As of this weekend, I have been Queen’s Bard of the East for a full three months–a quarter of the year that champions are supposed to serve. I continue to be honored and deeply humbled at this opportunity, and recognize the good fortune and privilege that allowed me to compete and to serve. With that said, I need to level with you about something:
This position does not look like it did on the brochure.
My plan was to bust it up, and promote the arts, and this kingdom, and the Society. To be the very model of a Modern Middle Ages bard, if you will. (And no, I probably won’t filk that, because the scansion is just a little too off. More about that in a moment.) To show leadership in a community of brilliant, passionate artists and sages.
I’m sitting heavy with a story in my head that I was chosen to do a job, and that I’m not really doing it. My brain weasels are telling me that I put out daily videos for a week or two, then my frequency dropped off rapidly. That I have had a bunch of cool filk ideas, and none of them have materialized into anything. That I have unfinished song ideas that I have not moved forward. That my focus on learning to play a guitar like a guitar means my lute skills are atrophying. I made a commitment last June to spend a year posting A&S Journey entries, and, aside from some lute videos, I haven’t added any more of the planned entries to that series in probably four months or so. And, technically, all those things are true.
I’m not sharing this out of self-pity. I’m sharing this because I believe one role of a bard is to reflect the truth of the human condition. And if I know anything, I know that I’m not alone in struggling with my brain weasels. I’m feeling hijacked by this virus lockdown—and more so, that even this life or death issue has given way to partisan divisions online and in real life. So many days my energy is simply drained reading the news and trying (often unsuccessfully) to avoid getting into arguments on Facebook.
And the thing that I was looking forward to bringing out my best self—the opportunity to get into garb and go to events and connect with old and new friends and provide entertainment and soak in the appreciation of my kingdom–that is completely not going to plan. For the first time since our family became really active 8 years ago, there is no Wars of the Roses this weekend. There will be no Pennsic War this summer. I feel, like so many others, the loss of my community, of the closeness, the warmth, the embraces and mutual esteem. I feel deeply the losses in my community, most recently Master Liam St. Liam, a friend and fellow member of McGuire’s Marauders camp at Pennsic, who was taken by COVID-19 a little over a week ago. There are so many being lost to us, that we will not get back.
All of this is true. And yet…my brain weasels are lying to me. I know they are. Which is why I am pushing to make my first real blog post since I settled into my champion’s role, and sharing my truth.
The job of bardic champion to a kingdom has changed. The SCA has changed. The world has changed. At some point, I believe we will adapt to this virus, with treatments and hopefully a vaccine, and be relatively safe to gather once more. It’s becoming clear that, whatever I hear any public figure say to the contrary, it is going to be measured not in weeks, but in months and possibly years. And whenever that day arrives, things won’t be the same as they were before. Some parts of what we took for granted in our lives will be different. We will be more careful, more cautious. We will have lost something. And it is hard to know now exactly what we will have gained in return, though experience tells me there will be, well, “hidden gold” revealed to us.
My brain weasels are lying to me. Are yours telling you a story? I’m pretty sure yours are lying too. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to be drained, to be tired, to not have the energy to do what you think you should be doing.
For myself…I’ve been teaching classes online. I’ve been performing online. I’ve been working online with friends and colleagues to help plan for a stretch of months or a year where this long distance connection is going to be what we have to feed on. I’m learning new skills, ones I’ve wanted to develop since I started doing this, even if I took the long way around. I’m sharing my music, including in-progress recordings and remixes and remasters of existing ones, for use in the Kingdom’s online courts (“ethereal”–thank you, Æthelmearc, for coming up with the name “Æthereal court”! We owe you, ah…royalties, haha). I’m supporting my royalty and the bardic community. And I’ve had people all over telling me the truth they see: a bardic champion who is contributing to our online life, teaching, encouraging others, and shining a favorable light on our Kingdom. And yet, the voices still want to tell me this story that I’m not doing enough.
You are not alone, and I am not alone. These losses we feel are real, and they are irreplaceable. But this community endures, and continues to support one another. The creativity that I’ve seen from all of our communities, and particularly our performers, has been inspiring, and a source of tremendous comfort. I am forever grateful.
Maybe, just maybe, I am the right person in the right role for this moment. So are you.