“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

The Room Where I Sleep …Excerpt from Part I When the Moon Dances, Becoming the Oldest Generation

The room where I sleep is Mom’s space. Her closet is here and my grandmother’s antique marble topped dresser stands next to the bed, beneath an ornate gold-framed mirror reflecting the bookshelf on the far wall. It is here she throws her clothes at night onto the pink upholstered chair next to the closet, and where she changes into her long, silky nightgowns.

Grandma Frances’ inlaid roll top desk near the window has a cane chair and a view of the front garden. This room is closest to the street and I hear the cars as well as the birds. I like that I can shut the door and take time for myself and that I feel my grandmother’s energy here with some of the beautiful things she collected in her lifetime. My grandmother and I loved each other unconditionally. She called my sister Lainey and me her little princesses.

In this sanctuary, after sliding my drumming cassette into the black Realistic (brand) tape recorder this afternoon, I placed the headphones over my ears, lit a candle, and lay down on the bed to start my Shamanic journey. With my eyes covered, I listened to the monotonous, trance-inducing thump thump thump thump drumbeat that takes me into a Shamanic journey. With a sense of relief and excitement, I ran up the tree and pushed through the cloud barrier where I entered the upper world. The sun sparkled through the forest leaves as I walked toward the reflecting pond looking for my teacher. The one with the long flowing white hair met me in the grassy meadow. “Please help me practice my Flamenco dance while I am here,” I begged, “and also, please help with everything here, in this house.” I sat on the ground, looking up and breathing in as she placed a soft hand on my head. Energy began to flow through me and seemed to wash away the tension and stress. In its place, my body felt light and happy.

When the drumbeat changed and called me back, I thanked my spirit teacher, retraced my steps, and slid back down the tree. As the drum finished, I re-entered my body, feeling a jolt through my feet.

Mom was still asleep, so instead of walking with her, I had time to put on my red leather Flamenco shoes and let the music flow from my feet onto the piece of old wood that I had carried up from the basement. Toe, heel, stamp, tap –the sounds of my practice filled my soul. I connect to my Self, my authentic self, in the depth of music, my emotions joining a wave filled with others, a form passed on by the ancestors.

With the flowing blood and oxygen now energizing my body and the Flamenco rhythms clearing my mind, I began to realize that I had been taking on Jack’s depression,

© 2018

Plot Summary   When the Moon Dances, Becoming the Oldest Generation – A Memoir by Marianna Mejia 

When the Moon Dances is a “coming of aging story” set in Israel during the late 90’s. Ongoing dialogue with the spirit world, friendship, and compassion, carry the narrator through the stressful nine-month ordeal of her mother’s dying.

Throughout the book Marianna’s personal growth is evident from her interactions with its characters, as she learns about death, grieving, and her Jewish culture.

Flashbacks to when her mother Virginia was young and vital highlight, with stark comparison, the fading elders Virginia and husband Jack have become.

Part I – Israel in 1996

Daughter Marianna rushes to Israel to visit Virginia after Jack almost dies in a diabetic coma. But no one has warned Marianna or even noticed the decline Marianna finds in her mother and in the household. Virginia, always efficient and vibrant, is now forgetful and deteriorating physically. But she continues the normalcy of her daily beach visits with her best friend, and reads in the afternoons, as usual, curled up on the living room couch.

Marianna, confused by these changes as the reality clears her vision, tries to stay centered in the chaos of Virginia and Jack’s encroaching deafness, blindness, and misunderstandings. Shamanic journeying, dancing, nature, deepening friendships, and emailing to “witnesses,” give sanity as disaster builds. Marianna finds a justifying comfort recording the surreal events that seem unbelievable even as they unfold.

Feeling like the only sensible one there, Marianna tries to correct and streamline the household’s functioning, conflicting with housekeeper and caretaker-by-default, Minty, who feeds diabetic Jack sugar. Marianna, showing little patience or compassion, becomes furious at Minty’s ineptitude, waste of food and resources, and general bullheadedness.

Although hampered by her lack of Hebrew, by the end of her trip Marianna breathes a sigh of relief that she has succeeded in arranging competent help for Minty’s day off, despite Minty’s active resistance. Seeing Jack’s abilities wane, Marianna spearheads the search and hiring of a bilingual secretary to help him keep the finances together.

Marianna both loves and hates Israel. The slow Mediterranean pace and the days at the beach with her mother feel soothing in contrast to the frustration of the inefficient Third-world aspects of a country that calls itself First-world. Marianna reacts with both tears and a subtle, ironic humor to the increasing absurdities that surround her. But she leaves Israel satisfied that she has completed what she needed to do.

Part II – Israel 1996-1997.

Marianna arrives back in Israel, appalled to find that Virginia no longer talks or reads and seems unaware of her surroundings.

Things get worse. Virginia is hospitalized the next day and no one can come up with a good diagnosis. Mad cow disease, deep depression, deteriorating brain. Marianna refuses to allow shock treatment. Horror at the medical incompetence pushes Marianna to become a passionate and driven advocate, as she takes control of negotiating with the medical establishment while also trying alternative ways to heal her mother.

