Reflections on “The Trip”

by Kate Farrell on May 12, 2013

Lucille Lang Day, 1970

Lucille Lang Day, 1970

by Lucille Lang Day
Winner of Prose First Honorable Mention tells of the keys to open our memories and our minds.

Many years before documenting my 1971 mescaline experience in my personal essay, “The Trip,” I wrote a short poem with the same title:

The Trip

I swallowed the Orange Phoenix and rose
from the ashes of my old self after breakfast
one Saturday morning. Brilliant, new,
I flew alone through labyrinthine clouds.

I soared through sunlight and taffeta pools.
No way would I return to Earth
to hold Gil’s clammy hand. I had no hands,
just wings encrusted with jewels.

Trees were leafy tapestries, thickly woven
with light. The world was vibrant: bright
seeds collided in midair and bloomed
into roses, sailboats and blizzards of sand.

Music was everywhere, surging out of me
like waves from a radiant sea.
Gil kept trying to pull my face toward his,
but of course I had no use for those dull lips.

This poem appeared in my autobiographical poetry collection, Wild One (2000). The poem captures some of the visual pyrotechnics of my mescaline trip and also conveys the alienation I felt from my boyfriend when I was high, but it leaves a great deal to be said. The mescaline trip actually strengthened my sense of identity: I became more certain of who I was, which, among other things, was someone whose life could never revolve around drugs like mescaline.

That day I not only saw the layers and shades and movements of clouds more clearly, but also glimpsed a deeper awareness of what I wanted in a boyfriend, how I wanted to spend my time, and how I could be a better mother. Through the years, this gnawed at me: I knew I had more to say about my trip.

To remember and recapture my experiences in the essay, I retraced my steps. I drove across the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, just as I’d done that day in 1971, went to Golden Gate Park, and parked near the Conservatory of Flowers. I looked carefully at everything as I walked from the Conservatory of Flowers to Spreckels Lake and the buffalo herd. My relationship with Gil, our conversations the day of the trip, the visual images, and my thoughts about my daughter while I was high all came back to me.

At times seeing an old photograph, listening to a song, or simply having someone remind me of something we did together has the same effect: it puts me back into a different time and place, enabling me to remember way more than I ever thought possible. These things are all like keys that can open doors deep in the mind.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Timothy Leary’s, “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” was an oft-quoted phrase, and advocates of the counterculture claimed that drugs like LSD and mescaline revealed truths that could and should change our lives. For them, the drugs were the ultimate golden key to the mind—a key that must be used again and again in order to go through the hidden doors. I found, though, that once the doors were open, I no longer needed the key. I believe in the power and magic of the unaltered mind, in its winding trails and expansive vistas, and its many stories waiting to be told.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

sara etgen-baker May 13, 2013

Lucy–oh my! The imagery in your poem is so powerful and cuts to the soul! Terrific. Old photographs, songs, smells, and sayings take me back as well. I, too, find there are hidden memories that I didn’t know existed–such treasures!

Thank you for your sincerity in sharing your experiences and your writing process!


Lucille Lang Day May 16, 2013

Thank you, Sara! I enjoyed your blog post, too, and I look forward to reading your piece in the anthology.


Darlene Frank May 15, 2013

Powerful imagery! I want to read more of your poetry, Lucille! And your story, yes!
Your phrase “the power and magic of the unaltered mind” inspires a flood of ideas–so many that I tip into an altered state 😉


Lucille Lang Day May 16, 2013

Thank you, Darlene! I just checked out your website and was delighted to learn about your work as writer and creativity coach. I look forward to reading your work.


Darlene Frank May 17, 2013

Thanks, Lucille. I’m looking forward to the anthology and feel honored to have a story included in it!


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