Sunday, September 25, 2005
Three SCA event weekends in a row does not make for a happy (or clean) home life. You wouldn't have believed the laundry...

But I got a lot of it done by staying home this weekend. At the expense, incidentally, of seeing Papa and T'ressa, who dote on me and whom I like lots, made Baron Papa and Baroness T'ressa at Love Feast. Geez! I've been traveling all over the Known World to see good stuff happen lately; I suppose I have to miss good stuff every so often. But I'm irked it had to be this particular good stuff. I can't think of anyone more deserving (except perhaps Baroness Christiana, who I got to see "gotcha'd" in Mare Amethystinum at Coronation two weeks ago).

I'm not going to run down Coronation and Heralds/Scribes/Dancing--at least not the former. They were both good, if small. Got some help at the latter with gold-laying from Master Gevehard, who has slightly...unorthodox methods, but very much liked my latest scroll, which is now finished, scanned, and listed on my Scribal Page. It was nice to have time to devote to illumination at an actual event, but yet not be sequestered in the scribes' room away from all my friends.

We stayed across the street from my favorite hotel in Ashland, by accident. (I thought the Lake Aire was in Washburn, honest! Then there it was in front of us in Ashland! With a view of the Hotel Chequamegon from our window, dammit!) I don't recommend the Lake Aire in particular, but the Hotel C. was still on tourist-season pricing and it was just exorbitant--I could have gotten a cheaper hotel room in downtown Chicago. (In slightly less proximity to the event site, true, but still...!)

I think I offended Gabriel, who was doing some shtick, impenetrable to normal non-lawyer minds, involving taking Colleen for a walk and absconding to the bookstore across the street with her. Not with my loon, you don't. Colleen had a good event overall; she got to meet the Laurel Queen of Arms (as did I), who is from An Tir and seems like a lot of fun. I told the LQA that Garraed complained that "I don't get no bling, where my bling?" (he's the Society Minister of Arts & Sciences, but Laurel Sovereign gets a crown and MoA&S doesn't) and she laughed.

I travel well with Eile even though there are some things we don't really have in common. We had some good conversations all the same. I did get to introduce her to Andrew from Skerrjastrond, who does have some of those things in common with her, but of course they both have serious significant others, so oh well for the matchmaking thing, not going to happen. I did catch them making rope together in the evening. That's not a euphemism; he makes rope out of string, it's one of the things he does. Last year at Pennsic I delivered a piece of his handmade rope to then-Princess Giulia, since he couldn't be there.

Made myself cry several times this past week by listening to this song. Get the kleenex ready if you plan to listen.

Last weekend I got the Blender Express I'd ordered (yes, that's my review on the Amazon page) to use for making smoothies. I wish I could say it was out of some sort of urge to eat healthier and use smoothies as a vehicle to do so, but basically I was looking for something that would help me make simple frappuccinos and fruit milkshake-type-things for breakfast without having to pay through the nose for them at coffee places. To inaugurate the thing, I got a bag of frozen peaches, one of frozen mixed berries, and some vanilla yogurt. Out of four tries last week, the only misstep was Friday, when I used a packet of vanilla whey protein powder I'd bought at Whole Foods. Big mistake: my peach/strawberry smoothie smelled like a cheese factory. I had to toss it. But other than that, it makes great smoothies with just milk, yogurt, sugar or honey (honey doesn't clean up well, otherwise the taste is the same), fruit, and crushed ice. This afternoon I stopped and got some pears and bananas to cut/freeze, and some frozen strawberries, to try out this week. And I made iced coffee to use in a frappuccino tomorrow. I do believe I am spoiling myself.

I met a guy. (Thank you, Yahoo Personals, this is one of the few times you've been genuinely helpful. It's about time!) His name's Alex and we've been out twice. He's a southern gentleman (or at least, he hasn't shown me his impolite side yet) and awfully cute, and does NOT look eight years older than me. (He also doesn't look like a walrus, which was what I was sort of afraid of after seeing his pictures on his YP personal. I told Purple, "If he looks like a walrus, I'm not going out with him again." All right, call me shallow...) He's nice, he's sweet, he hasn't pressured me about anything at all (and yet I wouldn't call him reticent or shy), he is slightly--flatteringly--taken aback when I make innuendos, but (I hope) not disgusted. He knows about the SCA and has even been to events with friends ages ago, but isn't SCA--and yet he'll listen to me talk about it, which is supportive and nice of him; he would be within his rights to say "Let's just not talk about that, I don't really understand it" but hasn't yet.

