The infectious, addictive, joyous drive to make music or tell stories

I spent most of last weekend at our local Medieval Fair, or as it could more accurately be called, “Historical Cosplay, Fairies, and Pirates Fair.” I live in the size of city small enough that you stand a good chance to run into at least half a dozen unrelated people or families that you know on any given day of the fair, and thanks to Facebook, I know that there were even more friends and acquaintances there along with me without us seeing each other.

My original plan was to go both days and take in all the sights and shows; to show up in costume both days but that would be the extent of my participation. My stepdad had been hired by the Fair to be one of the wandering period musicians, so I figured I’d just be camped out with my mother watching him play.

“Aren’t you going to take your fiddle?” says my mother as we’re headed out the door on Saturday morning. “There’s a jam at the pub tent at the end of the day.”

“I don’t like leaving it in the car.” I stood there on my front steps, dithering. I knew that there was no such thing as “tote it around with you all day and play at the end of the day.” If I had it, it would come out. All day.

And that’s just what happened. I played for a good portion of both days, making three dollars in tips that the band let me keep because their paid contract specified no tips. I sat in with the band (with their permission) and learned as many Irish fiddle tunes as my brain could hold; if I couldn’t pick up the tune fast enough to learn it before it was over, I put the fiddle down on the case, hoisted up my skirt, and buckdanced. At the end of the first day when the pub jam was going on (with people dressed as pirates participating in recreational flogging just feet away), I was tired and trying to rest–but yet again those infectious Irish fiddle tunes would pick me up again, would almost unpack my case for me, and I was up and fiddling yet again.

By the end of the weekend, I’d marched in three parades (literally fiddling as I walked, the entire time, with my stepdad keeping the beat on octave mandolin), learned a bunch of new tunes (two of whose names I actually remember! Father O’Flynn and Ten Penny Bit), and had literally the best possible time–way more special than if I’d just been sitting on the sidelines with my mom.

This is writing, too.

This is writing, because the feeling I got when I was exhausted and packed up but then that man whose name I never knew picked up his tin whistle and started playing “Devil’s Dream” at such a ridiculous breakneck pace that I had to join in, is the same feeling I get when I’m inspired and the characters I love are talking in my head. In some cases the fact that I write my own fairy tales in which women are allowed to love other women (or older men, for that matter), and in which Jews get to have adventures beyond escaping Nazi’s and coming to America, is just as inevitable as the way I wound up playing all weekend instead of watching. Other people’s performances and other people’s stories are just sometimes not enough. I have to grab my fiddle, or my laptop, and be a part of the magic.

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About Shira

Queer Jewish feminist author
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