09 May 2014

Thoughts on History

I have a house filled with newsletters, scrolls, letters, files, originals and copies of various SCA art projects, tickets to feasts (originals and copies), site tokens...
I have made good progress on a project to list my awards and show the scrolls and medallions or other symbols, and that's indexed here: SandraDodd.com/duckford/awards  That's mostly personal history, but sometimes other people are involved are included.  This lists the other recipients of the Cordon Royal of Artan VI:  SandraDodd.com/duckford/award/cordon

Paper is not the way of the world anymore. And although webpages can be seen by more people, they can be lost. I have lost computer files, online writings, and still I have paper. (Less than before, though; I have begun to throw some things away, finally.)

Duke Finnvarr's 50th Anniversary project

The Society will be fifty years old in 2016. Duke Finnvarr has been asked to do a history. He wants to write about changes and perceptions, and asked me to help. There is a facebook page set up now called 50-Yr SCA Thoughts. I'm adding questions gradually, and hoping to keep it all upbeat and joyful. Eventually he or I might ask the less happy questions, but first there will be fodder for thought and for composition. In side conversations about it, I wrote some of my recent activity. I'm just going to pull a part of an e-mail, for my own memories later:
[Finnvarr wrote:]-=-I call the shadow SCA all those people – hey, you're one of them – who once belonged to the SCA and no longer do-=- [I responded:]
It's interesting.

And in my current role as an anchoress (which I used to describe staying home but still being alive—still available for consultations), I've thought about it quite a bit.

I feel like a supply officer, back at the base, not going out into the field, not even going out on practice maneuvers. I still make a few costumes, mend them. Wash them. :-) I'll make another pair of wool trousers for Gunwaldt with wool I bought in Scotland last summer at a charity shop in a town that used to be full of wool mills.

Yesterday I was helping Holly find things to wear for Outlandish. She hasn't been to an event in six or seven years, but helped with some art for a tent and decided she wanted to go and will camp with her dad. She mentioned maybe learning a song to sing, but didn't ask again, but if she does, I'll have ideas for her and could make her a CD, or find something for her to download. Because I know what she's heard passively when she was younger, I could probably find something she already knows the tune to for sure.

I still cook for events sometimes. Not for a feast, but for a camp, from home, and pack it up and send it.

Did I tell you I'm doing a philosophy breakfast for the guardsmen and ladies in waiting here?

But my membership is lapsed and I would have no interest in going to an event.

I think every person who has quit has a bitter story of "the last straw," and it might not be good to stir it up.

06 February 2010

Martino and Artan

I had a dream that Martino came by casually and hung out (in my dream situation, which was not my regular surroundings) and it was a comfort for him to just be there. The matter of the conversations and doings wasn't what the dream was about. The substance of the dream was emotion, not narrative, and his presence was warm.

This morning Keith/Gunwaldt and I were out having breakfast and Jeff/Artan arrived (with his sons and another boy). We were nearly finished eating. He came to sit a moment, and so I asked about Martino.

Our son Marty/Bardolf is Artan's squire (as Martino once was).

The Estrella War is coming up. I knew Marty was going with Sadie and Madigan, but I learned today that they're taking Jeff's vehicle.

11 April 2009

Where have all the Laurels gone?

I had an inkling, for a moment, today.

Gunwaldt was at Queen's Prize (which is here in town).

I was at Barne's and Noble at the launch of a book by Pati Nagle (a.k.a. Mistress Elinor Aurora of Rosewood), and in the crowd was Mistress Mirhaxa av Morktorn, and a couple of people Gunwaldt sings period music with once a week.

Pati's new book is The Betrayal.

28 May 2008

the ugly side

The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.

James Arthur Baldwin (1924-87)

James Baldwin wasn't a medievalist, but no matter. It's not about that.

Recently I spoke with a small group, at the request of one of them, about my time as steward and later as executive director of the SCA. I half wish I could do it again, but it stressed me out. I think maybe if I had told only fluffy, happy stories, it wouldn't have stressed me, but it's likely I would've felt dishonest.

I did share some very happy memories, and things I'd learned and people I wouldn't have met otherwise who were mentors to me. The negative things, though, maybe should've have been shared with them.

Years ago, in the glory-season of Duckford University, I got complaints. They were lovingly and humorously presented, but they were real. I had ruined the SCA for them, some of my associates said. I had told them I could tell them just a little or tell them everything, and they said "Oh, everything," and I said it might not be a good idea, and they said "No, we can take it; we want to know."

With that too, I don't know whether I should've withheld information or not. The complaints were made with a smile, and the charge was that before they asked me those questions, they were happier and more innocent. Once they knew more, they became critical of the slack jobs others were doing. Their expectations and standards were higher and that cast a shadow on the SCA sometimes. It also made them better peers, when that time came, though. It made them better advisors, and better teachers.

Without extremes (theoretical extremes; contrasts), how can there be exceptionality? How can there be elegance without messy confusion for contrast?

to be continued, I guess

29 February 2008

Segregation and other wrongs

"Our youth activities coordinators put on many, many educational activities these last few years, that are almost all period-related."

