In memoriam: Robin Sojourner

Robin (Sojourner) Wood November 24th, 1953 – April 19th, 2021
It is with a heavy heart that we must report that Robin (Sojourner) Wood passed away after an extended struggle with cancer (phyllodes tumours). She will be remembered for a long history of artwork and instruction.

With these words, Marianne McCann broke the news that one of Second Life’s long-time residents, Robin Sojourner – Robin Wood in the physical world – had passed away.

Robin was, without a doubt, one of the kindest, warmest and most giving hearts in all of Second Life; she never failed to have time for anyone who needed it. Whether it was simple conversation, the need for support, advice on creativity, assistance with solving a problem, or anything else, Robin would never fail to assist. A talented creator both inside and outside of the platform, she always had encouragement and advice for those wishing to express themselves creatively in-world by offering easy-to-follow tutorials via her website and You Tube, as well as providing both practical advice and a range of products and free resources via  Livingtree island, her Second life home.

Then an now: Robin’s original 1LI prim chair and her recent mesh 1 LI creation: a stool draped with one of her quilt designs.  Credit: Bernard Drax

A former teacher, Robin always enjoyed being creative, so much so that during her career she became a noted painter / illustrator, whilst her diverse interests led her into the field of writing, publishing numerous books on a range of subjects,  including stories and fiction, as well as producing essays and thoughts through her blog and website.

Robin came to Second Life in 2004 during a search for a means of artistic and creative expression after fibromyalgia severely impacted her ability to paint and draw. Within the platform, she found the ideal solution.

Not only did Second Life offer an intriguing set of capabilities for creative expression, it also allowed her to work with her arms properly supported by her desk and chair. One aspect of fibromyalgia is that it can result in severe pain, notably in muscles and joints such at the shoulders, elbows and arms, particularly if they have to be raised for lengthy periods without any support, as is the case with painting. In addition, it allowed her to bring all her years of learning various 2D and 3D graphics applications together as a means to enhance her creativity.

One of the aspects of Second Life Robin always appreciated is the fact that it is a “melting pot” environment that allows anyone to (re)discover their innate creative abilities when the physical world so often encourages us to “self-edit” them away from an early age, in the false assumption that “creativity” is somehow exclusive. This was something she noted with considerable thought in a 2013 World Makers video about her, stating in part:

One of the things that has always excited me about Second Life is that people who have no idea that they are creative come into Second Life and find out that they can create things. We are all taught somewhat early that creativity is “reserved” for the creative types and they are “special” and there are only a few of them – and it’s just not true. All of us can be creative.

– Robin (Sojourner) Wood, via World Makers (2013)

Robin’s store on Livingtree Island – a wealth of creativity and support for residents and creators alike

As a part of this outlook, Robin was always quick to embrace the significant changes we’ve seen within the platform over the years. She was one of the first to adopt mesh into her creative output and to offer tutorials and videos on making quality mesh items. Similarly, she quickly folded materials and other emerging capabilities into her work as and where appropriate.

This outlook also put Robin in a position where she could – with a wry sense of humour – offer truths about the general negative ballyhoo and foot-stomping that so often comes immediately after any change made to the platform.

[With] every single thing that has ever happened in Second Life people have yelled, “It’s the end of Second Life as we know it!” And in fact it is – because it keeps getting better!

– Robin (Sojourner) Wood, via World Makers (2013)

Robinton, Masterharper of Pern (oil, 1980) gained worldwide recognition for its depiction of one of Anne McCaffrey’s most-loved characters from her Dragonriders series. So much so that McCaffrey purchased the original from Robin to hang in her home.

Not only did Robin believe there is potential in all of us to be creative, she demonstrated it in very practical means, notably to her students.

As an accomplished painter and illustrator, her work has graced the covers and pages of numerous books and publications, and is utterly captivating in its style and depth. But rather than just show her works as an established artist, Robin never avoided showing her early efforts whilst learning her crafts, noting that if students and children could see how her work progressed from humble origins to incredibly rich and established pieces she went on to produce, then they might think, “if she can do this, why shouldn’t I?”