We hung out at Mother Fool's coffeehouse Wednesday night, then went to the zoo today, largely in the pouring rain. I discovered that one of my Shopko sneakers isn't waterproof. But I had a great time otherwise. This was the first time I've been in the various animal houses since I was in high school, if not before; 90% of them have been nicely updated and reconfigured from what I remember. There are fewer fun birds, though, which was sort of odd. I remember my dad cooing, "Pretty bird, pretty bird" at the mynah bird, which was nowhere to be found this afternoon. I suppose a lot of the animals I used to see as a kid have died or been sold to other zoos. The thought is mildly depressing, but then I was never really that attached to the zoo in general.

Turns out it's not a bad date place, though! When we'd gone through the zoo, we stopped at a little cafe on the corner of Drake and Randall and drank gourmet pop (Izze Pomegranate is awful, just sour sour sour) and talked and talked. I feel comfortable with the guy. I don't really have a reason to; I mean, I barely know him and I just found out his last name today! But I hope that's a good sign. And I like the way he looks at me.

This week: I was going to go to Clothier's Guild Monday night, but it turns out it's at Yseult's, and I think she has cats. So, home tomorrow evening, going over to Alex's to watch House Tuesday night, no SCA choir Thursday night because the author Maria Rosa Menocal is going to speak on campus, and then Day of Arbeau on Saturday for some dancing/hanging out with music-type people. (Colin, if you're reading this, I hope we get to have some hanging-out time. I miss you and you owe me a song. I would not be averse to collaborating on it if that helps.)

Side note: they have come up with a new background and color scheme for the Northshield page. The tinkering never ends. Anything's better than powder blue--since when is that one of the Northshield's colors?--but this one is a bit violent on the eyes, in my opinion. Maybe compass stars instead? Nah, anything along those lines would be jarring. Heraldically-correct color combinations do not make good webpage backgrounds, by their very nature--they contrast too much. But I suppose if we're going to do it, at least having the content enclosed in a soothing light-colored box is better than just having it float over the background. (Can you imagine the migraines sprouting all over the Kingdom?)

Monday, September 05, 2005
Welcome to Part II of the Post Pennsic Passamaquoddy. (For want of a better, more alliterative name for it.)

Riding with Don Mateo turned out to be a lot of fun. When you ride with someone mostly for convenience/help with gas money, and none of your regular pals are going this year, you risk getting someone who bores/irritates/angers you. Luckily, none of the above were a problem. Mateo is very different from me, but has all kinds of wonderful stories to tell--lots of them about the fencer dudes, but other things too. He's a good listener, a quick thinker, and has his wacky moments, which I always find endearing in a friend. He also latched onto the various SCA bardic CDs I had along. We listened to the Ealdormere Bardic Kitchen Party for a total of maybe six hours. Nothing like riding with someone who values what you value in the bardic arts. He has hatched a scheme to replicate the Bardic Kitchen Party format in Northshield--I won't elaborate any more on that, until he's had a chance to plan it a bit.

Using the world's silliest pickup line: I've received at least one request to tell what this is. All right: it's "Would you like to go somewhere with me and eat Frosted Mini-Wheats?" Thursday night I was carrying around a ziploc of Mini-Wheats as sort of interim sustenance, knowing I probably wouldn't get an actual dinner, what with the Bardic Exhibition, Known World Choir practice and then performance, and the Aethelmearc bardic circle. After practice there was about 40 minutes to kill; not really enough to go eat dinner (and I didn't want to stuff myself before the Choir concert), but enough to get away from the practice area and nibble on Mini-Wheats. So I invited Gideon (hi, Gideon!), who I already knew had a girlfriend, but who walked with me to the food court and talked and was fun to be with (though he turned out not to be so much into the Mini-Wheats). So: the question of whether the pickup line was successful, is kind of a moot question. But I got to use it anyway.

