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Nanowrimo and Poetry Thoughts

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Woman writing letter at desk (c.1940s). Henry Clive (Australian, 1882-1960).

I have decided to do Nanowrimo again this year, as I do every year. Even though I haven’t ever managed to hit the word count, Nanowrimo has helped me generate some good bases for stories or write a good stack of poems. I just seem to write short stories better than novels, but novels are what people want. And yes, I’ll miss a week, but I’m going to attend a few of the write-ins in the area and maybe meet some new folks.

Anyway, I have an idea and a name “Ephemeroptera”. It’s a horror story. That’s about all I’ll say for now.

Yes, I still plan to do the Tanka Challenge. I want to finish my first batch of 100 linked poems. I’ve done 83 so far. The Tanka Challenge should finish the batch. Hyakushu (100 poem linked sequence) is way more challenging than stand-alone tanka, and honestly, it’s been hard to tap into my inner elegant courtier when surrounded by the ugliness of our current government. Every day brings a new horror. But I’ve been reading a biography of the poet Fujiwara no Sadaie (Teika), as well as a biography of the poet Shinkei, who lived about 150 years after Teika. I also have access to some poetic treatises written by both these poets, as well as one from a disciple of Shotetsu.

What interests me about both of these men is that they lived during turbulent times. Teika lived and wrote during the end of the Heian period and the beginning of the Kamakura period. Shinkei lost his home during the Onin Wars. Yet they produced some of the most stirring poetry of the Japanese middle ages. I want to read their poems and their thoughts and see how they did what they did, and whether it can be accomplished in English.

This project will take time, since there is a wealth of source material available (in English!), but it’s an avenue I would like to explore.

Goodbye, Facebook

Hiroshige cat
Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando) (Japanese, 1797-1858). Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival, No. 101 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 11th month of 1857. Woodblock print, Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum

For those of you who know me in real life, or who I have met in the various SCA Japanese communities on Facebook, I made the decision to delete my Facebook page today.

This decision has been a long time coming. I’ve taken a couple of “vacations” from FB in the past year, and I found my productivity goes way up during those times. I’ve never been comfortable about FB’s cavalier attitudes towards privacy, but lately, the atmosphere there has gotten toxic. I’m not talking about any one person or group of people–it’s all the ads, and the fact that I can’t control my newsfeed as I want. I kept telling myself that I stayed on Facebook to keep in contact with my family, but in the last couple of weeks, one of my cousins landed in the hospital and I had no idea until my mother mentioned it on the phone.

The whole Russian scandal is just icing on the cake. It bothered me that Facebook was getting rich on ads by selling my personal information, and it made me feel so helpless. Then I realized that there was something I could do: refuse to participate in their business model!

A lot of SCA things are coordinated on Facebook, and maybe I will miss out on some things by leaving FB. I’ll just have to learn to work around it. Time is a precious commodity, and I don’t want to waste it on something that I don’t like or believe in.

Ah, I feel so free!

At the Turning of the Tide

It always amazes me how small things can just turn life on its side. In this case, this Costochondritis or whatever–life has been reduced to managing the pain and trying to get simple things around the house accomplished. One day I’m all ambition, going to do ALL THE THINGS!, and the next, I’m just trying to make it to the next minute. Life suddenly shrinks to simple daily needs.

I was hospitalized last Tuesday with severe chest pain and breathing problems. There were further complications when I had an allergic reaction to some medicine they gave me. I was released after a day, with a tentative diagnosis (Costochonritis–the inflammation in the joints between the cartilages that join the ribs to the breastbone), some pain pills, and instructions to follow up with my primary doctor for further testing next week. The pain is still there, but tests ruled out cardiac issues, so I got sent back home.

I should be grateful that this isn’t a heart problem, but OTOH, people are more understanding about a heart attack than about some weird-ass chest joint inflammation virus which just feels like a heart attack.

I’m seeing the doctor on Wednesday, probably for more testing to make absolutely sure this isn’t a kidney issue. The nurse said that this is physical therapy that can help and since I have decent insurance, I might give that a shot. I’ve had other issues in the past (usually injuries) that physical therapy has improved.

NEW!! EDIT: Doctor’s diagnosis is Tietze syndrome, which is Costochonritis’ mean cousin. The two are quite similar and both involve chest inflamation, but Tietze’s has some localized swelling as well. Further testing determined that this is NOT a kidney issue, for which I am grateful, but dang, I still hurt. I’m scheduled for Physical Therapy until this thing runs its course. Life’s going to slow down for a bit while I recover.

