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

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