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.

No Topic This Tuesday

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Natalie Goldberg says, “having a topic to plow into can give your mind direction.” A topic evades me this morning. Today, rather than scrambling to come up with something, I have committed to it. This is no-topic Tuesday. With nothing to provide direction, let’s see where this keyboard will take me.

I’m reading Transcription, the newest book by Kate Atkinson. After reading – and falling in love with the writing in – Life After Life, I’ve made a point to watch for her books. They don’t all move me the way that first one did, but she’s a good solid writer, anyway. Other authors I seek out are Laurie R. King, Barbara Kingsolver, and Louise Erdrich. I’ve been putting off getting Kingsolver’s latest book, though. One bad review reminded me of other recent works of hers that have disappointed. I seem to have so little time to read these days, I try not to commit to a book that isn’t worth it.

Other titles on my nightstand include Fear by Bob Woodward, Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, and Consolations by David Whyte. Some, I have started, then saved until I’m more in the mood for that particular writing style; others are on-going. Some nights, I’m too tired to follow a plot line. Then, a short essay or a few paragraphs of creative writing suits me.

My dining room table needs to be cleared this morning. It’s the first item on my “to-do” list. It is especially over-burdened today, as I cleared my desk yesterday. All the excess just got shifted over to the table. So, facing south, I’m quite pleased with my newly cleared work space. Turn to the north, however, and I’m face-to-face with the results of the half-finished job.

One tablecloth, one small houseplant and two candles: that’s what belongs on the dining room table. This morning, in addition to those items, there is:

  • a small stack of stationery, notepads and stamps, formerly Aunt Katie’s belongings, found by my sisters in a drawer at the farmhouse, and sent home with me;
  • a large stack of books purchased as Christmas gifts for my grandchildren;
  • installation instructions for my new smoke alarm;
  • one bag of Damar resin and one butane torch for encaustic painting, both brand new and not yet put away;
  • a hammer and nail, for hanging the new smoke alarm;
  • a pile of writing books, exercise manuals, receipts, and miscellaneous other papers that used to take up space on the desk;
  • a pair of scissors (used to cut open the clam shell package that the smoke alarm came in);
  • an empty bowl that, two weeks ago, held Halloween candy;
  • my purse;
  • my daily journal, with the directive, “CLEAR TABLE” in plain view at the top left under “Tuesday.”

On the same page, at the bottom of the right-hand column, the reminder says “BLOG POST.” Which just goes to show where my priorities lie, even when I have nothing in particular to write about!

 

 

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The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #46

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List one achievement, big or small, every day this week:

[I am writing my list based on last week, because who knows what the future holds!]

  • Monday, I made soup. I soaked dried beans until they were softened, then drained them, added fresh water, plus vegetable stock, stewed tomatoes, barley, wild rice and lots of vegetables. It simmered on the stove until everything was tender. I ladled up a couple portions for lunches later in the week, and brought the rest to the farmhouse for my family there.
  • Tuesday, I voted. I also made popovers to go along with the dinner my sisters were preparing at the farmhouse, and an apple pie for dessert. My sisters plan so well when they come to the island, I’m rarely able to make a single contribution, so it’s always a nice treat when I can.
  • Wednesday, the euchre team made up of me and my nephew Bob beat the other team (my sister, Brenda, and my cousin, Keith) both games!
  • Thursday, we did it again!
  • Friday, I saw my family off at the airport…without bursting into tears. Though I felt like it. I finished out my work day, then went home to unpack the two heavy bags they had sent home with me. Which included a lifetime supply of mustard, enough catsup to last a year, at least, if I ever even start to like catsup, and a few other condiments. There were some file folders and other things found in Aunt Katie’s drawers. There were potatoes from Keith’s garden, goulash left over from Thursday’s supper, and the balance of my soup.
  • Saturday, after ice and snow from an early winter storm sealed the driver’s side door of my car closed, I managed to crawl in from the passenger side door, climb over the console, and wedge this [too plump and inflexible] body down into the driver’s seat. That is after clearing the outside of the car with a broom and a kitchen spatula. Because the snow shovel was safely tucked into the garden shed, which was inaccessible because of the snow. Before coming home in the evening, I remembered to pick up a few groceries, and to put gas in the car.
  • Today, I drove in to work, then home again, on ice-slick roads. They seemed more slippery today than they were yesterday, after even more snow fell overnight. The first winter weather is always a driving adventure.

