Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Thoughts of Marian

Marian of Edwinstowe passed away last night. It wasn't a surprise -- we'd pretty much assumed that selling off her books a few months ago was a sign that the end was near. (I did my best to help some books get into the right hands: that seemed appropriate and right.) And word went around a few days ago that it was time. Still, it's a day for reflection.

Those who are newer probably don't have a sense of just how important Marian was, both to the Barony and Kingdom. In recent years, she's just been Old Marian the Baker, but that was by choice: prior to that, she was both one of the senior Laurels *and* senior Pelicans of the Kingdom, and richly deserved both. Her service goes back to the days when rocks were soft -- the Pelican was substantially for creating Pikestaff as we know it today. (It wasn't the first Kingdom newsletter -- there had been a couple of attempts prior to that -- but she stabilized the model that is still largely the way it works today.)

She was one of the founders of Carolingia, and one of its major formative forces: over the past 15 years, she's probably been the single most go-to person about why the Barony works the way it does. She was never quite as in-your-face about the sociology and philosophy as myself or Steffan, but knew at least as much and could be quite persuasive about its logic when she needed to be.

And she was just as influential, if not moreso, on the arts side. That was most conspicuous in cooking (make no mistake: she knew more about the subject than anybody else I know, and her library was without peer). She did much to get serious period cooking kick-started in the Society, taking the information from the mundane scholars and teaching it to us: she did as much to shape our Cooks Guild as she did to Pikestaff. It was somehow symbolic that in her latter years, she wound up focused on the most basic, central and often overlooked element of period cooking -- bread. Not fancy, not talked about a lot because it was simply an assumption on the table, but utterly central to life.

She was the icon of hospitality in the Barony. I like to run parties, and the Buttery has always been my model of how to do it right. I attended my first Buttery party scarcely two months after joining the Society, and have continued to enjoy them ever since. And in my early Pennsics, the tavern that she co-ran -- the Sated Tyger -- was the place to go, for good period food and good company. (Nothing even close to it exists today.) One of the things we often forget is that the heart of the SCA, as with any club, isn't the fighting, the service or the arts, but the people -- not just baking the bread, but breaking it with friends, is what melds us together as a society.

More than anything, though, I think what I got from her was perspective. She is the only person I know to resign Peerages not because of a snit or a political spat, but simply because she understood better than anyone that they weren't just a privilege and rank, but also a job and a responsibility. Some years back, she quietly declared that she had paid her dues, and had had enough of that responsibility; rather than simply shirking it as most would do, she sent a polite letter to the Board resigning all her ranks and titles, so that she could retire to a quieter life. Frankly, we all already knew that she was the best of us; she didn't have anything to prove any more.

She will be greatly missed, but remembered every time I find a loaf of truly good bread...
Tags: diary, sca

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