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‘Micro dosing and chaos theory’: Donna M Cameron reflects on life in the 90s

Micro dosing and chaos theory: Donna M Cameron reflects on life in the 90s

Author Donna M Cameron.

It was the nineties. I was a twenty-one-year-old actress who had just finished a gruelling six-month theatre-in-education tour with no prospects of immediate work.

I was travelling in my newly purchased first car – a beat-up, sky-blue, VW pop-top campervan – when I hooked up with the ‘Dharma Bums’, as I thought of them then. I was moving to the ‘beat’, working my way through Kerouac’s novels and wanting to live my life accordingly, oblivious to Carolyn Cassady’s Off the Road, which I would read years later and consider that lifestyle from a woman’s perspective in the 1950s, left at home, penniless with children.

My nineties ‘Dharma Bums’ were an itinerant band of fellow twenty-somethings; Kerouac quoting, fruit-picking musicians, philosophers, visual artists who had just come from picking mangoes in North Queensland. They were killing time, following the seasons, winding their way down the coast, waiting for the apples to ripen in Batlow. When I hooked up with them, they were headed for Bulldog Mountain at the back of Tabulum where someone knew someone who was building a stone hut. We could camp there for a while in exchange for labour.

The morning after our arrival, we were talking of bodhisattvas, stumbling through the paddocks on our way to the house site, when Ray spied two tiny bluish, grey mushrooms growing out of a cowpat. Ray was the Neal Cassady of the group, the unofficial, yet natural leader of the pack. A housing commission, Wagga Wagga boy who had grown up fast and wild, fazed by nothing, brave and noble, with a fine sense of justice, and intolerant of fools.

He plucked the mushrooms up, squeezed the thin stems, which bruised purple, and said, “blue meanies”. Then he placed them in his ‘Rabbitohs’ baseball cap.

Three cowpats later, he found a different type of mushroom, larger and sturdier with a yellow tinge. “Gold tops”. He tossed them in with the other mushrooms and winked. “We might be able to make ourselves a little brew.”

Then we were all on the lookout.

“I found some blue meanies,” I exclaimed. They looked exactly like the ones Ray had picked. He squeezed the stems, then threw them to the ground. “Nup. If they don’t bruise that purple blue colour, they’re not what we’re after. Can’t be too careful with mushies. The wrong ones kill ya.”

Ray was careful. Very careful. He double checked every mushroom that went into his hat, then later in the day he brewed a mushroom tea, (all the while winding us up by joking about how we might die an excruciating death far from any hospital), before dividing the brew according to our body size.

“Don’t want too much. Fry your brain,” he said, widening his eyes in mock fear as he handed me my cup. “I know a guy who talks shit, dribbles and walks in circles now, all cause of mushies.”

With a racing heart, I sipped my respective share and waited. The effect wasn’t immediate and was subtle, mostly. A sense of oneness with this motely band of fellow travellers crept over me. As night fell, I became a part of the stars, I understood the grass. I knew the ancient trees surrounding us were nurturing, protecting. The music we made belonged to the spheres. I felt connected to all living things and fell asleep dreaming in colour.

The next morning, we repeated the process. It became a ritual, picking, then brewing, then tripping into the night. We did this for two weeks, we would realise later once we left the mountain and discovered the date.

I have not ‘done’ mushrooms since and I’m not writing this to endorse or recommend what we did. We were lucky. We had Ray, who, at the ripe old age of twenty-four, happened to be highly experienced in micro dosing with psilocybin. Those two weeks changed me fundamentally.

Stepping back into society, I saw the world with new eyes; in simple, heartbreaking clarity. The first thing that struck and overwhelmed was the amount of advertising. It made me realise how humanity had somewhere along the line become disconnected from the natural world in favour of economic growth via superfluous consumption; that we had become a self-manipulated machine driven by that ancient, instinctive need to attract a mate, but now the hunter and gatherer’s status was superseded by excess material prestige. I saw how, as a society, we were inherently dysfunctional because this path was unsustainable.

Years later I would read an article in Nature magazine describing the benefits of psilocybin micro dosing, and it would all come back to me, those strange and wondrous weeks on Bulldog Mountain where time warped, and I felt as if I was vibrating with the heartbeat of all living things in Maxwell’s electromagnetic field through which we are all supposedly linked.

I wasn’t surprised to read that psilocybin micro dosing is now being used to treat the growing rates of depression in Europe, America and Australia, because experiencing on a bodily level how intrinsically linked we are to the natural world, gives a comfort I have not found anywhere else, except through meditation.

I have at times (sadly, only occasionally) during my limited mediation practice, experienced a state of blissful timelessness where my body seems to drop away and I become a mass of vibrations, tuning into the ‘beat’ of all living things – what can only be described as a feeling of deep connection.

The Rewilding by Donna M Cameron

The Rewilding by Donna M Cameron is out now.

I recently picked up my tattered old copy of The Dharma Bums, and there on page six was mention of The Diamond Sutra: the world’s oldest dated printed book, and the first treatise on deep ecology which puts forth that we are intimately bound to the web of life, and everything we will ever do will have a flow-on effect.

There was material evidence of this fundamental connection at work in the early days of the recent pandemic when the world shut down. The fact that within weeks, not months, emissions dropped by seventeen per cent is proof that when we change our actions, the Earth responds immediately. It is Edward Lorenz’s chaos theory at work; a tiny difference in initial parameters will result in a completely different behaviour of a complex system. (Ironically Lorenz was a meteorologist). This gives me hope.

Of course, my hope hangs on a knife’s edge, as many scientists warn of a tipping point beyond which the earth cannot respond or find a renewed equilibrium.

The word chaos is, after all, from the Greek word meaning abyss, or that which gapes wide open. Yet still, I look for hope wherever I can find it, because it is hope that makes me believe I can make a difference and leads me to change my behaviour to help draw down emissions on an individual level.

In turn, action generates more hope. As does the growing awareness of the mitochondrial, aided by Netflix’s hit documentary Fantastic Fungi, and the work of Canadian scientist Suzanne Simard on the underground fungal networks of forests.

The increasing interest in the concept of ‘conscious evolution’ also fills me with optimism, as does the observable growth in influencers who are promoting wellbeing over material wealth; the van lifers, the tiny housers.

I can’t help but feel that there is finally a shift in consciousness occurring in the Western world, due mainly and unfortunately to the extreme weather events which continue to unfold, and our failing economic system, but I can see a fast-approaching day where prestige in our society will be determined by who has the lightest carbon footprint, not the largest.

What an opportunity this present moment holds. For the first time in the history of our world, a brighter future could be consciously created by the collective, globalised actions of a single species: us.

Donna M Cameron

This article was written by Donna M Cameron, a playwright and AWGIE nominated radio dramatist who now writes novels.

Her debut, Beneath the Mother Tree (2018, Midnight Sun) was listed as a top Australian fiction read in The Advertiser’s yearly round up and was selected for the 2019 QWC/Screen QLD’s Adaptable program. The manuscript of The Rewilding, won her a KSP Fellowship, was runner up in a Writing NSW award and gained her a 2021 Varuna Fellowship.

Donna was recently accorded a Regional Arts Development Fund grant to work on her third novel, Bloomfield.