Welcome! I'm Ilene Johnnestoune, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Come join me on my wanderings, as I share my interests both within and sometimes slightly outside the SCA.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

In Transition

Hello my lovely readers!  I thought today we would wander through one of the rabbit holes that has had my interest of late, so that I can share some of the fun things I have found.

Example of 1530s Tudor gown.
Since I started in the SCA, my persona has been 16th century Scottish.  I placed myself around 1530, as I love Anne Boleyn's style of dress.  It's more fashionable than the Katherine of Aragon era, but not as extreme as the later wives.  Having now created two gowns in that fashion I have mixed feelings about them.  While I still love those styles, I have found that they are complex to make, complex to wear, and that if you change size at all, they will no longer fit or wear properly.  The basic style can be simplified a little to make it appropriate for a more working class persona, therefore making it a little simpler to make and definitely easier to wear.  I have one of these gowns, and I do really like it.  It still requires a little more in the way of proper underpinnings, so if you want something 'no fuss', this probably isn't your cup of tea.

Now it should be noted that I very rarely dress as my persona, as in general it is not at all practical for me at events.  While I don't run around as much as I used to, I still tend to end up moving chairs or carrying something around at some point.  For this reason I've been looking for a more practical style so that I can be in persona more frequently.  That is an area that I'm very much wanting to improve in, and wearing appropriate clothing can go a long way towards making you feel the part.

If you are familiar with Tudor garb, then you are probably aware of the book The Tudor Tailor.  One of the people who helped the creators of that book came out with one of her own, titled The Queen's Servants. A friend of mine loaned me her copy to peruse, since she is an expert at enabling research rabbit holes.  In it were styles that royal servants were wearing during the time of Henry VII. (Remember that royal servants tended to be minor nobles, so this was much nicer than what you might find a merchant's servant wearing, but was still clothing that you could be functional in.)  Since my persona is somewhat equivalent to a minor noble, I thought this might be a good area of research.  My thoughts were rewarded, as I found (in my opinion) the most marvelous dress!

This is a whole style of dresses that sort of look like they are from the 14th century, but not quite.  The shape is very similar to cotehardies / gothic fitted gowns, but they have various cool necklines and cuffs!  There are also really cute pointy hats!!!  There seems to be a few different sleeve styles, so that you can have gowns to work in and gowns to just be pretty in.  Perfect!

I have completely fallen in love with this transitional style.  It seems to have existed from about 1480-1520.  I've even been working on research to move my persona earlier to match this style.  I've obtained a copy of The Queen's Servants for myself, and have fabric to pattern with.  On the agenda this summer: creating a pattern for my new gowns!

Images from The Queen's Servants.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Being A Peer

Since being elevated to the Order of the Pelican, I have done a lot of thinking about what kind of peer I wanted to be.  While many of my opinions come from my own code of conduct, some of them are formed based on what I see other peers do and how they behave.  I have been privileged to know many outstanding peers, of every variety.  These are people that I look up to, and for me represent what our Society should be.  They are courteous, chivalrous, generous with their time and knowledge.  They give to their local group, their Kingdom, and the Society as a whole.  These are the people I want to be when I grow up.

Sadly over the last year I have seen more and more instances of peers behaving in ways that I feel do not set a good example.  I have seen people be unkind to others, selfish, dishonest, and so ego-centered that they do not see the harm they are doing our Kingdom.  What is especially saddening to me is that some of these are people I have looked up to in the past, as good examples to model myself after.  To see that they have changed so much causes me to worry for them, and the populace they influence.

While I am deeply dismayed by what I have witnessed, there is nothing I can do to stop it.  What I can do, however, is remind myself of what kind of peer I want to be, and live up to that standard.  I can choose to set a good example for others, and follow the good examples that others have set for me.  Here are the standards that I am going to do my best to embody.

Be Courteous
For me courtesy equates to being polite and kind.  In every aspect of my life I try to adhere to the rule that there is never a reason to be rude to someone.  I don’t always manage to keep to it, but I try very hard.  I will be trying even harder to make sure that I am being polite and kind to everyone I meet, even if I am rushed or in a cranky mood.  I will also try to be mindful that conversations do not happen in a vacuum, and there always may be others listening.  My words should always be such that I would not be ashamed to have them heard by others.

