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

My Welcoming Gift, Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Turquoise Interlude 1968

… He cajoled me with local restaurants and scenic drives, even flying me over Taos in his tiny plane. Green and brown surrounded miniature mud houses, the scene a painting out the clouded oval window, from high in the air. We swooped down low over the Valdez valley and rose up again as we turned away from the high mountains. The Rio Grande river wound like a thread of green through red and yellow. Lines of black pavement cut through fields and trees. I was entranced.

The festival of San Geronimo took place at the Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest original reservations –thick yellow adobe, scrawny dogs with tongues waving in the still heat, blue doors and wooden ladders. A pair of handmade Zuni earrings dangling silver and turquoise called to me from a booth. Typical narrow oval pieces of desert blue, were unique in the tiers, set in silver, turquoise strands dripping daintily from halfmoons.  As I placed them on my ears, I felt a magical power of New Mexico fuse into me. My first southwestern jewelry purchase became my welcoming gift from this land of enchantment. I felt I belonged. My mouth widened to a smile and my eyes, shining, became a little more green in the turquoise reflections.

Later, chatting through cigarette smoke, alcohol and laughter at the dark and narrow La Cantina bar on one side the Taos Plaza square, I met newcomers and seasoned residents in this gathering place for Bohemians, artists and the young hippies just starting to discover Taos. My new earrings reflected the desert sky almost to my shoulders, my fingers reaching up to caress them as I looked into the eyes of strangers soon to become friends.  …

©2020

Without Agenda, Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Turquoise Interlude 1968

… Following my heart without agenda, after saying goodbye to Yvonne, I climbed into Bob’s colorful bus and we headed north along the Rio Grande. “I asked the creator last night to bring me my soulmate,” he told me again later that day, as we drove past Arroyo Seco, a tiny town above Taos. That was when Taos only had one stoplight. Arroyo Seco, of course, didn’t have any and most of its roads were unpaved.

At 7,500 feet in the lower mountains, near the end of the bumpy dirt road, we arrived at a sunny meadow filled with sunflowers and corn, where Bob had pitched his tipi.  His buffalo rug still covered the floor. His two homemade wooden bowls were simple and organized. His fire pit was small. He lived in the now.

We slept on the buffalo hide rug, cooked over a fire, and washed his two bowls in the shallow stream, which ran through the meadow.

The days were filled with outdoor adventure. I remember hiking through a high desert sagebrush-filled plain and then descending a tiny, winding trail through more pungent sagebrush, and climbing down large rocks to an abandoned hot-springs on the Rio Grande River. In the crumbling ruins of a former healing retreat, on the sand by the water, naked in the sun, Bob and I tanned deer hides, smoothing and preparing them with rocks and softening them with cow brains until they became smooth and pliable in the heat. We washed ourselves in the springs and made love on the steaming stones. Later we hauled the tanned hides back up to the rocks and across the sagebrush to the blue bus.

Bob’s long hair and beard softened his face. Brown red hair shone in the sun, hanging down as he worked on his engine, contented and methodical, as if he had all the time he wanted, as if his way of life followed this path of the present.

At a friend’s meadowland in the foothills above the tipi, I took acid and wandered around the low mountains without my clothes, admiring tall shady pot plants, feeling the grasses and the close, clean sun on my skin, breathing the thin air. The bordering piñon forest was soothing and inviting, the ground soft and giving.

Bob and I walked with friends up the mountains above Arroyo Seco in Indian land to a secret waterfall and we picked wild mushrooms in the dawn, in this land of enchantment, the motto written in red on the yellow car license plates.

Through Bob, I met the current young locals, many of whom lived in abandoned adobe houses whose owners wanted them occupied. It was cheap and easy to live in Arroyo Seco and Taos in 1968.

I stayed there, enjoying life without electricity or running water, seduced by the New Mexico slowness of life, for two weeks instead of one. The high desert enfolded me, opening me to the new possibilities.  …

©2020

New Mexico Opens to Me, Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Turquoise Interlude 1968

Through the dirty bus window, lush green eventually turned to sand with cactus standing guard. We bumped along, passing rounded buildings and Indian Pueblos, until the bus finally stopped in a little town of adobe houses and quiet streets. As the doors rumbled open, exhaust fumes and heat greeted me. Grabbing my bag, I stepped out of the station, and after stretching my legs, started walking, following the directions handwritten in neat black ink on a crumpled piece of paper.

Yvonne’s house was in a complex of adobe apartments, with blue painted door trims, its landscape dirt and sagebrush, separated from the unpaved road by an adobe wall with a peeling green door. The high desert air was dry and still. Yvonne greeted me with a smile and a hug, the Zuni turquoise bracelet on her wrist matched the morning sky, its silver reflecting the clear, hot sun. The last time we had seen each other was when we had taken acid and camped at Pyramid Lake, Nevada, where I had walked inside of Bob’s tipi. Yvonne’s green eyes were calm and knowing. I wanted to learn what she knew. I felt grateful to sleep on the cold tile of her living room floor. The piñon tree scented air with the clearing smell of sage entered my body through my breath. A smile spread throughout me. An air of excitement streamed through my being. …

 ©2020

Die or Get Off the Pot – Excerpt from Part II   When the Moon Dances – A Memoir of Becoming the Oldest Generation

December 22, 1996

…I remember when my Grandma Annie was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s, almost comatose and not eating, it seemed logical that she felt ready to die.  She should have been able to just stop eating if she wanted to, but they wouldn’t let her. Voluntarily not eating is a withdrawal to death that seems non-violent and makes sense to me.

Now I wonder about Mom. Maybe it is just her time and we are forcing her to stay alive by feeding her. But, what if she can recover? When do we respect her choice and when do we decide that her choice is incompetent and should not be honored? What about the Eskimo elders who traditionally went out into the snow to die? I believe in the right to choose a conscious death. I wouldn’t want to be kept alive against my will. The question remains: when do we “let” Mom choose to eat or not to eat? I don’t know if there are answers.

Today has been difficult –is this my new normal? I feel so discouraged. I thought, “I’m bored. Now what?” Going to the hospital twice a day for what feels like nothing is getting to me. This afternoon I stayed with Mom a long time, hoping for at least one word or at least a sign. It’s kind of like “die or get off the pot.” I’m angry that I am bored. I’m angry about a lot of things now. I know this is a stage of grief – the anger stage. I accept it intellectually. I feel it now, strongly, when I write, alone with my thoughts. When I am with Mom I get caught in hope or in wishful thinking. Now the anger wraps me like a heavy blanket. I need to write it down, although I should go to bed so I can wake up to more of the same routine. How tiring –both the anger and the hospital visits.

©2019