Another sneeze explodes. This
time -- the second time I have a full-fledged confrontation with Fear
in the canyons -- it is visceral, nearly crippling. Not the result of
strange sounds, and, like the first time, not at night. Instead, Fear
again chooses an afternoon of bright blue skies and clouds wispy as a
waking dream. And, as often happens, Fear sneaks up on me, clothed in
the innocuous: yet another sneeze, and an itch initially so subtle
that I probably scratch it four or five or 15 times before it makes
its way to consciousness. By the time it does, however,
"subtle" is no longer an accurate descriptor of either the
sneezes or the itch. "Damn!,"
I write. "Another allergy
attack. Virtually non-stop sneezing. None of this happened yesterday
-- why today? Beings can probably hear my sneezes all the way up and
down the canyon. Now my right eye itches terribly. Is this the way
spirit worked out to wear down my ego?"
group of questers had been warned: Beware the ego, that logical,
rational, shamelessly domineering part of you, the part that thinks
and plots and plans, the part that wants you to believe it's the whole
of you. It will conspire to distance you from your experience, from
the canyons, from your hunger and your pain; it will spew out a
never-ending stream of thoughts to distract you. Ego is fighting for
its own survival, so it will be ruthless. And, it will try everything
to cut you off from the Voice of Soul, from the Voice of Great Spirit.
"My ass itches horribly, too. What IS this about?"
Feeling the first hint of panic, I focus intently on the
machinations of my rational mind, the intellect that has served me
well so often, and ponder my own question:
I think, "what this is about" is an allergic reaction. But
to what? Pollen? Maybe. But how would that relate to my ass? It
couldn't. OK. Have I done anything unusual? More unusual than camping
alone in an isolated canyon, I mean? Have I done anything I didn't do
yesterday, or even two hours ago? Yes!, I think, my mind spinning
faster. The sun finally shone on my spot a short while ago, so I took
off my long underwear! Maybe I had something on my hands that
irritated my skin!? Or perhaps there's some irritant in the lining of
my shorts, which are touching bare skin for the first time since I
bought them? Of course! That must be it . . .
so, on the basis of that which my mind has "figured out," I
do two things. I put my long underwear back on, but only after using
precious filtered water to rinse my hands of irritants, be they actual
or imagined, and I cover my nose with a mask of toilet paper. Toilet
paper: a sadly ineffectual filter. But then, the possibility of an
airborne irritant is quite slim; covering my nose with toilet paper is
more to help me feel that I am taking every possible precaution. To
help me feel, quite incorrectly, that I'm "in control."
"Have small welts, like bug bites, on my sides where my shorts fit over
my hips," I write after re-donning my long underwear. "All
around my waist, incredibly itchy welts," I add a few short
"Put Polysporin on
the welts -- not effective at all. Also checked my face to make sure I
didn't have hives. I don't. So now, I wait for the itching to stop. My
blood is pounding so hard in my ears, it feels like they're moving. My
tongue feels odd, too. Soon I'll have to look at it in the mirror. Of
course, why would I get hives in my mouth? I've taken nothing
internally. . . Did check my tongue -- all seems fine. But my ass,
walking from the tarp (where I went to fetch a small hand mirror),
felt like it had burrs in it."
few moments later: "Welts
on my lower legs, too. God, why didn't I bring an antihistamine?"
A few moments later still: "Holy
shit! Unbelievable welts on my hips -- huge! I guess I'll wait a few
hours and see how they are. If no better, I could always return to
base camp and see if anyone has an antihistamine. I keep checking on
my tongue -- it feels odd, but looks OK. (I knew that allergic
reactions can make tongues swell, sometimes interfering with the
ability to swallow or to breathe.)
"So, what IS this about? I'm scared, now -- scared that I'm having some
bizarre allergic reaction that could kill me. 'Dying' to my current
life in order to be reborn is one thing, but literally dying is
something else! I'm going to see what happens in the next hour . . .
God, if only I'd brought a Benadryl . . . "
Copyright (c) 2002 by Elizabeth
Brensinger. All rights reserved.