I recently gave my love a book from Dale Pendell’s ‘Pharmako/Poeia’ trilogy to take on a wild sojourn to the hinterlands of the American southwest, a land that I remember Dale calling - in his effortlessly apropos patois - The Realm Of Coarse and Dry Things. In handing over the book, I was overcome with glee, and I might have even audibly yelped (though for certain I visibly swooned), for I longed to hollow out a tiny hovel in his heart and crawl in, such that I could relive the magic of being an enraptured audience to Dale’s genius for the first time.
To read Dale Pendell is to walk a blustery, brackish coastline with your hands stashed away in the coat pockets of the numinous. Dale was a fugitive of beyondness, the Poet Of Plants, the Patron Saint of the Poison Path and of trespassing psychonauts the world over, a modern day Paracelsus with oodles more panache and peyote and infinitely more charm. A poet, DIY pharmacologist, living exemplar of ethnobotany, and anarchist, his work is a compendium of mythology, pharmacology, neuroscience, poetry, and anthropology, and his books on psychoactive plants are sweeping prayers to the arcane, mythopoetic field guides to navigating plant medicines like an alchemist bandit. A true chaos magician, he taught that the only way to understand plants is through becoming a living steward of their ecstasies, venoms, and medicines, gnostic Botanarchy at its most and least refined. I doubt I would be doing this work were it not for him, because prior to reading his books, I thought that practicing medicine meant that I would have to let the poet inside of me die forever, a viking funeral on a flaming canoe. Dale taught me that there is absolutely no reason I can’t mix molecular biology with beat poetry, orphic hymns with Ipomoea seeds, irreverence with the dead serious and austere. His work and legacy is a fertile valley, the dankest of crescents.
Dale Pendell passed away on Saturday. The evening before he ascended, we were ruminating on how it felt as if Dale were presiding over our courtship like the psychonaut grandpa we never had, prodding us to go deeper, be flagrant, grandiose, unabashedly experimental, genre-bending, wild… reminding us that life is but a living mythopoesis, so be MYTHIC, for crying out loud. We fell in love in cahoots with the cadence of his voice, his words were our field guide in traversing the badlands of boundarylessness… transgress, make it up, surrender fully to sensation with utter contempt for context or categorization. Go to that tangled place in the creosote, eat the dangerous seeds, see the face of God in your lover, learn why the Christian mystics say there are three amens. And write it all down. Always write it down and give it to the one you love the most.
“Time to close the books. Time to open the library of the world.”
Will do, Dale, will do. May my work be a perpetual hymn to you, my most cherished teacher.