I’ve been trying to form the words for this post since I got home…I don’t want to forget anything, I want to capture the whole of the Pennsic experience, but I’m not sure how. Partly it’s because there are SO many different versions of Pennsic, because there are so many things you can do. There are classes galore (I forgot to take any, or didn’t have the time.) some people are really big into hierarchy and court (I’m not…I’ve not been part of things long enough to feel like I belong) people who sit in camp all day and read (I only read when it rained), then put on their pretty clothes to wander the night, street performers who practice their talents, people who are very serious about period and dress very exactingly while practicing the fine arts of the past, people who are dressed as pirates or fairies who practice the fine art of drinking. Knights walk beside belly dancers. You can find Celts in full woad sharing a beer with a Samurai. The best word to describe Pennsic is overwhelming…there is so much to take in, so much to see and do. So many people taking these two weeks to be what they want to be, or at least a pretty close approximation.
It is not a true medieval experience…it can’t be. Coleman tents mix in with yurts and medieval pavilions. You’re just as likely to be offered a quad chair as you are a hay bale. It’s something completely other.
When you go to bed in your tent, the bed clothes, even if you made your bed (tip number one…always make your bed.) are slightly cool and damp. I don’t know how things are in the Serengeti (the upper part of the park, where there are no trees, and the battlefield/merchant area/food court reside along with the some of the camps of the more serious – at least that’s the impression I was given – re-creators live. The royalty also live up there.) but where I was, in the swamp, (the tree covered part, the land is a little bit more mushy) you would fall asleep to the sound of drumming and cheering. The world is lit by tiki-torches and camp fire light, the roads are often well lit with tiki’s, and the port-a-castles often have glow sticks in essential places. You don’t hear the sounds of nature, just drumming and laughter and conversation. There is a peacefulness to it, all the same.
The only really quiet time is around 6:00 in the morning. (Well, probably sooner, like, 4:00, but I was always too deep asleep by then…) Once I went for a very brief walk up to the lake, the fog resting on the surface, and was amazed by how silent everything was…until someone came out of a port-a-castle and let the door slam. I stumbled back to my tent and rolled back into bed.
During the day things feel a little more real than during the night. People are trudging around with ice for their camps, or carrying swords and armor to the battlefields. A few people have wagons that their group load with their sword and board gear…shields, pole-arms, spears…I’ve passed groups of people pushing them up the hill, eager to get to the battlefield on time. Canons go off at the start of battle, (and at the end) and you can hear battle cries so loud that they echo down even to the swamp. Imagine a huge field full of knights, Spartans, samurai, Arabian warriors and more…many colors of tabards, shining helms…lines of men and women facing each other with their weapons, while above their heads arrows soar. The fencers may be fewer, but they are no less impressive, as they line up for melee battle, or fence against each other in tournaments or pick up battles.
I fought in one tournament, the novice tourney, and did not do horrid. Nothing to brag about, but a solid enough performance. I also did ok in the pick up battles…on the whole I’m pleased with my progress, I’m learning a lot. There were so many amazing people at the lists, and I really enjoyed crossing swords. I also walked away with a fine length of velvet from the novice tourney treasure chest, enough to make a fencing cloak should I ever choose to learn cloak and dagger. Which I might…it’s black, with a silver back, and the silver shows through the black on the velvet side…it would be really very sharp. I also did water-bearing, and was given a jade ring by a Baron by way of thanks. The woods battle and melees made me hope that I would be authorized heavy in time for next Pennsic, and I am determined to become a better fencer and train harder.
At the end of the battles, there is always shopping, classes, eating. I did very little shopping…the choices are so vast, there are so many people, I got a bit overwhelmed and did not do what I hoped. I managed to get some lovely hair pins, an agate goblet for mum, a mug holder (tip two…always carry a mug, especially at night. Not so important if going to battle…just carrying water is enough…but at parties it’s bring your own drinking thing.) and…drum roll…gloves. I ordered an Alchem dagger, though, and am looking forward to seeing it…
Then, you go home. Shower. Nap. Eat if you’ve not. Get pretty. Go out wandering, find a fire to sit by with friends and listen to stories, go to parties. I saw fire spitters, people who danced with fire or weighted balls that were on fire in intricate patterns, (I was particularly impressed with a girl who spun a flaming hula hoop around herself…) listened to drummers, pipers, harpers, and singers. I was drawn into a circle of belly dancers who were dancing around a fire pit, welcomed in as I went through my rather limited repertoire of snake arms, hip drops, and figure eights and shimmies to the music, but I felt really good.
I got to reconnect with one of my oldest friends, who, along with her husband and son, is a wonderful person. Thank you, sweet friend, for wanting me to go to Pennsic, giving me a place to stay, and putting up with me. 😉 I love you.
I also got to meet a friend from Livejournal. The camp she was a part of, and that my friend used to be with welcomed me warmly, and made the experience truly magical. From showering outside (they had a system that allowed for HOT showers in perfect privacy, while still being able to look up and see the sky and trees…) to some really wonderful moments (I will never forget taking part in the transportation of stuffed animal shish-kabobs to a rival camp, or the battle where we snuck into a party, armed with glow sticks, and threw them over the partiers…the glow sticks, in all their brightly colored glory, arching through the night to land on people gathered around a camp fire to watch dancers…then to see them flying back at us, the cry of “reload! reload!” echoing all around…wow. Hey, don’t look at me like that! My mischeif in college was pretty much down to staying out late on a school night.)
I made a lot of friends, and I can’t wait to see them again.
The thing is, recently, I’ve grabbed a hold of life…and I’m going through real changes in who I am. Pennsic…I think it helped a lot, because I was in such a different environment, in one that was filled with people who are, well, like me. I maundered a little aloud to poor Iona as I tried to make my mind click into place, wanting to decide what my actions said about me, what I wanted to carry with me from Pennsic, who I wanted to be *at* Pennsic. I don’t want to be one of those people who only live for two weeks out of 52. I want to find my road and make a good life for ME, whether I travel it alone or not. I think I’m really settled in myself again, and I think that the person I find myself to be will be altogether better than the person I was. But it’s always a constant rennovation…it always will be, and I think it’s that way for everyone.
So, that’s Pennsic. I didn’t take a ton of pictures…I wish I’d taken more pictures of the gates to camp (my favorite was a pirate ship, of course!)…but I’ll post what I think you’ll like to see of what I have soon. On the way home from Pennsic, I stopped to get food for the family at a drive through, and the guy said, “Can I get you anything else?” and I say, “Nay.” There was silence, followed by “Huh?” and I said, louder, “Nope!” while thinking “Welcome back to Mundania.”
As the Troll said when he handed me my Pennsic Medallion, “This year, I say welcome to Pennsic. Next year, I’ll say welcome home.”