Category Archives: sca life

Finding north

I wrote this a few months back, and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since because I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it.

I went to a household gathering last week, the first gathering of the clan since Battlemoor of last year. (I didn’t go to Battlemoor this year, for a whole host of reasons that center on time, money, and emotional energy.) And I had a wonderful time, and I’m so glad I went, but I also found myself at one point just sitting in the dark empty back yard sobbing my head off.

I’ve been out of the game for so long. I feel so out of touch. There are new people coming up, doing amazing work and getting attention from the peer community, who I’ve never met. There are people who’ve been friends with my friends for twenty years, who’ve moved into kingdom from elsewhere or begun playing again while I’ve been out of the game, there have been divorces and remarriages while I’ve been gone, there are all of these new faces in what I think of as my established social circles. The children are all a foot taller than when I saw them last. I feel so lost.

Here’s the thing:

If I had been elevated before I was ready, I could have taken some time to process and reflect and figure out what that was going to mean for me and embrace my peerage in my own time.

If Juan had died, I could have picked up the pieces and moved on with the help of my friends and chosen family.

If I had started grad school, I could have put my SCA life on hold and come back to it as though I’d never left.

If I had moved to a new group, I could have connected with friends in the new place and found my feet pretty quickly.

But for all four of these things to happen at once –

The game as I knew it is gone forever; there is no coming back from that. There is only moving forward.

And as I can see the end of grad school from where I’m sitting, as I think about what life after graduation looks like and where the SCA fits into that and what I want to do with my SCA life – and I just don’t know.

I’ve simultaneously changed kingdoms and taken a break before, but that didn’t come with the attendant pressure of coming back as a peer. In fact at that time I was specifically and intentionally presenting myself as a new arrival, someone very conscious of not knowing the terrain. I can’t do that anymore.

As long as I couldn’t figure out how to finish that post, I couldn’t bring myself to update this blog at all, because I wasn’t going to let it turn into a series of unfinished ideas and whinging and unproductive navelgazing. I wasn’t going to talk until I had something to say or some idea of where the SCA fits into my future or whether there is any point in continuing to document this journey at all.

Somehow, in the intervening time since I started that post, I’ve begun to make sense of it.

At that time I was more or less going on momentum, trying to continue to do and enjoy the things that we did together, and it wasn’t working. It brought me no joy and just made me lonely and sad and confused. I’m beginning to understand that I cannot live my life exactly as it was when he was here, except with the big gaping hole where he used to be. I can’t fill that hole.

It’s strange to say I’ve only just begun to grieve, two and a half years on, but in some ways it’s true. The first year I was just too shattered to do anything except keep my head above water – stay employed, stay in school, pay the bills, survive. The second year I was consumed by a frighteningly black depression. It’s only now that I’m starting to actually do stuff, I’m figuringing out how to hold space for memory and legacy and continuing to do the things I used to enjoy in Juan’s company and continuing to bring to life some of the plans that we made, within the framework of something new and different.

I’ve been waiting for that to take shape, and I think it has. I have a new, big, forever kind of project, the kind of project that has the potential to hold my interest and generate a constant flow of smaller projects for the rest of my life. Something that he would have adored if we’d ever gotten around to it, that we danced around the edges of, but was not actually part of our life together in a significant way.

I’ve been possessed, recently, of a fascination with moveable type, printing, and Renaissance book arts, and particularly the spread of printed literature in vernacular languages and art printmaking across Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.

I’ve been circling on this for a long time.

I’ve played around with block printing for years, probably decades. I took an history of incunabula class in grad school that I loved madly, and I did bookbinding in college, and of course I’ve done C&I for a few years now too. I got very deeply into papermaking for about a year and a half… twenty years ago? More? I always wanted to get back to it and never did. I love books as objects, I love typography, I love slow fussy detail processes, I love everything that goes into this. I can put all the late-period Spanish knowledge I acquired to use. I can make useful things. I can teach. 

One of my dearest friends started talking about this on Facebook, and a bunch of us who have all had this sort of ambient, latent interest in the subject for a long time said hell yes! in one voice, and formed a working group, and have been geeking on it for about two months now. And with this one thing, it all came back. I’m interested again, in a way I haven’t been in a long, long time. I’m making garb. I’m going to events. I’m talking to people and making plans. I have points of navigation again.




