Author Archives: cindyricksgers

About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

High Hopes

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I don’t want to draw too much attention to my lapsed blogging of late, for fear it will become one other negative thing I identify with, like chronic lateness, procrastination, and a dependence on coffee. Then, it becomes even harder to do better.

That’s why, though I no longer walk every single day, rarely go farther than two miles and almost never at a pace that would qualify as exercise, I still label myself a walker. Though time spent in the studio is limited, and good, productive, art-making days are even more scarce, I continue to call myself an artist. I am still a gardener, though I’ve done little beyond watching the weeds crowd into my perennial beds and overtake my vegetable plot for two years now. And, even though I have neglected this blog for more than ten days and haven’t written much of anything else of any consequence either, I am still a writer.

We’ve had several cold, damp, windy and rainy that are my absolute least favorite kind of day, when it comes to weather. To add to the chill and discomfort, the thermostat on the propane stove that heats my house has quit working. As it’s almost summer, and I won’t be needing to have the heat on then, I decided the repair could wait. I manually turn on the stove when I get up in the morning, and turn it off when the house has warmed up. I do the same thing when I get home from work. It’s a fine system until three days of wind and rain come along to throw a monkey wrench into it. Then, I find myself grumbling around in a damp and cold space, morning and evening.

I spent the Easter weekend on the mainland, catching up with my dear friend, Linda. In grade school, when we first became friends, we’d take our lunches over to Crampton Park. There, under the bridge, on the narrow concrete ledge beside the water of the Flint River, we ate while we talked about boys and bras and the things we could see in the murky water. We’d share stories, laughs and big plans for the future. The many years that have passed since then were evident last weekend. We spent one long day shopping for and visiting with my elderly aunt. Another, we spent wandering through the cemetery. Still, there was lots to talk about, and plenty of laughs.

On days when it isn’t raining and cold, there is a definite scent of spring in the air. My snowdrops and narcissus are already blooming, and early tulips are in bud. The forsythia is starting to show yellow; trees and shrubs have leaves ready to unfurl. I’ve been working around the yard, and in the smaller flower beds. When the sun is out, I grab the trowel and pull the wheelbarrow out as soon as I get home from work. While the dogs entertain themselves with springtime smells and chasing snakes, I work at moving fallen leaves and pulling weeds. There’s an awful lot yet to do, but I’m seeing progress.

I have a couple new venues for my artwork this summer, so am even more determined to get some fresh work to show. I think of it in the afternoon, when I’m stocking shelves and tidying the aisles at work. I imagine going straight to the studio when I get home; I picture the projects I’ll tackle and the work I’ll get done. But, then, by the time I pull into my driveway, my energy is flagging. The dogs need to go out. The yard needs work. Then there’s dinner to think about. And clean-up. By that time, my thoughts have turned to my book, and bed.

But, here is Sunday. A new week is always filled with possibility. The sun was out, but while I’ve been sitting here, it has ducked back behind the clouds. Still, a nice day for a walk. If it’s warm enough, I’m going to open the windows to the breeze, and give the house a good cleaning. Then, I’ll let the weather dictate whether the balance of the day is spent outside in the garden, or upstairs in the studio. Either way, I have high hopes.

Artifacts to Memories: One Image

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It doesn’t take much, these days, to bring up a memory. My head seems more filled with the past than with current events. I spent a dreary cold, damp and rainy afternoon on the sofa, recently. That was enough.

I wore the sweatpants that have been a part of my wardrobe for the last twenty years.  I “inherited” them from an old boyfriend, who left them at my house. First, they were a comfortable, warm layer to throw on for running errands or taking a walk. Eventually, I wore them in the studio. I’m a messy artist; I wipe my hands on my clothes. Soon, they were fit for nothing else. Now, they are so crusted with glue, acrylic paint and polymer medium, they could probably stand on their own. Their colorful surface could tell many stories.

As a top layer, I put on my baggy pink sweatshirt. I bought it, used, a couple years ago while treasure-hunting in re-sale shops with my sister, Brenda. Two dollars. It has too many spots and stains to ever be worn in public anymore, but it’s a comfy choice when I’m at home.

