Episode of the Two Lizards
from Castaneda's Journey, by Richard deMille. pp. 41-42
About six o'clock that Sunday morning Carlos returned to the place where for three years he had been privately cultivating a Jimson weed. Attending closely to instructions written into his field notes eighteen months earlier, he spent most of the day preparing the potion and the paste. Late in the afternoon he wasted an hour and a half, from five to six-thirty, trying to catch two lizards for his ritual. By the time he caught them, "it was almost dark."
In the failing dusk, directed only by don Juan's transcribed discourse on the subject, he accomplished a delicate task he had neither practiced before nor seen demonstrated. Having put each lizard into a separate bag, he drew one out, apologized for hurting her, then using the fiber of a century plant for thread and the thorn of a prickly pear as a needle sewed up her mouth, drawing the stitches tight. Taking the other lizard out, he apologized to her also, then sewed up her eyelids, so that deprived of sight she might be more inclined to talk to him about what the muted lizard was seeing.
Letting the muted lizard go, he tied the blinded lizard to his right shoulder with a string, so as not to "lose or injure her." It was important to keep both lizards alive. If the muted lizard had died, Carlos would have had to give up the Devil's weed for the next two years. (As things turned out, he gave it up forever, so perhaps that lizard did die.) If the blinded lizard had died also, Carlos might have gone mad. At least he would have had a very bad trip.
You who have passed a steel needle and a polished thread in a bright light through a piece of inert but paper-thin leather about as wide as a newborn baby's little fingernail without ripping it will, I am sure, appreciate Carlos's skill in passing a perforated cholla thorn trailing an agave fiber in the darkling twilight through the tiny fragile blinking membranes that shield a living lizard's eyes, without tearing them, never having tried it before, and never having seen anyone else do it. "The sewing of the mouth and eyes," Castaneda wrote, "was the most difficult task." No doubt. One would have to be a sorcerer to do such a trick. But this was no sorcery. It was not even hallucination, since Carlos had been without drugs for fifteen weeks. This was an ordinary exercise like collecting plants on a hillside or grinding seeds in a mortar. Ordinary, but incredible.