Filed under bookarts, meta, sca life


I wasn’t sure I was going to Battlemoor this year; it was hard, both emotionally and logistically, and sad and scary.

Of course I went. Of course I had a wonderful time. I had no plans, I had no commitments, and so I was able to spend the entire war (or at least my three days of it) just talking to people, walking, looking at the stars (god, I miss the stars), laughing, holding my apprentice sister’s baby, petting dogs, sharing food and drink. I spent the entirety of Sunday, except for a little bit of shopping, in camp, noshing and day drinking and conversing deeply about SCA philosophy and love of the game and plans for the future, and it was glorious.

And I realize: part of why I’ve been feeling so at loose ends, out of place and lost, is because I’m not doing anything. The SCA is all about the doing. If I’m not researching something, planning and executing something, helping someone else execute something, making something, or practicing something, I’m not playing.

It’s not just since I moved to Denver, although my malaise has been especially deep since I’ve been here. For about a year before Juan died, I’d been working on some creative ventures outside the SCA. After five Battlemoors of turning out more than a dozen new garments over the summer in preparation for war, last year, I sewed one or two new pieces for each of us. Juan was doing stuff, but I was mostly on the sidelines watching and helping him. And after, I had no heart for it.

I came away from Battlemoor with:

  • plans for Gulf Wars (six months, y’all) and a (at this point very vague and open) trip to Trimaris sometime in the last half of 2017
  • a clear game plan for the next half-dozen high-concept costuming projects I want to work on, that will keep me busy for probably two years
  • a couple of schemes to facilitate, collaborate with, and promote a handful of underrecognized artisans whose work I find amazing and inspiring
  • a renewed commitment to getting back on the fighting field
  • a renewed commitment to do the groundwork research to prepare me for my 2018 trip to Lithuania and Latvia
  • a (for now) SUPER SEKRIT motivation for returning to work on the Motiño manuscript

And suddenly, I know what I need to do. I’m still sad, of course, for what’s lost, but for the first time in almost a year, I’m not unmoored. I love, I love, I love my people.

8-28-2016 178

a quiet moment in camp at dawn

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I did a Laurel-y thing.

Actually, I did a very, very period thing. I became a Patron of the Arts.

I had the wonderful experience this past weekend of judging at the Outlands Tri-Baronial Arts and Sciences competition (that’s Caer Galen, Unser Hafen, and Caerthe, the hosting group this year – it rotates – and my new home Barony). I managed through some dumb luck to land entirely first-time competitors, which was absolutely a blast – these folks all had such interesting, varied projects, they all had been doing the work for some time but were just now delving into competition, and seriously, I could have spent the entire day with each of the three of them. So much fun.

The last of the entries was a jewelry entry, but it was only one of the gentleman’s five projects, and as Master Rhys and I sat and geeked out with him we touched on all five projects at least a little.

One, a Mongolian quiver, had been made as a commission piece, and as I listened to him and Rhys talk about the quiver, it dawned on me – the constraints the client had laid on him were in conflict with his own desire to make the piece more period, and his extensive knowledge about how to do that. It was a beautiful piece, but he could have taken it farther, and he knew it, and it was tremendously frustrating to him. That was so disappointing to me!

Now, I’ve been meaning to make a quiver and bowcase for ages, and I have the skills, and I have the funds for the materials, and I really could make the time, but I haven’t yet, and every time I go to the range I’m embarrassed by my $10 polyester sporting-goods-store quiver. Juan had been pretty excited about starting work on it this winter, but now, I just can’t even think about it.

So while I was off filling out the judging form, I realized – these are two intersecting problems, and the solution is throwing money at them. I went back, returned his documentation, and said, “I’d like to talk to you about a commission.” I proposed: I supply parameters, he supplies an estimate, we tweak the plan a little, and he gets to go bonkers. By commissioning the pieces, I’ll provide the patronage, and he gets to do the research, make it kingdom-level-competition-worthy, put into practice all that knowledge he’s accumulated and just not had a chance to manifest. And I take a project off of my plate that was supposed to be a “me and Juan together” project and would have probably been delayed ANOTHER few years while I get to a place where the thought of it doesn’t make me want to sob. Reframe the question. Make it something new and different, with some joy in it and something for the future.

