Truly A War of the Roses

Red the rose for passion, love, and beauty.
White the rose of honor, reverence, and truth.
Which rose to pluck from trembling stem?
Which rose shall I present my love?

This War of the Roses marks a special anniversary for me. It was the event when it was decided that I would take the field and bear a banner for King Lucan and Queen Jana for the East. (Also a time when I wondered what on earth I was getting myself into!) After time around the fire with unbelted champions who became my muses, it was the the time I began to wish to be a war bard for those who had lit a fire in my heart. To inspire with words and song, to share and increase the love of the field and the fighters upon it, to don the armor and bear the spear with those who would become my brothers and sisters – these were the seeds sown in my soul’s rich, spring soil.

And I did.

This Roses, one year later, was one of choices – to put on armor and hold spear on the field and fight (which I am not very good at) or join my friends in a bardic tournament on field’s edge on the theme of inspiration (which I’m much better at doing.)

At other times, I had a heart-war of wanting to be too many places at once, and having just so much me and just so much time. While I am always busy at events, and fluttering from here to there, this one was harder than most because the two places bring me very different kinds of joy. Red rose, white rose. I suppose my bright pink dress spoke well of my conflict – wanting both, feeling like I was neither.

In the end, I missed the bardic tournament due to the first two battle scenarios, and then missed the third due to war brothers and sisters who thought I was too red and not sweaty enough. (They were right.) Also, this battle I was not tenderly coddled by my brothers as tender bard-thing, taking the field for her King. I was a soldier of the Northern Army, with as much right to be beaten as anyone. Nobody would rescue me this time, though more sage warriors, knowing my skills, would make kindly suggestions like “Behind me would be a better place for you in this one.” But I knew that there would not be a gauntlet firmly pulling me back from danger. I would be bruised or not on my own merits. As it was, I killed some in the field battle, died some in the field battle, froze in immobile uselessness on the bridge as though I had never seen a spear at my arm before, and for it, earned no kills but two bruises. My helm was uncooperative, my gigantic spear nearly useless in my hands. My breathing labored. What on earth was I afraid of? I felt novice, and foolish, and frustrated and I wanted desperately to do my brothers and sisters better. I felt a poor war bard for a while — one with laryngitis of spirit, too tired and confused to raise her voice. (Later though, I was given great praise for taking the field and missing my singing, which had the irony of being greater inspiration to some than had I sung at all. Inspiration is a curious thing.)

That evening, all of the beauty of the chaos of joy surrounding the elevation of Aife to Mistress Aife, and the amazing bardic arranged by Master Toki for the occasion (for which I am touched and gladdened and humbled to have been a part), surrounded me. But my secret introvert was in full swing, and I both desperately wanted to stay and be a part of this amazing musical community, but also retreat to a quiet place, where I could avoid any attention. I realize that I do not like to be in the midst of things without a job to do. It is harder on me than one may think. Huge crowds – wonderful. Tiny groups – intimate and lovely. Inbetween – well nigh the stuff of nightmares, no matter how much I love the people around. I need a task to tend to in those, lest I go mad, or hide.

I was also torn – for as kind as Vestfell was, and as good as their hospitality, I also missed my friends at Pembridge terribly, and I see them all so seldom. I traveled back for forth across the road many times, often thinking I ought to just lay down in the middle of it as a personal compromise.

So amid the wanting to be everywhere and nowhere, and torn between the field and the fire – I found myself in a quandary of great magnitude about the path I would take in the year before me…and how to assess if the path was what I wanted it to be.

The path of the past year had been that of an Eastern Champion, a role I loved and took to heart. I did whatever my Kings asked of me – I was blessed that they asked often and much. (Though had they asked me to go sit below the trees and be silent, that also would have been my job!) This year, there is less direction and so the path is wide, with many splits in the road. I have some favors and obligations to do, but they are all my choice. And at some point, I will have to choose one thing over another thing, for there is just one me.

But how to choose with care! I do not want to be a showboat, or a buffoon, though I can merrily play up those aspects when I choose. Neither am I suited to be a war-goddess, though I can be a singing simple footsoldier. I want to perform in a circle, but not too often, for I wish others to stand in the light. I want to inspire, not FOR me but THROUGH me – and how to achieve that delicate balance is something that I am searching to learn. How to be the conduit – so that it comes from me, but it is not about me.

When I hear that the rules of the list are watched on a hard day to cheer, or that a morning drive is shortened by a song simply but lovingly recorded, or that the memory of a song sung in armor on a hot day helps hold the line, or that I have made a warrior stronger by his weeping – I feel that perhaps I can manage it.

But now, with the bruises of spear-kisses on my arms from the bridge battle a ready memory of fingers damp with stewed mutton from the Pembridge cooking fires, and the wondrous elevation of my truly talented, beautiful friend, I have cause to consider the path I am on, and the path before me.

How to choose where to turn when the path splits? Left or right? High or low? Smooth or rocky?

I realized that really, when it came to the choosing of the larger path to find my role in the Society it boiled down to simple questions:

“Do I do this thing for the glory of the Kingdom or do I do this for the glory of me?”

Which will be the beneficiary of my action? The answer may be that it is good for both. Or for one. Or for the other. It may be that it is an act for self, but it benefits the kingdom. It could be that it benefits the kingdom at the expense of oneself. And if it is an action that only benefits oneself, it may be perfectly fine, but one needs be honest about it.

But the important part is to have considered the answer, then choose the action.

And one which I pray that I may heed in all things, and be honest about at all times.

It is a good lesson after a good war.

The white when pricked doth bloom with red
In time red’s beauty fades to white
Both fall snow-like to the ground
Their time known but to God above.