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A story I have been writing for years

Old friends are so comfortable, warm and delicious. Even though many months or even years may pass, sparkling smiles and welcoming eyes greet you with open arms for long, luscious hugs, just like when you last met.

Of course, there are all of those new stories and adventures to hear about. With my friend Karen, it is often months or sometimes a couple of years, as she lives way up north on an island.

She is an artist. She has a humble studio, built by her talented husband, upstairs in the back of their barn. Her very own studio with shelves and cubbies and a large work bench and easels, pots with multicolored pencils and paint brushes.

A display wall for all her ongoing art work, paintings, photographs, collages, photos and found art — and even a microwave (don’t ask).

A large pottery bowl is filled with pieces of what I thought were junk, but to her they are found things with no artistic names ... yet. They will be painted or glued together or added to other each other to create those things called found art.

There is no trash bin in her studio. Everything can be re-created into art. At times I wonder how much “art” I must ignorantly toss into the trash. I really must start paying more attention.

Ashamed of myself now, when I was much younger, I had stolen about a dozen old armoire keys, and sometimes bedroom door keys from B&Bs. They were a part of the story of my tour of Europe. Old keys have unique shapes, charm and character.

On my friend’s last visit, I gave all the old keys to her, knowing they would be used in something artsy. Sure enough, she created a shadow box with keys hanging in it at different levels and angles, with a background of sepia-toned copies of antique postcards. It is quite lovely and I was moved and honored when she gave it to me.

She once participated in a new method of selling art no bigger than a pack of cigarettes. That’s because the art was to be sold through converted cigarette vending machines. Pop in a few coins and where once you bought a pack of cigarettes, now you received an original work of art. One of these vending machines was in Powell’s Books in Portland a few years back. I sense another trip to Powell's in my future.

She is also my sometimes muse, encouraging and pushing me to keep writing. She insists on knowing the ending of a story I have been writing for a few years. I, too, want to know how it ends. The sad end to this story is that my friend is now in hospice care. But, I’ll bet she is still creating art.

Judith Hirsch lives in Ashland.

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