"That one looks like an elephant doing ballet. Or wait, no. It's playing a guitar. Hold up. I was wrong. It's a T-Rex smoking a joint. Dude, I'm super-fucking-high."
This is a direct quote from an incredibly stoned version of me. There I was, barefoot, lying on my back in wet dirt next to a babbling brook, looking up at the sky and deciphering shapes in the clouds. This is what happened within three hours of setting foot in Boulder, Colo. I was warned that it was a hippie town, and I tend to drink the Kool-Aid if it means a good story.
I flew to Colorado to surprise my friend Bridgette for her birthday. She moved to Denver with her now-fiancé about two years ago, and I'd yet to see her new home. I decided to kill two birds with one stone, staying for a night with my college roommate, Menie, who lives in Boulder. I hadn't seen her in years, and I was really excited. Menie is a special creature.
We became immediate friends on freshman move-in day, 2002. I was hanging up a Morrissey poster on the wall of my UCSD dorm room when she appeared in my doorway. "You like Morrissey?" Menie said, looking like a wild-haired Princess Jasmine in a jeweled peasant top. I'm a Tijuana scene kid. Of course I love Moz. "Cool! Me, too!" she said in her valley-girl accent. And that was it. Chalk up another lifelong friendship to Morrissey.
Another thing about Menie: She's a Wiccan. Or at least she was back then. Throughout college, she performed regular tarot readings, concocted spells to aid our study sessions and burned sage to ward off negative energy in our dorm room. Being an ardent fan of the film The Craft , which centers on a coven of angsty teenage witches, I ate it all up and played along. It was more fun that way.
Menie was always kind of a hippie, and the years only seemed to intensify her crunchy tendencies. When she picked me up at the airport in Denver, she offered me a bottle of water, some chocolate and a gummy marijuana edible.
I rarely get high, preferring the company of a fine $4 wine. As soon as we arrived at her apartment, however, I hit that Mary Jane like a dad in a Grateful Dead cover band.
That's how I ended up barefoot, on my back and marveling at clouds. Menie and her boyfriend, Jogn, were selling me on "grounding," the theory that placing your bare feet, hands or body on the ground can have miraculous health benefits. It has something to do with the electricity that radiates from the earth. You can even buy indoor grounding pads that emulate the same electric energy, which John planned on gifting their two cats for Christmas.
John made us coffee, and we walked to the nearby brook to do some grounding. While he and Menie strode easily through the terrain, my feet seem to have evolved beyond human beings' ancient ability to stride on bare land. Nothing made me feel more like a city slicker than clumsily walking on rocks, wincing at the cold or the mush and snapping photos of my muddy feet with my iPhone so as to prove my adventurousness on social media. At one point, to get on their level, I picked up a 2-pound rock, proclaimed its beauty and then dropped the damned thing on my foot.
One of these things is not like the others.
We puffed on a joint, and Menie told me how the brook only just formed after major flooding a few months ago. "Mother Nature wants to give to us. She is very patient," she said. I just smiled and nodded.
That night, John had the genius idea of having milk and cookies delivered to their apartment. About an hour later, a delivery guy showed up with a liter of skim and a pizza box filled with hot, freshly baked cookies. I paid the man as a thank-you to my friends, and George kindly smoked him out as a tip. Boulder, man.
After mentioning how stressed I've been lately, Menie offered to alleviate it with a shamanistic healing. She had me write eight intentions on Post-it notes, each one describing something I wanted to achieve. Among them were less stress, more money and a cure for yeast infections.
We sat on the floor of her apartment, where she'd laid out her tools: a mixture of apple juice and tequila, burdock-root tea, dried buckeyes, vinegary water, candles, rocks and a pipe packed with weed. One by one, we addressed each intention. She beat a homemade drum and called upon my spiritual guides; I ripped up each Post-it after we felt it was tackled.
At the end of the nearly two-hour healing, Menie pulled out two rocks, one of which I'd picked up while we were barefoot by the brook. One would represent my old, troubled heart, the other my new, clear heart. She led me outside, where I was instructed to bury the busted heart.
I felt lighter. It could have been the healing, but, honestly, I just loved spending those 30 hours with my awesomely weird friend and experiencing again how she lives life.
On the drive to Bridgette's surprise party, Menie told me how she'd discovered that the bright gray streak in her hair was the effect of a curse placed on her mom by a jealous aunt. When Menie's mom was little, she was in a tree that was struck by lightning, which, the story goes, was caused by the curse, and the lightning imprinted itself in Menie's hair. Menie believes the curse was to blame for her lifelong battle with fatigue and illness, but it's cool—she's going to go to San Francisco soon to have the curse removed by a shaman.
I ate it up.