What gets me is that this pain which reduces me to tears and foul language is called “benign.” Supposedly, Costochondritis is usually caused by injury (a fall, a car accident, overtraining at the gym), but none of that applies to me. I walk a bit and swim about three times a week, being very careful NOT to push things because it’s easy to get injured when obese.

However, the doctor said it could also be a virus, which might make more sense, as I get all the weird ones. And somehow this ties in with anxiety, which yes, that definitely has been a big factor in my life lately.

Extremely depressed about all this. I felt like I was starting to make friends around here, make some progress, but now? Who knows? My biggest concern is stupid: I don’t know what to do about my new tent. Should I try to sell it? Should I just wait and hope things even out in the next year or so? First I suppose I need more information from the doctor. Besides, it is tough making good decisions while writhing in pain.

Anyway, hobbies are being shifted into low gear for the time being. I was already starting to pull back from my SCA-stuff because I know I will be needed down in Texas more due to my father’s illness. I can still do local things (and since we’re central, local includes several nearby groups), and keep playing with my little projects, but I’ll be more of a background presence. I’ve had to do this before (which no doubt explains my lack of awards) but real life comes first.

Incidentally, these kind of regular life mishaps are one of the reasons why I encourage SCA newbies to NOT focus on awards, peerages, and other such things. Life happens. To Everyone. To some of us, it happens a bit more. If you are in this hobby for more than a few years, there WILL be times you have to step away. Marriage, moves, new jobs or your current job gets busy. Money troubles come up. People have kids. Parents get sick and require care. That’s just how life works. And the SCA is a HOBBY. A game. And when Life gets Real, you put the game aside and deal with what you need to deal with. The game will still be there when you get back.

Unfortunately, the way the SCA works, there can be set-backs for stepping away. People forget you, they forget what you have done, no matter how hard you may have worked over the years. It is what it is, and honestly, most social hobbies are like that. Which is why I tell people to find what makes them happy in this hobby and cherish that aspect. There is so much to love about what we do, and those things will still be there when you come back.

As for me, I’m not leaving, but just slowing down for awhile. And don’t worry, still writing my poems and doing research!

SCA Plans for 2017

There’s a meme going around Facebook asking “What would you like to see me do more of in the SCA in 2017?” I was going to post it myself, but my husband said it would be a waste of time. “Who cares,” he said, “what other people want you to do? You’re already doing plenty!”

He has a point. So instead, I present a list of things I’m actually working on in 2017.

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(Picture: 北国五色墨』「おいらん “High-Ranking Courtesan” (Oiran), from the series Five Shades of Ink in the Northern Quarter (Hokkoku goshiki-zumi), Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, 1753?–1806) Part of the collection in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA)

Service

My knight, Sir David Dragonhawk, taught me that service to your local group is vital, because the local groups are the backbone of every SCA Kingdom.

I’m continuing to serve as the Chatelaine for the Shire of Cum an Iolair in the SCA Kingdom of Calontir. We are located in the suburbs just south of Kansas City, an area with a lot of population growth, so we get a number of SCAdians moving in, as well as the occasional very new person. Because there are so many active groups in the KC area, the bulk of what I do is try to guide these people to the resources they need, some of which are in the other groups near us.

My usual event service is volunteering for troll/gate, not only in our Shire, but for other nearby groups if I am available for that event.

I just recently became part of the Lanner Herald committee, which is working on cataloging the ceremonies of Calontir (peerages, investitures, coronations, that sort of thing). Right now, that involves mostly data entry. I’m hoping to get a chance to write a ceremony eventually. In the meantime, I should learn a lot from assisting in this project.

I’m also trying to comment more for Heraldry entries on the SCA OSCAR system. I’m not great at heraldry (so much to learn!), but I can help with the Japanese names, especially if someone is looking for something not covered in the usual sources.

Teaching

One of the greatest things about the SCA is how people share their knowledge and techniques. In the real world, you usually have to pay quite a bit to learn some of the skills that people share for free (or cost of materials) in the SCA. So teaching is a way to give back to the community.

It’s also really difficult for me. I’m a hot mess of anxiety if I have to speak up in public. It may be Imposter Syndrome? OTOH, my handouts tend to be excellent, though. But I need to push through the fear and get my butt out there.