Be Honorable
In my mind being honorable is about following the rules, and living up to your word.  It is also about putting forward an honest representation of myself and my intentions.  I want to be fair in my dealings with others, and would ask the same from them in return. I can set a good example by honoring the spirit of the rules, and not just the exact words.  I can encourage others to learn the rules, and do their best to adhere to them.  When I give my word to something, I will do everything in my power to fulfill the obligation.  If for any reason I am not able to do so, I will speak with the person I gave my word to and find a mutually satisfying resolution.

Be Loyal to the Crown
Our Society is built on the structure of a monarchy, to the level that as peers and officers we swear fealty to the Crown each reign.  Even when the Crown has been someone I don’t agree with, I have still sworn fealty to the office of the crown and to the Kingdom.  For me being loyal means offering my counsel when requested or needed, upholding the decisions of the Crown even when I don’t agree with them, and always being sure to show respect.  Even if I don’t care for the people who are wearing the crowns, they still deserve my respect and loyalty while they are doing the job of monarch. 

Represent the Populace
In my opinion, part of the job of being a peer is to represent the populace to the Crown and vice versa.  It’s easy over time to become wrapped up in your own agenda, and not see what is happening with the populace as a whole.  I try to stay in touch with everything that is going on, and will try even harder to continue to do so.

Guide Others
As a peer, one of the stated responsibilities is to guide others.  For me this means offering guidance to anyone who seeks it, not just to my associates.  I want to be accessible and approachable, so that anyone who needs my assistance or advice can feel comfortable asking for it.  I will be as generous as possible with my time and knowledge.  I will share what I have learned with others, and in doing so continue to learn new things myself.

Rise Above
Seeing bad behavior in others, especially peers, tends to frustrate and anger me.  It’s very easy to give in to those feelings, and lash out verbally or with a poor attitude.  I am going to do my best to not give in to those tendencies, but to always think before I speak or act.  If I cannot contribute something positive to the situation, then I will do my best to at least not contribute anything negative.

Being a peer means being a pillar of our community, and I will work every day to be worthy of that honor.  Maybe through my example others will be encouraged or inspired to do the same.  If they are not, at least I will know that I am being the kind of peer I want to see.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Finding the Happy

I sent out that I was looking for a topic to write about, so that I could dust off this blog and start using it again.  In addition to several very funny suggestions from a few “helpers”, it was asked where I find my happy and my creative inspiration. 

I have a hard time with quantifying what my creative inspiration is.  For me, there are two types of creativity.  There are those who are inspired to create entirely new things, original patterns, artwork and so on.  Then there are those, like me, who are good at taking existing things and applying them in new ways.  I am not inspired to sit down and create art.  My inspiration comes from seeing things and wanting to learn how they were made, then try creating it myself.  For a long time I thought that this did not qualify as creativity, as I looked at others who could dream up fantastic things and bring them to life and felt that what I do doesn't compare.  I have come to realize any method of creating beauty is important.  We need the dreamers and inventors, but we also need the people who can take their concepts then replicate and teach them so that more people can enjoy them.  Both types of creativity are important, and part of populating the world with beautiful things.  I guess you could say that it is all the beauty and wonder that inspires me.  Rather than a sunny day or lovely garden, it’s seeing a woven belt or an embroidered hat that fires my imagination and has me wondering how they did it and if it is that something I can learn to do.

That leads in to where I find my happy in the SCA.  One of my biggest sources of joy is the opportunity to learn.  I am fascinated by learning new skills and concepts.  It doesn't really help me with completing projects, but I’m really good at starting new ones!  I love seeing how everything connects together.  With every field of interest, you can look and see how the basic concepts build, then connect to more advanced concepts, then spread out to other areas and techniques.  All of this is there, but at the same time it can all be traced back to a simple beginning.

The other main source of my happy is the people I've met in the SCA.  I often refer to my Barony as my home, and my close friends as my family.  This is very much the truth for me.  The love and support and encouragement I have received from the people I have been privileged to know is unmatched by anything else in my life.  They inspire me to learn, to be creative, to be more outgoing, to be confident, to be patient, to be kind, to be generous with myself and my time, to explore, to be so much more than I ever thought I could be.  The depth of feeling I have for those who have made me part of their lives is immeasurable.