The SCA itself is one huge educational activity. Removing children from it has always seemed wrong to me, for many reasons.

"Almost all period-related" isn't good enough. "Period-related" isn't good enough. It's a violation of the purpose of the club, of the basis of the requirements for attendance. Furthermore, real children did things in period. They played games, played with toys. They didn't color worksheets. They watched puppet shows and sang songs. "Almost all period-related" is not good.

It's not about the officers. It's about the segregation by age, and the perpetration of the idea that learning happens in classroom-style settings.

"...asking our A&S teachers to let our youth know that they are welcome in their A&S classes."

Workshops should be provided, or run, or organized, but not "taught."
If there were no separate youth activities, the assumption would clearly be that participants of any age would be welcome to participate in anything other than holding certain offices, entering certain tournaments, and fighting if they weren't yet old enough. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

I bristle some at "our" being used of A&S teachers and of youth. To whom does someone belong, who chooses to demonstrate a skill or to impart knowledge? To whom do my children belong? Themselves, first. To Gunwaldt and to me, in a way. To the barony as residents and participants. To the kingdom as statistics, or when serving on a retinue, as Bardolf has. They don't belong to all adults in the kingdom.

It's true things aren't as they once were, and many things are worse. And it was not and is not inevitable. I warned that having children's activities and officers opened the SCA up to liability issues, when I was a corporate officer and the board was asked a couple of times to approve children's activities officers SCA-wide. It wasn't a good idea. It doesn't strengthen the Society, to treat it as a school.

Too many people see the world through school-colored glasses. The SCA was and should have continued to be a haven from that. There was a lawsuit in the 1980's brought by a former board member (whose lawyer friend wanted to have his name on a case). It was never tried, and part of the reason it was given up on was I pointed out that the assertion that we would be more "educational" if people were sitting in desks taking notes was absurd and defeated the entire wonderful basis of the Society, which was learning by preparing for and putting on and attending and participating in feasts and tournaments.

Do I keep quiet just because my own children are grown? I didn't even plan to have children when I first objected.
Do I roll over and die? Someday I will, but I haven't yet.

15 February 2008

How I am with students, Part 1

Part 1 might also be the last part, but it seems unfinished.

I have never made a list of students. It wouldn't be impossible, it's just that I've told some that if it didn't work out, I'd never make a deal of it, it would just fade away quietly. So I don't even have a list, because lists don't fade.

Once when I was naming them off, I forgot Liobsynde, in Dragonsspine, but it's partly because she never asked to my student, and I never asked to be her teacher. Someone else wanted to be her teacher, and asked me to be a co-teacher, a partner, because Liobsynde and I were both musicians. I was not nearby, and Liobsynde was a Laurel before too long. I did take donations to put toward a nice wooden music stand for her, but I wasn't around near enough to be much of a mentor.

With others more local, though, I've had mixed experiences. My lack of patience shows sometimes. My eagerness to help sometimes trips them up when what they really wanted was an excuse not to do something, and if I fix the problem and the excuse is gone, I haven't really shown them the kind of slack understanding they wanted. When I see the slack understanding some other people give to their folk (Artan with his squires, and Martino with his sometimes), I think they're doing much better than I am.

Likely, though, one of the major differences between squire-to-Knight and student/protege to Pelican is that part of the business of service is doing what needs to be done in an efficient and energetic manner. Reliability and sacrifice are not unreasonable expectations.

I praise my students and I like to do that, and when one slips from being praiseworthy, it's very noticeable to me. If I were a stoic non-mushy kind of person, it might not matter.

Some of my students have been more toward the Laurel end of the spectrum. If anyone reads this from a kingdom in which one person might be a squire and and apprentice and a protege to three different people, this will seem an oddity. Here, though, in the Outlands, and in my life for sure, any student of mine is likely to be expected to do all that he or she can do in any field in which there's interest. And a few have been combat-involved, too, and just as I've helped their squires, Gunwaldt and Artan have helped my students.

Back to the Laurel-apprentice types, though, with them my concern is that they move toward knowing and caring what's period. I would much rather a student do a period song, cook a period dish, or make a period garment in a fair way than to do a BANG-up, stunning technical job on something out of period. Not everyone agrees with that stance. I would rather people do what's good and right than to settle for the minimum of what they have to do. Some haven't liked my expectations, and some have left.

I have let some students go, and it's never been a sweet moment in either of our lives. When I've thought the behavior of someone was risking harm to others around her (children, in most cases) or when there was dishonesty or cruelty involved, they can either change or they can leave. I've not found a way around that.

Artan used a phrase once of someone who asked to be my student, and seemed to have questionable motives. Sometimes questionable motives can be overcome, but Artan said "She just wants to be baptized in the river AElflaed."

It's been years, but I saw what he meant and I've since seen it in other people in various combinations of situations (not all involving me). Some people can't or don't want to change, but they think if they associate themselves with a reputation for morality and integrity, that they will be assumed to be moral and mindful by being part of that group or household.

