A few days ago I received an invitation from Vally Lavender to pay a visit to her latest ValiumSL region build ahead of its official opening to the public at large.
Hermosa Tierra (Spanish for beautiful land) takes as its focus the lands of west Texas, as was the case for Vally’s previous design of MARFA (see: Deep in the heart of (west) Texas via Second Life). However, where MARFA drew on a actual place, Hermosa Tierra is born entirely out of Vally’s imagination, as she notes the the setting’s story:
Hermosa Tierra … is a fictional land on the West Texas border of Mexico and Texas (only separated by the Rio Grand River). It is loosely inspired by my impressions of the Big Bend National Park area, over 800,000 acres of desert, mountains, caverns, a vast and diverse range of flora, fauna and terrains. The area is also rich in Mexican and American, specifically Texan, cultures.
– Vally Lavender, the Hermosa Tierra story
This is an atmospheric build, both in design and in the tragedy of the backstory of Veleta, an artist, and her rancher husband and soul mate, Jorge. On arrival, I’ll confess that I felt I’d landed a lot further west along the border between the United States and Mexico; the setting with its surround of high peaks and mesas immediately brought to mind thoughts of The High Chaparral television series and its iconic theme song; so much so that I half expected Manolito to gallop past me at the landing point as he rode towards the Hacienda-style ranch house.
However, west Texas this is, and of a time a lot later than the 1870s, as evidenced by the presence of two old pick-up trucks – although given one of these looks like it might date from the 1920s/1930s and the other the 1940s/1950s, we’re not really tied to a particular period of time, but can instead allow the story of Veleta and Jorge, and that of their great-great granddaughter, Vally, whisper to us a time it feels is best.
As one would expect from a region design by Vally, there is a lot to be discovered here. While a drought may well have led to the passing of the ranch – and of Jorge and Veleta – water has now returned to the land in the form of a fast flowing stream that bursts forth from a subterranean aquifer to the west, cutting its way northwards to vanish among the blocky mesa with their crowns of abode houses that stand guard over the land – perhaps reminders of the Pueblo way of life here.
This stream, narrow and fast, is a natural drawing point for wildlife and domesticated animals alike (or semi-domesticated, in the case of the longhorn cattle). Cattle and horses, deer and bear are all equally drawn to the water, whilst a hopeful heron awaits, statue-like, the fortuitous passing of a fish. Stepping stones span the water, pointing towards the hacienda by way of a trail bordered by lavender and wild grass.
That times have been hard here can be seen in the decrepit barn siding the track up to the ranch, while the walls of the latter, doubtless once pristine and white, are showing their age and have become the home to ivy and vines. However, the house, the courtyard before it and a second barn a short walk from the hacienda’s gates all show clear signs of renovation and re-purposing, whilst the coral has also been renewed and is once again in use.
Those exploring the land will find a lot to appreciate, from the smaller hacienda in the north-west that offers itself as a bar and places to rest, to the aforementioned wildlife and the various places to sit and appreciate the view. Travel far enough, and visitors might find themselves in a sinuous canyon, watched over by wolves and goats, whilst within the sheer walls, the hard work of a palaeontologist can be admired – but remember, look, don’t touch! When exploring, those who enjoy horse riding in SL can also perhaps get more into the spirit of the region by pulling on a wearable horse and trotting around.
Hermosa Tierra is ideal for photography, and I recommend using the local environment settings when doing to – they are the idea backdrop. in fact, art is very much a focus for this setting, again as Vally explains:
Art is all around at Hermosa Tierra in a small way. At the Hacienda La Veleta there will be rotating artists from the covers in Flickr group pool. Since that has not begun, we start with a ‘Memories of Marfa’ exhibit.
At the large barn we will rotate selected artists from my Empty Chair Gallery.
Thus, this is a setting that is to be very much savoured and appreciated – and it will be available for people to do so for a while; the demands of the physical world mean that Vally is taking a deserved break from the pressures of region design and building, and will instead (hopefully) be able to appreciate her work as much as those who visit it.
- Hermosa Tierra (ValiumSl, rated Moderate)