Grauland’s touch of Japanese Zen in Second Life

Grauland, January 2020 – click any image for full size

Grauland has been a place we’ve regularly returned to since first discovering it in March 2019 (see Art as a landscape in Second Life). A Homestead region held by JimGarand and home (in the sky) to his M-1 Art Poses, the region has in the past been the home to builds that offer something of a blending of landscape and art to offer very individual statements (see also A return to Grauland in Second Life).

For the start of 2020, the region appears to break with this tradition when first seen, appearing to lean towards a more “traditional” landscape design with less of an emphasis on art than has previously been the case. However, first looks can be deceptive.

Grauland, January 2020

The region sits as a group of four islands, split west and east and north and south. The south-eastern, and smallest, island looks as if it had once been a headland extending away from the largest island in the group, but which has become isolated as a result of time and tide wearing at its rocky finger, eventually bringing a part of it down. What is left is a dramatic promontory that forms a stunning piece of Nature’s own art.

Facing it from the west across a shallow channel is the second of the region’s two large islands, home to the default landing point (although this is not enforced). It sits with a grove of palm trees that climbs a gentle slope to the south, to another subtle statement of art; one with a hint of the orient: a zen garden. Sitting on a circular table of rock itself ringed by sand and manicured grass, it offers a place of peace and contemplation that blends nature and design to make an artistic statement of its own.

Grauland, January 2020

North of this sits a piece of landscaping that has been something of a constant with each Grauland design: Cube Republic’s marvellous Basalt columns. They sit on the coast of two of the islands, with a narrow channel between whilst extending out to sea like Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. A bridge sits just behind them spanning the channel to link the south and north islands, with the latter also connected to the largest of the islands in the group via a rope bridge.

The region hosts two structures within it. One offers a hint of Japanese design as it forms a bathhouse / massage hut. The second is a more traditional style of a walled Japanese house, complete with a bamboo grove within the gardens and a small summer house. The bamboo continues beyond the wall of the garden, marching alongside a path that leads away from the house to run to where the former headland points the way south over the sea.

Grauland, January 2020

Throughout the region are multiple places to sit – on the beaches, in and around the buildings, in the gardens, offering plenty of opportunities to appreciate the landscape. there’s also a gentle sound scape to accompany the design that adds to its depth. However, the most intriguing element present in the region is to be found on the eastern beach just down from the landing point.

It is here that a group of four jet skis can be found. Open to anyone to use, these promise the opportunity to ride them beyond the boundaries of a standalone region up to a distance of 700m. This appears to be a viewer-side effect with scripted intervention on the server to present the visual appearance of travelling beyond the region boundaries to the rider and other avatars in the region whilst the rider remains anchored at the point they “crossed” the boundary. However, I’ll leave it to better minds than mine to comment on the technical aspects of such a system and its ins and outs.

Grauland, January 2020

As picturesque as previous iterations of the region, this build – subtitled Okinawa Islands –  offers a soothing landscape worthy of exploration, and as ever, makes the region worthy of a visit, whether for the first time or as a returning visitor.

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A Grey Magic Winter in Second Life

Grey Magic Winter, January 2020 – click any image for full size

Grey Magic is a full region designed by SL partners Kimmie Rayna and CHRlSTIANGREY that offers a mix of public spaces and private rentals. For those still feeling in the mood for winter scenes and snow, the region is currently dressed for the colder months, a blanket of snow covering most of it and the central pond / lake has a frozen surface which, going by the condition of the top of the ice, has seen use as a skating rink.

Grey Magic Winter, January 2020

The east side of the region, together with the central body of water, form the region’s public areas, with the east side laid out as a street from a small town, lined by small businesses and town houses.  Most of the buildings are empty, although at the times of my visit, one of the shops was functioning as an SL fashion store outlet and the pub offered indoor seating and an outdoor table games area.

Six rental properties lie to the north, west and south of the region, with the central body of water forming something of a buffer between the public streets and the private homes, with the houses closest to the town setting located far enough back from the roads to give them privacy. Entrances to them are clearly marked as private property to help avoid accidental trespass.

Grey Magic Winter, January 2020

The town and lake offer nicely photogenic settings – although I worried about a steam train and a tram occupying the same set of rails and, from their positions, only being able to head towards one another. However, given the distance separating them from one another, they both offer potential locations for photography.