The look on his face as he wrapped his head around the idea was worth the price of admission. Pure awesome.

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Taking measure

Sometimes, I like to take on a project that is at the bleeding edge of my current skills, take my time, and just assess the current envelope (for to stretch it, of course). I’ve done this with big cooking and costuming projects, but this is the first time I’ve done it with a scribal project.

Recently, I was honored with the assignment of Duke Albert von Dreckenveldt’s Doe and Mountain, the Outlands’ award for long service in arts and sciences. His Grace is a dear friend and an artisan I’ve admired for years (and his Laurel is a couple of months younger than I am) so “daunted” was a little bit of an understatement.

As he is an armorer, if I were better at figure work, I’d have worked from a late-period illumination or print illustrating very fine armor design. I didn’t find an inspiration piece I was happy with, but I did find the Almugavar Hours, a scribe’s dream of an early 16th-century Spanish devotional. I decided that the best way I could honor Al’s art was with the very best art I could bring, so I did. This was a whole lot of fun to work on, and a delight to see presented.

Arches Cold Press Watercolor, Deckled Edge, 22×30
Higgins calligraphy ink
Windsor & Newton (Cotman line) paints
Liquid Leaf
Pigma Micron artists’ pens

Finished scroll

Finished scroll

His Grace Albert receiving his Doe and Mountain from HRM Anna, with many thanks to Lady Adelaisa Bernois for the court photography!

His Grace Albert receiving his Doe and Mountain from HRM Anna, with many thanks to Lady Adelaisa Bernois for the court photography!

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Filed under events, sca life, scribal


I have just had the best couple of weeks! This past weekend was Outlands Heralds and Scribes, and the weekend before that was the new Kingdom A&S Collegium. I’ve been playing at a pretty low level since Fall Coronation, and although I’ve been recovered from the post-elevation fatigue for a while now, I haven’t been caught afire by any new projects yet. These couple of weekends have been just what I needed – coming back to what drew me into the SCA in the first place, the geekery and discovery, learning and teaching and sharing.

I actually only took three classes at KA&S, but they were really good classes. An all-morning reprise of the Battlemoor lampworking class and open torch time, timed just right to refresh everything I learned at Battlemoor and was starting to get anxious about losing.

2015-04-14 08.56.21

After lunch I took Mistress Eibhlin’s cheesemaking class, which was intended to be practical and turned out to be incredibly informative and useful on a theoretical level because the curd didn’t cooperate, and then Mistress Ursula’s arboriculture and medieval gardening class, which was fascinating on a theoretical level but also left me with a lot to think about practically as we lay the groundwork for moving to a new place.

But the best part of the event, as ever, was the people. The long drive and opportunity to really catch up and gossip and talk deep SCA philosophy with HE Leofsige, and a fantastic dinner with a bunch of Dragonsspine and Aarquelle people.

Then turning around the next weekend and heading up to north Denver for Heralds & Scribes. Classes on the history of heraldic tabards, on streamlining workflow for combat scribes, on applied gold leaf, and on faux non-Roman-alphabet hands (where my own Laurel scroll, which is done in a faux proto-Cyrillic that HE Avram developed specifically for that project, was featured in the examples). Every class was exciting, inspiring, and immediately practical. But the highlight of the event was the scribal display. I would have loved to have just blown off a couple of classes and spent hours just studying those scrolls – the extraordinary masterworks and the pieces of history. Many, many premier scrolls. Scrolls in every imaginable size, style, period, material, language. Just amazing. I’m absolutely humbled; I realize how far I have to go to be doing really masterful work, but I also have a better idea of how to get closer to it. And two current assignments that I am excited to start on. So much fun.

And because it just gets better, on Sunday, we went and ran a bunch of errands all over the city before heading home. At Black & Read, our favorite used bookstore, I found a lovely little calligraphy book, an annotated excerpt of Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta. At Colorado Fabric, I found wool for Juan’s Norse garb, a beautiful diamonds-within-stripes faux-silk satin for a new doublet and paned slops set, a half-yard of rich dark indigo linen (in the $2/lb discount bin! Seventy-eight cents!) for a new veil or light shawl, and a gold-stamped silk crepe that will become the accent fabric in a late-period project for me. Unfortunately, the big Korean grocery was out of goose, so I couldn’t pick one up to start recipe testing on Corazon.

