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If you had walked down Main Street in Narrowsburg 20 years ago, you would have met her.
Margo kept her studio in a storefront on Main Street, across from the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance. It was brilliant marketing on her part—a place to paint with a grand river view, a salon to receive patrons and friends and two picture windows displaying her wares to the public.
I was drawn in by her work—impressionistic landscapes, studies of grasses in autumnal hues, a riverscape in the fullness of summer. At the time, I was looking for a piece of art to hang in our new dining room. One of her paintings, in particular, called to me. It was that river in the fullness of summer, a promise in the depths of winter of what would come again if we but waited. When I asked its price, I was rebuffed. “It’s not for sale; it’s for my family,” she said. She knew it was a treasure, and I think we bonded over that knowledge.
There would be many times spent in her company, in the salon on Main Street where the door was always open if she was inside. Sometimes she would stand, framed in the doorway, her elegance a counterpoint to our country town before its own elegance came to be, surveying goings-on, chatting with locals. She was already mostly blind when I met her. But she could see well enough, and had seen so much already, that her gaze was penetrating, only lifting to engage her imagination, or formulate an opinion. She had many opinions. On politics, the environment, mean people, to name a few.
We could spend hours laughing and talking until the fading light demanded we adjourn upstairs for wine or part until next time. But I was not her only friend. A former student of hers from the city would visit her often. She made deep connections to many people, but her blindness led others to think she was diffident. I always made sure to announce myself, and her face would light up.
She had been a voracious reader and for years enjoyed a book club at the library by reading with a magnifying glass. Later, her friend Carol would read to her faithfully, every week.
When we met, she was the age I am now, with 20 years between us. Yet she would fall in love again, enjoy a second grandchild, paint many more canvases and try to navigate the digital world. We never felt too far apart in age. She reminded me of my aunt, also 20 years my senior, like Margo, a trained psychoanalyst, also a beautiful woman. Did I mention her beauty? She had a classic face with the wide-set eyes and high cheekbones of a model, full lips and long dark hair. She dressed for every occasion, often in flowing, brightly colored dresses. She looked great in red.
One day, months after that first studio visit, she reminded me of the painting I had first inquired about. The riverscape. “I could make a print of it for you,” she offered. It would be affordable and printed on canvas with a high-tech printer. Deal. When it was finished, she added some touches of paint to her satisfaction, making it an original, as well as a print. Now, in the depths of this winter, it hangs in the dining room, reminding me of the fullness of our friendship over two decades.
Margo Spoerri died last week at home with her family. She was a gift I will always treasure.