I’m sitting in a cafe in Astoria, Oregon, watching my husband type long chains of numbers onto his laptop, feeling the first sun of spring on my back, fresh rosemary giving it’s earthy smell from a vase between us. We have spent the last few days walking on beaches, drinking cheap beer on vinyl barstools, getting generally caught up in each other and still finding, after five years together, new things to say and new revelations about ourselves and hearts and all of that beautiful and intricate mess of loving someone else. Last night we played Paper Moon on my broken phone and danced on Sunset Beach, and I felt that devastatingly sweet nostalgia for a moment I knew while I was living it would be important to me for a long, long time, and it got me thinking about love stories, and how many beautiful ones I’ve gotten to witness in this work of mine, and about beaches, and sunsets, and two incredible women named Yvonne and Stephanie.
The magic of last summer left me bursting with so many ideas for floral narratives; ideas about wabi-sabi and how significant it is that we choose to celebrate something so eternal as marriage with such impermanent things, like flowers (but that’s another blog for another day). I wanted to BUILD something for someone, and I wanted it to be documented by someone whose work stands the test of time; enter Lynnsey of Lionlady Photo. We decided the ocean was a backdrop magnanimous enough for our budding shoot, and sent out a call for models; real people in love, with a real story they wanted to share; enter Yvonne and Stephanie. We agreed to meet at Rialto Beach on the Washington coast and see what we could make together.
Lynnsey and I packed my little car to the bursting with camping gear, camera equipment, and mountains of sunset-colored flowers from the Seattle market. We camped by the beach and woke up early to drive to Rialto, where we unpacked all the flowers from the car and set up on a picnic bench. I made cup after cup of camp-stove coffee and thought about love while the waves crashed; it was so easy to let any thought or anxiety about designing go and just let my hands and my instinct do the work. A couple hours before sunset, two blond babes rolled up in a camper van and ran immediately to the water and jumped in. I had never met Steph or Yvonne; we had chatted over instagram and I had stalked them sufficiently enough for my heart to explode with love at the realization that these were our women! These playful, magnificent women, embracing in the cold water, were the authors of the story we got to help tell that day.
As I finished a flower crown of sun-colored zinnias and amaranthus, Steph and Yvonne slowly told us the long and winding story of their relationship. They met in college and quickly became best friends, dependent on one another in that sweet way of women. They were in and out of each other’s orbit for years; each traveling the world and living in new cities, but always maintaining the lifeline of friendship between themselves. At some point, they both started to understand that there was something burning under the surface of their platonic love, something that made their hands shaky and their knees weak; something that made Steph do her hair before a Skype date, even though they were “just friends.” When Yvonne returned from one of her adventures, Steph picked her up from the airport and felt her skin burn when Yvonne touched her. A seismic shift needed addressing. I’ll never forget the electricity between Steph and Yvonne as they told us their story on the beach that day; never forget the sureness of their easy affection as Steph recounted Yvonne confessing her feelings. Steph recalled, laughing, how her first question was, “You like girls now??” Yvonne just shrugged; when you know, you know. Life-changing love manifests itself with no regard for physical body; we can only embrace it, we don’t get to ask too many questions.
That afternoon I had the profound pleasure of watching two people in love share themselves with two relative strangers. They donned silk and lace, ran barefoot through the sand, touched each other with such assured hands, and rivaled their backdrop in beauty and staggering honesty. It was an honor to build a setting for them to revel in each other. Steph and Yvonne married each other on top of a mountain a week after our shoot with them; I see nothing but a lifetime of deep and honest and heart-shaking love for them. These are photos that I will always come back to; they will remind me forever of the why behind my work; telling real, life-giving stories for the deliciously in love. Thank you, Lynnsey and Yvonne and Stephanie, for stealing my heart a little. Y’all are magnificent.