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We are drawn to keys. They are beautiful, intimately tactile, and deeply symbolic. We keep old keys long after the locks are gone, artifacts of things lost or locked away. They become mementos of our secrets, our treasures, our memories, embellished into our personal or familial mythologies; talismans against forgetting.

We all retrace our steps from time to time. We revisit the personal landmarks of our pasts, dwelling in memory for a moment or two, sometimes more intensely than is wise. There is a bitter-sweetness, and a hollowness that comes with all such journeys, and the longing to connect with what was is not without its risks. Sentimentality can mislead or even consume us. The mythologies we bind around our memories make them all the more enticing and dangerous.

If we’re lucky, we can look beyond our own lifetime. I’ve wandered through empty fields and derelict buildings that my ancestors once called home. I’ve chased their stories through those spaces, surrounded by the detritus of lives lived, the fading of time, and the slow creep of new life reclaiming the space. Here, broken bits of wood and faded fabric. There, a feather from a bird now roosting in the still and silence.

The memories I sought were there in the abandoned buildings, and the places of my youth, but they were elusive, evasive, only visible fleetingly in the shafts of sunlight through the sifting dust. Always spotted peripherally, and always flitting away, just beyond reach.

Unable to capture them, I reimagined them as creatures creating lives of their own, birthed from the debris and life-force inhabiting the spaces. The memory, embodied in a key, bound in artifacts and mythology, breathed to life using the visual and structural language of fishing flies. Alluring. Seductive. Perilous?


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