I guess you could say that my inspiration and my happy are all wrapped up together.  I am in love with learning about beautiful things, and sharing that knowledge with others.  I am in love with the family I have found, the people I have met, and everything they have shown me about myself.  I love being part of an organization that encourages me to aspire to high ideals, and that recognizes me when I do good work.  So much of what the SCA has become for me is beauty and love.  I have to say, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why It’s Okay To Want

Over the 10 years I have been part of our Society, I have frequently heard people comment that it’s not okay to “want” a particular award.  Since becoming a Pelican and joining some of the inter-kingdom discussion groups, I’m finding that this concept exists everywhere, and in some places is especially applied to the peerages.  It makes no sense to me that people get so hung up on this concept, so I’m going to do my part to get rid of it. 

People in general tend to be goal oriented.  The goal can be as simple as being as helpful as possible, or the goal can be to become the best at a specific skill.  Regardless of what the goal is, it’s something that you are actively working towards.  In my opinion, this is a good thing.  It gives you focus, direction, and a sense of purpose.  All good things, right?  So why on earth have we determined that it’s a bad thing to have a goal of earning a specific recognition for your work?

From what I can tell, it all comes down to that word “earn”.  We have lots of stories and sayings about what happens to somebody who wants something but isn't willing to work for it.  The fable about the squirrel putting away nuts for the winter comes to mind.  There is a common perception that you should not expect something for free, or to just be handed to you.  If you want something good, you need to put in the time and effort to earn it.

This applies to the SCA as well.  If what you’re saying is “I want to become skillful/knowledgeable/experienced enough to become a Laurel/Pelican/Knight”, then that’s okay.  You’re expressing your desire to do everything it takes to earn that recognition.  If what you’re saying is “I’m awesome, and they should recognize that and make me a Laurel/Pelican/Knight”, then that is where you hit troubled waters.  This doesn't just apply to the peerages, though.  I've heard people state how they want to earn their AOA, and everybody around nods their head and is okay with it.  I've also heard people state that they should already have an AOA, since they've been playing for so long and what’s wrong with these people for not recognizing them.  There’s usually an awkward silence in these situations, since it is not an accepted attitude.

That all makes sense, right?  It’s pretty clear the difference between the good way to want something and the bad way to want something.  What’s been bothering me about the whole thing is that the perception has become such that you shouldn't ever say you want something, regardless of your motivation.  That it’s bad form to do so, and if you do it’s a guarantee that you’ll never receive that award, or be elevated in the case of a peerage.  In my opinion that’s a big steaming pile of something stinky.  People should absolutely be allowed to say what they want, what they are working towards.  There’s nothing wrong with having goals, and it’s driving me crazy that there’s people who think otherwise!  Just as an example of the silliness, let’s take associates.  If you have taken a belt from a peer, isn't that an outward symbol of wanting to earn that recognition?  Aren't you explicitly stating that you are working towards becoming a member of that particular peerage?  That seems to be okay with everyone, so why is stating it out loud bad?    

This leads me to another aspect of this discussion that I hear all the time, especially from folks who are newer.  “You should only do a task/project because of your love for the Dream, not out of desire for an award.”  When I first started in the Society, and still had all the shininess of being new, I believed this with all my heart.  I shouldn't want awards, and when I volunteered to do something it should be because I wanted to be of service not for any other reason.  Then one of my Pelicans posed a question to me that completely changed my way of thinking.  If the work gets done, does the motivation for doing it matter?  This stopped me dead in my tracks.  If I sweep the floor because I love my Barony and want to help, and Jane sweeps the floor because she wants to work towards a service award, what’s the difference?  In both circumstances the floor gets swept, right?  If Jane and I do all the same tasks, at the same level of quality, what is the difference between our work?  Is what I did somehow better just because I might love the Dream a little more than she does?  Or more importantly, because she is working towards a specific goal and I’m not, does that cheapen the work that she does?

This thought process was a complete eye-opener to me.  It made me realize that it’s okay to be working towards a goal of receiving a particular award.  For me, my approach was always that I wanted to earn admittance into the Order of the Pelican.  I wanted to do everything necessary to get there.  All the offices, all the jobs, all the projects, everything.  Reaching that goal would mean that I had gained experience, knowledge, and the ability to lead others.  It would mean that I was deemed worthy to join the ranks of the people who inspired me, and that I admired.  So, because all of the work I've done was with that goal in mind, does that make my work unacceptable?  Is the knowledge and experience I gained along the way less?  Or did it simply make me more focused in what I was doing?

