Maia Toll
Spring brings wind…
…and wind brings change.

I’ve been thinking about the wind. I’ve even re-watched a little bit of Chocolat (remember the voice-over in the beginning? About the North Wind? Yum.).

There’s a romance to knowing the names of the wind. Each name feels like a secret, sweet on your tongue. When you whisper those secrets, they open a portal to a millennia of stories and histories so that when the wind comes, and its name is spoken, unused doors creak open and the world changes just a little.

When the Sharav blew in bringing unseasonably warm weather, as well as sand from the Negev desert, I was secretly delighted. My heart lifted despite squinting to keep the grit from my contact lenses. My soul thrilled even as I agreed with my sister that the dust was unbearable. It was on the day of the Purim Carnival in Zichron Yaakhov, Israel. Fathers pushed strollers and mothers chased toddlers. But the teenagers were too busy to notice the pesky wind, because the yearly Purim Carnival was in full swing and the whole shebang, from the themes to the rides, was created and built solely by the town’s high school students.


For months before the festival, teams of teenagers learned to design and build carnival rides. The fair’s contraptions are always made out of wood, but this particular year’s theme—the Middle Ages—led to designs that felt brutal-esque and massive. Long boards were lashed together with rope, and somehow these primitive, and rather hefty, parts were crafted into flying swings and Ferris wheels and other strange contrivances.

Each ride was planned on paper and then built into models to be approved by (adult!) engineers. Then the building began. My sister told me that in the final weeks, it’s hard to get the kids to sleep at home. They eat and breathe with their team, fully engaged in the building process, as their creations begin to rise around them, some topping over three stories high.


The day before the Carnival, the engineers do a final check and then the town comes to see what their children have built. I wandered through the festival in awe, thinking over and over again, they’d never allow this in America. Can you imagine the conversation between your local school board and their insurance company? “Hi! We want to let a bunch of teenagers build rides from wood and rope and let the whole town come play on them. Can you give me the cost for a rider on our insurance policy?” Yeah, this is sooo not happening in America.

But even if your town is not about to let the teenagers come together to build a carnival, we can still all learn from the teenagers in Zichron. They start from scratch, learning and experimenting. They work out of their comfort zone or area of expertise. They test the rides, facing real danger and the fear that danger ignites within. And they do this as a team, kids who may not have even said hi to each other before come together to make something marvelous.

My last visit to Israel was four years ago. I was scrolling through my photos the other day and once again found these pictures. As I pondered the images, my meandering thoughts led me to Aspen Medicine, my favorite reminder of community and also a remedy for fear. Aspens shake in the wind, their leaves making a chittering sound which has always reminded me of the jumpy feeling I get when I’m afraid, the feeling of being on constant high alert. But Aspen also teaches us that we don’t have to handle our fear alone: Aspens live in colonies which grow from a single seed and spread by suckering roots. While an individual tree—the part we see above ground—will live up to 150 years, the colonies are thousands of years old… meaning that the continual life of the root system far exceeds the life expressed by one tree.

Aspen teaches that when we are rooted in community, we can overcome our individual shakiness and find strength together.


So as I try to learn the names of these strange new winds that are blowing through our lives, I’m thinking about what communities I want to be a part of and how to choose communities that feel purpose-filled and peaceful. I want to spend my time with people who remind me that I am part of a strong and ancient root system. That is the true lesson of the Purim Carnival. The teenagers in Zichron are really no different from teenagers everywhere: individually, they goof off in school, make bad decisions, and are generally a pain in the rear-end. But something magical happens when they come together with an aligned purpose.

What small thing can you do right now to gift yourself a sense of purpose? How can that purpose touch your community so that you’re constantly reminded of a sense of belonging?

If your mind is chittering like Aspen leaves in the wind, start by centering and stilling:

– be outside (however that feels possible for you right now)
– tune into some Binaural Beats
– Oprah and Deepak have revived their meditation challenge
– watch an episode of Ground Your Shit
– download Kate O’Hara’s Herbiary coloring pages
– laugh, read, stretch, breathe
– we’ve put together some stress support at Herbiary

Sending so much love through the internets—