And now I have a few weeks of breathing room before Coronation, no immediate deadlines except those two scrolls, and lots of fabric and wood and glass and food and ideas to play with.

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Setting things in motion (SCA edition)

I realized that one of the reasons I feel unsatisfied with 2014 is – I did so little long-view work. Everything I did was just-in-time, short-term work – from cooking to gifting to art to professional development. I did almost no brewing, fermenting, charcuterie, little in the way of ongoing research or home projects, no gardening, threw no parties except my elevation (okay, that was a big deal). I did spend the summer putting up the winter’s veg supply, and that is AWESOME. But that’s about all.

One of the projects I really wanted to tackle this year was the building up of a gifting pantry. I thought I could putter at it all year, build up a supply from whatever was in season. But I didn’t really start hitting it until August and September, and by then, everything was gone. And there are things that can be done when nothing is in season – cosmetics, spice blends, thrift shopping to stock up on supplies of pretty jars and tins. I’m going to take another swing at it.

I’m doing this in parallel at my other blog, focusing more on food, sustainability, and lifestyle stuff; this will focus specifically on the SCA. There’s certainly some overlap. As it turns out, a lot of January is about TALKING and PLANNING. Note to self: schedule a couple of times for me and Juan to do just that, uninterrupted, with notetaking implements.

Big projects (that won’t be finished this year but will be worked on this year)

I have four big, ongoing, long-view projects that I would like to at least dust off and poke with a stick every month this year: the Great Baltic Mapping Project, the Motino translation, the Stibbert doublet reproduction, and Calligraphy Bootcamp. I can find a little time for the first two in breaks from the Corazon social media campaign and website work. I have a scroll due for Twelfth Night and a scribal afternoon planned for tomorrow, so I’ll plan to start by deciding which of the three hands we’ve worked on will go onto this scroll, and practice for an hour or so before blocking out the design. The Stibbert – I really don’t want to pick up another handwork project at the moment (see below) but I might just pull the supplies together and figure out what I need to do to get started. Maybe poke at the pattern drafting a little. We’ll see.


My main big project for January is garb for Viking Vintr Vunderlandt, an event (in January! In a place called Colorado Mountain Park! Partially outdoors! Use your imagination!) at the end of the month. I am working on coats for Their Majesties, and a coat, hat, and pants for Juan. All of these things are in some degree of progress, and everything except for His Majesty’s coat are over halfway done. (That coat is patterned, and will get cut and assembly started this weekend.) At this point it’s really just keeping on pace.


February is All Corazon, All The Time.  Which means that January is recipe testing, social media campaign, hall decoration projects, charcuterie and pickle dishes. Maybe start the scrolls? I owe a back scroll to last year’s champion, it just absolutely fell through the cracks, and I do not want that to happen again this year, so aim for an early start. We have a winter ale beer kit just sitting around, and if we start it in the next week or so some of it can be Corazon thank-you gifts.

KAOS is due the end of February. Most of it is travel-friendly handwork, but there’s one component that requires tabletop equipment. I have not more than five or six hours left on that stage. In breaks from the VVV garb.

I’ve decided I am starting NO more SCA handwork projects until after Corazon, and probably for a few weeks after. Once the VVV garb and KAOS are done, I’m going to take some time to do some non-SCA studio textile work.


I’m trying to keep March fairly free, partly to recover from Corazon, partly to keep some work time open for starting camping season projects. Heralds and Scribes is smack in the middle of the month, but I don’t have to prepare anything for that. It’s a daytrip in Denver, which makes a good hook for a longer getaway weekend. Maybe the main thing to do now is just talk to Juan about what else we might want to do while we’re up north.


April is ArtSci Collegium. Caelainn and I put our heads together over dinner at the beginning of this month and hatched an excellent (and currently super sekrit) plot, but haven’t had a chance to talk and develop it any further. Get that conversation started, with an eye toward having something to present at the collegium. I also think I’d like to teach – I can develop a class concept in March, but I need to have an outline to submit sooner than that.


Spring Coronation! First Camping! There’s absolutely no actually starting camping projects until after Corazon, but we really should sit down and TALK about our focus for this year. See: June, July, August. I may want new Coronation garb, but as I’m pretty steadily losing weight right now, I don’t want to try to start anything. Maybe some Pinterest research/virtual window shopping in breaks from Corazon work.

