A few years later, I got to step inside her bear yurt, a large dome filled with flannel, plush organs, thermoses of whiskey, and Mary Elise herself, donning a full red union suit, wielding an axe.
When she moved to Seattle for a time, she sent me a set of paper dolls of herself: in her museum guard's uniform, or in a date-ready outfit, with her trusty dog Hawkeye in paper form beside.
But recently, all of that over-blossoming creative spark has been turned to one giant installation project: her own wedding. Get this:Mary Elise hand-embroidered every RSVP card. She made the beer herself, then hand-drew the labels. Walls and tables were covered with perfect little wood-and-paper arrows. There was a photobooth with a backdrop of a half-painted paint-by-numbers set, and handmade fox masks to wear in it. Marquee lighting (also made by hand) spelled out YOU & ME. The ceiling was covered with macrame and yarn; a giant woven rope backdrop made the altar; the tables were covered with antlers, moss, candles, and terrariums.
And I got to do the flowers.
This is by far the most fun project I've tackled yet. It's a great time of year for yellows, oranges, pale pinks and white, and Mary Elise gave me a pretty open hand to use whatever I thought might be beautiful.
So I collected flowers all week, trying to keep them cool and calm in the midst of a heat wave, put together the handheld bouquets on Friday night, and tucked them into the refrigerator to rest. Then, after some stops to steal ... ahem, florage ... roses and roadside daises on Saturday morning, I blanketed the barn with flowers.
And then I bought a dress, took a shower, and went to the most fun wedding ever.
This is a summer of weddings, and this was a very hard week for me. I can't tell you how redemptive and reconnecting and hopeful and f*cking magical it felt to play with flowers.
RIGHT TRACK, PEOPLE! I think I'm on the right track.
Oh, and I got to meet that friend who's chest hair replica I met all those summers ago.
*unbelievably glam photos courtesy of Bryer Photography