The Knowne World Choir was good this year. I am not a huge fan of the woman who conducted; this was the third time I've sung under her, and last time I got so frustrated I dropped out. (That was my "bad" Pennsic year, 2003, so I don't think it was purely her fault.) But it was an all-Josquin program, and the music trumped everything; it was fascinating stuff and it fed my brain and heart. Plus it was nice to hang out a bit with Choir folks. I sat next to a Lady on Tuesday who had a doumbek; totally on impulse, I introduced myself and asked if she wanted to accompany me on "Three Words" at the Northshield bardic circle that night. She responded that she was new to the doumbek, but she knew Beledi and would try. She and her husband ended up attending the circle (their first) and enjoying themselves--she even sang a piece before they left! And you could NOT tell she was a doumbek newbie at all! (Berwyn would have been impressed!)

Things I bought at the merchants': I found the booth that carried Seraphina's gongs last year, but they had forgotten to bring them this year. So no purchases on that front (sorry, Seraphina), but I did get their card so she can contact them. I bought a beautiful print of the Jewish priestly blessing ("The Lord bless you and keep you/the Lord let his countenance shine upon you/and be gracious unto you/") in gorgeously calligraphed English, Hebrew, and Spanish. (The Spanish was what got me.) I also got some jewelry for friends, a small hand-painted illumination of a red gillyflower for myself, and a golden amber key for my office--I'm going to do a kumihimo necklace to put it on, and pass it on to the next Northshield Kingdom Chatelaine. Oh, and I got a feast basket from The Basket Man, as a wedding present for Flori and Owen.

The Stave Church was having a 2-for-1 book sale Wednesday night, so I got some books there; Michael Alewright's hand-bound sonnet books were not part of the sale, but I had to get one anyway. They are SO beautiful. He designed them to look just like a late-period English poetry chapbook, complete with computerized font design that looks exactly as though it were hand-printed in 1589. If he weren't already a Laurel, I'd say this masterwork ought to get him some attention in that direction.

Speaking of Michael, I got to spend a bunch of time with him, which was one of the highlights of my Pennsic. Have you ever met anyone who is just a font of wisdom? And yet isn't simply flooding people with his dictums and irritating them; he actually has conversations, asks questions, interacts, and when you're done, you realize how much you've gained from listening to him. He knows how to make people feel valued, like friends chosen for their own insights and personalities, not like peons gathered to soak in his wisdom. Talking to him is always fruitful, for me, anyway.

Saturday night Michael had nothing much going on (and lord knows I had nothing to do by that time, and was a bit freaked out by so many people having left), so I had dinner with him, we sat & talked with various people who wandered past, like my apprentice sister Deirdre and her boyfriend Sven, who is one of Wyndreth's apprentices; we ended up having a really interesting discussion of what apprentices want/need from their Laurels.

Once it got dark we wandered for awhile; Michael shared his bottle of scotch with whoever he saw that he knew, and we picked up a couple of Dons from the East, who were acquaintances of his and also happened to know some Northshield fencing folks, so we had a nice time talking. Michael then proposed that we head down to the Bog where the Lost Boys were having their "This war isn't over yet!" party.

It turned out that these were not the same Lost Boys we know in the Northshield (you know, Isabella, BigMatt, Tristan, etc.) who are heavy fighters. These were people who take their theme from the Lost Boys of "Peter Pan" fame; they seem to do a lot of fencing, and their aesthetic is partly Native American, partly pirate-ish, and partly "we're relatively young people who have a lot of enthusiasm so let's have fun!". Michael has an apprentice who is part of their group, so we sat at their circle for a couple of hours until we all started to feel sleepy. Michael's apprentice is very talented but needs to work on enunciation (or maybe it was an alcohol issue; they were handing around containers of this stuff called "Pan" which seems to be largely lime Kool-aid, with a hefty dose of alcohol). They all knew Michael and they seemed pleased that he brought friends. I got up and did "Traveller's Prayer" which seemed highly appropriate, given the pagan feel to the whole gathering, plus the huge full moon which had loomed over all of us every night this Pennsic. I was pretty well-received.