Now, there is a flip-side to the coin of being goal focused.  In order to reach your goals and be fulfilled by them, there needs to be love and enjoyment of what you’re doing.  If you don’t enjoy what you do, then when you reach your goal you’re going to find it empty.  The bit of shiny is going to seem tarnished, and you’re going to wonder what all the effort was for.  In some respects that initial concept of doing things for the love of it does hold true.  In working towards your goals, chose tasks that you will enjoy doing.  Find things you love, and then figure out how they can move you closer to your goals.  This way you are enriching yourself as well as the Society.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Some Thoughts on Peers, Associates, & Their Relationships.

The subject of peer-associate relationships has been on my mind a lot lately, for a variety of reasons.  I have been a Pelican for almost 2 years now, and that time has involved a lot of exploration into what peers are, how they relate to associates, and how the relationship between the two can impact a persons experience in the SCA.  I should also warn you in advance that I can sometimes be a little long-winded, and this is one of those occasions.  :)

In general I tend to be an opinionated person, and the subject of peers is no different.  For me, one of the biggest parts of being a peer is the role of mentor.  It is my job to help people enjoy the SCA, and be productive members.  This can mean a lot of different things.  For those who are service minded, it often means giving them advice and guidance regarding the tasks they have chosen for themselves.  Some would say that since I’m a Pelican, my job stops there.  For me that isn’t the case.  I feel I have a responsibility to encourage anyone in their endeavors.  You’re an artisan?  Great, I’ll happily encourage you in your art, offer to proofread your a/s projects, and suggest ways to share your art with others.  You’re a fighter?  Okay, I’ll check in with you to make sure you’re getting to practice, that you’re finding the teachers you need, and perhaps suggest ways to embrace and embody the knightly virtues.  Not sure what you want to do, or just want to enjoy the culture?  That’s wonderful too, and in this case it’s my job to help you figure out what you would like to do, help you pursue your interests, and encourage you to pursue your aspect of the dream.

Being a mentor is more than just taking a couple associates and giving them your attention.  It’s about being a mentor to the Society as a whole, and offering your knowledge and experience wherever you can.  The flip side of this coin, however, is when you start to feel that everybody needs to benefit from your wisdom.  I’ve seen situations where a peer has something to say about everything, and ends up not letting other individuals learn to do things themselves.  I’ve learned that this is a fine line to walk.  When you are a peer, people tend to seek out your opinion more frequently, and tend to listen much more than you realize when you say something.  The trick is learning when not to say something, so that others can have the benefit of learning and doing things for themselves.

I’ve also seen situations where peers are taken for granted.  Because they are really good at something, people will come to them for help.  Now asking for assistance is one thing, especially when you have already exhausted your skills and knowledge trying to figure out the situation.  It’s something else to go to a person and request (or more accurately politely demand) that they do all the work to solve the problem for you, and provide you a neat tidy solution.  Those of us who have been recognized for a peerage worked hard to earn that accolade, and put in a lot of hours gaining the skills and knowledge we have.  While it is our responsibility to help others, it is not our responsibility to do all the work for them.  Part of being respectful of a person is being respectful of their time and energy.  We should each strive to give of our own time before we ask another person to give of theirs.  I’ve had to remind myself of this – it’s far too easy to skip exercising my brain to find an answer, and just ask somebody else.

I’ve realized that it’s not just peers who end up with some weird social interactions, associates end up getting a little bit of the weird also.  The situation that has stuck out the most to me lately is that there’s this attitude towards associates who are really good at what they do.  I’ve heard people say to associates that they should be a peer already, and what is the circle waiting for.  This is really unfair on a lot of levels.  It is unfair to the associate, because it sounds like they are less than what they should be.  It can also put the thought into their head that they are not being given what they deserve, which can create resentment.  I’ve seen this lead to somebody burning out completely and quitting the SCA right when they are hitting the point where they are likely to be elevated.  It is also very unfair to the circle in question.  Unless you are a part of the circle, and are privy to who they are discussing, what’s being said, what’s being looked for, etc., it’s not fair to say that they are not doing their job.  There are qualities of somebody who is ready to be elevated that you don’t fully understand until you are a peer yourself.  I realize that this sounds like a bunch of manure, and I thought so myself before I was elevated.  Looking back, though, I can see where I started to make the shift from thinking as a member of the populace to thinking as a peer.  There is this magical combination of having the skills and having the understanding that has to happen, for somebody to really be ready.  There are people who have one, but not the other.  Sometimes they gain what they’re missing, sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they get elevated whether they are the total package or not, and sometimes they don’t.  Regardless of if they are the real deal or not, it’s not right to tell them they should be something more.  It’s cool to say they are spiffy, and you think they are the bees’ knees, but that’s where it should stop.