In at least one case there seemed an element of "AElflaed is a stickler for truthfulness, and I'm her student; therefore I must be truthful." That's fine in the cases of people who are truthful.

One student left because of pressure from my critics. I had suspected as much, and a few years later she confirmed it. Other students have received insult and criticism in hopes that a wedge would be driven between them and me, or that they would come to doubt me. I regret that it has happened, and new students are always warned.

I've had many temporary or kind-of students—no oath, no long-term commitment, but a situational arrangement, or a "Can you talk to my squire, please?" daylong or weekend or month-long deal. I always enjoy those.

I'm not methodical. There's not an outline or a notebook or a checklist. There's living life where I can watch and assist, and there's sometimes helping me with things I never knew were going to come up. Some people like that, and for some it seems awful.

The best learning, from my point of view, is when someone hears something I say or reads something I wrote just at the moment he needed that piece of his own life's puzzle and it fit easily and quickly and became the catalyst for growth and more awareness. I don't even need to meet the people for whom that has happened. Sometimes I hear about it, and probably more often I don't. Sometimes it's close and in person and sometimes it's thousands of miles or tens of years away.

06 February 2008

Sometimes it's just food

On Wednesday nights in the winter, for the second year, I'm meeting with a small group each week for a discussion.

Last year the theme was virtues, and we usually met in a restaurant meeting room. By the time everyone bought food and I bought food for two of my kids and maybe another guest and me, and tipped the set-up team for the meeting room, it was expensive. It was distracting.

This year we're discussing various topics concerning history (some SCA, some medieval Europe/England/literature). We meet at my house and I'm furnishing the food. Sometimes it's just food. Sometimes it's used to make a point. Tonight I'm doing "early al-Barranian foods." On bread trenchers, I'm going to serve egredouce, "hedgehogs," baked apples (slices, not whole) and cheese.

I called Viscountess Lore, who was involved in the preparation of some of those things, to check a couple of details.

This project would be more fun with other people, but it's Wednesday, and those who come to the discussions work during the day, so I'm cooking on my own. It's nice to be with my thoughts, though, and my mind been turning mostly to my memories of my first few SCA-meal experiences, and to those people for whom I'm preparing the food today. I'm sure cooks have had such thoughts always—of the first time they had the food they're making, remembering where they were and with whom, seeing and hearing in their heads those they learned from, what others have said of such preparations, and thinking of those who will eat the batch at hand.

Sometimes it's not just food.

28 January 2008

People I miss

Baldwin of Erebor
Mark Lasie of Westminster
Sigmund Traeskaeg
Elinor Aurora of Rosewood (though I see her mundanely sometimes)
Aldred Colson (I see him too, and it's always nice)
Simonetta d'Ambrosini (I rarely, but always gladly, see her)
Richard the Strange (who talked and thought faster than I ever have and was overflowing with music)
Ferelith, Rhonwen and Jerilyn, when they were a team and a set
What I really miss is our youth and exuberance when the world as we knew it was newer.

Sigfried von Hoflichskeit
Henrik of Havn
I miss the days when I had access to their knowledge and company, their thoughtfulness and good counsel.

The landscape changed when they were gone.

Then I think of those in my life I would miss so strongly if they were as out of touch one way or another, and I try to think of nice things to do for them. Gunwaldt, Artan, Balthazar, Helena, AnneAliz, Martino, Cathyn, Matilda, Dermod. Some other friends are growing on me, and I would be embarrassed to name them (for fear of embarrassing them, I think). And I know the time is now to smile and touch and gift and thank. Yet I often fail, as the days swirl by, to be as close and as soft and as warm as I wish I could be for them.

And none of that approaches the kind of love I feel for my children, all so much like Gunwaldt in so many great ways.

So I think of laughter and smiles shared with those people up at the top of the list and inventory again what I can do today to create memories while I still have time—memories of my loved ones in me, and memories of me in them.

27 January 2008

To have another profile, I needed a new blog

For the Outlands History project I've just set up, I wanted another profile. To have another profile, I needed a new blog.

It's not a bad idea, though.   Each of the blogs I have has a stated purpose and audience.  This one can be for me, my friends, my students, and anyone else who's interested.

I've been in the SCA for over thirty years now, sometimes extremely active and busy, holding two offices, publishing, attending tons of events, and sometimes hanging back and sewing and cooking for those who are going to events.  As I write this, I'm in a VERY active phase, but not attending events, and so I've taken a persona change I've long considered.  That's detailed here:  

Sometimes I have the urge to express something that's too deep for a discussion list, too personal for ThinkWell, and too philosophical for the history blog or list. On those I feel a responsibility to keep to topic and not rock the boat unnecessarily. Here I can have rough seas that affect no boat but my own, I hope. I still do have students and associates, some of whom are more easily shaken than others, so I'll keep them in mind.

Sometimes there will be no storm at all, I'm sure, but seeming hibernation and boredom. I've come to treasure days when nothing is happening, nobody calls, there's no personal mail. I used to seek busy-ness, but I'm settling down into being happy just being happy.

It might seem busy to others, but compared to my own busiest seasons, I'm living a very quiet life.