Ballard Writers Collective Blog
A brief account of the whole Ingrid Ricks
No, Ingrid Ricks’ photo is not here. I invited her to talk about herself in order to gather more than a side view for her profile. She is, happily, very fluent. What follows, of course, is through the filter of my own perception, some of which may be inaccurate. I did not record it besides fragments of notes in pencil in a notebook.
I suggested she begin by recalling objects as touchstones for prompts, sort of an animated object autobiography. But Ingrid vibrates with what she wants to communicate so the conversation slopped over the edges of objects and flowed along unaided. There is a celebration of life and self within.
If you haven’t already met Ingrid, she’s a not very tall bundle of energy that not only vibrates as she speaks, but even exudes ebullience when she’s listening.
If you have read (and I hope you have) her book, Hippie Boy, you know what she has chosen for you to know about herself up to age sixteen. And, wow, that is a compelling, dynamic story. So as she described the first object she thought of, it was connected to the journey she writes about in Hippie Boy. At least I could easily envision her reaction as she described the drawing she saw, when at age 23, on an assignment as a reporter for a small Burien, WA newspaper she interviewed a fellow named Byron Fish. On his wall was a drawing of a naked man running on a beach with a caption “Free at last.” Now she owns this object and it continues to reverberate for her in various ways. One way, signifies to her, her “escaped childhood.” Another, the lessons her father taught by instilling in her a sense of freedom. Her motto, probably her father’s too: You go out and create the life you want for you self.
While still at the Burien newspaper she remembers the moment she first met the feisty outspoken artist, William Cumming, (a member of the Northwest School of art) a motivator in a way, for her. Cumming had a reputation, he did things his way. But at that time he told her he had stopped painting, worked construction and Ingrid asked “how could you abandon your work?”– she vowed never to do that. Of course his path changed. Maybe “paths” are an object in this story.
As she thought about objects she said she is not a collector. Actually, I had not expected her to be. It wouldn’t be compatible with her dedication to freedom. But she described how she enjoys her collection of cards of mottos and aphorisms. These particular objects support her belief, “You don’t have to live in the box others create for you,” “No boundaries” and so on.
Illustrating, not being stuck, she told how she leveraged her little reporter job by taking a flying leap to interview for a job at the Seattle Times and without much experience was hired as a freelance writer for three of the paper’s bureaus!
Well, she married and moved with her husband, John, to Pittsburgh working jobs to help him through law school. Free-lancing at an alternative paper until she went to work at an ad agency. The object representing this time of her life is the notation she made on her calendar the very moment she was hired at the agency– She marked the exact number of days until she could quit the job.
She describes how, after returning to Seattle and having two daughters she felt (and I paraphrase) she’d dropped out. “Lost a part of herself.” She felt stuck in PR and Marketing. How she’d kept planning to write her book, and even though she was repeatedly encouraged by her husband, she kept putting it off, in some way, abandoning herself, her work. An object precipitated a shift in this state of being. It came from her daughter who wrote thanking Ingrid for “teaching me to get my dreams.” Invigorated, Ingrid launched into getting her dream. Wrote Hippie Boy and sent it into the world swept along by her momentum to do the job. She utilizes the skills she has honed throughout her career in promotion to promote her own work. Employing print on demand, e-books and all alternative avenues to get her work seen and heard. Many objects.
She worries about not being able to stay on her “path” to continue the in freedom that is so precious to her. She has good reason to be concerned and is actually discovering her path is deviating from the original plan. This is where I mention how often I had noticed her use of the word, focus. I noticed it before I knew the weight this word represents. Now we know that about eight years ago she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare degenerative eye disease. She hid this information and as she says “It’s exhausting to make up excuses for not seeing.” She has discovered how freeing it is to reveal yourself to others. In other interviews Ingrid tells of her trip to Africa after the shock of her diagnosis, how the impact of being with a community of destitute people dying AIDES propelled her to find a perspective, a relativity, in regard to what was happening to her own self.
I myself, think of life as ongoing random encounters that tumble and twirl to lead you where you never expected to be. In the context of unexpected, Ingrid’s participation working with students came about when English teacher, Marjie Bowker, invited her to use Hippie Boy to inspire the students at Scriber Lake High School to tell their own stories. (this is the short version of this event) In the end “We are Absolutely Not Okay” came into being, expanding the lives of the students, future students and a path for Ingrid herself. Now Ingrid has recently published “Focus” her memoir devoted to her current journey. Learning to see in new ways and demonstrating her ingenuity to live in an altered world.
As our conversation came close to ending we went back to the subject of objects. I love it when suddenly we remember significant information after we think we are done looking for it.
She remembered that she keeps an old battered spiral bound notebook with bubble lettering, the notebook filled with the “accounts” she kept for her father’s business those long ago days they were on the road together. She remembered, when she was thirteen, in her locker at school she kept a silkscreen calendar of a picture her father. She remembers objects of her life.
I asked if she’d discovered anything she hadn’t expected to as she was writing “Focus.” First she said no. Then she made a reference to how she’s come to realize that her evolving skills, that she has been fine-tuning, in speaking with groups is a path she will continue to employ. In addition to her own writing, of course. Building bridges to understanding by telling her stories in service of encouraging everyone to tell theirs. That everyone has something they are dealing with in their life, how, mostly we think we need to hide it because we will appear weak if people know. Ingrid has discovered that what frees people – us — is to tell our story. She knows she is absolutely free when she is teaching, supporting and invigorating people do this very potent act. When we understand that, as I say it in my own words, we have so much we can learn from each other in order to discover more than just a side view.