小鳥の歌 100

More Crabapple blooms

Will you remember
These shy blossoms peeking out?
This bluest of skies?
In long years unimagined
Will you treasure this moment?

link: recall to remember

Thus ends the Kotori no Uta 小鳥の歌 (Little Bird’s Song), my first hyakushu (100 poem linked sequence), which I began on September 1st, 2016. Each poem has been linked to the previous one, either by word or by theme progression.

小鳥の歌 98

The blossomed branches
Shiver under a blanket
Of freshly-fallen snow
Love’s tender bud withering
At your wintery welcome

Link: branches to branches

Note: according to Grammarly, wintry, wintery, and winterly are all acceptable spellings. While they say that wintry is more common, for some reason, I’ve used to it being wintery. Wintry looks weird to my eyes. But yes, I did look it up to be sure!

How Trimaris’ Coronation is Giving Me a Persona Crisis

Me and My Zukin Examples
Me and my Zukin Examples, Queen’s Prize, Calontir, 2016. I’m actually wearing European garb in this photo, though! Photo credit: Vilhelm Lich.

So reenactment versus appropriation—where do we draw the line? I was a little surprised at my own reaction upon seeing a picture of some of the populace’s response for the recent coronation in Trimaris, because they were words used in the Mass. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Catholic. For the most part, I’m pretty liberal, but to see Mass responses from the populace to what I assume was a fake Archbishop (as most Archbishops I have met would be way too busy to have much to do with the SCA) for some reason twisted my gut. I’m not sure why. Heaven knows these phrases have often been co-opted by modern society for reasons of entertainment or protest or even mockery.

I think it bothered me because I actually really love participating in the ritual of the Mass. For me, Mass is a rich spiritual experience. It gives me the deep connection to God that I rarely felt during my Southern Baptist childhood. So it threw me off a bit to see these phrases co-opted for a Coronation.

Will I be baying for the blood of whoever had this bad idea? Probably not. My discomfort is my own issue that I will deal with. But it has made me take a hard look at the work I have been doing with my own persona, a Japanese noblewoman who has taken lay Buddhist vows. The lay Buddhist vows part came into play 10 years ago, when I first started researching zukin (literally “hood”, although it can mean “wimple” as well).

Medieval Japanese women tended to wear their hair long and uncovered, usually down or simply tied back. I have very short hair. I had issues with trying to wear a wig—my complexion doesn’t go well with black hair and wearing a colored wig with Japanese garb reeked of anime to me. So I found a solution—zukin. They are most often associated with Buddhist nuns, although later research showed that versions were worn by peasant women. Noble Japanese women would sometimes take “partial vows”, which had them living a religious life, but at home, not in community like a nun would. When these women took their vows, they would cut their hair, a deeply significant action in Japanese culture, and wear a zukin. They would wear their normal clothing otherwise, although they might also wear a kesa (a kind of surplice) as a sign of devotion.

So I thought, okay, I’ll just make my persona a lay Buddhist nun, a widow who had taken partial vows in her later years. I could wear my Japanese garb with the zukin and all would be well. I did sometimes wonder whether this was appropriation of some kind (usually a bad sign right there), but tried to counter that by studying about Japanese Buddhism, its practices and philosophies, and its impact on everyday culture. It’s been years, but I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface in my research. This is a rich and incredible field of study.

But now, I’m definitely feeling guilty. I’m not Buddhist. Is it really respectful to be portraying someone who has taken sacred vows? Buddhism is still very much a living religion. Would a Buddhist seeing me at an event cringe the way I did when reading those words from the Trimaris coronation?

So I’m not sure what to do about this. Fortunately, I’m having to take a couple of months off anyway due to an upcoming surgery so there’s time to think about what I want to do going forward. I love my Japanese studies—the history, culture, literature, calligraphy, art. All of it! But I want to approach that from an area of respect.

Although, considering that I tend to wear European garb half the time, this may only be an issue between me and my conscience. I could keep my Japanese persona and just keeping wearing a variety of garb. It confuses people, but I’ve been doing that for years. But I am interested in wafuku (Japanese clothing), too.