Virginia comes out of her coma with the help of Marianna’s essential oils and further improves after a group does shamanic journeys for her on her 82nd birthday. But it doesn’t last. She is released from the hospital needing full time assistance. Care is bungled again. Fear and despair fight hope and acceptance, as Marianna struggles with the concept of nursing homes, her agenda of witnessing Virginia’s death, and the gross ineptitude that surrounds her.

Marianna and Jack have a huge, unexpected fight when Marianna uses the dreaded word, suggesting that her Mom die at home. Despite tears and yelling, Jack refuses to acknowledge the obvious. And Virginia refuses to die on schedule, upsetting Marianna’s lofty anticipations. Shortly before Marianna leaves, her mother is finally diagnosed with late stage Parkinson’s. The symptoms are classic. When it is time to return home to the US, Marianna is so stressed she misses her flight.

Part III – Israel 1997

A month later Virginia dies. Marianna and her sister return to Israel in a daze for the funeral and the Jewish mourning rituals. They must dispose of Mom’s belongings, buy a headstone, find the will. Mirrors covered, they sit Shiva for seven days, entertaining mother’s friends and discovering new dimensions of Virginia’s life in Israel. Marianna makes peace with Minty and Jack. The cycles continue and Marianna accepts that she is now the oldest in her generation of women.

 Epilogue

©2018

Insight into the Narrator – Excerpt from Part I of When the Moon Dances, Becoming the Oldest Generation

… And yet, I love the sameness of the beach routine, for the beach is never really the same and yet the sea is always there; both the same and different, the colors sparkling brilliant, the whitecaps describing the pattern of today’s tides.

I have started to visit her every year, now that she has a hard time traveling back to California to visit us. I fill my suitcase with Flamenco dance shoes, belly dance costumes, and cassette tapes of music to dance to. Over my shoulder, my round blue drum case filled with my shamanic journey tools –rattles and my handmade drum, almost dwarfs my short body as it bounces on my back in the airport. I tie my long, brown hair back when I travel, but still wear the rainbow-colored silk flower that has become a trademark. Sometimes on the long airplane trip I worry about the state my mother’s health. At other times, I just look forward to the days at the beach and the relaxed pace of the Middle East.

On other visits, Mom, Jack, and I used to travel throughout Israel, Mom proudly pointing out the many historic, biblical sites. We drove to an Arab town to buy gold earrings for me, we walked the streets of Jerusalem and watched Jack fiercely barter with an antique dealer he knew, we visited relatives on a farm Kibbutz, we swam with dolphins in Elat. I am active like my Mom, or like she was. In spite of her artistic discouragement, I became a professional belly dancer and now have Flamenco. In my forties, I went back to graduate school, in preparation for being too old to dance, and became a licensed marriage and family therapist. But I forgot to stop dancing.

To my parents, in spite of any accomplishment, I was the black sheep. I finished college at UC Berkeley only to prove them wrong, as they were sure that I would quit early. With my English major BA feeling useless to me in 1966, I left Berkeley two years later and lived on communes and tipis in New Mexico and California, enjoying the freedom of the times.

I still resent my parents for not helping me pay for graduate school, although they both have plenty of money. The new career did not fit their picture of what I was supposed to do with my life. My eyes tear when these thoughts intrude and I push them away. How I wanted them to support my achievements and the few goals I dared to have. Instead, as a single mother by then, I danced my way through my psychology master’s program and the 3000 hours of internship. My performing experience prepared me for the feared oral exam –I passed both tests the first time and began a thriving psychotherapy practice. I survived in spite of my parents’ lack of belief in me.

And now I search for love and acceptance from my mother. I know she loves me, in her capacity. I love her too. To their world, in the country my mother adopted and seems happy in, I have come for my yearly connection. I am greeted with change and it is time to acknowledge these cycles of life.

© 2017

Shamanic Journey and Flamenco – When the Moon Dances, Becoming the Oldest Generation

After sliding my drumming cassette into the black Realistic tape recorder this afternoon, I placed the headphones over my ears, lit a candle, and lay down on the bed to start my Shamanic journey. With my eyes covered, I listened to the monotonous, trance-inducing thump thump thump thump drumbeat that takes me into a Shamanic journey. I ran up the tree and through the cloud barrier where I entered the upper world. The one with the long flowing white hair met me in the grassy meadow. “Please help me practice my Flamenco dance while I am here,” I begged, “and also, please help with everything here, in this house.” When the drumbeat changed and called me back, I thanked my spirit teacher, slid back down the tree and re-entered my body.

Mom was still asleep, so instead of walking with her, I had time to put on my red leather Flamenco shoes, and let out my music on the piece of old wood that I had found in the basement and carried up to my room. Toe, heel, stamp, tap –the sounds of my practice filled my soul.

Excerpt from Part I

©2016