Over all, because I felt chilled with the dampness, I wore my bathrobe. It is fleece, gray and dingy white, with an all over pattern of sheep . My mother bought it for me many Christmases ago because it reminded her of one I’d had when I was sixteen. First, I didn’t really think it was my style. Fleece? Sheep? I thought I would have preferred terry cloth, or chenille. I’ve grown to appreciate it, though, over the years. Now that my mom is no longer with us, I treasure it as a gift from her, along with the thoughtfulness she put into it.

One ring on my finger. That, I bought on a whim several years ago while browsing at Livingstone Studio. I’m not much of a jewelry person, but every now and then, something catches my eye. My sister, Robin, wears rings on almost every finger. It is a wonderful look for her, and one I thought of borrowing. I don’t have a lifestyle that suits rings, though. I don’t think to take them off, and my hands are too often in paint or clay, detergent or other corrosive substance. This ring has hung in there with me, though. It doesn’t turn my finger green, and it has just a bit of sparkle, that I like. It draws my eyes, sometimes, to my hand. The older I get, the more my hands remind me of my mother’s hands, and that’s always a good feeling.

One book, a crocheted afghan,  and two dogs completed the little vignette. It was a good afternoon.

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What’s Up?

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I was awakened this morning, early, with a nightmare. No monsters or killers – just another missed deadline, another failure, and another unfortunate conversation with my daughter where we each try to pin the blame on the other. It felt real, and it drove me out of bed at five AM with a racing pulse, angry, frustrated and sad.

Today is my sister’s birthday. Though she is no longer with us, I miss Nita, still, and that was playing around the corners of my mind, too.

I started coffee and sat down with my planner. On the right, a list of things I need to accomplish for my news-magazine, right away, to avoid that missed deadline of my nightmare. It is a long list. On the left, a column of other things I hoped to get to today. Right at the top, I wrote “write.” Today is blog day.

I missed writing last Sunday, on the mainland without my computer. My aunt was in the hospital (she still is!) with pneumonia. I went over to offer comfort and support, and (I admit!) to connect with three of my sisters who drove up to do the same. The island feels a little sad without her here, and I’m sure worry contributed to my gloomy mood this morning.

I missed writing on Thursday. With, once again,  no new art to display, I couldn’t bring myself to bumble my way through yet another “Timeout for Art.” I am continually frustrated by not enough time for the studio.

Today, having already missed too many days this year, writing made the top of my list. But, I didn’t get to it first. Nor did I tackle any of the varied and necessary jobs in  the right hand column. I certainly didn’t consider any of the housekeeping and gardening chores, either.

First, I checked the news. Then, I watched a “Ted Talk.” Having last week watched one by Matt Cutts titled “Try Something New for Thirty Days,” I am now trying to watch a “Ted Talk” every day…at least for thirty days. By that time, I was far enough removed from my to-do list that I could waste another block of time playing on-line Scrabble.

Lack of accomplishment never improves my mood. I finally forced myself up out of my chair, threw on sweats, and took the dogs for a walk. “Walk” was, in fact, the second item on my list. I was determined to walk off my funk, and come home with a better attitude.

As soon as I got outside, the gloom started to lift. It was a beautiful, balmy spring day! The crocus are blooming in my front yard. I could hear the prehistoric sounds of the Sandhill Cranes, returning to nest on the pond. We came upon one fallen tree with a design left by an ambitious woodpecker, and another covered with shelf fungus. A beautiful old rock pile marked the forgotten edge of an ancient field. Things were looking up! And, to top it off, if I were to happen to look up, well, that sky!

 

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Artifacts to Memories: This Pig

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I found her among the ads in the back of a gardening magazine: a cast iron piggy bank. She is different than most piggy banks, with their cartoon-like, gender-less countenance and big fat bellies designed for holding many coins. This is a realistic depiction of a pig, reminiscent of a character in an E.B.White story, with full udder pronouncing her gender and an expression that reminds me of Rodin’s “Thinker.” A noble pig.

