by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
(Photo above) – This is a color slide that I took from our campsite, shortly before I felt the full effects of “hungus de Oaxaca.” Seven French hippie girls at a camp site in Oaxaca spiked my dinner with hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Over the past year, The Americas Revealed has run a series of 75 articles about my experiences long ago in Mexico. The series was based on the journal that I kept during the summer of my fellowship there, when I turned 21. Simultaneously, I have been digitizing the over 2500 color slides that I took in Mexico. Most of my photographs from Mexico, however, were beyond repair.
Then in November, shortly after Hurricane Zeta ransacked my property, I received a letter from France. It was from a lovely lady in France, who still describes herself as my soulmate for eternity. I have not seen her since winter of 1993. She had assumed I was dead since spring of 1995. That spawned another series, “The French Courtesan Who Came In from the Cold.” That series was not on architecture, but explained the secret war between democracy and fascism in the United States, which began over 30 years ago.
I have learned something from the experience, which is not obviously in any online reference that I have been able to find. There are two levels of memory in the human brain. One is conscious. The other is hidden from the conscious mind and may seemingly remain hidden for decades, until suddenly revealed by a photograph, a journal or perhaps hypnosis. I had forgotten most of the details of my journey through Mexico . . . even all but one of the young women I knew there . . . until I read that journal for the very first time in my life and viewed those slides on my computer screen.
My conscious mind had erased the short, intense, intimate relationships that I had with a French architecture student in Oaxaca and Mexican education student, who was also my guide in Campeche. Both of those beautiful, intelligent women could have become my wife for the rest of my life. The latter is somewhat surprising, since Ana the Tour Guide with Benefits and I corresponded intermittently for four more years. We even talked on the telephone three times.
I also had completely forgotten the time when the owner of a hotel in Tabasco handed me 400 pesos with instructions to rent his 18 year old daughter at a local brothel . . . but vaguely remembered the less painful aspects of when a maid at the El Gran Hotel in Merida repeatedly and unsuccessfully begged me to take her 16 year old daughter as a full time lover and travel companion.
Yet . . . the moment I read the passages in my journal or viewed a color slide, the events popped up in my conscious mind, as vivid as if they occurred last month. Especially, in the scenes involving the young women I met in Mexico, every little detail went three dimensional and in living color . . . especially the time when we were in final steps before actualizing Alicia’s “Becoming a Woman” ceremony, only three hours before her final exam in physics . . . then her aunt knocked on the front door. My conscious mind had completely forgotten that hilarious day.
There is also a third category of memory, which is even harder to explain. That is when bits of repressed memory do not appear in our conscious mind, but do appear in our dreams.
Over the years, since I was relocated back to Georgia against my will, I have repeatedly had vivid dreams of being back on the Toms Brook Farm and sometimes even the farm in the Reems Creek Valley farm in North Carolina. The vivacious French lass that readers caught glimpses of in the Mary Chapin Carpenter “Down at the Twist and Shout” video is ALWAYS my wife in those dreams. This is even the case for events that occurred long before I met her. My beloved herd dogs, goats, sheep and Toulouse geese are there too. The last time I had such a dream was in early May 2021. In reality, we only lived together for six wonderful weeks in the summer of 1992.
This would seem to be an oddity of human memory, except for the last letter I received from Vivi in April. She first confessed that she had to wait until the Pandemic stay-at-home order was lifted in Grand Est (Champagne, Ardenne, Alsace & Loraine) to read most of the chapters in the online book. When she tried before, she started crying and could not explain why to the man, who has lived with her for over 20 years.
The truth was that Vivi had experienced the same dreams as me, except in her dreams, the story continues all the years since then. It is quite possible that we have had the same dreams at the same time. This was extremely painful for her to admit because her partner loved her, had always been faithful and had been very good to her children . . . raising them as his own.
She said it was even difficult to write me, because deep within her mind, she has been secretly living an alternate reality with very vivid details. She loved the man at her side, but in a different way than me. However, all the time, until the summer of 2020, she assumed that I was dead, so in effect, she was having dreams about a soul in heaven . . . not a man, who was very much alive in the mountains of Georgia.
Now how do you explain that?
The truth is out there somewhere.