Maia Toll
Squashing Dreams, Going Cold, and What I Learned From RBG

Squashing Dreams, Going Cold, and What I Learned From RBG

When was the last time you exhaled?

I started holding my breath in late February.

Breathing, this thing I’d done daily and mostly unconsciously since I came screaming into the world, was suddenly dangerous. Not only was it dangerous to myself, but I learned it could be perilous for others. So, as I passed people in the newly widened aisles of the grocery store, I found myself, quite literally, holding my breath.

My metaphoric breath followed suit, and soon I was holding everything close: my emotions, my money, even my dreams. By spring I was in a state of almost spasmodic contraction. This wasn’t the 2020 I had imagined when I sat down in January to write my intentions for this trip around the sun.

Sometime in May, after months of being painfully clamped down and drawn in, the exhale came in a convulsive torrent. My burning lungs just couldn’t keep holding, and anything resembling flow or balance had been missing from my life for far too long. In this moment of exhaling, Andrew and I decided to move ahead with the solar install we had been planning pre-Covid, I began re-envisioning what our retail shops would look like in this strange new world, and my literary agent and I decided to shop a book deal for my fifth manuscript.

But while I began once again acting like a living, breathing human, I wasn’t feeling it. During the summer months as I got a (spectacular!) new book deal, created a private label line for Herbiary, and watched The Illustrated Crystallary release to tremendous Instagram fanfare, I disguised the tepid beating of my heart with big smiles and excessive use of touchdown emojis.

And then RBG died. (more…)

Taking Back Hope

Taking Back Hope

I’ve been thinking about hope… and believe it or not, plastic straws!

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume there is no hope, you guarantee there will be no hope.” — Noam Chomsky

I was friggin’ furious.

The floorboards shook as I stomped around the kitchen making my morning cup of tea.

“He’s selling what???!!!” I seethed. “That is the most ridiculously irresponsible…” I stuttered to a wordless stop. I was practically panting with rage.

What, you might wonder, was causing me, pre-caffeine at eight in the morning, to froth like a venti cappuccino? (more…)

What the Animals Tell Us

What the Animals Tell Us

Before there were plants, there were animals.

Okay, that statement is totally false in the cosmic sense, but ridiculously true in my personal experience.

Family myth has it that the first word out of my mouth was “horsey.” For years I thought my love of horses was a weird genetic anomaly, maybe harkening back to some long lost ancestor who rode with the Mongolian horde (my mother’s side of the family immigrated from the Russian side of the Mongolian border, which was close enough to Mongolia for my teenage imagination).

But it turned out that our horse-loving lineage was closer than any of us thought: as a girl, my grandmother would steal her dad’s work horse which pulled the ice cart he used to deliver blocks of ice (back when ice boxes really were boxes that held a huge chunk of ice to keep your food cool). When great-granddad came home for lunch, my grandmother would unhitch the horse, hop up bareback, and ride unhindered through the streets of Philadelphia. When lunch break was over, my grandmother’s brothers would run through the streets calling her name; she’d give the horse back, and with it, give up her few moments of freedom.


Reaction Mode, YIKES! Sit, Sip, Breathe.

“Trust yourself. Listen to your inner voice.”

You’ve probably heard this advice from your mom, your yoga teacher, your crystal-wearing neighbor, and countless people on social media (don’t get me started on flippant social media advice!).

Even if this deep intuitive connection with your inner-self flows easily when you’re on a silent retreat or doing a weekend of journey-work, it’s still hard to tap into when the dog won’t stop barking, the baby won’t stop crying, and the car next to you at the traffic light is blaring one of those ba-boom, ba-boom bass lines.

Modern life is loud: it’s hard to hear your own thoughts, let alone the quiet whispers of your heart.

If you’re thinking I don’t remember how to tap into my intuition, then I have a secret for you:

My Favorite “Secret:” Your Life’s Purpose is Not Your Job Title

My Favorite “Secret:” Your Life’s Purpose is Not Your Job Title

Graduation is a few days away and classes are over for the year.

(Yup, this is a flashback. If Oprah ever asks if every word is true, I won’t be able to say for certain. Memories soften, get a little fuzzy, and are often sweeter in the re-telling.

Truth? Oprah scares me. I once saw her interview a memoirist and ask if every word was accurate. Accuracy and memory are, at best, fraternal twins.

But I digress…)

Lying prone on a hillside in the arboretum, the grass pokes through the cotton blanket, tickling my stomach. (This was before Lyme Disease became part of my consciousness, back when I laid on the ground with abandon, worrying only about an occasional ant.) The scent of barbecue, beer, and Johnson’s Baby Oil (yup, pre-SPF, too) overpowers the whispers of wild honeysuckle and pine from the woods below.

Conversation drifts round my circle of friends. We speculate on post-college life and who each of us will be when we “grow up.”

Before long we’ve identified two teachers, an accountant, a social worker, an advertising exec, and a P.T.A. mom. The tone is light with the sweet notes of women who know each other well, who see each other’s souls, and can fish gems of truth from the depths of self. As each truth emerges, sparkling, a bit of soul-light shines on us all. (more…)

Vision Quests, Secret Societies, and Solving the Mysteries of the Universe

Most of my teens and twenties (and some of my thirties, too) were spent searching for someone to teach me the mysteries of the universe.

I pictured a manuscript buried in the rare books room of a library in Oxford or Cambridge; or an underground society dedicated preserving the spiritual wisdom of ancient seekers; or maybe some Indiana Jones style adventure which would prove to the Powers That Be that I was worthy of being let in on The Secret. Words like “initiation” and “vision quest” would perk my ears, but ultimately, each trail led to the next dead end.

Sound familiar? (more…)