Wedding planning gives us an urge to scream

After years of puzzlement, I have finally figured out what drove impressionist painter Edvard Munch to unleash "The Scream" on the world.

That would, of course, be the famous painting of a poor fellow frozen in a scream, his contorted face filled with agonizing anxiety and deep despair.

The reason dawned on me after watching my wife build a wedding arbor out of manzanita. Admittedly, I am equally culpable in the crime against wedding decorum, having willfully waded in with a chainsaw and other felonious implements.

I mentioned the Munch man while snidely observing the arbor looked like the tragic result of a pterodactyl crash landing into a monkey-puzzle tree in the dawn of time. The petrified wood and bones intertwined over the ages, I suggested.

"While painting his masterpiece, Mr. Munch was understandably full of angst after his daughter asked him to build a rustic arbor for her upcoming wedding," I told Maureen, as we both stood back and stared at what we had rot, er, wrought.

"It you look at it from my angle, you can even see the face of the screamer," I pointed out. "Then again, it could be the open beak of the pterodactyl caught forever in a dying shriek."

Not only did Maureen accept my wacky comments with the levity intended, she countered with her own nonsensical assessment.

"You are talking about an artist who didn't know how to spell his first name, as well as a dumb bird that was also spelling-challenged," she offered. "What this really looks like is something I saw in a Viking movie a long time ago.

"But it seems to me there was a body on it, and they torched the thing," she mused.

With that, we both burst into spasms of uncontrollable laughter. Full blown hysteria was only a snort away.

You need to understand this conversation occurred while the temperature flickered into the triple digits. Any rational thoughts we may have had had long evaporated from our baked brains.

With apologies to Rudyard Kipling, it isn't only mad dogs and Englishmen who go out in the midday sun.

It seems that otherwise somewhat sane parents, when asked to build a wedding arbor for a daughter's upcoming wedding, morph into frothing mad dogs.

Never mind the heat. Ignore the difficulty of working with gnarly manzanita. Forget the yellow jackets, poison oak and occasional cranky rattlesnake.

Daughter Sheena and future son-in-law Justin are soon to get married on the beach at Lincoln City. They are a wonderful young couple — Justin is a law-school graduate but is otherwise a fine person — full of hope and promise.

Providing they survive the wedding arbor we were tasked with building for the event, that is.

"Keep it simple," the bride told her mother. "Remember, this is going to be on the beach. It needs to be rustic. Nothing elaborate."

Promptly ignoring the instructions with a loving smile, Maureen announced we would build it out of manzanita growing on our Sterling Creek property.

"It is beautiful wood that lasts forever and it's durable, just like a marriage should be," she said. "This arbor will be unforgettable."

"Oh, we'll never forget this little project," I assured her.

While I am also a fan of manzanita, with its deep-red grain, I warned her the wood is very, very hard.

"And the stubborn stuff has no sense of direction, twisting and turning every which way, like it's fighting with itself," I said. "It could run for congress."

On the sunny south slope of our West 40 grows the biggest manzanita I've ever seen. The one I cut down was a good 18 inches at the base with limbs twisting 18 feet high. We're talking more of a tree than a bush.

After bucking up the manzanita logs into luggable lengths, we got them down the hill to Maureen's designated open-air arbor laboratory.

Like Dr. Frankenstein, she began assembling her wooden monster while carefully instructing me what to cut and trim. She grabbed a bony thigh bone here, a skeletonized wing there, weaving it all together.

Thanks to her artistic skill, out of the wooden pile of debris emerged an arch that actually bore some semblance to the beach-wood wedding arbor pictures Sheena had sent us.

"If the light is poor on the beach, and the guests guzzle the wine, it won't look too shabby," Maureen concluded of her masterpiece.

But she agreed when I suggested we needed one more manzanita stick about three feet long to complete the job.

"Yes, and it will need a little heft to it," she said.

"Indeed, you don't want the wedding arbor club to break, what with all the wedding guests you'll be whacking for making snarky remarks about this thing of grace and beauty," I said.

Peels of deeply disturbed laughter once more filled our little valley. I like to think it was mainly the heat, but I am harassed by doubts.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or

Share This Story