My Chariot – Excerpt from Chapter 16 of Turquoise Interlude–A Counterculture Memoir of Free Love, Drugs, and Personal Growth in New Mexico 1968-1970

… When I descended the silver stairs from the plane into the hot Los Angeles day, I left the musty smells of Berkeley firmly in the past. 

Two days later, pushing down on the gas pedal of the green Willys jeep and shifting the gears, my dog Aloka and I departed, the smoggy city of L.A. sprawled contentedly behind us. The doors of my chariot were metal and removable, built in ventilation. There was no padding. But it had 4-wheel drive which I could access with a hand lever when the jeep was stopped. The noise of the engine blotted out the birds and other cars as I slowly and methodically made my way through the desert towards the mountains of New Mexico, my adopted home. 

The smells changed along the way, from diesel and the tickle of smog, to fir and pine trees, to cypress and wet sage, dry earth, and later to piñon and wood smoke. I felt strong and competent, with full energy. I still loved to drive and I had no time limit. The adventure of the road trip had started and was part of my odyssey. 

©2021   Marianna Mejia

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

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

A Passover Musing 3/30/18

Passover is a gathering of families remembering a shared Jewish history on a specific full moon, all over the world. We pledge to remember and remind to fight slavery and oppression, for we were slaves in Egypt once, and knew the bitterness of bondage.

We, my ancestors, were fleeing Egypt once on this date. Was the air warm and soft like it is tonight? Did the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle infuse their senses like it did to me tonight? The full moon shines its blessing now as it did then. I remember that my people were slaves in Egypt, a country I still feel kin to. A country of past lives.

I know the water was warmer there than here, for I have swam in her waters, bathed by foam and salt. On a night like this night they followed Moses into the water, parted by the tides over sandbars, and they passed out of Egypt and slavery. With them they carried their half-made bread, the unleavened cracker we call Matzo. It reminds us at Passover, of our ancestors’ haste to finally flee the Pharaoh. Tonight, I remember the story while eating the Matzo.

I imagine the bitter root and charoset, the cruelty of slavery and the sticky sweetness of the fruit and nut mortar connecting us to the bricks of our past.

Tonight, I almost forget parts of the Seder, parts of the story or a meaning. As the years pass and I skip formal Seders, my son, on the other side of the country, carries the tradition. In his childhood, I led the Sedars. Now the memories mix in my being; I see and feel the pictures of the Passover story, being in two places at once, a different understanding born of seventy-three years of opening, born of the ancestors joining me, of honoring this ritual of Passover every year of our lives.

Does the hardboiled egg, placed on a platter next to the parsley and salt water, symbolize spring and birth? The shank bone reminds us how our forebears smeared blood above their doors and the sickness passed over them, during the time of the plagues. Does my love of lamb come from my ancestors, passed like a memory, through generations?

Passover –a gathering of families remembering a shared Jewish history on a specific full moon, all over the world. We pledge to remember and remind to fight slavery and oppression, for we were slaves in Egypt once, and knew the bitterness of bondage.

 

©2018 Marianna Mejia

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

©2018-2021 Marianna Mejia