Speaking of performing...this was the first Pennsic where I actively tried to do pieces that I have memorized. The list is pitifully small (Willie of Winsbury, N19, Three Words, Travelers' Prayer, Shield My Kinsmen) but it has something for every situation, and so I managed to stay away from my bardic book about 70% of the time. After years of arguing for the use of bardic books, I am starting to see other people's point: performances are usually better if they're memorized, and a lot of local bardic cultures--including those of our neighbors Calontir and the Midrealm--really value singing from memory. I am NOT changing my practice at home, nor am I changing my conviction that a person should not have to bang her head repeatedly against her mental limitations in order to pursue an art that she loves. But at Pennsic, I'm trying a slightly different tack, and finally--five years into my Pennsic experience, seven into my bardic experience--it seems to be working for me.

My class went very well. I opened each one by saying I called it "Sephardic Music Overview" rather than "Sephardic Music Introduction" because the latter would imply I was qualified to teach the Intermediate and Advanced classes, which I don't feel I am. About 14 the first day, and 7 the second day, attended and were very attentive and participatory, without taking over the class, which I really appreciated. One problem I didn't ancticipate: the acoustics in the A&S tents are terrible. Even with the boom box turned all the way up, it was hard for people to hear the relatively quiet pieces I had planned to share. But during the talking portion, I think I relayed some really good information, shared some theories, answered questions honestly ("I don't know, but here's what I would do to find out" turns out to be an answer that people accept and respect; thank you, library training!), and people even did some brainstorming on stuff like the meaning of lyrics. There were at least a couple of Jewish folks in each class who kept me on track if there was something I forgot to mention, that might have confused the non-Jewish folks. And Mistress Amelie came to the Thursday class and was very helpful in the discussion of modes and shifting half/whole/1 1/2-steps in Sephardic scales. (One of the first classes I took at Pennsic was her Modes class!)

The Northshield bardic circle was absolutely lovely. I was hosting it. Flori helped me set up some tables, and a lovely Lady from Castel Rouge loaned us a white tablecloth; I added my lantern and little stained-class candleholder, and with the food I'd brought, plus leftovers from Cerian's vigil the night before, we had a nice little spread. Others handled the fire, so I wasn't preoccupied with that; I mostly just sat in my chair with Colleen and interjected every so often with warnings to be careful on the tippy benches, and observed and acted as attentive doyenne of the circle. This, I know how to do. ;) By 2 or so, the circle was down to six or seven die-hards; in a way I think that's the most fun part of a circle, to see who stays, get to know them a little, and see how late your yen to "be bardic" lasts. We were up until maybe 4. It was entirely worth it.

The each and the every: I can't remember exactly why I put this in, now. Owen once told me that he thought one of the best things about me as an SCA member/leader was that I value "the each and the every" person in the Society. If I remember correctly, he was saying I seem to have a knack for valuing each person's individual gifts, as well as what they can contribute to the Northshield and the Society at large, and making them feel good about both. I dunno--I never seem to be able to state it very well. But if I'm not wrong, I'm only getting better at this "each and every" thing. This year at Pennsic I really felt good socially; I felt I was having good conversations with people, learning about them, and often as not, communicating something that I though they should feel good about. If that's a peer-like quality, then I feel proud; if it's just something Owen values, then I feel like a good apprentice who's making her Laurel proud. All I can say is, between Owen and many other Peers I know, I have good role models.

Overall, at this Pennsic, I had the strange feeling of having lots to do but plenty of time to do it in. I felt in control of myself; I felt cheerful, and competent, and even influential in bardic situations. Very seldom did I catch myself feeling like someone's inferior, feeling hopeless or discouraged (even when caught in the rain Saturday afternoon), or berating myself for not getting something done or being a certain way. This is new for me. Pennsic was really a vacation, this year. I'm not sure how I accomplished it. I hope it happens again!

