness, peyote, chanting, the fire hallucinations, but I was on another level. No longer outside of the circle, the meeting, I was there part, not intense or openly involved, but watching as a member, receptive. The meeting took on the glow of a warm dream even as the drafts of cold wind blew under the tepee, not covered with a second lining. To myself, I prayed. I prayed that Pace would get well and could go back the San Francisco ok. I prayed for others, maybe Judith, Glyn, or AAA. Then I prayed for myself; that I could learn to be as fascinated by good as I was by evil. Soon, it seemed the sun was rising. The walls of the tepee turned white. More rituals. More prayers. Then the flap was thrown open. People came in with huge bowls of grain, water, and venison to pass around the circle. Songs. The meeting was over. Clumsily your body lifted you up and out into the morning. And oh, what a beautiful morning it was. Seeing the sun was a smile. Looking at the other members of the meeting in the sunny outdoors was also a smile. Good morning we said succinctly to each other. Good, good morning.

Trixie, trixie the kind of queen, told me I had done real good. We talked softly and little. People wandered back to the Caravan encampment. There was much food: sweet rolls, hot meat, vegetables, pies. The day before the meeting I had only had a pack of hostess cupcakes. So I gorged myself at the breakfast. More smiles and talking. Mark from the Red rocks sweetly saying he liked to hunt. Hunter Mark Red Rock meet Lady Vicky AAA. Driving back in Hubermans MG, top open, lying down, looking at the sky and countryside, grooving on it, real trippy. Back to AAA, a few hours up, then resting for a few hours. Promise to Glyn for babysitting. Pace better but still in bed. Then came the hours of physical pain. Constant puking and shitting. Hours. Crying. Begging Glyn to make it go away. Her telling me to lie down, dont move. Recalling when she once drank a whole gallon of wine and puked so much the next day, she wanted to die. When night fell, she left. I sick in one bed, Pace in the other. Judith asleep. When Len came by late that night to see how we were, I thought I was still in the meeting and he was Lars and he was cedaring Pace. A quiet space of almost dreams, almost wake, less pain, little movement, and finally, sweet, sweet, sleep. Next year when Bessie asked me if I would go to the meeting, I told her I didnt know. I remembered the puking and shitting (was that from the food unrefrigerated by the Caravan or the peyote?) And the boredom/tiredness as well as the wonderful religious experience which invaded my body as well as my soul. I am so glad that I did go. That prayer for good changed my life. Its less easy to see good things or people as exciting but maybe more rewarding. That circle, those people have a bond with me to this day. Forever. It helped me to appreciate that the unknown is as real as the measurable.

A few weeks ago I had this dream: I was in a little airplane with the AAA. In Colorado. We were about to crash into a mountain. I panicked. Trixie said calm down, its going to be ok. Adrienne took over the controls. She pulled the plane up, up, up over the mountain instead of into it. It inched up slowly, like a bus screeches when its climbing up a hill. I shut my eyes. Soon the plane was over the mountain, just barely, then across, then going down into the valley. With a thud, it landed. All the AAA piled out. We made it. We always do.