Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly. A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.Cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over your head, look for the girl with the sun in her eyes, and she’s gone.
Lucy in the sky with diamonds.
The song with all of its psychedelic references could have been written for Lucy McCall. Coming of age as she did, during those turbulent and influential times, the song was practically the soundtrack to her teenage life
But I digress, because before Hippiedom, there was Magic. There was always magic, replete with a Hogwarts of sorts – a boarding school for girls, in WASPy, Newport, Rhode Island. Lucy was sent there she says cryptically, “for all the usual reasons,” but clearly the experience had a huge impact on her.
After returning home to Dallas, and too many adventures to recount here, she finally landed in Taos in the early 70’s.
I’ve known :Lucy since I returned to Taos in the early 90’s. By the time I met her, she was a well-known and well-respected Herbalist, and she has been my go to person for anything and everything that ails me and my loved ones, ever since. A tincture she makes, healed my daughter’s nerve damage after a bad accident. My brother is using it now for the same reason. Menopause (I jokingly referred to it as men on pause), was a relative breeze with Lucy’s Woman’s Tonic.
She has a true and deep understanding of the healing properties of Nature’s medicinal bounty.
So when a mutual friend suggested I write about Lucy, I responded with a big yes!
I met Lucy one Saturday at the World Cup for a coffee and chat before we walked around the Farmer’s Market together.
By the time our visit was over, we were already making plans for Bill Curry to photograph her at her home (and lab) in Talpa.
It was late August; Autumn whispered in the air. Sunflowers lifted their faces to the sun and as we drove into Lucy’s compound, we felt the air itself change, as if a magical veil had fallen all around us.
We got out of Bill’s truck and found ourselves in a thicket of plums. Plums, red and gold, ripe for the picking, hung like jewels from the tangled branches of the trees.
It reminded me of Aladdin’s cave.
The property Lucy lives on, has long belonged to artists, in fact Zoe Zimmerman grew up in the house when it belonged to her mother, Nora Anthony. Lucy recently moved her herb room from the round house it used to be located in, to a room off the kitchen of the main house, and she’s been staying in the round house, where she says she feels more creative. She rents an additional home on the property long-term, as well as a couple of rooms in the main house as an Airbnb. It supplements her income nicely these days, because along with teaching at UNM Taos, Lucy is writing and illustrating a book. A modern-day Herbal.
She invited us into the round house (where herbs were drying and tisanes steeped on a sunny windowsill), before we walked over to the big house, where the apples in her orchard were being pressed for cider. She poured us each a glass of fresh plum juice – an elixir worthy of the day – and Bill went off to explore while we sat at the kitchen table and chatted about Taos and time and Magic.
After Bill returned, we conversed awhile longer before the two of us said goodbye to Lucy, and as we drove away, we both noted we felt as if we had stepped outside of time; as if we had walked through a portal into another world, with diamonds in the sky.
And Billy captured that feeling through his lens, beautifully.
Lucy in the sky.
1) You grew up in Dallas, and as a teenager were sent off to a boarding school in Newport, Rhode Island, that reminds you, in retrospect of Hogwarts – please explain a little.
I went to a boarding school in Newport,RI – a huge castle that had been moved stone by stone, twice before it was built in Newport. Not known to my family, the school was renting out part of it for the 60s soap opera Dark Shadows.I never liked these creepy shows, so I never watched them. However it turns out that this seems to attract the battle of dark and light.There were a lot of ghosts that some of us saw and the combination of these spirits and teenagers created poltergeist, as well.
My second year there two house mothers came and stayed on the same floor one was Mrs Hungerford (!) who was always stirring up trouble,pitting people against each other and walked around with a shadow floating around her. The second one was Mrs. Gordon Laughton who shined like the Sun, had studied with Edgar Cayce, and taught me much of positive, healing metaphysics One night I awoke from a dream with her exorcising the spirits from that place. No one ever saw ghosts again during the following year and a half that I attended. During that time, in the summer My Aunt Susan started training me in Astrology and other oracles.
2) Back in Texas you met Wavy Gravy – can you tell us a little of what led up to that auspicious meeting?
The summer of 1969 was the summer of Woodstock,and two other festivals with the same lineup as Woodstock..I worked at a Headshop called Boiling Point, and the last night there, I hitched to a lake where Grateful Dead had a free stage.There was Wavy Gravy in divine eccentric glory .We talked a bit. I’ve run into him over the years here and there.
3) You arrived in Taos in the early 70’s – memories please!
In 1970 there was an event called Holy Man Jam in Boulder, back when Boulder was rustic. There were gurus from all over. I was a devotee of Swami Satchidananda,the reason I was there.once again. The Hog Farm appeared there, and a friend of mine was there on the bus. I had dreams of New Mexico that year ,so was invited on the bus in a vague kind of way. I got on and went to Llano near Penasco and the pleasure of hot water! The story goes on – after a two-year college time in Vermont and Texas, I came back to Taos with SMU.,and stayed (with a few others).many stories but a historical place and fame are involved. in all these years I have lived in town or south never in the mystical lands of Lama and Seco and Hondo ….the North, but the town center always, and the entrance towns of Ranchos,Talpa. So we lived in the Mabel Dodge House in 1973 after I started to run the Dennis Hopper Works of Art (Hopper’s gallery), when Cabot Plaza was just open, and my first son (Jeremiah Butch Kohutek Chiapponi Dowdy)was born.at that time,
4) You’ve been a respected Herbalist as long as I’ve known you, how did you find yourself on this path?
I used to make flower essences as a child. One day Mrs. Gordon Laughton handed me a herb book. I remember different events like a country woman; Teachers really started showing up once I put my toe in the world.
5) You have had your own company for decades, you own a gorgeous property here, where you’ve raised kids, and now you are teaching at UNM! What inspires you to keep exploring and sharing?
My forever mission has been to help people and pass on as much useful healing information as possible. i do make some living, but information is always free. And although I might have to charge for a workshop to cover costs – I like to share plant medicine knowledge. Some Herbalists have a Roundtable on the first Thursday of the month, at 5:00 pm.at Taos Homebirth and Midwifery, just North of Ranchos de Taos. i also do an Astrology program: As Above, so Below. At 4 pm on Fridays on (KNCE 93.5 FM) where I also talk about a herb or two. Teaching at UNM is great, and I rent out as well
6) You are quite an accomplished artist as well – the botanical studies you are making for your book, are exquisite. How long have you been drawing and painting?
All my life.
For more on Lucy’s Class at UNM Taos, and the HHHA department, please see their site linked below this post.
To contact Lucy McCall directly, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
All photographs by Bill Curry
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC