A View From The Other Side
This past weekend was the 30th anniversary of Darkwood. Lots of big deal. I had decided a while back that I intended to fight in the tourney. I’m not anywhere near to being a threat to anyone as a heavy fighter but that was not the point. I had made a promise a long time back when I was Baron that I would get into heavy armor and fight for and with Darkwood. I didn’t quite manage it during my time, but was on the field shortly thereafter. And while I am enjoying myself I don’t have a burning desire to be a Knight just yet. My goals are elsewhere and I’m totally comfortable with that.
But I knew that being on the field for 30th year would be a thing to enjoy and would make me feel even better about keeping my promise though I’ve already done this many times over. I think the most fun I’ve had as a heavy fighter has been when I’ve had the opportunity to stand with our current Baron on a war field and that’s pretty damn cool for me.
Let me tell you though, what the hardest thing has been for me since stepping down. The hardest thing has been to let go enough that my successors can do the job their way without me interfering. And I knew it was going to be like that so I made a really concerted effort to restrain myself.
They have done a fabulous job under some very trying circumstances by the way. I’ve still been close enough and in the know enough to be aware of many of the trials and tribulations they have had to deal with. They have done well.
When Rose and I stepped down we both made ourselves available and said “use us” but they said they wanted to give us a break after all the hard work we had done. Reasonable, rational, compassionate, pretty much exactly what we said to our predecessors when we took over from them ….. AND TOTALLY UTTERLY FRUSTRATING. Because anyone who steps up to do a job, especially a long term job like Baron and Baroness of a Barony already needs to have the “helium hand gene” to be successful. But we were forced to admit that they were right in that “I don’t wanna” kind of way.
Unfortunately that sort of made us feel a bit “outsider-ish” as we watched other people doing stuff we wanted to do and be involved in. Separation anxiety and all that. You just want to feel wanted sometimes, and in a game where appreciation is the coin of self-worth you start to notice when you aren’t involved as much as you want to be.
You’ll understand in a bit why I digressed that way.
You see I was reminded that I have a greater worth than I have felt this past weekend. I was reminded by a couple of very simple things but they meant the world to me.
For those of you know how SCA Tourneys go this is going to be a bit of exposition but not all my readers are SCA so I need to cover some of this.
When we have a big tourney we line up with all the Knights on one side and all the not-Knights (unbelts) on the other side. There are always more not-Knights than Knights. So in order to make things balance out for the format of fighting we do we must move some people over from the not-Knights to the Knights. This is an honor generally reserved as an acknowledgement of various fighters who are “up and coming”, people who have gotten good enough to be noticed and might be formally raised up in rank to join the Knights. It is a powerful sign of recognition, a gift that the royals in charge of that tourney can give to those they see as worthy.
I was invited to join the Knights.
Even now, as I type that I am getting a bit teary-eyed and choked up.
I was confused. I was shocked. I’m sure that the look on my face was priceless and if anyone managed to get a picture of that I hope to see it. My mask rarely breaks but I know it was shattered in pieces at my feet in that moment.
We walked up to say our piece and I had been rehearsing in my head (like any good entertainer) the things I wanted to say. I’m rarely caught speechless but for the first few moments I struggled to find my way in to the words that I had in my head that I wanted to say.
I spoke of the desire Rose and I have to show that we are still there, still proud to be Darkwood, still ready to bring our art, our service, and our courage to Darkwood. That to reaffirm that on the 30 year field seemed no better time or place. I’m sure I said it with something approaching a form of eloquence but for the life of me I can’t recall now.
And for the next several minutes I stood with the Knights of the Kingdom and I asked myself over and over and over again why I was there. I literally was weak kneed and had to have Rose help me stand. After a few moments I began to realize that instead of deciding who I was going to challenge for my first fight (which the not-Knights do), I was going to be someone’s first challenge. I had to stand and wait and let someone come to me. A very different perspective.
Eventually I was challenged, and not as someone’s last pick (a left over fear from childhood I’m sure many people can relate to), by a fighter whose name I knew but whom I’ve never fought or even had seen fight before. And it was a good fight. A fight I felt I had fun with, that I comported myself well in, and that I was able to make it a worthwhile time. He took that fight, and well deserved, but I was as happy as I could have possibly been even if I had won it.
Later I was told by a Knight who has been a very long time friend and whom I respect that I had done well in that fight from his perspective too. A little acknowledgement that I am getting better even if I don’t practice as much as I should.
A little later on His Excellency Jared and I were talking and he made it clear that the reason he and Her Excellency Brid invited me over to the Knight side of the line was because of the promise I made and have kept, and that in doing so along with so much else that I was an inspiration as well.
Still later at the feast that evening he and I talked some more and he made it clear that the kind of Baron I had been helped him to decide on the kind of Baron he has chosen to be, and that we are “family”.
I do not use the f-word lightly. Well, one of them I do, but I’m talking about “family”.
If I tell you that you are family, if you tell me that I am family, well that means something. I know that many people say that the SCA is one big family and to a certain extant that’s true, but in this context, even in this space, my chosen family is special and unique and not easily joined.
Their Excellencies Jared and Brid have been a part of my chosen family for years now. Their blood family has become a part of my chosen family. And maybe I’ve felt a little “outsider-ish” from time to time, but I’ve never not known that this family of mine hasn’t been there or been around.
My apprentice asked me what it was like being on the Knights side of the line and I couldn’t explain it at the time. It’s taken a couple of days of contemplation for me to really put these words together and make some form of sense out of them, but maybe, after having read all of this I can sum it up in a way that makes it all come together.
Standing there was an acknowledgement. It was a gesture of affection that could only come from the way we have our “families” in the SCA. It was a reminder that my family is still out there even when I’m not always the best me that I can be.
And I don’t know anything better than that.