Saints and Poets

Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney

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Saints and Poets
The following contains the description of a psychedelic experience. Let it be known that I do not condone teen drug use especially in these dangerous times when the scourge of fentanyl stalks our country. My story was from a long-ago time, with different drugs. Please be safe and wise, dear children. Each Spring, there is a brief time in the afternoon when the sun graces the kitchen window, perfectly setting aglow our red kitchen cabinets. The whole room is suddenly lit up in an enchanting, inviting bath of warm ruby radiance. I wish it could always be thus for the rest of the year. The funky red paint job I applied, rather than cleaning the old white cupboards, looks, I fear, a bit like something from a dilapidated carnival like the song, “Send in the clowns, don’t bother they’re here.” Unable to stop the earth from its orbit, to hold it forever frozen so the sun slants just there through my kitchen window, I can only appreciate the illumination as a passing gift, a phenomenon, a celestial event like the green flash at sunset. Of course, some good psychedelics might produce a similar dazzling affect. I am currently reading a book by, T. C. Boyle, author of the popular “Tortilla Curtain.” This recent book was published in 2019 and titled, “Outside Looking In.” It’s a fictional account of the early psychedelic drug discovery by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann working for Sandoz Laboratories in 1938 and later, LSD trials and experiments in the ’60s conducted by Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, and Richard Alpert, that began as “The Harvard Psilocybin Project.” The trials were in association with the school’s Psychology Department including professors and graduate students, in hopes of finding cures for emotional disorders, addictions, schizophrenia, as well as expanding the mind and even experiencing spiritual enlightenment. The book captures what it must have been like to be a group of youthful pioneers exploring a new, unknown substance in pursuit of opening the Doors of Perception. Hovering between research and recreation, with a touch of free love thrown in, a core group of jazz-loving, martini-drinking, acid-tripping young adults’ quest for a new trusting, communal, open-minded way to live, and all this just as the first Beatles album was released. Ah, but on this earthly plane, unlike the Beatles, Nirvana can’t last forever. I suspect the free love was the undoing. I can’t help remembering my own long-ago ventures with psychedelics. Yes, word around Grant High School was that LSD was the way to go. Everyone had heard the stories about freakouts, flashbacks, and the boy on acid who jumped from a 30th floor window. “You’ve got to try it,” advised a girl in my Homemaking Class. “You won’t believe the colors!” Being intrepid Valley Girls (before there were vapid Valley Girls), we should!!! Or at least we did. Cindy’s parents were going to Palm Springs. The older brothers would be home in case any of us decided to jump off the roof. Four of us, best girlfriends since the fourth grade, gathered in Cindy’s frilly bedroom waiting to “come on.” “Do you feel anything?” “No, do you?” “Not really. Maybe this stuff isn’t any good.” We played some records, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, compared the cute guys on the covers. Maybe smoked a few cigarettes. Then we started to laugh. We laughed at everything. We laughed at locker combinations (as if anyone would ever want to steal a math book), at picket fences, at Robbie the Robot saying, “Warning Will Robinson!” We laughed at Cindy’s wallpaper, at Mr. Glickberg, our least favorite teacher, and the time Timmy Mead threw up on Glickberg’s shoes. We laughed about boys we loved and hoped to love and if Romeo and Juliet could only have called each other on a payphone the whole tragedy could have been avoided. We laughed so much we glowed, just being together in that bedroom seeing everyday things as we may not have seen them before, and water tasted wonderful. Maybe, just for a minute, out of the corner of your eye, there were colors. We were inspired to create our own art with some glow-in-the-dark chalk. Beneath a black light we drew on the walls of the brothers’ room, neither of whom seemed to mind our scrawling abstract designs, peace signs, a heart declaring, “I love Eric Burdon,” happy faces, stars, wishing wells, flowers, “Make Love, Not War,” even a quote from “The Little Prince.” We all signed our names and stood back admiring our great work. The beauty of the thing was that if you turned off the black light the chalk completely disappeared. Thank God, Cindy’s mother was spared the sight of her graffitied walls. For years those valley parents never knew that above their boys’ neatly made twin beds was an invisible, sprawling, psychedelic mural. By the time the sun was coming up, my mouth hurt from smiling, my eyes had seen too much, the sight of a sliver of a silver moon reflected in Cindy’s pool was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. My heart felt so much joy at just being alive on this blessed, spinning planet with best friends, there on the street where we lived with the impossible name of Hartsook. I couldn’t hold on to it. The euphoria was too much. We mere humans could never contain so much happiness without dissolving into stardust. I felt like Emily in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, who looks back at her life and can only say, “Oh earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it, every, every minute?” The answer comes, “No. The saints and poets, maybe they do some.” For a brief time I was amongst them. And it was enough.
Kathie Gibboney

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