Somewhere in the Corner of My Eye

Real life has been extremely busy, although I did manage to make it to 3 SCA events in July (usually 1 or 2 is my limit, but things just worked out that way).

I’m not usually in the spotlight, but the cameras caught a glimpse of me at Coronation (at right, standing next to my Laurel, Countess Ylva):

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At Calontir’s Kingdom Arts and Sciences, where I was helping out as a judge. Here I am talking to Master Addison from Gleann Abhann, who was visiting. Turns out he has a keen interest in Tea Ceremony and Bonsai, (of which I know very little) so it was a fascinating chat.

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And a quick glimpse of me (at left) from my own shire’s Feast of Eagles. I was part of the Server’s Auction, and also entertained playing recorder as part of a music trio. (No photos of that, alas.)

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The three above photos courtesy of Wilhelm Lich.

Got in some shodo lessons, as seen here, sight reading three different styles: kaisho, gyousho and sosho. SHO FU YU SHO IN “The wind brings a cleansing breeze through the pines.”

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Also working on getting Nelson dictionary numbers to a new Japanese calligraphy exemplar that I surprisingly found on Thriftbooks of all places! Nelson’s is the dictionary I used most for translation. Putting the Nelson reference number on the kanji helps me find things faster.

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Updates may be sparse over the next month or so, as I will be visiting with my family. I have some poetry that needs sharing and hope to get that typed up once I get back!

The Alamo, a Poem

So while digging through bins in the garage, I came across this ancient treasure. My first epic poem (and illuminated book–although badly illustrated would probably be more accurate) from when I was 12 years old. Done on index cards and bound with glue and a black ribbon with yellow flowers. I give you–THE ALAMO!

The Alamo
A Poem by Maria Szabo

The Alamo was a Mission
A mission that was a success
In short, the Mission Alamo
Was the very best.

The Mexicans did not trust
The Americans, who were harrowed
Then the Decree of 1830
Added upon their sorrows

Sam Houston was a general
Who called the men together
So Houston said to his men “Give up?”
And the men replied “Never!”

General Houston appointed a man named Travis,
Who was told he had a job,
He took 183 men to the Alamo
To await the oncoming mob

With Travis was James Bowie,
Whose knife had his name,
Also Davy Crockett
About to go in his fame

At dawn came General Santa Anna
And 2000 men did he bring
The Texans looked on soberly
And didn’t say a thing

“Surrender to us!” said Santa Anna
“And we will let you go!”
Travis fired his largest cannon!
Clearly, the answer was NO!

The fight was on and started
Bloody and 13 days long
But the time was given to Sam Houston
To make his army strong

At the Battle of San Jacinto
The world was shocked to see
Texas win independence
With the death of 183

So wherever you are, whenever you are
Above earth or below
Remember the death of 183
And Remember the Alamo!

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Cover. Bound with black ribbon and yellow flowers (for the Yellow Rose of Texas). Death looms in the shadows of the Alamo.

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Cover page.

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Looking back, I’m impressed that I put little illuminated letters to start almost every page.

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So of course, Mexicans meant sombrero and pinata. Hey, I was 12.

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Historical fact: The Texans really had a flag with a cannon saying “Come and Take It!”

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And there’s the Alamo. I’d been there on a family trip a few years before. There were actually more than 183 people in the Alamo, but I didn’t remember that at the time.

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Bloody Bowie knife. I was a weird kid.

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You can’t really see in the picture, but Santa Anna with his big hat is marching in on the very left bottom of the page. I didn’t take into account binding when I drew the pictures.

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Okay, you can see Santa Anna and his big hat a little better here. I was a little obsessed with that hat of his.

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The bloody battle. I somehow forgot to mention that the Texans lost the battle? But that the battle was important because it gave Houston time to organize his army. Still, how the heck did I forget to mention they lost?!

