For about 3 days, neurotoxin from poison hemlock coursed through my veins. Indiscriminately grazing a fennel bed as I worked, I ate enough to get stuck in my teeth, as I flossed it out nightly. I sat on a zafu and stared out the window, unable to sleep, and watched the skeletal eucalyptus swallow and exhale fog.
Two minutes after eating it, I thought, "Don't tell anyone and how do you want to die?" A resounding silence- I went blank and continued to work for about 20 minutes as the poison coniine took hold. It occurred to me if I died there in the kitchen garden, everyone would know I ate poison hemlock. So I called poison control, and talked to Steve.
"Are you sure it's poison hemlock?- there's a lot of hemlock in the world."
"Yes, I'm sure- Our land Stewart has been working this water shed for about 20 years, she knows."
"Is your heart beat accelerated?"
"I just ran up to the office from the farm, so yeah."
"Is your vision blurry?"
"There's shit all over my glasses, wait a sec."
And Steve was really nice and called me back on the hour for three hours, trying to see how far the symptoms would go. What seemed apparent was the stimulant effect of the plant and that my prescription changed, my depth perception was altered, and I went on to make many mistakes (painful ones) with knives and drawers and hot cups of water.
Like all things, it passed.
Later in dokusan with my teacher, we wondered if this counts as a near death experience. My memory is devoid of emotion, as I marched about in a daze, and all I remember are the trees, and fondly so, like a good dream.
Return of from this dream has been met with really big hugs from the sangha, which make me think, "oh, maybe this was serious." Or jokes about Socrates, which bring levity (but got old pretty quick). I also sensed an undercurrent of concern- some seemed to think I might have done it intentionally, as there were some zen students in this valley who tried to take their life, quietly hiding in the woods or on a trail.
My body this morning feels good. No more headache, no more shakes. I went for a run yesterday, feel weak, but determined. I wrote a blog- who else will? I'm moving along in my studies, in awe of the depth and breadth of the Buddhist cannon and really challenged to say anything about it these days. I don't know how anyone does. My farm life is: plant, plant/sow,harvest, harvest, market. These last 3 months will fly by. Then this blog, as I go to Tassajara, will get really, really, quiet.