Becoming a peer has also given me more insight into the nature of peer-associate relationships.  I knew when I was elevated that I wanted to do things differently than most of the Pelicans I know.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my peers and still feel that it was the best possible relationship I could have asked for.  I continue to seek their advice on things, and still get the warm fuzzies when they tell me I’ve done a good job on something.  I’ve seen some not so good relationships, however, and it’s been my observation that these situations always end up badly for both parties.  I’ve also noticed that often the “blame” for the situation is placed on the associate, which really isn’t fair.  This led me to the decision to have a two-step process for all of my associates.  I require everyone to become a student first, and take the time to get to know me and the people I work with.  Once some time has gone by, and we both agree that the relationship is good, then we can move on to a belt.  So many people jump into a peer-associate relationship for the wrong reasons, I wanted to make sure that both me and my associates would be happy with our arrangement.

This leads me to the thought of what people need to be thinking about before entering a peer-associate relationship.  Now, this isn’t a new topic for me, Gavine and I have actually written a class about it.  It just seems like this is a subject that still isn’t getting talked about or thought about enough.  Time and time again I’ve seen a peer offer a belt to somebody, and the person is so awe-struck and flattered and humbled that they say yes without any further thought.  I completely understand now why so many peers wait for a person to approach them, in order to eliminate this problem.  The peer-associate relationship, in my opinion, is like adopting a family member.  It’s a very personal thing.  You really need to be sure that you get along well with the other person.  Being friends isn’t enough though.  It’s also a working relationship, and you need to have the same goals.  There seems to be two main schools of thought when it comes to peer-associate relationships:
  • It’s about the end results.  For many people, the whole purpose of giving or taking a belt is for the associate to become a peer.
  •  It’s about the relationship.  For others, they just want to teach or learn.  If you want to become a peer, that’s great, but the real goal is to have a great teacher/student relationship.

Now, neither of these philosophies is wrong, or better than the other.  The important thing is that you are matched with somebody with the same goals.  At the very least, you should make sure you understand what the other person’s philosophy is, and that you are okay with it.  If you take a belt from somebody who is end-results driven, and you are relationship driven, you’re going to have a very rough ride.  You’re likely to feel that you are not living up to their expectations, or that you are constantly being hounded to do more than you are ready for.  The opposite combination is likely to leave you feeling like you don’t get enough support, and questioning the effectiveness of the relationship.  The other challenge I've noticed is that there are hands-on peers, and hands-off peers.  Hands-on peers tend to be very active, and very involved with their associates.  They check in frequently, expect regular status updates, and tend to be very proactive.  Hands-off peers tend to check in far less regularly, and generally wait for you to come to them with any issues.  Both styles are effective, but it’s important to know which you are, and which you want.  I know of somebody who became very frustrated with their peers, because they were all hands-off and this person really wanted hands-on attention.  Fortunately it worked out fine, but if the associate had known in advance the relationship could have been structured differently.  What this all boils down to is knowing who you are, what your goals are, and what you want out of a peer-associate relationship.  When you find the right combination, it is fantastic.  When you don’t, it’s really not. 

I realize this has probably ended up sounding kind of like a lecture, which is not what I was intending.  It has just become very frustrating to me to see so many people struggle with the concepts of peers & associates, let alone navigate the waters of taking a belt.  Far more often than not, people figure things out, take belts, have great relationships, and everything works out wonderfully.  I've just been thinking a lot about how they get there, what the challenges are, and how to help them through it.  I've also been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to me to be a peer, and how that affects who I am in the Society.  If I’m going to have high expectations of others, then I had better apply those expectations to myself first.