Fall Memories

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This time of year, I walk my dogs on roads and paths and two-track trails that are carpeted with fallen leaves. Usually, the whistling wind or the cars driving through send the mass of leaves to the edges, where they rest among the ferns, briers and grasses that grow there. They settle, sometimes, in mounds on the roadside. My dogs find piles of leaves terribly interesting, and always take the time to dismantle them, registering every scent they find there.

In other areas, where there is no traffic, and the sheltering trees slow the wind’s action, the leaves pile up. Last week, before the fall rains came to Beaver Island turning everything to a dull and sodden mess, we wandered through long pathways of crisp fallen leaves several inches deep.

Sunshine, the smell of autumn in the air, and the sound of leaves crackling underfoot brought me back to my childhood. I let my usually quick pace falter; I deliberately changed to a shuffling walk that kicked up, with every step, crisp leaves in shades of gold, red and orange. I was transported, in my mind, to another fall day more than sixty years ago.

Three tiny children, Brenda, Cindy and Teddy, were making their way, through deep autumn leaves, across their own big front yard to the big front yard of the house next door. That house is where the grandparents lived and, there in the yard, on a white wooden bench, sat their grandfather. The children were going to pay him a visit.

Maybe their Mama had sent them there, after bundling them up against the autumn chill. Or they might have come up with the idea on their own for, as my memory serves, we were allowed to travel freely between the two yards. Whatever the reason, on that fall day, three children set out together through the fallen leaves to sit with their Grandpa Ted.

The leaves were deep! Stately elm trees still thrived in Michigan at that time, and several of them graced the front yard there. They sheltered chipmunks and squirrels that my grandmother coaxed to eat from her hand. They provided shade for the bench where my grandfather often sat at the end of his work day. In the fall, they dropped their leaves in what – to small children – seemed unbelievable depth.

We could tip backward anywhere, and the leaves would cushion our fall. We could dive face-first into a mound of them, and never reach the ground below. We could throw them up in the air just to watch them rain down on us. We could make giant piles of them, with or without a child hidden inside. And we did all of these things, but on this one remembered day, we were intent on our purpose.

With our destination in sight, we made our way through the bright, crackling ground cover. Sometimes we held each other’s hands for support; sometimes not. We pushed through the deep mounds, up to our waists in places. We shuffled through, enjoying the sound and the feel of the leaves. We’d tilt sideways, now and then, to try to take a giant step over the leaves, giggling as we fell.

Finally, we made it to our destination! There was our Grandpa, grinning a wide grin. One-by-one he picked us up, hugged us, nuzzled our neck, and deposited us on the seat beside him. We were all smiling. Brenda, the oldest and most responsible of the children, let out a big sigh, “Grandpa, you should get these leaves raked,” she said.

In just that instant, with the remembered sound of my sister’s five-year-old voice, my memories shifted to a time twenty years ago, when Brenda’s granddaughter, Samantha, used that exact tone of voice to direct her own Grandpa. Then, in the blink of an eye, in this present day, I could hear the same tone reflected in Samantha’s daughter, Kayleigh, as she scolds her great-Grandpa for things left undone.

Then back, in my mind, to that far-away time with my Grandpa Ted, who loved us – the children of his only and much-loved child, Janice – whole-heartedly. I imagine his heart swelling  as he watched us, tiny children, teetering and swaying through the deep leaves to visit him. I can almost hear him chuckle. I can feel the joy he felt as he lifted each of us onto the bench. In response to my sister, he smiled. “Yup, sweetie,” he said, “I was just thinking about that!”

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #45

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List the things, people, and experiences you want to say yes to:

This page also asks, “Do you ever hold yourself back from an experience that could bring you happiness?” Yes! The answer is yes, wholeheartedly YES! I do it all the time. I miss out, I think, on a lot of opportunities, on many wonderful  things. Sometimes out of a sense of duty, sometimes shyness, and sometimes fear.

There have been rare but extraordinary exceptions. As a young adult with two baby girls, I started college. Over the next fifteen years, while raising my daughters, moving around the state of Michigan, holding several jobs and struggling with (and finally ending) a bad marriage, I earned an Associate’s Degree, then a B.F.A., then a Master of Fine Arts Degree.

