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Saturday, January 6, 2024

Starting a new year

Six days into 2024, and things are already happening, SCA-wise.

On New Year's Day my barony had a silk-banner-painting activity at a community center here in the northern part of Storvik. Our current Queen has been handing out banners painted with the word "Inspiration" at the events she attends within Atlantia, and our own Dame Emma West is in charge of the project. She did all the fabric preparation and the outlines of the design, and about 20 of us took turns coloring in the design. It's rather fun and not stressful at all. We finished painting two banners and probably could have done a third that afternoon. Here is a picture I took:

That's the one I worked on.

On Wednesday I commemorated a special day in my life. It was the 20th anniversary of my very first SCA event, Storvik Yule Revel. Here's what I posted in our baronial Facebook group about it:

Twenty years ago TODAY, I went to my first-ever SCA event: Storvik Yule Revel! It was in our fighter practice hall at St. Andrew's.

Outside the hall, a friendly young couple named Pedro and Devora accosted me and introduced themselves. Once we got past Tirzah at troll, Pedro and Devora introduced me to their Peers, Herveus and Megan, who explained tablet weaving to me -- I had never seen it before. Taira no Akiyo taught a class in spinning wool with a drop spindle. I watched some people dance and sat in the audience for Baroness Johanna's court. Finally, Pedro and Devora invited me to sit at their table with their Peers for a delicious feast.

I was just blown away by how welcoming everyone was to me! Obviously, I decided to stick around and get a membership and you all know the rest of the story.

Sadly, not everyone who was at that Storvik Yule Revel is with us today (Dame Brenna, Sir Gauss, Pedro...). Because of that cozy little event, though, the SCA has become a big part of my life. I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has welcomed me along the way.

I hope I brought some warm memories to folks. Also, I hope that just maybe someday we will hold another Storvik Yule Revel in the community center. (It's been 10 years since Kingdom Twelfth Night was held in northern Atlantia ... fancy event sites are just too expensive around here.)

Incidentally, Storvik has also revived the tradition of a monthly A&S night in person. I couldn't go this week, but I hope to attend in February.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Wrapping up the calendar year

Greetings! Before the Gregorian calendar ticks up another notch, I thought I would sum up my SCA experiences for 2023.

In general, it's been a good year. By my count, I went to 11 in-person SCA events and activities, including Pennsic 50, as mentioned in the previous post. I have also attended three online/virtual events -- we're not done with those, even though the pandemic state of emergency is over. Quite honestly, most Atlantians are thankful that the Kingdom's annual business meeting, known as Unevent, is now entirely virtual, as it makes officers from the entire length of Atlantia -- some 660 miles, more or less, if you drive -- able to attend without much inconvenience.

What have I done within the SCA?

In terms of arts & sciences, I'd describe the year as moderately productive. I continue to rehearse and perform with Laydes Fayre, the interbaronial all-women singing group. Mistress Arianna moved me down from second soprano to alto. I'm no soloist, but I've been learning to harmonize. Having MIDI files for home practice helps me greatly.

I continue to dance with the Three Left Feet group, and went to a few dances at Pennsic. Earlier this year I slipped on a patch of mud and wrenched my knee, which set me back a bit, but it's all better now.

A few weeks ago, I had some fun with SCA dance music. At the Dun Carraig Baronial Investiture, there was an A&S competition called "Make the Laurels Cry," which was for "best use of a modern material in an arts competition." Laydes Fayre had been considering a performance involving a modern pop song in the style of an English madrigal, but we didn't get it down well enough to sing it in front of the Queen and other Laurels. (To really make such a mash-up effective, a performance has to be tight.) So I wondered how I could enter the competition as an individual. I didn't really want to spend dollars and hours sewing a medieval dress out of neon-green polyester, or something like that, so I kept thinking about music. I got my old Casio keyboard out of storage and started experimenting.

