|Visit lovely Peculiar County, just a click away.|
As things go, I'm kinda skeptical by nature. Which is a funny way to phrase it: "by nature." Because during our eight day sojourn into the jungle, "nature" challenged some of my earlier, stubborn notions.
|Me in all my glory getting dowsed by a shaman!|
|Antonio, the Maestro!|
Antonio's part miracle worker, part doctor, part magician, and a pinch of dirty ol' man. Maybe even a sliver of Catskills vaudeville stand-up comic. Savvier than he appears, he pretends to not speak English at all, although we had our suspicions. During his stay at our lodge, he was sequestered in the back conference room, down a very long walkway and closer to the jungle, because he couldn't handle all of the city energy in the lodge for too long.
Yet, the reach of civilization had touched Antonio, too. Wearing an Americanized ballcap, emblazoned with the letter "M," and duded out in designer jeans and stylin' kicks, he resembled a tourist emulating American style (or lack thereof). I so wanted the "M" on his cap to stand for "magic." Alas, it was a corporate symbol for Iquitos' mega supplier of cable TV and cell phone plans.
The stories surrounding Antonio are amazing. With one look he diagnosed someone's cancer with his "MRI vision." He healed someone's growing fungal attack with jungle plants when all Western medicine failed. Father of many, lover of even more, no one truly knows Antonio's age, but it's guestimated at around 82 or so. Given that, he's in better shape than I am, leaping off boats with ease and (terrifyingly) running through the jungle bare-foot.
El Maestro Magia!
Our first night in the jungle lodge, Antonio arranged a group blessing. This consisted of us donning our swimsuits; one by one, he doused us with a bucket of cold water with flowers stirred into the mix. His blessing went untranslated. For all I know, he could've been singing the Brady Bunch theme song.
We were then given the option of having a personal, spiritual healing session with el Maestro Magia. I waffled back and forth, wanting to experience it, yet fearful of what he might find out about my health. Did I believe in his unexplained abilities? I don't know. But I was afraid enough to waffle. And after the stories I'd been told by intelligent, sane people, I'd be a fool to dismiss Antonio's talents out-of-hand. So, I continued to waffle. Man, can I waffle, more waffling than the local pancake shop, a waffling talent I've perfected over many years of waffling. I mean, if I've got some kind of necrotic skin disease, isn't it better to not know about it until the last second?
At the final moment, I took a giant leap of faith over my waffles and landed in Antonio's domain, off the griddle and into the frying pan.
I entered the circular room, empty except for Antonio sitting in a folding chair, head bowed. I approached him, shook his hand. Quietly he muttered something, gestured toward the folding chair across from him. I sat. He slapped some kinda nice-smelling oil on my face and doubled down on my head (I kinda think he liked the feel of my slick pate as he gave it a few extra smacks). A cigar was lit as he smoked herbal tobacco, constantly blowing it on me as he whistled a nameless, tuneless song. I closed my eyes, went with it, tried to "get out of my head" as I was instructed (usually an impossible task; I mean where else am I gonna go?), as he brushed palm leaves all over me.
I'm not sure what happened, but something did. The constant rustling of the dried leaves fell into a drum-like pattern. Pungent, rich smoke transported me elsewhere. With my eyes shut, I envisioned the past, ancient tribes beating drums, dancing around a fire, a community of respect for Mother Earth.
A duck-like call at my temples brought me back; Antonio sucking out the bad energy from my head. When it ended, I was disappointed. Eyes still closed, I waited. Finally, Antonio said, "okay," a universal word. I opened my eyes, felt comfortably numb, rested yet exhilarated.
I stumbled out to the communal hammock/nap room and just lay there contemplating my navel for half an hour.
Was I really transported back in time? No. Probably just my writerly senses propelling me into a flight of fantasy. But I felt more rested, comfortable, and at peace than I had for a while. It also made me consider bigger issues than my rather small Kansas City backyard.
Other members of our group experienced different things. My wife felt connected to water. She said, "We're moving close to water." I said, "Okay, as long as there's air conditioning."
Another person felt a shoulder wound heal and the word "metaphysical" kept bouncing around his mind. One woman said it felt like the aftermath of a really great massage. I couldn't argue with that. Another guy shrugged, said, "it was alright."
On the other hand, Antonio also strongly believes in love potions, so there's that.
Speaking of unexplainable and magical happenings, book a trip to scenic Peculiar County, where things are never as they appear.