Dedicated to Maia Toll
My great teacher, Maia Toll, has announced her next transition. She is closing one of her two Herbiary shops in Philadelphia, and relocating with her husband Andrew and their dogs to Asheville NC to set up there. I am simultaneously happy and sad. I suppose ‘sad’ doesn’t quite do it justice- bereft is more appropriate!
I grew up with herbal medicine. I told everyone that’s what I was going to do with my life, from my earliest memories. I just had no idea what that meant. So my passion and dreams slipped away, off the back burner and into the back porch on a dusty shelf.
One day in March 2010 I met Maia. She gave a workshop at an event I was attending, and I was excited enough to join her break-out session that afternoon. The drive home was full of discussions about her and her teachings. There was something both professional and welcoming about her style- she knew what she was talking about and she wanted to share it with us. Later that spring I was gifted a spot in her Foundations of Community Herbalism class. The rest of my world promptly went severely out of focus and into total chaos; I was suddenly being given the chance to reinvent myself and find my Truth. It was there, sill in the back porch, waiting. Maia had opened up the space in me that needed those old dreams of mine.
These last 4 years have been amazing, and awe-inspiring, and just wonderful. Maia has become someone who gives me great hugs, who came to see me settled in my new apartment because she’s happy I have a home, who trusted me with her dogs when she was out of town, who has been a guiding light and a genuine supporter of me. I love her as a teacher and a colleague and a friend.
That’s why I’m also so very very happy for her. She is so excited to move on, to have the next adventure, and to change again. I’ve seen many iterations of Maia in 4 years- some I just watched, and some I got to be involved with (very exciting stuff!) I know this is her next phase, it’s the natural progression of the world. I just can’t mourn her loss, that feels too selfish to me, this is just too right for her.
Of course, I've been able to see her often! After next week, it’s all over. She’ll have vanished from my orbit, and then I’ll find myself missing her terribly. But hopefully we won’t lose touch, and I’ll get to see her evolve into her next guise, bigger and better than Philly could ever let her be.
In one of my favorite books, Anne of Green Gables, Anne and her best friend have to say goodbye to their favorite teacher at the same time that Anne finishes her time as a student of that country school. The scene is full of images of their past together and probable future apart, but there are a few lines that I’m expecting to live out at our class retreat next week:
“It does seem as if it was the end of everything, doesn’t it?” [Diana] said dismally…Two big tears rolled down by Diana’s nose.
“If you would stop crying I could,” said Anne imploringly. “Just as soon as I put away my hanky I see you brimming up and that starts me off again. As Mrs. Lynde says, ‘If you can’t be cheerful, be as cheerful as you can.’”
Even when I’m crying, I’ll be cheerful on the inside for you, Maia. I’ll miss you. As one of Anne’s students wrote to her (well, plagiarized, really, but that's a longer story...)
“Dearest teacher, good night. The sun has set and the stars are shining… stars that are as bright and beautiful as your eyes… May God watch over you and protect you from all harm. Your afecksionate pupil,”
*I just have to add that, after writing this, I went for an evening walk in town. I had just missed a rain shower, the trees and porch roofs were still dripping, and the air smelled of softness and cut grass and hope. I started considering that Water is the last of the 5 Elements, the end of the cycle, it’s death and finishing. However, one of our co-teachers last year taught us that the circle never ends- it’s a spiral, so each completion moves up or down a level, because the end of something is the beginning of something else.
My thoughts from how fitting it was to be walking in the Water during Spring (Wood, the beginning of the cycle) thinking of the transitions my teacher and I are both making, to thinking how fitting it was to be walking there in that particular spot. Unbeknownst to me when I moved into my great little apartment last Autumn, this is the area Maia grew up in. I’m beginning my true life in the place where she began her life too, and now she’s finishing her cycle as I’m starting mine.
Now, I know that moving away from here is nothing new for Maia, she’s lived lots of different places, even Ireland for a time when she began her herbal training. But still, it’s fitting.
Merry meet, Maia.
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