June and July

There is some talk – and it is just talk at this point – about the possibility of Lilies War. It’s really going to depend on what events are happening over Fourth of July weekend; Juan and I both have birthdays in July, and both of us have worked over our birthdays the last two years. This year, we’re staking a claim and doing SOMETHING big, and it will be either Lilies or the holiday weekend itself. Watch the kingdom calendar for developments. Discuss. Consider finances and scheduling. Can we do two wars in one summer? What infrastructure would we have to build to make that happen?

Start cordials and bitters and plan the Booze Production Line for the rest of the year.


The end of August is Battlemoor! I usually spend most of the summer sewing like mad, working on projects at an increasingly frenetic pace, falling down dead at the front gate. I did better last year, but still fell short. (Pre-warping looms for a tablet weaving class: not a thing you can say “fuck it, it can get done in camp” about and throw in the back of the truck. It will not get done in camp. Pretty much nothing gets done in camp except maintaining camp. “Fuck it, it can get done in camp” is actually a terrible thing to say ever.) Instead of outlining plans in April, outline plans NOW so that the actual WORK can start in March and April. And start mead!


September is the DOWN MONTH after Battlemoor. My goal for September: absolute freedom from major commitments. Keep an eye on the ball as the year develops.


October is mainly a leadup to fall Coronation, and there’s nothing to plan until we know who’s big day we’re celebrating, or even where it is. I am blissfully free of the need to actually put anything in motion this far in advance!

November and December

This is basically the same as what I said on the other post, about handcrafted gifts and building the Magic Pantry. Start NOW to organize and inventory my craft supplies, toss the damaged and unwanted stuff, think about what stash I want to restock over the course of the year. Start a list of gift inspirations. I made the in-town portion of the annual Outlands pilgrimage to the dollar store 75% off racks for anything green, gold, or stag-decorated this morning; I’ll hit Denver and Pueblo on the way home from New Years’ Eve. Sometime in the next few weeks, a morning combing the antique mall for interesting jars and tins. Buy totes and baskets to keep stuff organized.

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The weeks between Battlemoor and Coronation were a rush and a flurry, a headlong dash down a to-do list of terrifying proportions. I didn’t have time to think, and if I had, I might have frozen up and not gotten through.


Since I came home, I’ve had nothing but time to think. I’m working on a couple of small projects, when I feel like it. Reading and sleeping a lot. Putting my house back in order. I took two weeks just to completely unload the truck.

Looking back, I realize I’ve had a lot of conversations this year that led directly to this place. What does it mean to be a Peer? What does it mean to be elevated? The always-fraught Why do you want to be a Peer?

I despise the “never say you want the cookie” framing, I think it breeds disingenuity and resentment, but this question always made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to seem insincere by disavowing the desire, but it was never about desire for me.

I always knew that elevation was a possibility, and that I have things to bring to the circle; but I also knew that it not happening was a possibility, and I was comfortable in my knowledge that I have things to bring to the game outside the circle too. Really, I just didn’t actually think about it that much.

What I thought about, much more, was living in the game, in this community of people. The opportunity to practice my art and do my research and form these relationships and have these conversations. How I could leverage whatever rank and social power I already posessed at any given moment to make the game better, more inclusive, more joyful.

It has always been about gratitude. Gratitude for a place where I felt I belonged. For people who understand me. For inspiration. For discovery. For celebration. For the wine and the firelight. For the companions on the journey, and the warm welcome at the destination.

Nothing has ever, ever come easy for me. I have never taken the well-lit path, I’ve always been the odd one out, even within the countercultures and geek communities where I’ve always made my home. The SCA – the particular intersection of research geekery, artisanship, volunteerism, creative play, storytelling, athletics, and extended found family – is the only thing I’ve ever encountered that not just made sense to me, but made sense of me. The SCA gets me. It’s the only place in my life I don’t feel like I’m fighting the current all the time.

When I ask myself, as I have over and over again in these weeks, why they made me a Laurel, I come back to this – this feeling of rightness, of being in the place I belong, doing the work I’m supposed to be doing, communicating that work to people who appreciate it, not just accepted but embraced for who I am.

Every day is paying forward that blessing.

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