“Baile, Maria, Baile,” Excerpt from Chapter 4 – Andy’s Lessons, Turquoise Interlude –A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

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.”

©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

Cloud Girl’s Legacy – Excerpt from Chapter 12 of Turquoise Interlude – A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

 Cloud Girl was my soul sister, pulled from my child’s storybook, she became part of my being. Her winter home was a hogan in Arizona near the border of New Mexico. In the summers they camped with the sheep where the forest smelled fresh, its piñon trees shining after a summer rain. I identified with her and yearned to be Navajo. On that trip my parents bought me a velvet-clothed Navajo doll. Her turquoise skirt and brown shirt were belted by a silver conch, her black hair tied back with yarn. I treasured that doll, imagining that she could have been Cloud Girl’s mother, or Cloud Girl grown up, or me in another life. 

Seventeen years later, finally drawn back to New Mexico, I was alone and searching, finding my way in the high, thin air among the rocks and relics, wet, warm earth, and dry sun. Living near the Taos Indian Pueblo, the most Northern of the pueblos strung like a belt of unpolished diamonds across New Mexico, that strong Native American presence drew me in again. I felt called to be there and things were easy for me. New Mexico opened her doors and kept welcoming me. I was in heaven. The seeds sprouted and became ready to bloom. 

©2021 Marianna Mejia

Maria – Excerpt from Chapter 10 of Turquoise Interlude 1969

… In my upstairs bedroom in Arroyo Seco, Maria, born and raised in Taos, teaches me how to move my body in this lifetime, and later I practice smoothing my rough, apprentice movements. Over and over, carried by the music, I repeat and repeat, trying to emulate the exotic and fluid Maria. 

Her tall shapely body sways to the music, undulating and rippling with a sensual beauty –her dancing like the river flowing. “You must surrender in your dancing, and you must dance with your heart as well as your body. Dance your soul,” Maria whispers sagely. 

Here in New Mexico, Maria had touched something primal and ancient, asleep and buried inside of me. From her I learned the importance of letting go, receiving and giving, of strength, and that the dance had come from the ancient Egyptian temple priestesses. …

©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