Robin’s belief that Second Life is a melting pot also extended to pushing back against the general false dichotomy often found within and without the platform that engaging in it is a matter of “either / or”. From outside of Second Life this can be expressed in views that really, you should be doing something “better” with your time; from within the platform, it can frequently be found in the idea of keeping “SL and RL entirely separate”.

Yet, as Robin demonstrated throughout her time as a Second Life resident, while we might not always see our avatars as being part of us, they are nevertheless a natural conduit of all of our ability to express ourselves and engage with others; our thoughts and outlook inform our avatars, and they in turn inform those around us – just as with our physical world interactions.

Similarly, our engagement with Second life can be as much a part of our physical lives as going out to socialise with friends in a park or through video calls, or going into the garden and spending a couple of hours tending to the flowers there – and be just as personally fulfilling.

Robin and her partner Michael with one of the quilts Robin would design via computer and then create in both Second Life and the physical world, illustrating the reality that the platform can be as positive a part of someone’s life as something like gardening. Credit: Bernard Drax

In addition to her creativity, Robin’s interests were wide-ranging, incorporating Wicca, tarot – she authored two books on the latter and also designed The Robin Wood Tarot, a set of tarot cards published by Llewellyn Worldwide in 1991 -, community and societal issues including LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and politics. She also wrote numerous books, including The People of Pern, co-authored with Anne McCaffrey herself – although I admit my personal favourite being The Theory of Cat Gravity.

Not even a diagnosis of phyllodes tumours (a form of breast cancer which can be particularly aggressive, requiring a full range of treatments – excision followed by radiation therapy / chemo therapy / further revision surgery) initially prevented Robin from creating and supporting others.  In particular, she wrote a series of blog posts on her condition in the hope of encouraging those also suffering from phyllodes / breast cancer / cancer  to seek treatment in it various forms, and what to expect from it.

Sadly, given the aggressive nature of phyllodes it can have a high rate of recurrence, and this is what happened with Robin, who suffered a relapse in mid-2020, and succumbed to the cancer on Monday, April 19th 2021.

To honour and remember her, there will be a memorial gathering for all who knew or encountered Robin to attend. This will be on Sunday, April 25th, 2021, commencing at 18:00 SLT.  Those attending will be encouraged to share their memories and stories about her.

With thanks to Marianne McCann

For those unable to make the memorial, Livingtree Island will remain open for a time under the care of Marianne McCann and Pygar Bu, and an invitation is extended to visit and to follow the luminaria path that has been set out in personal reflection.

To Robin’s partner Michael, their family and all who knew Robin as a relative or friend, I offer my deepest condolences. As Marianne notes, Robin will be long remembered for all of her time in Second Life, and will be deeply missed.

As  a mark of Robin’s life and philosophy, I’ll close by including her 2013 interview filmed as a part of the Drax Files World Makers series.

With thanks to Marianne McCann.

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3 thoughts on “In memoriam: Robin Sojourner

  1. Her passing is a profound loss for all of us. One of the most important strengths of SL is the fact that it empowers “ordinary people” (a term she’d obviously disagree with) to tap into and express their creativity and by doing that take control of their lives.

    I’m untrained, with only a couple of years of college -in medicine, at that. But through being in Second Life I’ve learned how to create my own buildings, enviroments and some rudimentary texturing -enough to have been able to be in SLB a few times.

    I’ve never met her, I’m barely familiar with her items -but I have benefitted from the creative and empowering spirit that she brought to Second Life. Her influence has guided me into what skills and such that I’ve gained over the last decade-ish.

    I’m grateful for the spirit she brought to SL, and I offer my condolences and my well-wishes to her family and friends who are feeling this loss even more keenly than I am.

    And I thank her spirit for touching my life and the life of all of us who have discovered that we, too, can create and contribute something after all…

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