Back in my teen years I used to play a two-manual-plus-pedals organ well enough to serve as a church organist, but I never quite got the single-manual style of playing. It turns out that not only does this model of electronic keyboard play major chords with a single touch of the left finger, but it also starts and stops the chords in time with the rhythm box (or whatever you call the built-in synthesized percussion sounds). So I did some experimenting. A fair number of English country dance tunes are in minor keys, but I managed to "funk up" "Sellinger's Round" and reset "Petit Riens" to a jaunty ska beat. I practiced these adaptations for a couple of days before the event ... and Her Majesty loved the results! I even sparked a conga line going across the floor! So I ended up winning the competition (the prize was a large multi-pack of Sharpie pens). I felt a tiny bit bad because I'm sure some of the other competitors put a lot more effort into their entries ... but I think Her Majesty was looking for humor and whimsy.

I will address the "SCA service" topic in a future entry. Happy New Year!

Friday, July 28, 2023

Pennsic 50 Frenzy!

 It's starting! Today is Opening Day for Pennsic 50! (I rather hate to call it a "War," given what has been going on in Ukraine for more than a year, and given that nobody's awarding "War Points" this year.)

And I'm going! Not right away -- today is the arrival day for land agents and merchants. But since I didn't get to go last year, and then we had a couple of years off for The Plague, I feel as if I've been away from "home" for an awfully long time. (Then again, I haven't been to my home state of Massachusetts since December 2018. My last Pennsic was #48 in 2019.)

My impending trek feels almost like a miracle. The past seven or eight months of my non-SCA life have been rough. Fortunately, good friends have been beside me with help and advice.

Now I've had to resurrect my packing list from FOUR years ago and assemble everything I'll need for this trip. I'm not used to this anymore, but it feels good.

Another way this year is different from every other year: I won't have my own car at Pennsic. (I need new wheels, but I don't want to make a hasty decision about that before my vacation.) I'm sharing a ride to Pennsic with a woman and her three kids, all newcomers to Pennsic. In a way, it'll be lovely to see everything with fresh eyes.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Gains and losses, March 2023

 Happy Day of Restoration of Independence of Lithuania! (Remember, it's the tiny little country with two "independence days.")

My personal life is still somewhat chaotic, most recently because my car was rear-ended at a stop light on March 3. It's somewhat drivable, but without the right rear taillight or turn signal. Also, the right rear wheel well is bent (bad for driving over bumps) and there's an exhaust scent that wasn't noticeable before the crash. This was the LAST thing I needed.

Fortunately, I had already made plans to drive someone else's car (with the owner inside it too) to our Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival on the 4th. It was the first time in five years that I've been able to attend KASF. Since Laydes Fayre didn't have a scheduled performance, I was free to wander around and admire all the wonderful exhibits and gorgeous garb. Yes, I took pictures, but they're on my non-phone camera, so they haven't hit the Internet yet.

Finally, a personal sadness. Dame Brenna of Storvik was the very first person I met in the SCA. When I started considering getting involved in the SCA in the fall of 2003, I looked up my local branch and noticed that it had a weekly "sewing night" on Thursdays. Since the only requirement for attending an SCA event is making an attempt at pre-17th-century clothing, I thought I'd better show up there and get an idea of what to wear. So one chilly, damp night I knocked at her door and introduced myself and explained why I was there. Dame Brenna and her friends answered my questions and helped me figure out what was acceptable and how to start sewing it. In recent years, after her husband (and the love of her life), Sir Gauss, died, Dame Brenna attended far fewer events. I meant to catch up with her, but a few days ago she passed away. I think she was a bit short of her 69th birthday.

Life is short. Spend time with your friends.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Status report, February 2023

Happy Lithuanian Independence Day! At least the independence that hearkens back to 1918. Remember, Lithuania is the little country with two "independence days."

I apologize for not having kept up with this blog. I have not given up the SCA. Since the last entry here, I've been to a few local events and have regularly attended the Three Left Feet dance practice on Monday nights. (Three Left Feet is not, strictly speaking, an SCA dance troupe, but we share space with the ongoing Storvik fighter practices.) For the past year or so, I've been singing with Laydes Fayre, an interbaronial all-women group directed by the talented Mistress Arianna Morgan of Lochmere.

Never fear, I haven't given up on heraldry! I am the Sea Tyger Pursuivant, in charge of rounding up people to teach heraldry classes. (Of course, I totally forgot to register for the most recent University of Atlantia session a couple of weeks ago, so I couldn't take any of these classes. Ah, well...)