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And a sudden jump to the Battle of San Jacinto. In the men’s thoughts (big faces on the right) are Davy Crockett (with his coonskin cap), James Bowie (with his muttonchop sideburns) and William Travis, who was boring looking and didn’t make much of an impression on me. The Mexicans are shouting “Me no Alamo!” and “Me no Goliad!”, which actually did happen. The Goliad Massacre on March 27, 1836, was overshadowed by the Battle of the Alamo, but twice as many men were killed there.

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So the stick figures are shouting “Victory or Death!” Again, I forgot about margins when drawing this.

Okay, not an epic for the ages, but hey, I was 12! Also not great at drawing. This was a school assignment for my Texas History Class and I don’t remember what grade I got, but did remember getting points for creativity.

I only have bits and pieces of my poetry from that time, mainly things I published in the school newspaper. I stopped writing poetry for a long time after my 8th grade English teacher told me that my poems were “stupid.” She was a horrible teacher. You should never say that to a child. I didn’t start writing poetry again until I was in my 30’s.

Peasant Perspective- Participating when Life gets Busy

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Nakatsukasa-shu (Collected Works of Poet Sadayori) (Detail) Attributed to Saigyo. Japan. 12th Century. Important Cultural Property. 13.1 × 15.2cm. Idemitsu Museum of Arts.

Something that I’ve seen a number of my friends post about recently is being overwhelmed by their activities in the SCA, trying to fit that in with what is happening in their mundane lives, and the frustration of not being able to do so.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, because I have been there, more than once. SCA (and the sub-hobbies that come with it, whether that being martial arts, physical arts, or both) tends to be an encompassing activity, or as one person succinctly put it, “all-in”. As I have dealt with this before (and am currently having to deal with it now), I thought I might offer some advice.

First, if you want to avoid frustration, remember that the SCA is a hobby, not a career. I’ve heard many people complain about peers who tell them not to be ambitious, but the fact is, the peer is trying to save the person some pain. For good or for ill, the SCA Award structure is imperfect. Even if you do everything “right” (whatever that means), the fact of the matter is awards are given by the whim of the Crown, and with peerages, they are aided by the advice of the respective Orders (Chivalry, Laurel, Pelican, Defense). So a lot of the decision is out of a person’s control. So I would advise not to be so attached to the outcome of your labors. Instead, focus on the Doing of things, and find happiness in that.

The SCA is a social hobby (it does, after all, start with “Society”), and so getting out and going to events or even local meetings is an important part of it. And sometimes that can be very hard, especially when you are trying to balance work and family life with it. When I started in the SCA, I was in my mid-20’s, single, living in an apartment, and doing temp work that allowed me the flexibility to be very active. Now I’m in my mid-50’s, dealing with a chronic illness, a husband who prefers other hobbies, a house to take care of, and elderly parents who need more of my time and attention (my husband and I skipped the kids part, but several people have to work that responsibility in as well). And that makes a huge difference on how I am able to play SCA.

I often marvel at what I was able to accomplish back in my younger days, on a pitiful income. But I was young, had a lot of energy, and not much in the way of responsibilities. Nowadays, I do have to take better care with my health, as well as managing our money so that we can pay our mundane bills plus save up for retirement, which isn’t so far away anymore. So I’ve had to change how I play my SCA game, and frankly, ratchet back my ambitions somewhat.

And that’s hard, because there are so many interesting things out there I still want to do! I truly love this hobby that allows me to mingle with so many other history enthusiasts, even if we don’t all focus on the same time or place. There is that tangible enthusiasm for learning, not just from reading books (although yeah, I love that too), but by physically attempting to either recreate or adapt the material culture of the Medieval world, and by doing so, create a tie to those who lived in those times.

So what do you do, when faced with these circumstances? First, I would say, don’t quit. Even if you have to back-burner a lot of your SCA activity, try to get out to an event or local meeting once or twice a year. There are many robust online communities, which can be very helpful in many ways, but there’s nothing that replaces face-to-face interaction. Second, try not to focus so much on what you are missing out on than what you can do. Keep up with at least one of your interests. Remember that circumstances do change, and while you may not have the time or money to participate as fully as you would like right now, that doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

Encourage others on their journey. I’ve found I enjoy seeing the progress made by many of my fellow Shire members, even as they surpass me. I won’t lie, I do get a little jealous, but I see them putting in the work and they’ve earned their recognition.

