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

This Sensitive, Lean and Haunted Man – Excerpt from Chapter 5 of Turquoise Interlude 1968

… Towards the end of November, in La Cantina, the crowded bar on the Taos plaza, a tall, gaunt, dramatic-looking romantic poet, Roberto “Bob” Rivera, engaged me in conversation. A cigarette hung from his long, thin fingers, moving in gestures, as we discussed poetry and writing. My writing-self clung to his words, feeling understood and fed by his artistic sensibilities. “My grandfather used to be Mayor of Taos,” he told me. “I have come here specifically, from San Francisco, to explore the land of my ancestors.” His dark hair framed his intense face in curls, his eyes shooting passion above his high cheekbones. “I just rented a small adobe bungalow with a coal stove,” he added, “And no plumbing, but right on Morada Road in Taos itself, near the cemetery.” 

Bob, dressed in black, prowled the graveyard during the day and also at night, searching for his grandfather’s grave, often with me in tow, trying to commune with his grandfather’s energy. Starved for someone to talk poetry with and by that time feeling even more thwarted in my self-discovery and bored with Andy, I fell madly in love with this sensitive, lean and haunted man. But still I stayed with Andy, unsure. 

These were the times of “free love” in the counterculture. We gave ourselves hedonistic permission to indulge our senses, to let the sexual currents, enhanced by our mind-opening drugs, flow through our bodies and guide our actions, the pleasure ecstatic. My innocent sexuality overflowed with joy, exploding in love. …

©2020-2021 Marianna Mejia

“Baile, Maria, Baile” Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Turquoise Interlude 1968

Baile, Maria, Baile” Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Turquoise Interlude   1968

… During the fall, after the tourist season, La Cocina restaurant on the Taos Plaza hosted a weekly, inexpensive, all-you-can-eat shellfish buffet. Every Friday night during the “local season,” Andy and I would go there to eat. With my insatiable appetite for clams and oysters, they lost money on me! If I tired of the clams and oysters, they also served crab, lobster, shrimp and fish, all freshly flown in from New York. This sumptuous feast did draw the people in and so did the entertainment.

After dinner, Antonio, a Chicano from Santa Fe, would play romantic, Spanish-flavored guitar and I would be moved to dance. “Baile, Maria, Baile,” he would call to me when he saw me. At his invitation I would pull myself up and let the music carry me, improvising song after song. I loosened my wavy brown hair and felt the damp sweat at my neck, cooled by my turquoise earrings which swung gently as I danced. My body stretched and turned, reached and drew back in, urged by the tones from Antonio’s guitar, inexhaustible. The trance propelled me until the music stopped and I came back to this world. Everyone clapped and shouted “Ole.”

One night, Antonio surprised me. He brought in some of his hand carved furniture and I discovered that he was a talented woodcarver. Impressed, I bought a low, tall backed, carved wooden chair from him. It was short enough so that my feet could reach the floor, and its high backrest was decorated with simple, hand-carved designs. I proudly placed my beautiful chair in Andy’s and my new living room. This was my second major purchase in the Land of Enchantment. The chair, which I have managed to haul throughout my life, now sits in my current living room, next to the front door. My turquoise earrings now adorn my wall. They have been with me, amazingly, for most of my life. …

©2020-2021 Marianna Mejia

My Welcoming Gift, Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Turquoise Interlude 1968

… He cajoled me with local restaurants and scenic drives, even flying me over Taos in his tiny plane. Green and brown surrounded miniature mud houses, the scene a painting out the clouded oval window, from high in the air. We swooped down low over the Valdez valley and rose up again as we turned away from the high mountains. The Rio Grande river wound like a thread of green through red and yellow. Lines of black pavement cut through fields and trees. I was entranced.

The festival of San Geronimo took place at the Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest original reservations –thick yellow adobe, scrawny dogs with tongues waving in the still heat, blue doors and wooden ladders. A pair of handmade Zuni earrings dangling silver and turquoise called to me from a booth. Typical narrow oval pieces of desert blue, were unique in the tiers, set in silver, turquoise strands dripping daintily from halfmoons.  As I placed them on my ears, I felt a magical power of New Mexico fuse into me. My first southwestern jewelry purchase became my welcoming gift from this land of enchantment. I felt I belonged. My mouth widened to a smile and my eyes, shining, became a little more green in the turquoise reflections.

Later, chatting through cigarette smoke, alcohol and laughter at the dark and narrow La Cantina bar on one side the Taos Plaza square, I met newcomers and seasoned residents in this gathering place for Bohemians, artists and the young hippies just starting to discover Taos. My new earrings reflected the desert sky almost to my shoulders, my fingers reaching up to caress them as I looked into the eyes of strangers soon to become friends.  …

©2020-2021 Marianna Mejia