I haven't been doing much A&S stuff because I have been undergoing a lot of upheavals in my life, mostly related to my finances (my health is fine). Someday I will make myself some new garb, but this is not the time for that.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Status report, August 2022

 So ... what have I been doing since I taught "The SCA on a Budget"? It's certainly been a while...

As we make the transition from "pandemic" to "endemic" covid-19, I have been attending both in-person and virtual events and classes. Of course, it's always more soul-satisfying to see people in three dimensions, but sometimes it's just not feasible, either because of covid-19 precautions or great distance. Let me summarize the year 2022 so far.

Early in the year, I watched the virtual court at Kingdom Twelfth Night in January and took classes online -- one at a Virtual Known World Heralds and Scribes Symposium (KWHSS), and several at a virtual session of the University of Atlantia. I skipped Bright Hills Baronial Birthday; some years I go to it and some years I don't, but I was still concerned about the "omicron variant" of our least favorite virus.

As springtime rolled around, I participated in a successful demonstration at Costume-Con 40 (more on that in a bit) and sold a bit of excess gear at "Lochmart," the flea market that the Barony of Lochmere holds at its annual April event.

The first weekend in May, I went to Spring Crown Tourney, held in the Barony of Stierbach. Nobody I asked could remember the last time, if any, that Atlantia has held a competition for the Crown indoors (our parent Kingdom, the East, does it fairly often), but because of the heavy rains that occurred before and during the event, the staff moved all the proceedings indoors to a couple of barns. (Fortunately, the event had been long scheduled for a county fairground.) The main hall was rather crowded, and only two lists could be set up instead of four, so the preliminary rounds took a lot longer than anticipated. If I recall rightly, the final round -- between a super-Duke and a Knight who had never reigned before -- happened around 3:30 or 4 p.m. (The Knight who had never reigned before became a first-time Prince.) The damp cold drove a deep chill into our bones; by the time afternoon Royal Court was over, I could hardly wait to slog out to my car in the parking lot and crank up the heater.

June brought another public demo, this time at AwesomeCon (again, more on that in a bit), and a few online classes at another virtual KWHSS, this time hosted by the brand-new Principality of Vindheim in the Kingdom of Ansteorra. In fact, two classes I took were taught by my friend in Lochac, Mistress ffride wolfsdottir, who is an extraordinary researcher.

Storvik held Novice Tourney a bit later than usual -- shortly after the Fourth of July weekend. I did not go to Pennsic this year for financial reasons. I'm a freelance science writer mundanely, and I finished up a feature article on the opening weekend of Pennsic and got paid for it at the end of Pennsic. That's actually a speedy payment in the world of freelance writing -- some poor souls have to wait months for their financial rewards -- but the timing did not work out well for Pennsic 49. Oh, well, next year is Pennsic 50, and after missing Pennsic 40, you'd better believe I am bound and determined to attend Pennsic come hell or high water or any other disaster induced by climate change.

This post is already getting pretty long, so I'll save the reports on the two public demos for the next entry.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Online "SCA on a Budget" class

Tonight (Thursday, January 20) I will be teaching an online version of the "SCA on a Budget" class that I did at the last in-person University of Atlantia before the covid-19 plague began. (If you want the link, send me an email or something. I don't want to post the Zoom link publicly, although it is available in several Atlantia-related Facebook groups.)

 The online version of my 2019 class handout is here: 

One thing to note: Lady Katherine Ashewode's page on the East Kingdom Wiki has changed slightly. It is now Same information, though.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Welcomed to the Pod

Certainly the highlight of my SCA year -- indeed, the highlight of my SCA experience since the beginning of this cruel pandemic -- took place at Storvik's Battle on the Bay on Saturday, September 25.

