Unconventional Vision Quest – Excerpt from Chapter 19 of Turquoise Interlude – A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

… All night thunder and lightning with torrents of rain filled the sky. My animals and I huddled under the leaking canvas, alone in the forest, listening to the rumbling thunder around us. It felt surreal. My sleeping bag got wet and rain dripped sporadically onto my face. I slept some, but kept waking up and seeing jagged flashes of lightning above me. There was nothing I could do but wait. I stayed rooted in the present, not afraid but not knowing what would happen.

In the morning when the rain finally stopped, I emerged into the wet new sunlight that jeweled the trees and plants. I hung my sleeping bag and blankets on the bushes to dry. I felt different; I felt part of nature. I had found my place as I watched the lightening, listened to the thunder, connected to the rain and the wind around me without walls to isolate me. Nature had given me an intangible gift. I had survived her raging elements and felt at one and protected. To warm my freezing hands and feet, I managed to build a small fire, in spite of the wet wood and damp matches. I fed the animals and then cooked an egg on my tiny propane camp stove. After I heated some water and washed my dishes, it was time to pitch my tipi.

In the larger clearing, in the sun, covered by a deep blue New Mexico sky, I struggled to put up the twelve-foot tipi by myself. First, I tied the tops of three skinned poles together and managed to erect them. At 4’11” tall, I could barely lift the next long, heavy poles. I kept trying to lay them in the proper position in the crotches at the top of the anchor poles, and they kept missing their mark. They seemed too high for me to be able to guide them correctly.

Tears and frustration, almost giving up, hours later, I finally succeeded. I still had to throw the rope, winding it around all the poles at the top to bind the poles, and this too took many tries, and more frustration and tears. But at last, I was able to place the canvas skin around the poles, set up the smoke flap pole, and attach the round door with its wooden peg.

Next, I installed the inside tipi liner, tying its strings to each pole, and I built a small fire pit in the center. Then I carried in the buffalo rug, my sleeping bag and my two Pendleton blankets. After adding the grey and black African Wildebeest rug that my father had sent me, I was finally ready to move in.

I had just experienced an unconventional but effective form of vision quest. I had survived the storm alone in the forest, and then created my shelter all by myself. I felt strong and whole and one with the land….

©2021   Marianna Mejia

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