I placed my order, with the intention of giving the bank to my father-in-law, Jack, for Christmas. When it arrived, I was so enchanted with it, I couldn’t bring myself to give it away! Jack got homemade slippers for Christmas, and the story of the pig, which made him laugh out loud and tease me with mock offense that I had kept his gift. The pig became a treasured object in my home: useful for coin collecting, heavy enough to act as a bookend, a reminder of the pigs we’d raised as children, and a beacon of hope for the small farm I hoped to someday have. It was also the first of what turned out to be quite a collection of pigs.

The next pig was a wooden cutout, varnished to shine, with an inch of twine for a tail. Then I found a pair of silly pink pig salt and pepper shakers, and a little china sow attached by short lengths of fine chain to three little piglets. I purchased a small David Bigelow intaglio print of a pig strapped into a pair of broad wings, prepared to step off the edge of a cliff. “Moment of Truth” is the title. My husband bought me a larger print by the same artist, titled “Escape from the Cycle,” that has hundreds of pigs rising up out of the grid of plowed fields and pig pens.

By that time, I was officially a “collector of pigs.” That led to gifts of swine in every form, from buttons to pot holders to throw pillows. When I spent my winters in a tiny apartment on the campus of Michigan State University, the pigs dominated the small kitchen. Three dimensional versions marched and wallowed along the top of my bookshelf. Pig towels hung from the oven door, and pig pot holders sat in a basket near the stove. It eventually became just too much pork.

When I graduated, and cleared out that apartment to move back to my home on Beaver Island, I wrapped all the little statues and packed them into a sturdy box, labelled “PIGS.” It sat in my attic here for several years as I contemplated where to display them. Life here tends more toward natural treasures. My windowsills are laden with ever-changing displays of pine cones, driftwood, shells, beach stones, and the occasional bird’s nest.  No place for pigs. Finally, I went through the box, gave several pigs away and donated others to our re-sale shop. The rest, I brought back out for use or display.

I kept the two intaglio prints; the small one always hangs above my desk. I kept a small green tin with a pig painted on the sliding lid. I kept three little squeaky rubber pigs, that my grandchildren used to play with; my big dog likes to carry them around now. I kept the jump rope with carved and painted wooden pig handles, though I doubt I’ll be starting a jump rope routine…ever.

Of course, I held onto my original cast iron piggy bank. It still has a dignified appearance; it is a good place for stray coins and continues to work well as a bookend. It makes me want to re-read the essays of E.B.White. It reminds me of hopes and dreams I’ve grown out of or abandoned. When I think about it, I am transported to a long-ago Christmas, in a much different life. I can still here Jack’s laugh, and picture his expression of mock horror as he asked, “You kept my present??” For all of that, I keep the pig.

 

 

Timeout for Art: Life as Art

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IMG_0407This is not to suggest that MY life is art, though I love the idea. My life is mostly common. I can’t seem to even get the flamboyant signature and creative swagger that would identify me as an artist. Now and then, though, I come upon someone who, through and through, lives their life as art. This morning, while procrastinating about some writing I have to get done, and contemplating what half-finished piece of art to try to talk about, I was reading through some of the other blogs I follow. Martha Marshall, An Artist’s Journal, had wonderful visuals of studio and works -in-progress, and wise words about showing up. From comments on her essay, I was led to the writings of Valorie Grace Hallinan. Oh, my! First, her writing, which is lovely.  Her concerns for the earth resonated with me, and the reminder of the wonderful essays of Wendell Berry was much appreciated. Finally, this video clip of an interview Berry did with Bill Moyers…wonderful! Some people truly live their lives as art! This made my day! I’m sharing the whole thing!

 

“I can tell you confidently that the many owners of small farms, shops, and stores, and the self-employed craftspeople who were thriving in my county in 1945, did not think of their work as ‘a job.’ Most of these people, along with most skilled employees who worked in their home county or home town, have […]

via Wendell Berry’s Our Only World — Books Can Save A Life

Artifacts to Memories: Incidentals

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While sorting through books recently, in my continuing effort to pare down, I came upon one with an inscription that said, “Christmas 1994, to Cindy with Love, Mom.” I sat down, then,  and paged through the book: flower descriptions and photographs. It may have been the first time I looked at it since 1994. Then I returned it to the shelf.