Here's a question for those of you brave enough to read to the end - what do you think makes a good peer, and/or a good peer-associate relationship?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Adding a Little Presence to the Period

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of attending Darkwater’s Village Faire event.  This has always been one of my favorites, since the emphasis is on classes rather than fighting.  This year it was going to be especially exciting, since Gavine and I would be learning the ropes as Vicar & Vicaress, in preparation for stepping up at Trident Tourney in January.

Now I’ll be honest, while I think all the styles of combat we practice are very cool, I seldom make time to go and watch the lysts.  Being service and arts oriented, I’m usually doing something that keeps me away from the field.  While I am Baroness that will obviously change, which is why I found myself lyst-side for the Baron’s Champion Tourney.

I don’t know very much about heavy weapons, and I’m really thinking I will have to find somebody to teach me the highlights so that I understand better what I’m seeing.  Even my uneducated eyes, however, could see that the caliber of fighters for this lyst was much higher than what we normally see at Baronial events.  So right from the start, I was already impressed.

Now, you might be asking yourself what’s the big deal about a lyst with good fighters in it?  We see that all the time, why are you writing about it?  Good question!  While the fighting was excellent and entertaining, it was things around the lyst field that inspired me to write.  As I looked around, I started noticing how few camp chairs were present.  Most of the people watching the lyst were sitting in wooden chairs, or on the ground.  One entrant had a small arming pavilion set up with his chair and gear inside.  Another had his and his consort’s chairs set up side by side, with their banners behind them fluttering in the breeze.  So many of the mundane items that I’ve become used to seeing everywhere, just weren’t present.  I was surprised to realize just what a difference all these little touches made to the atmosphere.

I find myself lately seeing more and more people taking those little extra steps to create a better period presence when they are at events.  I’ve always been a fan of this, but thought it was only something that you could do if you had been in 20 years, or had tons of money to spare.  That’s absolutely not the case though.  We have people here in our Barony that have only been playing a year, and they already have period wooden chairs that they use.  That they made themselves.  For relatively little cost and effort.  Proof that period presence is something that can be done without spending a lot of money!

One of our fighters here in the Barony (L Aidan) who is a big source of inspiration, has done something with his weapons that I found amazing when I noticed it during the lyst.  When he taped his swords, he did so in a way that makes it look like it comes to point.  It’s still round rattan, but the silver tape he used, and the way he tapered it at the end, gave the optical illusion that it was a regular sword.  That is such a simple thing, and yet the look it gave him when he took the field was remarkable.  Now granted, this fighter has also gone out of his way to create armor and garb appropriate to his persona so that he presents a complete look, but changing the way you tape your sword is a small thing that anybody could do. 

Another person that has become a huge inspiration to me is HL Philippe.  He is the fighter who set up beautiful wooden chairs lyst-side for both him  and his consort.  He then took the time to bring their banners from camp and stand them behind the chairs.  I believe they also had a small wooden box between the chairs to act as a table.  Looking across the field and seeing this, was like looking through a small window into the past.  He is also the person who has been teaching anyone who wants to learn how to make period chairs and tables, and has been doing workshops to help people make them.  Having spent time at a lyst sitting in both a period chair and a camp chair, there really is a huge difference.  With the camp chair you end up feeling more laid back, relaxed, and casual because of the way you sit in them.  With the period chairs, however, you sit more upright.  This lends itself to shifting to a more persona-focused mindset.  I’m not sure it’s really something I can quantify, but there is a different feeling.

I know, that’s all well and good but how can you start doing things like this on a limited budget?  I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, since I decided a while ago that I wanted to start increasing my period presence when I’m at events.  Here’s some ideas that I’ve come up with.
  • Clothing.  One of the simplest ways to increase your presence is to wear clothing that is more accurate.  You can learn to make a period style of pants, instead of wearing sweat pants or pajama pants.  Wearing a tunic?  Take the extra effort to make a period style tunic, instead of a t-tunic.  I’ve made both, and there’s not much extra work to the period style.  Not to mention, when you make things to your measurements, they will fit better and you’ll be more comfortable.  What you wear doesn’t need to be fancy, or complicated.  It also doesn’t need to be hand-sewn to look period.  It’s more a matter of making it so it fits you properly, and is a period style.
  • Chairs.  Camp chairs are one of the most commonly seen things at events, and are one of the most glaring examples of modernity.  One thing you can do is cover it.  A spare wall hanging, a tablecloth, a sheet, even a simple piece of fabric will do the trick.  Another thing you can do is look at getting a wooden folding chair.  These can be found fairly inexpensively at stores like Walmart or Target.  They’ll give you that wooden chair look without much time or expense involved.  If you’ve got a woodworker in your area, talk to them about making a period-replica chair.  A lot of SCA artisans are willing to barter for their goods, so if you don’t have money to outlay see if this is an option.
  • Beverages.  This is one of the places where I know I need to improve.  It’s very easy to just throw a bottle of water or can of soda into your basket or pouch, then drink directly out of it.  If you just take the time to pour your beverage into a mug, and dispose of the bottle/can, it can make a huge difference.  This doesn’t cost you anything but a little extra effort.

