The Seeds of New Mexico – Excerpt from Chapter 12 of Turquoise Interlude – A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

The seeds of Northern New Mexico had been planted in me when I was seven years old. 1952. The memories come unbidden and mixed: arched, rounded adobe fireplaces, piñon trees and purple canyons, desert sagebrush and old ways of life. The smells of horse sweat and crushed sage mingled with forest bird songs.

Above Taos, above the valley of San Cristobal, red and white mushrooms popped up in the wet, rocky earth next to smooth, sculpted, maroon manzanitas. Cleofes led the way along the narrow and steep mountain trail, his black horse big and powerful. I followed, small upon the brown horse, the stiff leather saddle supporting my seven-year old body, the stirrups holding my feet, the reins in my tiny hands. The views painted my imagination and lodged in my heart. I was entranced by the blue valley looking like a picture far below, disappearing for moments behind the piñons, then revealing the distant red orange sunset snow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Mesquite trees grey and twisted, added texture. 

Brown skinned Cleofes, wizened but still stocky and muscular, worked as a ranch hand for friends of my parents, at their mountain guest ranch where we had arrived a few days earlier. My family, packed into our old Chevy, had just traversed the Southwest, through Santa Fe and up to Taos and beyond, until we reached the rutted dirt road leading to the brown adobe ranch house high above the miniature blue and green valley.

Inside, the white walls felt smooth and cool when I touched them. Each bedroom had an adobe fireplace built into it. The dark, main room had its own big fireplace, with rounded corners. Grey woven Navajo rugs brightened with stick figure designs in maroon, green, yellow, blue and black, hung on the walls underneath the brown wooden “vigas” that supported the ceiling. In the niches and dark shelves next to the rugs, clay pots painted with black and white figures from the New Mexico Pueblo Indians, and carved stone animal fetishes, their turquoise eyes matching the sky, exuded the character of the southwest. My mouth hung open in wonder and my heart felt happy.

Outside, we looked down at the tiny pueblo below, where Cleofes was born and raised and still lived. That experience birthed those New Mexico seeds that grew, hidden inside of me, until my return.

©2021   Marianna Mejia

Past Life – Excerpt from Chapter 10 of Turquoise Interlude 1969

Up the Nile I float, the water lapping the sides of the banks. Whirling, it takes me to past lives, past stone temples of Hathor, Horus, Nuut and Osiris, where sacred prostitutes dance, past lotus lilies and fields watered by Nile sludge, past the women carrying baskets on their heads, their long black robes billowing. Camels stand like a still life painted beside palm and date trees on the shining riverbanks. Music flows in the air of the arid land, desert wind blows sand, drum commands hips accenting the rhythm. Melodies, like the river, push the hips, with no inhibitions.

In Arroyo Seco, 1969, I reunited with this past life studying Belly Dance with Maria. The prodigal daughter recently returned home to her family in Taos, at least for a while, Maria …

©2021 Marianna Mejia

Gift of Belly Dance – Excerpt from Chapter 10 of Turquoise Interlude 1969

… the Middle Eastern music, Maria twirls, her long dark hair flying with abandon. But not really total abandon –her moves were practiced and perfected, the rhythms relearned in this lifetime. She is the priestess instructing me, her student. Hip up, hip down, the drum, then the melody moving now to undulate the torso, the breasts shaking rhythmically and then transcribing the arc and the figure eight as the music softens, mirroring the hips, the music coursing through the body like the Nile through the land, bringing sustenance. The pelvis tilting rhythmically, up and down, side to side, directed by the hourglass shaped dunbek drum, then moving in circles, describes the melody with the rhythm. It is not random, but improvised as the music directs. The high reed flutes, the stringed kanoons and ouds, the clay dunbeks with their round, translucent fish skin heads, the metal drums deeper with more opaque goat skin heads – they all meld the music. Again the high reed sounds and I think of snakes dancing with the goddesses, pulled by the music into undulation. 

Dum Dum tekatek dum tek a dum, the melded music echoes. The reed pipes pull the hips, increase the frenzy. Whirling, circling, gyrating –our faces flush as our bodies move beyond our minds. 

