So rather than hie me to Massachusetts, I enrolled in a summer School of Education course in AZ at ASU: Creative Dramatics with Viola Spolin. I did that because Viola Spolin was the doyenne of improvisational theatre and I wanted to know more about creative drama per se: my elder cousin the psychoanalyst in Paris and her colleagues were experimenting with drama therapy, which intrigued me. I also did it because Tempe is near Paradise Valley, north of Scottsdale, where Cosanti is, and after I stumbled into Cosanti in 1962, staying on as a $40-a-month-plus-lodging "apprentice" in the practical arts of silt-cast bell-making, of model-making of beautiful bridges and dams that would be constructed so as to incorporate urban life into their actual elemental form, my course had changed....
I'd vaulted over creosote bushes, loving their scent. Overcame a lifelong fear of heights so I could trim olive trees. I'd discovered - what?
I didn't know what the "what" was that I'd discovered but figured if I went back, I'd find out. On the way to AZ from NY, I managed to get myself put off a freight train. Didn't know, when I got on the flatcar, there were already two people on it, a couple of young guys - nice guys - who had more melanin in their skin than I did. South Texas was still very much Dixie, the South, in 1963. The freight train ground to a halt in the middle of nowhere, a guy in a white pickup truck with a bunch of long guns on a rack in the cab made all three of us get off the flat car. Threatened me with jail, them with lynching if we thought his statement was worth arguing about.
We did what he told us to do. Got off, not together. I wish I knew what happened to those guys, Joe and Little Brother, so I could thank them for their amiability. Maybe someday I will get to do that. (Ya never know: It's getting to be quite a small world. If I'm lucky, which I consider myself to be, maybe at least one of them will appear....) When I got to Tempe, the tree outside my friend Marilyn's apartment was ripe with figs. At Cosanti, I fell immediately in love ("at first sight") with a sweet guy who'd come for the first Silt Pile workshop.
Love was confusing, out there in Paradise Valley under the burning eye of the desert sun. An omen things were not going well: dropping a Superfly-sized bottle of Arpege - an extraordinary gift under any circumstances - onto the concrete sidewalk in front of Marilyn's place when a tarantula scuttled out from nowhere. (To this day, an unexpected tarantula spooks me.) By the time summer school and the first Silt Pile workshop ended, I'd managed to let myself get so dehydrated, literally and figuratively, that I'd turned myself into a ready candidate for auditory and visual hallucinations. (An awfully simple way to make yourself quite ill is forgetting to drink enough water, especially in a climate as arid as Arizona's.)
We flew back to NY, 'my' young man and I. He went home to his family upstate, I went home to mine on Long Island. Love quickly got, in the mysterious east, even more confusing than it had been in the desert clime of the southwest. He returned to Long Island to visit just before he left for Honduras to begin his two-year Peace Corps stint. (I had applied to go with him but was rejected: he'd finished his university studies; I had not.)
After he left, I found myself slipping into a void so huge I could find no boundaries. Not for time, not for space. I saw the energy-field of the unidentified Chinese potter whose over six-foot tall vase sat (glowing! it was radiantly glowing!) encased in glass in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I heard the energy-echo of the writer-translator whose words of power appeared in my Heiligeschrifte Bible, I detected the whine of tension in the coiled springs of the mattress beneath my restless body when I tried to lay me down. I vibrated in consonance with the droning, zapping buzz of the NYC streetlights. The world around me was awash with noise from objects I'd always assumed were still and silent. when all of them were suddenly, stunningly, started to clamor loudly and implacably for attention.
My gentle parents did their best to cope. My mother farmed me out to a friend of hers who worked as an anaesthesiologist at the local hospital. Jeannie's useful house rule for guests was that the bed one slept in had to be made in the morning before one left one's room. Good habit to get into. Aside from that, she had no rules for me and was at work the afternoon of the day I tried to rescue a bird, a fledgling that had fallen from its nest. The terrified creature shuddered and died despite my silent wailing hope for its salvation.
Jeannie let me go home to my folks at the end of the week and I don't recall ever seeing her again but bed-making was simply never much of an issue after that although I never thought to thank her for her conscientious rule-setting. Too bad!
I'm not sure the psychiatrist I agreed to see was quite as conscientious. A nice-enough fellow, I suppose, but one I must say I was singularly ill-equipped to handle. When he took out a cigarette, a habit I had come to think of as odious and was loathe to tolerate in anyone, he was history. Especially since he was a medical guy who, presumably, ought to know better. How could anyone - me, in this case - trust a doc who was addicted to tobacco?
That particular form of arrogance has stayed with me, but I've learned to be forthright. I temper my distaste with an admission to whatever poor bloke I'm accosting so my rant now goes something like: I'm a strong-minded broad - or dame, depending upon whom I'm addressing - who wants health and happiness for all. So why are *you* doing that?
Occasionally, believe it or not, this tactic has proven successful: the person confronted by self-righteous me has actually managed to give up smoking. Ha! But I digress. To get back to where we were:
Overall, I didn't socialize much that fall although I did manage to hold conversations with a few friends: Barbara, whom I'd met at CCNY; Ben, who'd been in the Silt Pile workshop at Cosanti and came to NY from LA to visit. Most all my old pals from high school had pretty much moved away and I was not in the mood to seek out and meet new people. I didn't think I was avoiding people but I had nothing simple or straightforward to say to anyone, preoccupied as I was with a hyper-reality most people did not seem to be conscious of.
"The stopping of Becoming is Nirvana" I heard myself saying, one day. Now, where had that come from? I had no idea.
I'm not sure exactly when my hyper-state abated, but it did. When it did, I packed myself up and once again headed west.