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

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

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

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