My Chariot – Excerpt from Chapter 16 of Turquoise Interlude–A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

… When I descended the silver stairs from the plane into the hot Los Angeles day, I left the musty smells of Berkeley firmly in the past. 

Two days later, pushing down on the gas pedal of the green Willys jeep and shifting the gears, my dog Aloka and I departed, the smoggy city of L.A. sprawled contentedly behind us. The doors of my chariot were metal and removable, built in ventilation. There was no padding. But it had 4-wheel drive which I could access with a hand lever when the jeep was stopped. The noise of the engine blotted out the birds and other cars as I slowly and methodically made my way through the desert towards the mountains of New Mexico, my adopted home. 

The smells changed along the way, from diesel and the tickle of smog, to fir and pine trees, to cypress and wet sage, dry earth, and later to piñon and wood smoke. I felt strong and competent, with full energy. I still loved to drive and I had no time limit. The adventure of the road trip had started and was part of my odyssey. 

©2021   Marianna Mejia

The Smell of Green – Excerpt from Chapter 18 of Turquoise Interlude–A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

… Walking through the forest, the smell of green, tall trees and their branches shading me from the hot sun, I followed an overgrown old logging road “paved” with wild strawberries, and came upon a single red rose. I stopped. In my childhood mythology, a red rose had contained a destiny. In the fairy tale that had made me cry inconsolably, the heroine princess, imprisoned in an isolated but luxurious palace with no human companionship, had picked the forbidden rose and seen her whole world collapse, turning to a forlorn desert in a second. Although it would eventually lead to her growth, the princess did not know it. As a child, I was hysterical and mortified that she had disobeyed, and that now her life seemed ruined. That fairytale became a life lesson for me and the single red rose held a history of meaning –including how disobedience, going against the rules, could ultimately fuel growth.

So, on impulse, instead of picking the rose, I followed the sign and turned right where it grew, my soft-soled moccasins taking me almost straight up the side of the hill, through vines, brambles, bushes and small trees. 

After a few minutes, the dense foliage opened up to reveal a miniature, hidden, mesa meadow from where I could look down on the whole Taos valley and even into Arroyo Hondo. Behind me were trees out of a Rousseau painting. All over the ground, tiny wild strawberries and little white flowers grew like a carpet. There were also diminutive clearings in bushes and trees that could be my rooms: my bedroom and my kitchen. The wider meadow would be my living room and my cooking place, and when it didn’t rain, my sleeping area. It would be a perfect site for my tipi. I knew I wanted to live in this magical place.

I returned to the tree house so full of wonder …

©2021   Marianna Mejia

A World of Yes – Excerpt from Chapter 16 of Turquoise Interlude–A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

… The pungent smell of marijuana wafts gently in the memories. We wake early, time for me to fly back to L.A. to pick up the delightfully underpriced, green Willys jeep. 

On the plane, thoughts of John were left in the corners of the house on McGee street, surrounded by pink flowers, other memories (loves) were yet to be opened in New Mexico, and the quiet in the plane emptied my mind. Sitting in time and space, waiting without pressure, high in the air, time was immaterial, until I landed to start the new story. A bittersweet taste lingered in my mouth and in my pores, the stories of John in Berkeley, of Rick in his tipi in Arroyo Hondo, the new (to me) green jeep waiting to claim me and I it, the drive across the country with Aloka back to my New Mexico home. –Oh, the compartments of my mind. The tastes and smells and sounds mingled into nothingness. 

And I wonder at the timelessness of memories. I did not know the concept of creating memories. I lived in the present, content to not think so much, content to experience without preconception this uncharted life trail I was following. Yes. It was a world of yes. 

©2021   Marianna Mejia

Patterns – Excerpt from Chapter 8 – of Turquoise Interlude –A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

That the patterns of my relationships were similar never entered my mind. I couldn’t recognize an alcoholic and I didn’t know about the violence that often accompanies habitual drinking. Drugs were the norm; heavy alcohol use did not alarm me. 

My psychotherapist self screams at my old self now, “Don’t you see the men you are picking? Why so many alcoholics hurling their anger without inhibition?” But the me of then hadn’t learned anything about this. Rebellious excess, especially among artists, had been glorified in recent literature, so I did not become discouraged nor question my choices in men. Their art and our shared passion loomed important to my psyche. I did not know enough to be scared. I had no clue about addiction and was only lucky that my body didn’t crave alcohol, that my genes were not alcoholic. 

My present self also knows that I have always been attracted to artists (all forms) and most of the artists I have known through the years fit the stereotype of “struggling” in many ways. This includes poverty, intense and focused artistic expression, and often drugs and alcohol. Artistic passion is what has always drawn me in. Alcohol and drugs are merely incidental, but not what attract me. 

©2021   Marianna Mejia