Oh yes, Saturday afternoon: I walked down to the Classic Swimming Hole with Dahrien and a bunch of other people, some bardic folk, for a naked bardic circle. I had been wondering for two years whether I would want to participate in that (there had been one in 2003, but I missed it). When I got there, after having had a conversation with a woman I didn't know who talked up a storm while disrobing, then conversed with me naked for about 10 minutes, I realized I really didn't want to be there. There are people I don't need or want to see naked. The Lady who babbled at me for ten minutes did me a huge favor, as I could focus on her eyes as she spoke, and not on, say, Dahrien or Maraha getting naked a few feet away. Once she went in to swim, I sat on the beach for a little while; the bardic bunch was thankfully submerged by that time, but I still felt intensely like I was in the wrong place. It was really the only time that happened this Pennsic, and it wasn't a feeling that I shouldn't be at Pennsic, just that I shouldn't be at the Classic Swimming Hole.

I really am not a prude. Many of those reading this, know this about me, from firsthand experience or from hearing my songs, or hanging out with me in a raunchy mood. It's just that I'm not used to naturism, and I have never understood people's need to get naked together in casual social situations (unless they're going towards something sexual, which is something completely different). Sure, there are times in my own home where I like being naked, but normally if I'm going to do the regular activities of life--cooking, cleaning, crafts, eating meals, sitting and reading, etc.--I want to have some clothes on, to avoid cooking burns, my butt sticking to chair seats, etc. I also have always had air conditioning, so nakedness is an option, not a requirement due to hot weather. And my eyes are just naturally drawn to naked people's privates when I'm around naked people, which is highly distracting and not very comfortable for me socially, not to mention that I figure other people experience the same thing, and don't necessarily want them looking at MY privates.

So the Classic Swimming Hole, though a lovely pastoral spot, turns out to not be for me. When the skies looked threatening, I signaled to Dahrien & the others that I was going back to check that my tent windows were closed, and started walking back. I was caught in the downpour, but laughed to myself the whole way back about the awkward situation and what I'd learned about myself. And the reward was that when I arrived at the Barn, soaked through, and stopped to dry off, Corin & Myfanwy and their kids were there having lunch, so I got to hang out and talk with them. (They're from Caer Anterth and they are fast becoming some of my favorite people in the SCA. Myfanwy sings in the Northshield Choir, and her daughter Melanie is going to Lawrence in a few weeks; Melanie's brother Miles goes to Beloit College and we had a nice talk about it & how he thinks it's different from LU. Boy, have those kids matured since my first Boar's Head feast, when they were both sullen young teens with not much to talk about...)

So, that was my Pennsic, in several nutshells and a large Rubbermaid container.

Since then, I've been trying hard to get back on the pre-Pennsic daily schedule, but have been getting to work unfortunately late--late enough that even if I stay late, I can't get all my hours in. Close, but not quite. It's my own fault, but luckily my boss doesn't care; as an hourly employee, I only get paid for the time I work, and the workload hasn't been unduly heavy recently. I guess I'm discovering the good things about non-salaried positions. Who knew there were any? ;)

Here it is Monday night of Labor Day weekend. I didn't go to Autumn Rose this year, a fact that still slightly disappoints me (esp. after reading about it in various friends' Livejournals). Instead, I went to the Middle Kingdom Academe of Defense in Ravenslake, which turns out to be only about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Jararvellir. The cheddar curtain is heavier and more opaque, and more illusory, than we think, folks--drive through it a few times, and see.

The reason for going to this event was Cerian's Laureling, which was wonderful of course--what better choice could the Midrealm Queen & King make?--but I also really enjoyed being with folks from that area, with a smattering of Northshielders. I took Arrienne's beginning reticella lace class; I don't think I am meant to be doing such things with thread, but still it was fascinating to see how the stuff is made and gain a concept of the effort and the stitch work involved. It seems to have a lot more kinship with hardanger embroidery than I had previously known, not that I do hardanger either, but I'm glad to know what's involved. Adda, my site autocrat from Bardic Madness this year, was there with her husband and another Shattered Oak person, and she took the class too.

Turns out Adrien's lady, one-half of Tourdion, whose name I can never remember, is teaching kumihimo now! I stopped in to show my portable kit, since it was different than the one she handed out, and share the URL for my kumihimo article/bibliography. I was probably horning in, but she was very gracious about it. I will have to watch doing that in the future. I am not the only person who can teach kumihimo.