While the lake is frozen over, I didn’t notice any ice skate vendors around the shore, but there are buckets of snowballs for those looking to have a friendly fight – and visitors can likelyalways use their own skates if they have them. For those who do, the hot chocolate bar alongside the lake offers the chance for a hot drink – and to listen to a very unusual round of Christmas songs from the nearby … umm … “carollers”  –  this is actually not to be missed (I still have their take on Frosty the Snowman hovering around in my head 🙂 ).

Grey Magic Winter, January 2020

Finished with a day / night cycle and matching sound scape, Grey Magic offers a balanced mix of public and private spaces (I understand that there is a waiting list for the houses, although one appeared to be vacant when I dropped in) with plenty of opportunities for photography as well as numerous places to sit. As such it makes for a pleasant, easy visit for SL explorers and photographers.

Grey Magic Winter, January 2020

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Exploring The Cold Rose in Second Life

The Cold Rose, January 2020 – click any image for full size

Designed by artist and blogger Oema and her SL partner Van Lopen, The Cold Rose is a public / residential homestead region that opened its doors at the start of 2020, and which we dropped into over the weekend whilst out exploring.

Nestled amongst a group of off-sim islands, and itself split into a number of rocky and low-lying isles, the region has the feel of being a small group of islands perhaps seated in the more northern latitudes, and a place caught between the passing cold of winter and the warmer times of spring. The About Land description states the region is “perfect for photographers and bloggers”, and there is certainly much that is photogenic about the setting. However, I’d suggest this is tempered somewhat by the five private properties also to be found within it.

The Cold Rose, January 2020

These five properties – a private residence for Oema and Van Lopen, occupying the top of the large island to the north-east, and four rental properties occupying the western islands of the group – take up the majority of the space within the region, being located in large parcels that once occupied, might be considered “off limits” to visitors to ensure the privacy of those occupying them. Indeed, the private residence is denoted by ban lines should visitors stray too close, while the rentals are equipped with security orbs that, when active, will presumably cover the entire parcel occupied by each house.

This tends to limit exploration to the islands to the south-east and east of the region, and the tracks skirting around those occupied by private houses. Even so, this still gives people a fair amount to do, and numerous opportunities for photography, with several nice little touches await discovery.

The Cold Rose, January 2020

The landing point sits on the low-lying south-eastern island that is almost a shale bar that has been built up over the passage of time such that it can keep itself above the coming and going of the tide – or perhaps it is all that remains of the low-lying land that once connected the islands one to another. It is here that details of the rental properties can be found, with one of them visible just across the water on what amounts to the “middle” island of the group.

A simple plank bridge links the landing point with another low-lying island to the north, a place home to horses, a couple of them Animesh and suitable for sitting (if not, at the time of our visit, riding). Beyond this, things get a little more physical for explorers – the route to the northern island is via rope slide, with a second connecting it with the western islands. As noted, the north island is topped by a private residence, so on crossing to it via the rope slide, it is best to turn right and follow the track around the base of the hill and the island’s north side to reach the second rope slide and the western islands.

The Cold Rose, January 2020

Of the rental properties, three are clearly marked by gates / gateways that lie to one side or across the paths that run through and around the islands, making them easy to identify. At the time of our visit none were occupied, so wandering their parcels wasn’t an issue. However, this might not always be the case, so please check ahead and be respectful of privacy. The remaining rental sits at the southern end of the “middle” island, and rather than being reached by track, it has a bridge reaching out to it from the western isle, the end of which might best be considered denoting the start of private property.

Set under a moody sky by default, and rounded-out by a gentle soundscape, The Cold Rose includes several places for visitors to sit and could present those seeking a private home in SL with a picturesque, quite environment they might enjoy.

The Cold Rose, January 2020

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The hills and waters of a Lost Lagoon in Second Life

Lost Lagoon, January 2020 – click any image for full size

We last visited Lost Lagoon in July 2019, drawn to it by a bewitching description of a lost south seas island, and held captive by its rich design and looks (see:  A Lost Lagoon in Second Life). We were drawn back to it after hearing whispers that it has been redesigned to offer a new outlook for visitors; and I’m pleased to say the new look to the region is every bit as a attractive as it had been in July 2019.