Classes I Plan to Teach in 2017:

1. Kosode Construction Tips and Tricks (documented Japanese stitches, getting that collar on straight, getting lining to lie flat, issues on proportion, etc)–scheduled for Clothiers’ Tailor Track
2. Introduction to Shodo–Japanese calligraphy. My (non-SCA) shodo teacher has been urging me to teach this, and I’ve been gathering materials. Venue is an issue, as I need adult-sized tables and free-standing chairs (not picnic tables).
3. Let’s Tanka!–because Japanese poetry is awesome and anyone can do it.
4. Let’s Renga!–because Japanese poetry is even more awesome when you do it with your friends while drinking.
5. Poetry in Everyday Life–using the Japanese concepts of yugen and mono no aware, I’d like to help students notice the intricacies of small details (the cobweb on the window sill, a single leaf remaining amidst bare branches) and how to use those details to construct poems.

I’d also love to do a class about Japanese Courtiers, but I’m not sure if anyone would be interested. Most people focuses the Samurai, and while they are fascinating, they have not been a main area of study for me.

This blog is also a teaching tool of sorts, and I plan to post here regularly with bits of research, answered questions, and poetry.

Have Fun, Make Stuff, Learn

Wow, I have such a long list of stuff I want to do! ALL THE THINGS!! Finances limit me to the materials on hand, but fortunately, I’m a hoarder with a lot of materials. What is on my plate at this moment is:

Lives of Famous Women Project: Cecilia de Gatisbury is doing a photography project recreating Richard Tessards’ illuminations of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Lives of Famous Women. The illuminations were done between 1488 and 1496. I have volunteers to do Cornificia, a Poetess. She is 1st Century BC Roman, but is portrayed in 15th century attire. I have not tried to make a dress from this era before, so it will be an interesting challenge. I will be making a dress, underdress, cloak, veil, and felt shoes.

Japanese garb: I put on a lot of weight and most of my old Japanese garb no longer fits, so I’m making new Japanese garb. I’d like to have a court-worthy outfit finished this year, plus some simple lower-class camp garb (kosode, mobakama, ichime-gasa). I’d like to experiment some with construction techniques, reusing vintage kimono silk, or trying dyeing and fabric painting for embellishment.

Norse garb: my man needs his trousers! Alfgeirr has been after me to make a couple of pair of Thorsbjerg trousers for him. I didn’t get them done this year, but he’d like them by Lilies War next summer. He could also use some new tunics, a hat, and a coat. For myself, I’d like to make an apron-dress. Since I’ve sewn a lot in this style over the years, it’s just a question of fitting in the time to sew and learning more about embellishment (embroidery style, card-woven trim).

Fiber Arts: Some of this ties in with the sewing–fiber arts is a “dabbler” area for me. I want to play more with card-weaving and kumihimo, and learn the basics of sashiko stitching and maybe mess around some with dyes.

Calligraphy and Illumination: I’m still taking shodo lessons. Shodo is a lifetime art–there is so much to learn and do and try. I have two projects I want to complete this coming year: calliging the Iroha Poem in a variety of styles and carving some inkan (seals). I want to make a couple of European scrolls as well in 2017, either for kingdom or maybe as prize-scrolls, just to get back into practice. Calligraphy used to be my main art, but I’ve veered more towards poetry in recent years. Still, I’d like to keep my hand in.

Poetry: I’m in the middle of my first 100-poem sequence and wow, it is more difficult than I thought. So I plan to do another one in 2017 (or two, if I can manage it). I was playing around with the idea of straying into European poetic forms, but right now I have my hands full with the Japanese and Chinese. There is a boatload of background reading I have to do, since I have gotten my hands on some translated medieval poetic treatises. This is research heaven, but it also takes a lot of time.

Language study: Japanese language study continues at its slow, self-study pace. I’d be doing this even without the SCA, though, because it is fun.

Research: I want to learn more about the different medieval schools of Japanese Buddhism, as well as how Confucian and Daoist philosophy became integrated into the mainstream of Japanese society. There’s also been more published on nikki bungaku (diary literature), which I would like to get caught up on.

Events

Besides local meetings, I’d like to average an event per month in 2017, finances and health permitting.

It’s a lot, isn’t it? I prefer to dream big. I may not get to everything I want to do in 2017, but this is just a template.

7 Things SCA Meme (x2)

This is a cross-post from Facebook. Last year, I did a “7 Things” meme about my SCA experience, and it showed up in my memories this year, so I decided to do 7 more things. So here are 14 things about me in the SCA!