Against the best advice of family and friends, I moved, with my small family, to Beaver Island. One winter, I took a trip, alone, to Grand Turk Island, to work on an archaeological dig. On a cold October day not that many years ago, I set sail from Paradise Bay on Beaver Island to travel to Port Huron as part of a three-person crew on a 29 foot sailboat. Five days and four nights on the water. In October. I took a ride in a bi-plane. I climbed onto the back of a camel. Last August, right in the thick of our busy season, I took ten days off work in order to go to Chicago with my daughter and her family.

Mostly, though, I let things pass me by. Maybe I’m afraid of disappointment, or fearful of seeming foolish. I’m often stopped by a sense of being indispensable in my job, or by the notion that I can’t afford time off. Fear of failure. Fear of something new. Fear of something out of my control. Fear. Knowing all of this, and considering that at this stage in my life,  there may be fewer opportunities to take advantage of, what are the things, people, and experiences I want to say yes to?

  • EVERY SINGLE ONE! Every chance at adventure, each new learning experience, time with every new or old friend, any opportunity for fun…that’s what I want to say “yes”  to!

Mornings Like This

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Mornings like this, I have no clear path.

Outside, the sky is bright, but clouds hide the sun. It’s chilly. Not freezing, though. It’s not one of those warm and sunny fall days that demands I find an outdoor project. Nor is it cold, windy or rainy enough to necessitate staying inside. I could go either way.

Inside, as usual, projects pull me in many directions. Yesterday, I tidied the house and did my daily chores. I brought the compost to the bin, and the recyclables to the transfer station. I did all of the laundry, picked up packages at the airport, and went to the grocery store for a few necessities. That completed list left today open for projects.

For several months now, cleaning and rearranging the studio has been on the top of my “Tasks” list. Noticed regularly, and ignored. With new art supplies to find a spot for, I talked to myself this morning about getting at it. In my handwritten journal, I spent a whole page plotting out the manner and order of getting it done. The last line I wrote was, “but the floor…”

There is still the job of painting the floor. My progress is glacially slow. The bathroom floor is painted, which diverts my attention with its sloppy edges screaming out the need for woodwork there. In the laundry room, after weeks of contemplation and procrastination, the patch of floor under the clothes dryer is done. Now, I’m stymied by the need to disconnect the washer, and pull it away from the wall.

Fortunately, being Tuesday, I have this blog to divert my attention. And yet, on mornings like this, I am engulfed with doubt and misgivings about writing. Do I really, still, have anything worthwhile to say? I struggle more and more each week with topic and relevance.

Today is my grandson’s birthday. Patrick is sixteen today. I was present at his birth. All photos taken in that hospital room of his newborn self have a holy glow. I can still clearly picture my daughter’s tired smile. At sixteen, Patrick is a strong, handsome and respectful young man, and I’m very proud of him.

Yesterday was my father’s birthday. If he were still here, he’d be ninety-two years old. As it stands, he’s been gone twenty years last August. I still talk to him, though, when I see things that I know would interest him, and we have lively conversations in my mind whenever I’m working in the garden.

On other days, either of these topics could fuel an entire blog. Today, I worry about the universal appeal. Am I being self-centered? I eke out barely a paragraph on each subject, and wonder if I haven’t said it all before.

Some days, circumstances or blind enthusiasm direct me to action. On days like this, it’s rather a matter of just plodding on, one foot in front of the other.

 

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #44

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List the gifts you want to give to others through actions, words, and what you can make:

  • About a year ago, following up on an idea presented by my friend Kathy, I started writing a timetable of my life. Not memories, exactly, but dates with places and events. For instance: I was born in 1952; my Grandpa Ted died when I was in the first grade; I attended Bishop Kelley School from first through eighth grade; I first moved to Beaver Island, with my husband and two young daughters, in the fall of 1978; my Dad died in August of 1998; my mother died in August of 2011. That’s just a sketchy idea of my intentions. For those times, long after I’m gone, when my daughters might wonder when it was that we lived at Corner 16, or what year we moved to East Lansing, or any other detail that might not otherwise be readily available. It was a good plan a year ago, and it is still a good idea, though – after an enthusiastic start – it has been completely neglected. I’d like to find time to finish it.
  • Along the same lines, I’d like to put a book of memories together for my brother and sisters, my daughters and their children. I actually have most of it already written. I did it in 2016, when I was writing a blog every day. I divided my childhood into random sections, as we’d always lived in the same house. My young adulthood was easily divided by going from one address to the next, and writing about the memories attached to each place. Now, it’s just a matter of putting those posts together, editing for clarity, and having it printed.
  • I’d love to finish the crocheted slippers I started – last year – for my grandchildren. Thankfully, at least they are done growing!
  • Some of the best gifts I’ve received in my life have been gifts from the kitchen. Friends and neighbors have brought me jars of honey, jelly and homemade maple syrup. I’ve treasured jars of stewed tomatoes canned and presented to me by each of my parents and my Aunt Katie. With that in mind, I enjoy giving gifts of edibles: cakes, cookies and homemade granola, mostly. When I visit my sister Brenda, I have the rare chance to prepare meals for others, and I enjoy it immensely.
  • When I have over-abundance from the garden, I like to share the bounty. I’m sure I get that from my father.
  • I like to share good books, movies and other media. It’s difficult, though, because not everyone likes the same things. I have a dear friend who I would say is very much like me. I think we share many of the same ideas and tastes. However, when I’ve tried to share movies and programs with her, I have fallen flat with some of my absolute favorites. Amelie, she couldn’t tolerate subtitles; Billy Elliot, the accent made it impossible to understand. Recently I showed her the pilot for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which I think is brilliant, witty, and some of the most touching humor out there. She asked, “Is it always so depressing?” She just bought a book,based on my recommendation. I have my fingers crossed that she’ll like it!
  • I used to give gifts of my artwork to friends and family. If I know it’s appreciated (not just accepted out of courtesy), it brings me great pleasure to do it.
  • I love to give honest compliments. It’s an exercise (not difficult) in looking for the good, and saying something about it. It’s a gift that I can give to strangers as easily as to friends, and that is always appreciated.

Out and Back

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No matter how much I love this island I call home, sometimes it’s good to get away. Even if I go no farther than the small cities and towns that line the coastline of the mainland, it feels like a big change. This trip, just a short over-night getaway, was to catch up with my friend, Linda, to do some shopping, and to see the fall colors.

Granted, Linda and I talk every week, and sometimes several times in the course of a week. I know how her life is going, and what’s keeping her busy. Still, it’s different and better to converse face-to-face, to mull over old experiences and revisit memories and people from our past. Linda has retired since I saw her last, and she has a new puppy, who I was happy to meet.

As for shopping, there aren’t many things I have to cross Lake Michigan for these days. Our Spartan grocery store is well stocked, and I recently took advantage of their annual canned goods sale. I’m still eating vegetables harvested from my garden. Last week, my cousin Brian brought me a big pumpkin and a peck of potatoes from his garden. My Amazon Prime membership fills in the gaps for things not available here.

Still, how nice to walk the aisles of other grocery stores, looking for bargains. The farmer’s market was a fantastic fall destination! Oleson’s grocery had several good deals on meats; the Grain Train cooperative yielded my winter’s supply of beans and grains. It was wonderful to explore the shelves in my favorite bookstore, and treat to wander through other stores, small and large. I spent way too much in the bookstore, but the extremely low prices at the farmer’s market kind of balanced it out. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

It’s true, the colors of autumn are lovely on Beaver Island. I didn’t think I had to travel to be awed by Mother Nature. But I did travel…and it was worth it. Beaver Island doesn’t have the rolling hills that are a stunning feature of the mainland in northern Michigan. They stretch the vista out for miles in every direction, with party-hued trees vying for attention with fields of gold and green. Today I watched as the waves of Lake Michigan crashed over the breakwater in Petoskey, under a big sky of magnificent clouds, with fall colors on the distant shore. And I was awed by the sight.

I’m home now, and happy to be here. New purchases are spread over the table, as I work at putting things away. I’m halfway unpacked, and have clothes in the dryer. The dogs, glad to be home from the kennel, are asleep at my feet. It’s nice, now and then, to get away; it’s wonderful, always, to get back home!

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