Look forward to the time when you can participate again more fully. In the meantime, take joy in smaller things, and keep learning and exploring at a level you can manage. Don’t let the imagined glory of some nebulous tomorrow steal the enjoyment of your hobby today! In this way, you can still enjoy the SCA, and the Society in turn will not lose the gifts that you have to offer.

Arts and Sciences Streak–start over!

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Life happened and I had to start my 100 Days of Arts and Sciences from scratch. I’m on Day 6. Here’s what I’ve been doing so far:

Day 1: practiced Reisho style in Japanese calligraphy, sewing on kosode sloper (working on a new pattern), research on tanka poetry.
Day 2: tanka poetry research, hand sewing, recorder practice
Day 3: hand sewing
Day 4: hand sewing, garb research
Day 5: hand-sewing, kanji radical practice
Day 6: Tanka poetry research, started on new hyakushu (100 poem sequence) project, practiced soprano recorder, hand-sewing on kosode sloper

Art Streak, Days 13 and 14

Day 13: went to shodo lesson, took apart old meisen-silk haori. Not one of the better piece I have, although a nice black/grey pattern. It’s heavily patched, and I might keep those pieces as real-life examples of how patching works, since I seem to have fallen into a research hole regarding that subject.

Day 14: Worked on RUSH class outlines, exploring reisho files that my shodo teacher gave me to work with, went through a couple of fabric bins of old kimono I haven’t taken apart yet. Was shocked to find that some of them might fit me now that I’ve lost so much weight! However, doing proper kitsuke would be a challenge, as even thin I am tall, with broad shoulders and hips. Still, wondering how I might be able to adapt a few of the plainer (ie less obviously modern) kimono into kosode without having to take them completely apart? Obviously change the sleeves. Length isn’t a problem because of my height, but not sure about how the width would play out. May try one and see what happens. I never expected to be thin enough to have these come close to fitting.

Art Streak, Day 12

Met with friend regarding her project, shared research, need to make some scans and copies for her, and also dig up some literary references. Sorry about vagueness, not technically my project.

Made progress in my quest to make a byobu screen–talked with someone who might be willing to do the woodworking side of the project, or maybe at least show me how to do it? Anyway, that’s more than a year off, as I need to focus on making garb.

Sorted through some fabric, identifying some future projects utilizing fabric I have previously used in old outfits that I took apart. I really like the idea of reutilizing fabric when possible. Have a bit of a conundrum, though. I have some very nice Chinese brocade that I picked up on clearance years ago. It does have the right look for 16th century uchikake, but it is polyester and there is no getting around that. But the fabric was bought and paid for nearly 20 years ago, so I might as well use it? If nothing else, to learn the ins and outs of sewing uchikake inexpensively? Although poly doesn’t really act much like real brocade, but OTOH, real brocade is frightningly expensive…

Will post more on this, with pictures to illustrate what I’m talking about. I’m all about learning on the cheap stuff, but OTOH, it would be nice to look like I walked out of a picture, which is kinda hard to do with the cheap fabric sometimes.

Requested Inter-Library Loan on three books, no telling what luck I’ll have on them, but our library is usually pretty good about obtaining things. 2 books regarding boro (technically post-period, although there WAS patching in period per literature. The question would be to prove how it was done.) And trying again to get my hands on Kurihara Hiro and Kawamura Machiko. Jidai Ishō no Nuikata. Genryu-sha Joint Stock Co. Tokyo: 1984. I know people who have gotten it through ILL, but most of them were associated with universities. Not sure if it’ll fly from a civic public library.

Music practice cancelled, one of our trio was sick. Looked over the indices of a book on tenshou examples that my shodo teacher wrote. He’s added to the book since I bought it, but I need to identify which pages I need so I don’t have to buy a whole other book.