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Outlands Kingdom A&S 2011: Full Circle

After an incredibly hectic month and more, I’m finally getting caught up on some overdue posting. I’m only just now writing about Kingdom A&S in the Barony of Fontaine dans Sable on April 9th.

It’s hard to articulate just how significant this event was to me. I never competed in A&S in Meridies; I was the perpetual newbie, never feeling that my work was up to competetive standards, not sure how to go about getting from here to there, too shy to ask for help, ever more wound up over it and just unable to jump over my own shadow. I’ve joked that it became a 40-Year-Old Virgin kind of thing. So when I started thinking about coming back, I promised myself an unencumbered new beginning in this. Among other things.

And so I came back. And my first event back, my first event in this kingdom, was Kingdom A&S 2010 in Caer Galen. It was an incredible event – a high-intensity madhouse in too small a venue, incredible entries, glorious clothes, intense conversation, everbody constantly elbow-to-elbow. I was dazzled and astonished and inspired, and for the first time in my SCA life, I thought, I can do this. I’m in the same league with this.

The year flew by; I attended Battlemoor I and helped a bunch of newbies find their way; I went back to Trimaris to assist at Fall Coronation/25th Year; I helped found a shire, and that took almost all of my time and energy for several months; and during all of that, I was starting from scratch myself, building up garb and gear for myself and my family from nothing. I came up for air in mid-January and realized that Kingdom A&S was 11 weeks away, and I dove headfirst into my project, a handwoven, natural-dyed, tablet-woven belt. (I always seem to be careening from one thing to another, just-in-time style…) I secured a sponsor, got my research written up, worked through the project, and made several friends along the way, and, finally, I met with one slight aquaintance and five total strangers to roadtrip to a barony on the other end of the kingdom. Because this is the SCA, several of these people had become dear friends by the time we made it back to Walsenburg, a few hours short of two days later..

This event was slower, sprawlier, more comfortable than last year in Boulder. I got on site quite early (because I stayed with the trollcrat) and set up my display and settled in and started getting visitors immediately. I got a LOT of visitors. I talked about my research and my persona and my vision of Baltic studies and my passion for underrepresented cultures in the SCA endlessly, it seemed; it all blurred together. I broke away now and then, to do the circuit of other entries, to work the competition/donation luncheon (reprising the Feast of Fools cumin broth and earning a respectable chunk of money for the kingdom travel fund) and a couple of times just to clear my head. Finally the call to break down went out and I changed out of my old, now-ragged, first-attempt belt and into the lovely new competition belt I’d just pulled off of my table.

I was wearing it for court, when they announced I’d taken the Costume Accessories category and placed second in the Textile Arts division, and a little while later, when I was called up to receive my Award of Arms.

There are some truly awful pictures on Facebook. My hair (which had just been cut in layers; it’s cute as hell in a professional style, but fell out of braids terribly) is in disarray, I’m crying and my face is red and splotchy, and the pattern of the cloak I’m playing is terrifically busy. I treasure those pictures. I never did get any pictures of my own; I did not know that my camera charger had shorted out, so I pulled a battery off the charger and loaded it back into the camera still depleted, and didn’t know it until I got to the event.

I have to make this clear: I loved Meridies. I still do. I was very happy there; and those things about it that were dissatisfying, I entirely brought upon myself with my timidness and my anxiousness – and, to be fair, life circumstances that extremely limited my ability to be involved. There’s absolutely no one in Glaedenfeld or Meridies in general who ever gave me anything but the warmest welcome, and I have many dear friends there still, and will always think of it as my first home.

But I played there for years, and never left the fringes, and sometimes I felt like I never would. The long, unwanted break from the SCA gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted, and the fresh start in a new kingdom gave me the chance to go after it. The Outlands, this year here, has been a revelation and a transformation. I feel that I have finally, truly, begun.

(View online version of paper here.)

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