1. I consider my official start date to be July 1991 in the Midrealm, but I actually first ran into the SCA in 1980 when I was at Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival back in Texas. I was so unimpressed with the carpet armor and freon helms that the fighters wore that I spent my time doing Renn Faire things instead, until I moved to Louisville, KY, which at that time didn’t have one. The SCA has upped its game tremendously since that time.

2. My first persona was Austrian and was basically the same character I played at Scarborough. I changed her last name from Maria Katerina von Habsburg to Maria Katerina von Adlerhof to get the name registered. My second persona was Anglo-Saxon. Tace of Foxele. Tace is Latin for “Be Quiet!” Foxele is a punning word for fox and holly, but is actually a village outside of Yorkshire mentioned in the Domesday book. It’s now known as Foxholes.

3. I really became interested in doing a Japanese persona by 2002, but I didn’t register Ki no Kotori my primary until 2008. Ki is for the famous poet Ki no Tsurayuki. Kotori means “little bird” and is a play on my mother’s surname, Byrd.

4. I love how so many people are willing to teach their skills for free (or just cost of materials) in the SCA. I’ve never experienced any other organization that has been so generous with their knowledge. And it amazes me the kinds of things I’ve been able to learn that I would have never thought to try had I not been involved in the Society. I’m interested in almost too many things, so I try to keep my arts focus on Japanese history, language and literature (especially poetry), calligraphy (both Western and Eastern) and sewing. I like to wear clothing from different cultures and eras, not just Japanese.

5. I started out in the SCA mainly as a fighter, and mostly focused on that activity the first six years I was involved. It took a long time for me to admit I couldn’t manage it anymore, and I just sold off most of my armor last year, except my fancy brigandine, which I’m keeping to remind myself that I could actually make armor and it WAS AWESOME. I was squired to Sir David Dragonhawk ( David Teasdale) in 1994. Since I don’t fight anymore and Calontir doesn’t allow squires to wear chains, I’ve put my belt and chain away. But Sir Dave will always be “my” knight.

6. I’m a big believer in supporting the local group (shire, barony, whatever). I’ve met so many people who are not able to play much on the Kingdom level because of job or family responsibilities, or due to finances. We’ve run into that issue as well from time to time. So it’s really vital to keep the local groups vibrant so that people who can’t travel much can still enjoy the SCA experience.

7. I have helium hand and between the various groups I’ve lived in, have served in every local office except for Minister of A&S, Archery Marshal, and Minister of Youth. I’ve also autocratted at 5 events. My health isn’t as good as it was, so I’ve been less inclined to be an officer, but I still volunteer when I can.

2nd Group of 7:

1. My motto is “Have fun, make stuff, help out.” Concentrating on those factors is what has kept me in this hobby for so long. I find if I don’t focus too much on being recognized (which I do sometimes–I’m human), the hobby is a lot more enjoyable.

2. Arts and Sciences-based events, and events with a lot of classes are my favorite events to attend. It is fantastic to see all the things people make in the SCA. I always go home on a huge high, wanting to make ALL THE THINGS. Usually after a few days, I realize I don’t have the time or money to do that and I should focus on what I already do. But what an inspiration!

3. I am so conflicted about camping at events. On one hand, yes, you definitely get an immersive experience, and wow, what a high that is! OTOH, I’ve never been good at camping, and now that I’m older, that’s even more true. But the multi-day “War” events are so much fun! So the dithering about whether to invest in another tent (our old one died) continues.

4. My husband Robert has actually been playing SCA longer than I have, but it’s not his main hobby (gaming is), and due to his job schedule, he rarely makes it to events anymore. He comes out to Shire meetings when he can. I make his garb and it always comes out looking better than mine.

5. I can’t drink alcohol anymore due to health issues. Sometimes it is awkward to navigate around that. Never was much of a beer drinker, but I miss trying the interesting meads and wines that people make!

6. A well-meaning friend advised me to make it out to more post-revels. I do try to make it out to the ones he throws, but honestly, I do not shine at all in party situations, being painfully shy, bad at small talk, and a non-drinker. At events or meetings, I can find topics to ask people about. At post-revels, I’m just a big ball of AWKWARD.

7. I love the excitement and enthusiasm that new people to our hobby bring! However, I have to stop myself from lecturing sometimes. It’s just that I don’t want to see them make the same mistakes I’ve made! Still, it’s so cool to see new people get started and then advance in their skills.