Peasant Perspective, Part the Third

taira_no_kiyomori_deathbed_scene
Today’s random pictures are from the Japanese Taiga Drama “Taira no Kiyomori”. Deathbed scene–notice Kiyomori has his head shaven (having taken Buddhist vows) and his daughter is also showing that she took vows by wearing a zukin.

MAKING THE SCA BETTER AND BIGGER
More than 50 years of people have contributed to the SCA, but the world–and people’s social networks (and opportunities therein)- has shifted over the years. How do we leave the SCA a better place than we found it?

Of course the SCA has changed over the past 50 years. Having been involved now for 27 of those years, I’ve watched many of those changes myself. Times change, people change, so too does the Society.

I feel that ordinary rank-and-file SCA members like myself, non-peers, are the key to the Society’s future. So many people do not make it to peerage rank, and I’ve seen many who do burn out from the work it took to get there. I’m not calling them out on it: this is just a hobby and people have very legitimate reasons for deciding to stop participating after getting to peerage level that have nothing to do with the SCA.

But we non-peers play an important part in the Society. Not everyone can be or needs to be a leader. Sometimes a good follower is more valuable. Many hands make light work, so if everyone helps out just a little, a lot of progress can eventually be made.

How to do this? At events, maybe devote one or two hours to helping out somewhere. Is there something you are passionate about and know how to do? Teach someone. It doesn’t have to be a formal class–I’ve often learned plenty in informal situations where someone has taken the time to show me how to do something. Pass it along.

There is often talk of a push towards recruitment–“Bring a friend to Lilies!” sort of thing. That approach has never worked well with me. I showed up at the SCA’s door of my own account, not because someone dragged me along. What was important to me was that people helped out afterwards. New people aren’t the only ones who need a hand from time to time. Maybe you know someone who has moved into another group, maybe someone is coming back from a hiatus, maybe someone is feeling frustrated with a perceived wrong.

Reach out. Talk to these folks. Listen to their concerns. Sometimes, all that is needed is a sympathetic ear or a sign that someone cares that they are there.

It’s very easy to get caught up in our cliques and ignore others around us. I’ve been on the verge of rage-quitting a few times because I’ve been ignored when I needed help, and what has stopped me EVERY TIME is the action of ONE person, either by word or deed, reaching out to help or just to acknowledge my problem (even if they can’t solve it). And it doesn’t have to be a peer. Anyone can do this.

taira_no_kiyomori_Yoritomo_and_Higekiri
Also from “Taira no Kiyomori”: Minamoto no Yoritomo reaches for the future.

Social networks have definitely changed over time. Some people really have issues with online SCA activity, especially when people who haven’t been active for a long time pipe up on some topic. My advice here is also to reach out to these people. There are many reasons why people can’t make it to events–time conflicts, distance, and especially money issues.

I believe that once you are SCA, you stay SCA unless you actively decide the hobby is not for you. So reach out to those online acquaintances who haven’t been to an event in 5 years. Tell them they are still welcome, and ask them to come out and play again. If they work weekends, encourage them to come to a local meeting during the week. That is still participating. Local groups are the backbone of the SCA and anything that makes them stronger makes us all as a Society flourish.

There will be people who just can’t get out, for whatever reason. But perhaps they can still do research or make things, and eventually find the time or means to participate again. The internet has been a great gift in this manner.

Some would argue that internet involvement isn’t “real SCA”. I feel that view is short-sighted. Real SCA is what you make of it. Certainly, there is nothing like being out with a bunch of your fellow history-buffs having fun. But again, real life can get in the way. Don’t cut people out because they can’t get out to events often. Make them feel welcome, and maybe when they can manage to come out, they will. Especially if you post about the fun you are having!

Regarding trolls (and not of the Gate variety!)–treat them as you would any other troll you run into on the internet. Once you realize someone is just out to argue or cast negativity on every single thing anyone says, ignore them. You’ve got better things to do.

So in conclusion, the average non-peer SCAdian can actually do a lot towards growing and improving the SCA, at their own pace and in their own way. The key is to be open and welcoming.