Vicki cuddling with her son at one month.
“I often describe what I do as caring for the hearts and spirits of mamas, which absolutely includes Mama Earth,” Vicki Rivard told me over a recent email. Vicki is a mama, earth warrior, healer, advocate, and writer whose work honors women: their voices, their courage, their strength, their pain, their wellness. It seems she has stepped outside of time and reached the universal spirit of the feminine, offering wisdom that is as deep, expansive, and compassionate as it is relevant and applicable.
The following is an interview I asked her to join me in where she merges her experiences with Mama Earth and motherhood, calling on our mystical earth to guide her own journey with her son.
Q: What was your mother like when you were a child? Are you like her?
A: When I think of my mom, these are the first words that come to mind: Simplicity. Finding joy in the small things. Appreciation for nature and her gifts (like rainbows - my mom loves rainbows). Strength. Generosity. And an attitude of, "don't sweat the small stuff - and it's all small stuff."
Growing up, I always thought my mom and I were very different - she liked numbers, I liked words; she liked Math, I liked English; she wanted to travel in Canada, I dreamt of traveling abroad - but, now that I'm older (and, especially, now that I'm a mother myself), I see that we are more alike than I realized. (I, too, run outside every time there is a rainbow.)
Q: You told me, “I believe that in order to heal the world, we must heal ourselves and that in order to heal ourselves, we must heal the world. What has your own experience of creating and sustaining life taught you about the earth’s role as mother and creator?
A: The Earth is our Mother, period. She gives and gives and gives and keeps on giving, asking for very little in return. She gives us air to breathe and water to drink and plants to nourish and sustain us. She keeps us alive. But she cannot keep giving forever, without her resources being replenished.
Like the human mother who gives without question or hesitation, she can give until she is in a state of total depletion. She (the human mother and the Earth Mother) needs to be cared for, too. She needs to feel loved, too. She is more than happy to give - she takes great pleasure in giving - but she needs to rest, sometimes, too.
Q: Maya Angelou says love doesn’t possess, it doesn’t cling. Love says, ‘I want to be near you, I want to hold you, to touch you, but, wherever you are, I love you.' To your child, you wrote: “I pray that . . . you remember that I am your mother and that, for a short time, your tiny heart beat inside my body, filling me up with the most radiant light, and we were magic together.” What have pregnancy and motherhood taught you about possession—about holding on and letting go?
A: I didn't understood the real meaning of letting go until I was pregnant, gave birth to my son, and became a mom. I mean, I understood the meaning, in heart and mind, but now I understand it in my body. The understanding has stitched itself into my bones.
The whole process of pregnancy is about letting go - letting go of expectation, of worry, of fear and, most importantly, of control. As women, we can eat well and exercise well and do all of the "right things" but we cannot control whether or not we will conceive in a given month, we cannot control whether or not our growing baby is growing as he/she should and developing well, we cannot control when our contractions will start and labour will begin, we cannot control anything! We simply must care for ourselves, as best as we can, and trust in the unseen forces of this world - call it God, call it Magic, call it Universal Wisdom - to help us conceive and grow and eventually birth a tiny human. It's wild!
The process of labour itself is a whole other kind of letting go - a very, very physical kind. I actually called my contractions "expansions" because the word contraction makes me tighten up, while the word expansion encourages me to open, open, open and let it all go, which is what giving birth is all about.
And then there's actual motherhood, which is a continual exercise in letting go. Every day, every week, we reach new milestones and I have to let go a little more. When baby starts sleeping a bit more and nursing a bit less, there is a letting go. When baby outgrows newborn clothes, there is a letting go. When baby transitions from co-sleeping to crib sleeping, there is a letting go. When baby starts eating solids, at around six months of age, and his poop changes, there is a letting go. It is never ending. I feel like I am in a constant state of mourning and rejoicing; of sadness and celebration. Motherhood is heartbreaking and heart-building at the exact same time.
Q: What is spirit?
(One of my favorite quotes on spirit is from theologist and earth warrior Elizabeth Johnson: “Spirit is the life that gives life. She is radiant life energy that, like wind, fire, and water, awakens and enlivens all things. . . . When things become damaged, the power to refresh them pours out from her.”)
A: I would absolutely agree with Ms. Johnson: Spirit is the life that gives life.
I would add that she is the radiant life energy that never dies. Einstein proved that energy cannot die, it can only be transformed. To me, Spirit is that force that is always present, within us and without us, continually transforming the in-breath into the out-breath, the oak kernel into the oak tree, the collision of sperm and egg into the baby, the living body into the empty vessel. She is the consistent in a world of inconsistencies; the always there; the thing you feel when you are completely alone and, yet, not alone at all.
Q: Finish the sentence:
I am an advocate for . . . Mama Earth. Women. Animals. Traditional Chinese Medicine and other natural paths to healing. PEACE.
I feel reverence for . . . the tiny, blue, water-marble floating in space that we call "home."
My body is . . . my soul home, for now. My body is also a lifemaker and lifegiver. She is very, very strong.
I feel a sense of urgency about . . . Whale and dolphin captivity. It needs to stop.
I wish . . . that "success" was measured by how much love we give and how kind we are and how purposefully we live our lives, rather than by how much money we earn. The most successful people I know are those who earn very little money (and, as such, are not seen as successful by society at large) but who give of their time, their energy, their heart to causes that deeply matter to them - and who change the world by doing so.
Our birthright is . . . love.
Peace on earth is . . . choosing love over fear, again and again and again and again.
Motherhood is . . . everything. It is, simply, EVERYTHING. The most intense love, the most mind-numbing exhaustion, the most irrational fear, the most radiant joy, the most acute loneliness, the most extraordinary sisterhood. It is everything. It is the greatest adventure of my life.
I, without a doubt, believe in . . . God.
Note: Vicki is currently in the process of launching her own healing practice called Mahina Medicine, which is geared toward the wellness of women, with a special focus on mothers. Mahina is one of the names of the Hawaiian Moon Goddess. And the Moon, as we know, has long been a symbol for womanhood and all of its cycles. Her goal, with this practice, is to offer a safe space for women to connect with their inner voice, to let go of shame, to rediscover courage, to forgive themselves, to heal their hearts, to reclaim their health, and to let their (moon)light shine, shine, shine.
Connect with Vicki on her blog: http://www.thewellnessway.blogspot.com