As most people in the SCA are no doubt aware, Kenric æt Essex, aka Michael Perry, went out kayaking on Friday January 12 around noon, and was not heard from afterward. A day later, at 5 pm, the Coast Guard called off the search, and he has since that time been presumed lost. [UPDATE: His kayak was discovered in the water on Sunday.]
Like so many, I did not know Kenric as well as I might have liked. However, I came onto the Bardic scene shortly before he won his first Crown Tourney, and our paths crossed now and again. (It started, actually, with a near miss when he was Crown Prince for the first time, and a garbled message sent Jessa and me in search of him and Avelina at our first flooded Wars of the Roses–but they had left the event to save their poor daughter from hypothermia. It was the beginning of a merry chase across three events for what would turn out to be our Award of Arms, from Gregor and Kiena.)
I remember seeing him borne aloft on a shield to his second Coronation, with Master Grim and Lucien, King’s and Queen’s Bards, proclaiming for him. (I didn’t know he was going to present Lucien with his Laurel writ later that day, and was sorry I’d missed it; a few months after that I would become Maistre Lucien’s first student.)
I remember Kenric asking me some time later, at Pennsic I think, whether I had a Troubadour, and politely informing him that I had not at the time. (I suspect he wrote me in for it, and the thought gave me pleasure then and now.) We had a number of brief but friendly conversations over the years. Both times that I competed for royal bard, he was either on the throne or the Heir.
I remember the sly humor surrounding the end of his first reign, though we weren’t active enough for me to have seen any of it. If I heard it right, he took an arrow to the leg at an event near the end of the reign, and decided to roll with it, and “die”. His successor, Edward II, was coronated at his “funeral” (the East does love a good Coronation schtick, and what’s more historic than “le Roi est mort, vive le Roi”?). Kenric very sensibly rolled up a new persona, also named Kenric, who married the widow and had all of the titles transferred, and went on to two more reigns. (Identical cousins. Somewhere Patty Duke is smiling.) When Brennan II and Caoilfhionn II had their Coronation at the same site (and inducted me into the Troubadour), the ghost of St. Kenric of Blessed Memory actually was seen and heard running through the hall in a funeral shroud, wailing.
Even now, as people absorb the news of this loss, some people can’t help imagining, given he has already died once, that he’s somehow going to show up again. I have a sneaking sense he would be pleased to see us smiling through our grief at that.
Clearly, in many ways Kenric was bold and bigger than life, but in person I found him to be quiet, contemplative, and kind.
As my Facebook feed lit up today with photos people had with Kenric, I did a quick inventory. I’ve list heralded Crown Tourneys where he was competing, and where he marshaled (the man never tired of service), so surely there is a picture somewhere that we both happen to be in. But I couldn’t find one.
And then I remembered that I had a piece of Kenric that almost no one knew about. And one that was worth sharing, because he had played a significant part in one of my favorite pieces of songcraft.
When I was working on “We Are the East”, I asked a dozen or more people for insights and emotional moments that connected them to the kingdom. Kenric was one of the few fighters I judged I knew well enough to ask, and he quickly responded with the following:
Imagine a fog covered field during the early morning at Pennsic. Walking across that field I could sometimes lose myself and forget modern times. Pretty amazing.
Battles when you are grossly outnumbered, but you still emerge victorious because of your effort and the cohesion with your brothers and fellows around you.
There is pride and joy in seeing something you made handed out by the crown to some deserving person.
Sitting on the throne is hard work but being able to recognize people for their efforts and accomplishments is also pretty amazing. The look in people’s faces when they realize they’re being awarded something is one of the highlights of my time in the society.
In a handful of perfectly-chosen words and images, Kenric left his imprint on my anthem. These insights colored and shaped the song from literally the first line to the last, and many places between. I probably learned more about him from this exchange than any other. And while I know how sorely he will be missed, I am grateful to know that every time I sing or hear that song, a bit of this incredible man’s heart, and his love for his kingdom and the SCA, will be present once more.