I put the tiny round cymbals on my thumb and middle finger, learning to accompany the drum beat with the zills. My borrowed green veil finds the air as I move it around me in circles and then seamlessly wrap myself in it with the music once more. My matching diaphanous green skirt follows my hips and swirls to the music. High tones again turn to drum beats and the rhythm quickens. 

Once upon a time,  …

©2020-2021 Marianna Mejia

Aloka –Dog Soul Partner –Excerpt from Chapter 9 of Turquoise Interlude 1969

Early in spring, when the green was starting to come out of the earth again … I reached in and pulled out the shorthaired, golden brown one, as if I already knew and loved her. Aloka’s warm body fit in my hand. I held her close to my heart and tears came to my eyes welcoming this important new family…

 Aloka … almost died. On the worst night, holding her in my arms next to my heart, I stayed up with her constantly, giving her drops of liquids when I could. Near the dawn I sensed a quickening in her body and could finally feel her decide to live instead of die. From that day on, bonded, we spoke to each other with telepathy and became inseparable until she died fifteen years later. 

Aloka was my first child as well as my companion. We had unconditional love and acceptance. Telepathically she let me know with a look, or sometimes the slightest sound if I wasn’t paying attention, that she had to go outside or wanted water or food. When she sensed danger Aloka transformed into a fierce watchdog, her hair raising along her back, barking, snarling and growling, scaring the perceived intruder and impressing the New Mexico locals, who then wanted her puppies. 

Throughout her lifetime, Aloka was always well behaved and extremely sensitive. If I commanded, “Stay,” she stayed for hours, waiting until I called, “Come.” She slept with me in my tipi that spring and summer. But when I used her as a pillow she would often jump up in the middle of the night, barking, and scare away whatever predator she sensed outside. So usually we just slept curled up next to each other. 

During the days we went for many walks together, exploring and enjoying. I picked up sticks so she could carry them in her mouth. That was easier than trying to run with her, with my hand in her mouth. She was definitely a retriever. Aloka would lope along in front of me, through the high desert and through the forest, smiling, circling back to me when she got too far ahead, her eyes connecting, always with a stick in between her teeth. Her short golden fur was smooth and warm, thickening in winter to ward off the cold, and slightly shedding as the weather got warmer. When I visited friends, Aloka was always with me. At that time, in New Mexico, Aloka met my needs more than any human could have. Love between us flowed easily.

Aloka had become an ally on my adventure. Wherever it led, we were together. Looking back on that time, I wonder how many of my needs were taken care of, satisfied by the dog soul partner who brought me light. 

©2020-2021 Marianna Mejia

Like a Raindrop in a Tear – Excerpt from Chapter 8 of Turquoise Interlude 1969

… New Mexico gave many gifts, in addition to the turquoise earrings I now wore daily. It held me in its culture, infused me with high desert air and growing wisdom, and gave me the beauty of blue sky constantly changing with clouds and sunsets. I searched for the Knowing that I saw in some people’s eyes. 

In that era, my life was a canvas of exploration and experiment in community of others. Although most of us had already tried drugs such as acid in the cities, in the country we expressly used the drugs to commune with nature and expand our awareness. I don’t think that quest has ever ended, as least for me. Many of us merely expanded our methods, as we become aware of our mortal limitations. In the 60’s, our generation was just learning about mortality. Not too many of us had died and we were only starting to have children as we rebelled against the unsatisfactory world of our parents, searching for viable alternatives. Our life style reflected this.  

More than fifty years later, when I re-read the journal I wrote there in New Mexico, I was shocked at the amounts of drugs and relationships I had moved through so quickly in my life quest. But, reflecting more about it, I had to remember the setting of the time. It was an age of innocence and birth. There was excitement and discovery. There was risk, experimentation, and education. Of course, we thought we knew it all, but at the same time, we did not stop searching.  

I sit here like a raindrop in a tear, loving my journey back in the poetry of my early 20’s self, my 1968 through ‘70 self….

©2020-2021 Marianna Mejia