 There are lots of other ways that you can increase your presence, such as getting period shoes, having banners hanging in camp, using a pavilion instead of a modern tent.  Some things are pricey, some are not.  The point is that you don’t have to start with the big expensive things, you can start with the small things and work your way up.  I’m noticing that while the grand gestures help a lot to set the stage, it’s all the little details that help you feel you’re living the dream.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three Ideals & A Declaration

*Dusts off blog*

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, but hopefully I’ll have a little more free time over the next few months to get back to a semi-regular schedule.  Today’s post is due to some observations that I’ve made recently, and the conclusions I’ve drawn.

When we join the SCA, one of the earliest things we learn is that our Society is built on the ideals of chivalry, courtesy, and honor.  These are things that we should all be striving for, if we are playing this game.  If you ask any given SCAdian, they will tell you that absolutely they try to live up to those ideals.  But as with so many other things in the world, I am finding that not everyone practices what they preach.

I have had occasion to witness behavior that does not fit into these ideals.  Now before anyone starts saying “hello pot, this is kettle”, I do not claim to be perfect, and do not claim to live up to these three goals all the time.  We are all human, and we are all going to have times where we behave a little inappropriately.  That is not the circumstances I’m focusing on.  I’m looking at the people who consistently behave in a manner that is hurtful and detrimental to others, and to our game.

I realize the people I’m friends with, and who will read this blog, are not the people I’m writing about.  The people who inspired this will probably never read it, and that’s okay.  Sometimes it is enough to get a concept out into the world, so that others are made aware of it.  That way we can all be more vigilant, and when we see something happening we can step in and address it.

So, what’s happening? To be perfectly honest, the specific details aren’t necessary.  The basic problem is that there are people who are regularly being unkind to others.  Ridiculing someone in front of others.  Chastising someone for voicing an idea.  Speaking ill of others in public, especially when it’s to somebody who is friends with the person being bashed.  Putting people on the spot in a conversation by asking them something that is personal.  Actively campaigning to persuade others of somebody’s “bad nature”.  Just plain saying things that are unkind and unnecessary. 

Sadly, these are all things that I know are happening.  So where does that leave us?  If we approach the ones committing these acts, especially if we were not present when it happened, then we become the discourteous and un-chivalrous ones.  But on the flip side of the coin, if we do nothing, are we not just as guilty?  How do we balance doing the right thing while still upholding our ideals?

These are the questions that I have been asking myself lately.  As a peer, I feel an even greater obligation at this point to try and prevent as much harm from being done by these people as possible.  I have a few ideas that I’m trying to run with for right now.

  • I’m trying to be mindful of who is associating with these people, especially those gentles who are new to our game.  Perhaps if I can make myself available as another source of advice and assistance, the gentles will feel less need to get involved in the bad situation.  You can’t stop people from being drawn to a magnet, if there is no opposing force there to counteract it.
  • I’m trying to be more aware of what is going on around me, in hopes that I will witness something that I can address immediately.  It seems that the people who do these things try to keep it as private as possible.  Perhaps if the opportunity arises to call them out on it, they will be embarrassed enough to cease.
  • I’m going to be as good of an example of courteous behavior as I can be.  If enough of us behave appropriately, then more people will learn what is correct.  When somebody then behaves inappropriately, it will be more noticeable and less accepted.

I realize that these are very small things, and may not make a huge difference in the end.  But if I don’t step up and make an effort, who will?  If I don’t make my voice heard, than I have effectively stepped aside and accepted the bad behavior.  That’s not what I signed on for when I joined this Society.  I am standing up and refusing to let others tarnish the Dream I enjoy so much.