Just got back from a trip to North Carolina, where we attended our first LEGAL gay marriage ceremony on Saturday. You didn’t have to be able to see to know that Patricia and Lori were glowing. The attendees were glowing, too — you could feel it in the air.
The recent Supreme Court decision was mentioned more than once during the ceremony — the celebrant even read a couple of paragraphs directly from the August decision. “We asked her to read something from SCOTUS,” Patricia told me later. “We wanted to acknowledge that this really is an amazing time in our lives.” The reading didn’t evoke cheers — instead, it brought tears. Tears of joy.
Patricia and Lori’s only bridesmaid was a five-and-a-half-year-old cherub who referred to Saturday’s event as “the marrying.” The term caught on, and with time on our hands Saturday afternoon before the marrying, we headed to the North Carolina Botanical Garden to experience Homegrown, a recently installed Patrick Dougherty outdoor sculpture.
Off-and-on rain that afternoon chased most other visitors away, leaving paths empty and easy for Seeing Eye dog Whitney to navigate. The rain made the garden more fragrant, too, and we didn’t care that the tour guides and docents had left early: we got all the information we needed about artist Patrick Dougherty from the volunteer holding the fort and managing the gift shop.
Stick sculpture artist Patrick Dougherty has organized hundreds of installations around the world – Homegrown is his 256th. Each Dougherty sculpture is created from twigs, branches, saplings and sticks, and the lady at the gift shop spoke admiringly of the 100+volunteers who joined the artist in the north woods last fall to forage for fallen branches and trees to use in Homegrown.
“Volunteers helped him build the sculpture, too,” she said, explaining how hundreds of volunteers from the community worked with Dougherty at the North Carolina Botanic Garden each day for three weeks to weave saplings into mystifying arches. As she said that, I sensed her eying up my 5’9” frame — I dwarf most southern belles. “They’ll reach way over your head,” she determined. “The only way the volunteers could weave them all together like that is if they’re young and supple.”
“You mean the trees?” I asked. “Or the volunteers?”
”The trees!” She laughed, appreciating the opportunity to describe some of the people who’d shown up to weave Homegrown: grandmothers alongside tattooed teenagers, churchgoers with aging hippies, scout leaders, schoolkids and academics of all ages and sizes working together in a big crew. I swear I could feel that mix of energy when I finally left the gift shop to check out the sculpture.
A similar energy filled the North Carolina ArtsCenter for the marrying later that evening. Patricia and Lori have been together for years and have picked up an eclectic crew of friends from stops along the way. What a dream come true this past weekend must have been for the two of them. Not only the marrying, but the gathering of so many loved ones — everyone from preschooler Finn (he spent most of the reception under our table giving belly rubs to Whitney) to 80+-year-old Aunt Fran, who traveled all the way from Edmonton, Canada to be with her beloved niece Patricia on her wedding day. Patricia and Lori’s marrying wove us all together Saturday night. It was an honor to be there, and the joy in that room was so high that this tall girl from Chicago couldn’t reach It — even on my tippy toes.
Patrick Dougherty’s Homegrown sculpture will be at North Carolina Botanical Garden until the piece completely dries out and disintegrates. Admission to the garden is free, so get there while you can!