I got there too late to get feast, but Mysie (I got to see Mysie! I missed her so much!) said I could throw the breadsticks I'd brought into a potluck that a bunch of people were doing, so I ate well. Got to hang out with Sivert and his lady/kids; those kids are growing like weeds. You should have seen Anna--who isn't a day older than 5--staring raptly at Mistress Morgana telling a story at the bardic circle. That kid is going to be smarter than all of us someday.

The bardic circle was incredible, made even more so by the thought that an equally incredible one was going on simultaneously at Autumn Rose! Sivert did some Calontir songs, Owen did the barley song, Cerian did his wacky fire-breathing cockroach song, a recent Ansteorran transplant named Snorri did some wonderful Norse stories (Morgana latched on to him when she heard him perform), Mateo did several songs including his "never go drinking with Michael again" song and the accompanying Gulf Wars story, Dahrien did the Pickled Fish song complete with a backwards somersault that made the kids roar; I didn't do much but got a request from Purple to lead "Sons of the Dragon", so I did. After awhile Rosa came and sat near me and we did our Harmony Brigade thing where we sing harmony to everything. Tons of fun.

Late at night, after the bardic circle had shrunk to just a few people standing around and saying they ought to go to sleep, it was time for me to head to the motel (you think I'm camping again, so soon after Pennsic? You're nuts). I stopped in the restroom in the Main Hall before leaving, and who should I run into but a very sleepy Queen of the Midrealm. I told her how wonderful it's been to have such strong bardic patronage from the thrones of the Midrealm, and what a great choice it was to recognize Cerian as a Laurel. To my surprise, she asked me if I'd been in the Known World Choir in previous years at Pennsic, and said she remembered singing with me! I confessed to being a big fat choral wonk when I wasn't being bardic, and we had a nice little conversation. Imagine being only three or four years in the Society, and youngish overall, when your Lord wins the Crown of the Midrealm for you. I would never have had the grace, good cheer, and presence of mind to give such stellar patronage to the arts I loved; I would have spent a year floating in confusion. Noelle is going to be beloved of bards for a very, very long time.

Yesterday I drove back via the scenic route (Hwy. 12, which pretty much links Madison and the MKAoD site), stopping in Cambridge to shop. All I got was chocolate, but you don't see me complaining.

Today I slept in, then went to see March of the Penguins with Mom and Colleen. Colleen sat in the top of my purse, and I don't think anyone noticed her, though an antsy little girl in the row in front of us appeared to stare at her at one point. Mom was really affected by the movie; I was surprised. When there was a long shot of an egg freezing and cracking, she had her hand over her mouth and big eyes. (Well, once a perinatal social worker/empath, always a perinatal social worker/empath, I guess...) At the beginning she was joking a bit, but after that she kept murmuring, "Fascinating..." "Incredible..."

Me personally, I thought it was fascinating as a nature documentary, but it never really got under my skin, and I was distracted by the kids around us asking their parents questions. Colleen was rapt, and kept saying "Wow". I dunno, maybe it's a bird thing. ;)

Tonight I'm in that weird, slightly sweaty state that comes from having lay down with a book at 4, and fallen asleep until 8. I hate when I do that, but it happens more and more as I get older. It gives me a slight headache and throws my balance off. Luckily it doesn't seem to affect my typing...

I have been playing the occasional game of Clover. It's completely mesmerizing--you have to try it. The only thing I don't like about it is that winning gets you exactly the same thing as losing: a big orange "START" button to start over. Other than that, it's quite addictive.

This coming weekend: Third Northshield Coronation in Thunder Bay, ONT. (Note to self: stick passport in purse. Also, stock up on Smarties while in Canada.) Alissende invited me to ride with her, yay! I'm thinking I might try to convince her that we should take my car, both because it gets better gas mileage, and because I have been very allergy-y since Pennsic (I am paying heavily now for having been outdoors for just 12 hours on Saturday!) and her car is full of dog hair. She hates riding, and she may have regalia stuff that needs more room than my car can offer (she's the Northshield Regalia Minister now). So, we shall see.

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