A gay marrying, or, weaving things together

September 18, 2015 • Posted in blindness, politics, travel, Uncategorized, Whitney by

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.

Checking out the stick sculpture with Whit.

Checking out the stick sculpture with Whit.

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.

Newlyweds Lori and Patricia at the marrying.

Newlyweds Lori and Patricia at the marrying.

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!

Monna Ray On September 18, 2015 at 5:32 pm


I’ve seen some of these sculptures. There was one at the Morton Arboretum, I believe, and one at the Beach, the art museum at Kansas State. They’re quite amazing. I enjoyed reading of your experiencing of the sculpture.


bethfinke On September 18, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Funny to think there was one right here at the Morton Arboretum and I went all the way to Chapel Hill to experience this one! When you say there was one at “the beach” do you mean here on a Chicago beach along Lake Michigan? I’ll be darned.


Patricia On September 18, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Oh Beth – you just made our (me and Lori’s) day with this post. We were so lucky to have you celebrate with us. It really IS an amazing time in our lives.

bethfinke On September 18, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Aha! And now you know why I was looking for those paragraphs from the Supreme Court decision! When I first conceived of this blog post, I was going to quote the paragraphs your celebrant read from SCOTUS. . In the end, it was best to leave them out to keep the post relatively short — you can only imagine how difficult it was to keep this one short, so many happy stories to relate from your marrying. So good to hear from you, and give my love to your missus.


Lisa Tetrault On September 18, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Love it 🙂 And how did I miss that Homegrown installation?! Stupendous. Lovely to see you in NC.

Lisa and Aya

bethfinke On September 18, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Trust me, you and Aya will be seeing a lot more of us once Patricia and Lori return to Pittsburgh. I’ve already spoken with Aunie Lori about my visiting Aya’s school. (For blog readers, Aya is the five-and-a-half-year-old who coined the term “the marrying.)


Bethsclasses On September 19, 2015 at 7:22 am

Beth. I love your writing and the way you spread love.

bethfinke On September 19, 2015 at 8:32 am

Now *that* is a flattering comment. Thank you, bethsclasses — I’m spreading love your way —


Robert Ringwald On September 19, 2015 at 11:46 am

Hi Beth. We attended our first gay marriage a couple years ago at Lake Tahoe. The reason I mention it is because one of the ladies who got married is my grand son’s first cousin once removed. She is my grand son’s father’s cousin. Their other cousin is Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Don’t you think that would make for an interesting Thanksgiving dinner?

Best, –Bob .

bethfinke On September 19, 2015 at 11:55 am

Ha! Yes, what a Turkey Day that would be. I must say,I *have* been to gay weddings before — our whole family had a ball at the reception after our cousin Randy married Mark in Florida years ago –but this was the first one I’d been to since the recent Supreme Court decision. Gee whiz, I wonder what the cousin you refer to here thought about John Roberts’ dissent on the decision. Hmm. Maybe I wouldn’t want to be at that Thanksgiving Day dinner after all…


nbollero On September 19, 2015 at 8:42 pm

they are beautiful! what a sweet story.

Benita Black On September 20, 2015 at 8:17 am

Nice story. You didn’t mention your connection to the couple. Are you on the bride’s side or the bride’s side?

bethfinke On September 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

Ha! Good question, and one that’s easy to answer: I’m on the brides’ side!


bethfinke On September 20, 2015 at 9:35 am

More about that: I do love them both, but I met Patricia first. She was hired at Easter Seals National Headquarters shortly after I was. Patricia had just completed her PhD at University of Hawaii, her focus was on autism and she’d worked with indigenous Alaskans with autism (flew in those little scary planes to get to them) and people in Seattle, San Francisco and Hawaii who were on the spectrum. Before starting graduate work she’d worked as a school teacher with special ed students.

Easter Seals had decided to focus on autism for a while back in 2007 and created a position for Patricia–she was the National Director of Autism Services. I moderate the blog for Easter Seals National Headquarters, Patricia wrote a lot of blog posts, I edited her blog posts, she welcomed me into some of the big meetings and gatherings at Easter Seals, she bought an apartment in our neighborhood and met us at Hackney’s when she could, we had lots of fun together in Chicago.

Patricia and Lori were courting when I first metPatricia. Lori was working for Dynavox at the time, “the global leader and pioneer in touch and eye-tracking based augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.” Translation – they create soundboards and other devices for people who are non-verbal. Some of the devices work by touching them to make them talk, others work by tracking the movement of people’s eyes.

The courtship worked, Patricia moved to Pittsburgh to live with Lori and worked remotely for Easter Seals from there. Lori worked on her PhD while working at Dynavox, and when she finished her PhD she was offered a research position at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. About that time Patricia left Easter seals to take a position as ‎Vice President of Professional Services at Rethink. Rethink is located in NYC but Patricia travels so much that it doesn’t matter where she lives, so she re-located to Chapel hill with Lori.

At her Rethink job, Patricia manages a bunch of professionals who go to school districts around the country to make sure Rethinks products (their prodducts help schools get good outcomes for schoolkids with disabilities).

All to say there were a lot of good (and smart!) people gathered in North Carolina for the marrying, and thanks to our experience with our own son Gus I knew *exactly* what many of them were talking about and what services they themselves provide for people with disabilities, especially those with autism or communication issues.

Gee, that makes them all sound a bit dry, doesn’t it? Trust me, it wasn’t. I had a ball!


Benita Black On September 20, 2015 at 10:04 am

Now, THAT’S an answer. And though I had set you up for a punchline, we got a bonus essay!

bethfinke On September 20, 2015 at 10:31 am

Yes, and you can see why I didn’t include all that in my original post — I try to limit myself to less than (or would that be fewer than?) 1000 words.


Linda Miller On September 20, 2015 at 9:46 am

Great post and weaving together of experiences and words!

bethfinke On September 20, 2015 at 10:32 am

Yes, and great use of the word “weaving” in your comment. Cheers!


bethfinke On September 26, 2015 at 11:25 pm

Greeat compliment coming from a great writer like you –thanks!


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