The weather was GORGEOUS, with clear blue skies and PERFECT temperatures. I arrived on site in plenty of time to set up my chair on the field in front of the Royal pavilion, where the morning courts would be held. Since the theme of the event was "Hannibal's Crossing," a.k.a. the Second Punic War, we were encouraged to dress up like Carthaginians (not that there's a lot of archaeological evidence telling us how Carthaginian women dressed), I tried to approximate what I learned in an online class. I wore my only solid-color chiton or "bog dress," the light pink one I made when Atlantia was honoring the late Duchess Arielle the Golden. I suppose I could have altered it for the event, but I ran out of steam over the last few days prior to the event and figured that I might not ever need another dress from the Second Punic War era again (it's not a common event theme in Atlantia). I did try to drape a darker pink cotton bedsheet around myself as an attempt at a himation. Patches (who gave me that sheet) said that anything I could do with that sheet would up my game. At least I could use it during morning court to supplement the spray-on sunscreen in protecting my arms against the morning sun.

Also, shortly before court, Master Stefan asked me if I would be available to take some pictures with my phone during court. I said yes, but I thought that was a little weird.

The morning featured the final court of Baron Celric and Baroness Ilaria as they stepped down from the leadership of Storvik. Their Excellencies cut fine figures as they handed out their final awards and spoke their final words. They gave back their Storvik coronets and received their personal Court Baronage awards. Then John and Graciela stepped forward to serve as the next Baron and Baroness of Storvik, and they held a brief first court to do a few items of business, such as asking Lady Sonya (Patches) to be their archery champion.

Around this time, it suddenly occurred to me that Master Stefan's wife, Baroness Evelynne, was not yet a Peer. And, sure enough, at the end of all the morning court business, Evelynne was called up before Their Majesties and asked to sit vigil to contemplate joining the Order of the Laurel.

I took photos as best I could from my seat, which was a row or two behind Stefan and Evelynne's seats, just far enough back that I didn't show up on the video of morning court. Then the candidate was led away to the vigil tent, so I hopped up and followed the procession, while trying to keep a distance from the throng of other Laurels so that I wouldn't get in their way. At first I was taking still photos, but then I got a nudge from someone (Stefan? Now I don't remember) and started taking video. (All of this was after the court video cameras were turned off.)

After Evelynne was properly envigilled (is that a verb?), I went back to the Newcomers' Point day shade, as I had promised to watch it while Patches, our outgoing chatelaine (i.e., baronial officer in charge of helping newcomers) went off and did other things, such as teaching a dance class. We had a few attendees who were relatively new to the Society, and I chatted with them. Plus, we had a table of "free for the taking" stuff that anyone could paw through. (Heck, I pawed through it, but none of the clothes and accessories fit me or sparked my interest. I'm wary of bringing home things that I'm not going to use right away for a specific purpose.) I also had a chance to chat with Dame Emma West for a while. (Already a Pelican, Dame Emma was made a Laurel at morning court for her excellent painted silk banners.)

Eventually Baroness Margaret Lad, the Kingdom Chatelaine, came over to Newcomers' Point to relieve me (and cheerfully organize the pile of free garb that people had been pawing through; she does everything cheerfully). That gave me a chance to wander around and greet people and even spend a few moments with Baroness Evelynne in her vigil tent. Clan Cambion, Evelynne's household, was planning a procession into Court for her, but they invited me to join in. Once the procession got to the front of Court, those of us who are not Laurels would simply reverence the Thrones, walk off to one side and go back to our seats. Thus, when the populace was getting ready for afternoon Court, I set up my chair toward the back of the audience so that it would be less obvious that I was getting up to join the lineup for the procession. I ended up sitting next to Master Herveus, who belongs to Clan Cambion, so that I could tell when it was time to leave our seats and line up to follow Evelynne.

As expected, the new Baron and Baroness of Storvik held a court and gave out several baronial awards, and then afternoon Royal Court commenced. Their Majesties gave out a number of grant-level awards, for which it is customary (at least in Atlantia) to call up fellow members of the Order into the Royal Presence to greet their newest member. People who are both Golden Dolphins (service) and Pearls (arts and sciences), like Herveus, had to keep getting up and sitting back down. He joked that it was good exercise.

At some point I started to think, Hey, isn't it almost time for Evelynne's procession? Shouldn't we be lining up? But then I heard the court herald call my name.

My name.

So I stood up and somehow shuffled up to Their Majesties and bowed, probably less deeply than I should have. They told me it would be acceptable if I remained standing instead of kneeling on the padded stools in front of the thrones.