Some things keep a place in my home because they contribute to my idea of this person I am. Books, baskets, beach stones, candles and houseplants fit this category. Other things justify their continued occupation in my small home because they keep a place in my heart. Not because of what they mean to me, exactly, but because of the stories, and the memories they seem to hold.

When my sister, Sheila, died, I took her partially-used jar of anti-age cream. “Since she won’t ever need it, ” I quipped, while grieving her premature death. Every time I picked up the jar, I thought of her. When I finally emptied it, I cried as if the loss were fresh. I could hardly bring myself to throw the empty jar away!

In my studio, where the walls reflect whatever I’m working on and the scene changes frequently, two things are steadfast. The first is a picture of Elvis painted in day-glow colors on black velvet, mounted in a cheap and gaudy drop-in frame. The second is a low-relief still-life of apples in soft copper.

Elvis was a tongue-in-cheek gift from my friend, Linda. Many times, as we struggled our way through art school, we kidded each other, “At least we’re not forced to be painting Elvis on black velvet!” It was our shorthand reference to selling out: giving up our artistic visions and ideals just to make a quick profit. In my small campus apartment, Elvis was displayed right in the living space. As guests, by turns, registered awe or disgust at the painting, my daughters would clarify, often in unison, “It’s ironic!” For all of those memories, I hold on to Elvis.

I made the copper apples in ninth grade art class. I can’t remember the teacher’s name, but I remember generally using that classroom to make trouble. I rarely took an assignment seriously. I liked working with the soft copper, though, and was happy with the finished project. So was my mother, when I presented it to her. She hung it in the hallway just outside the kitchen and near the stairs. It held that position for the next forty-five years! After my mother died, the piece was discreetly moved to the garage, where it stayed until my sister, Brenda, suggested I might like to take it home. She was right!

For the memory of my fourteen-year-old self, crude though it is, I like it. For my mother’s encouragement and loyalty in hanging it prominently and leaving it on display for all those years, I love it.

 

 

 

What’s in a Name?

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My mother was a master at the subtle art of wrapping an admonishment up with a little guilt, a dash of shame and a good deal of keeping-a-child-in-her-place, and delivering it all in one concise phrase:

“Well, aren’t you the Smartypants!”

“Look at you, Miss Lazybones!”

“Here’s Little Miss Know-It-All.”

It was very effective. I tried it myself, with my own children, with less success. As usual, I talked too much:

“Well, Miss I-Should-Be-Able-To-Keep-My-Room-How-I-Want, if what you want is to keep your room messy, than what I want is for you to keep your door closed!

“Okay, Miss Can’t-Stand-Mixed-Food, here is your casserole…separated.”

“Well, if it isn’t Little Miss I’m-too-sick-to-go-to-school-in-the-morning-but-well-enough-to-be-up-playing-with-dolls-and-now-jumping-on-the-bed!”

It’s even less effective with the dogs, mainly because they don’t understand sarcasm. I forge on, anyway:

For Darla, there’s “Miss Garbage Breath” when she’s gotten in the trash, “Miss Growl” for the way she lets me know she wants to go out, and “Miss Bunny Rabbit” for the stuffed animal she loves to carry around in her mouth.

Miss Rosa Parks is “Little Miss Pee-Pee On The Floor” – for obvious reasons. “Miss Boy” is short for Miss Boy who Cried Wolf, when she goes to the door without really needing outside, in hopes that I’ll – in my distracted state – still give her a treat. “Miss Butt-In-The-Air” is for the position she assumes when she wants me to drop everything and go play with her. “Miss Bark,” is for when she torments my ears with her shrill, sharp bark. It always causes her to give me a raised eyebrow, wondering if I have simply mispronounced “Parks.”

They both have other names,that are not laced with sarcasm or ridicule. Baby-doll, Sweet Girl, Good Girl, Honey-Bunch and Sweetheart are ways I address each of them. Now that I think of it, those are also terms I used for my daughters…and that my mother used for her children, too!