Queen Jane started off by saying something like, "So, you have been baronial herald since 2007," and then I gently corrected Her -- I have not been baronial herald for a few years now, although my actual cutoff date is pretty mushy. So then she started praising me for staying active in heraldry and hospitality. (And I'm thinking, "Huh? I spent a couple of hours at Newcomers' Point, but...") And then the herald commanded members of the Order of the Golden Dolphin.

I bowed to their Majesties again as the populace applauded and various members of the Order approached the thrones. Their Majesties said more nice things about me, asked if there was a medallion, and Dame Emma stepped forward with a shiny Golden Dolphin attached to a lovely necklace of red beads and white pearls. She said it was a legacy medallion in that she had passed it around to many members of the Order before getting it back and giving it to me. She gave me a copy of her statement after she read it.

I was just so overwhelmed. As the crowd cheered and I went to "greet the order," all I could think of was ... Pedro. Pedro, my heraldry teacher, my friend whose wife was so proud of his Golden Dolphin, who should have been a Pelican (the highest-level service award) ... I would have never received this award if he had not taught me so well. I wanted to tell him about it so very much.

My head was spinning so much that I floated back to my chair and didn't join the procession for Evelynne's Laurel ceremony. I enjoyed watching it, though. You can watch the entirety of the afternoon court here.

* * * * *

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Atoning for a long-ago joke

Long before I joined the SCA, I was involved with a fellow with a bachelor's degree in physics. I don't want to get into details of that miserable portion of my life, but I will reveal that he would call humanities and social-science classes "basket weaving." It was his shorthand way of putting down those subjects, and I doubt he was the first to do so.

Fast forward to the first week of August ... I went mundane camping with my SCA household, and I made a basket! And it took a fair amount of effort. I wouldn't compare it with other difficult things I've done, like taking graduate-level astrophysics exams ... but still, I had to pay attention to the details of what I was doing.

At first I'd thought I'd missed the basket weaving. One household member, known in the SCA as Faolán, taught the class on Sunday, August 1. However, I'd had other plans for that day and had to do some freelance work during the week, so I couldn't arrive until the morning of Thursday the 5th.

Nevertheless, my friend Johanna had bought a huge amount of basket-weaving supplies in preparation for camping week, and so on she asked, "Who wants to make a basket?" Even though I'd brought other crafty things to do, of course I replied, "I do!"

Now, these basket-making supplies were not in the best shape anymore. After Sunday's class, somebody (unknown, but not Johanna) put Johanna's wet wood and reeds into plastic bags. Trying to be helpful, I'm sure. But the plastic-bagging allowed dark mold spots to start growing on the strips of wood. Oops! Still, we decided to press ahead and weave baskets.

The first step, of course, was to re-soak the basket materials in water to make them pliable. We had to repeat this step many times as we went along, because even on a humid day the wicker starts drying out after half an hour or so. The actual weaving began with a 7 x 7 grid woven to form the bottoms of our baskets. Even though the baskets were starting out square, they would end up being round on top. (Go to your local thrift store to see how many baskets are like that.)

Some images of the progress:

I was amazed at the amount of work that it took to make the basket. Not exhausting work, not filthy dirty work, not intellectually daunting work -- just a lot of attention to the details of what I was doing. Johanna emphasized that we had to keep pushing down the woven strips as we went around and around, and that took some hand strength. At times I had to pause to deal with muscle cramps in my hands -- that doesn't often happen to me. Yet Johanna's advice turned out to be correct and greatly improved the look of my basket.

When I began the basket, I thought it would take just the one afternoon of the middle day (I camped for three days and two nights). But dinnertime came, and we were still nowhere near done. The next morning, I wanted to prioritize packing up my stuff so that my canvas tent could be dry when I dropped it -- I didn't trust the cloudy skies. And, lo and behold, I missed the rain and mostly the rain missed us too. But it still took from just after lunch to just after dinner to finish up everything. And finally we had our baskets!!

In this image, my basket is on the left, Tirzah's is on the right, and Johanna's is in the middle.

The next day, once I was home, I left the basket to dry in the sun. Then I soaked it in a 1:10 solution of bleach and water. That killed the mold spores and lightened the mold stains, which are still there, but much less noticeable. I may apply some sort of finish to my basket, but I haven't decided yet.

So, there you have it, my first basket! In case you are interested, I found a short history of medieval and Renaissance baskets on YouTube.

A few years ago, my friend Teleri gave me a copy of the book Plaited Basketry with Birch Bark by Vladimir Yarish, Flo Hoppe, and Jim Widess (Sterling Publishing, 2009). Apparently, basket weaving with birch bark is very much a Russian thing. I don't really have a source of birch bark, since such trees are less common in Maryland than they are in my native New England, and buying the stuff online would get expensive. Perhaps I could start experimenting with heavy paper or something like that.

At any rate, I have added one more type of craft to the List of A&S Things I Have Tried Since 2004. And never again will I make one of those physics-student "basket weaving" jokes.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A true NOVICE event!

The Barony of Storvik's signature annual event is the Novice and Unbelt Tourney, generally held in June or early July (but not Independence Day weekend). In many years (but not all, depending on when we can rent the site), Novice is the last event at which new fighters can authorize for Pennsic. ("Authorizing" is like passing your driver's licensing test, except for SCA fighting.)

Once again this year, Pennsic isn't being held because of the covid-19 plague, so we didn't have any pressure to get authorizations done, but we did want to have an in-person event after all these months! And June 5 was the very first Saturday after the SCA's North America-wide ban on in-person events expired on May 31.

To get ready for Novice, we did everything the way the SCA higher-ups said we had to: pre-registration only, limited attendance (but bumped up from 50 people to 150 in the last week prior to Novice, yay!), face masks on everyone, no shared food or drink, no feast, no camping, nobody under the age of 18. (I think I've listed all the major restrictions.)

As the day grew closer, I grew more excited to see friends who had been just video images on my laptop's screen for more than a year. Maybe my Baron and Baroness would hold court, although the Baroness had been looking mighty pregnant at the last business meeting. In addition, some folks I know just weren't interested in Zoom-based meetings and were holding off on Virtual Atlantia in favor of the promise of real-life activities. At any rate, I felt sufficiently worried that I would forget something that I staged my gear -- accessories, mugs, chair and cover, whatnot -- on the dining-room table.

Finally, the appointed day (June 5) began and I headed out on the familiar route to the site. For some reason, a section of Croom Station Road was marked "closed." I wasn't sure if it was for paving work or for replacement of a bridge, so I just got on U.S. Route 301 down to Croom Road (normally I take Croom Station Road all the way to the end at Croom Road and then take a left onto Croom Airport Road -- and, yes, the road names are way too similar). When I arrived at the park, my site token (a fancy ribbon strip) was awaiting me in an envelope with my name on it.

But ... no Baron and Baroness. It didn't take long for me to learn why. Apparently the Baron showed up at the start of the event, dropped off all the baronial gear (day shades, the baronial thrones, all sorts of things) and then announced that he was heading to the hospital. Later in the morning he changed the cover photo of his Facebook page to an image of a sign saying, "Welcome to Labor & Delivery Check-In."

So ... naturally many of the attendees of the event spent the day in happy anticipation of the baby boy's arrival (Their Excellencies had revealed the baby's sex/gender a couple of months ago). Many of us were hoping that some sort of dramatic announcement would happen at Royal Court. However, while Their Majesties Anton and Luned noted the absence of Their representatives who hold the Storvik lands, They had no further information on the impending birth. If you want to see what They did do in court, Atlantia has the video: 

The event broke up a bit early because of the hot weather (duh, this is Maryland in June). I tried to help some with the breaking down and packing up. As I went toward the restroom trailer for a last pit stop before heading home, I heard a few voices yelling, "Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!" The Baron had just posted on Facebook that the Baroness had given birth successfully to a fine and healthy boy, well over 8 pounds. The newest resident of the Barony of Storvik!

The baby photos are not mine to publish -- I am always cautious about putting pictures of other people's children on social media. But the little fellow, who was named Ari, looks adorable, and his older brothers, Connor and Braeden, seem extremely pleased to be big siblings. (Notice the naming pattern?) Of course I am thrilled for all of them!