The work of knight676 and Jana Guyot, Lost Lagoon has moved on from the look and feel of a south sea island to present a “lonely swamp Island. Witnesses of bygone days and paradise for those who seek solitude and nature.” As such, it presents a haunting landscape, split between low wetlands and higher peaks; a place where time perhaps hasn’t been overly kind to the buildings scattered across it- but where warm and comfortable welcomes can still be found.

Lost Lagoon, January 2020

The landing point is located in the south-east corner of the region, sitting on a deck over the water that has all the looks of a ferry stop. It affords a fine look across the rest of the region, with its lowlands to the south and east, the land rising to the north and west.

The terminal-like building is connected to the rest of the region via a raised wooden walkway. From here, visitors are free to wander as they please. Directly north along the coast is a place where the first of those warm and comfortable greetings I mentioned can be found. It is here that a large deck space and summer house has been erected, offering plenty of space to sit and pass the time, enjoy a drink or fuss the cats and dogs.

Lost Lagoon, January 2020

West and south of this the lowlands are cut by a broad bay watched over by a tall windmill and two more wooden huts, each of which offer cosy cuddle points for visitors to enjoy, while a small sandy area on the inland side of the bay offers an alternative sitting / resting point, marked by the wreck of a crashed ‘plane. Beyond this, the land becomes more marshy, the water choked with reeds and grasses, wooden walkways crossing them to provide access to sandbars and running past old buildings that have fallen victim to the sinking land – or the rising water level.

The marshlands are fed by water falling from the region’s highlands. These are homes to points of interest At first, the way up to them would appear to the by following the gassy slopes as they rise on the east side of the region.

Lost Lagoon, January 2020

But while there is indeed a path up through the greener hills that leads to a small folly nestled on their shoulder, it is best reached by going inland from the landing point and picking up the broad track the winds into the hills from alongside the old shack at the back of the bay. The path up to the folly branches directly from this track, which continues onwards, passing via a rocky arch and board walk to reach a northern headland, home to an eye-catching setting of its own.

Further to the west, where a toe of the hills pokes out towards the bay, carrying the shallow cut of a stream on its back, steps and second path can be found, offering a route by wooden stairs and platforms to the upper reaches of the hills. Gated and going via a single finger of rock, this path eventually arrives at what might appear to be a disused observatory but which is in fact a bath house. This again offers a warm welcome to visitors, complete with an old piano and stuffed armchairs.

Lost Lagoon, January 2020

There are a few issues in the region – places where plant physics should perhaps be disabled or the plants made phantom, performance can be a little uneven if there are a lot of other avatars in the region and I personally the default windlight a little dour. But these don’t interfere with the fact that this iteration of Lost Lagoon is as eye-catching and highly photogenic as the build we visited in July 2019.

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Time at Valium Creek in Second Life

Valium Creek, January 2020 – click any image for full size

We recently received an invitation from Vallys Lavender to visit Valium Creek, her latest region offering a mix of public spaces and rental homes, and which follows on from [Valium] (read more here). It has been designed for Vallys by Jacky Macpherson (of NorderNey fame), with assistance from Vallys and Terry Fotherington.

The public areas of the region are located to the north and east side, with the residential properties to the west and south, the latter separated from the public areas by a set of railway tracks. The landing point is to the west of the public area, close to the centre of the region, in what appears to be the remnants of a once large stone building, now reduced to flagstones spread across the grass and the stonework from the walls reused to form drystone walls.

Valium Creek, January 2020

Up a short set of steps is an open-air movie theatre complete with barbecue, and beyond that, more flagstones amidst the grass that offer access to to a shingle beach, a wooden chapel, a public seating area and the local bar. The shingle also runs around an old fishing hut and deck, both of which have both seen far better days.

It’s an eclectic mix of a setting, suggestive of a place of great age then has since been built over but even then, has seen better days. It’s a design that works exceptionally well, offering a memory of the original [Valium] – enhanced by one or two items hat featured in that build, for those who remember it (such as the old rowing boat) – whilst presenting a wholly new environment that is rich in detail.

Valium Creek, January 2020

The west side of the region comprises open woodland, rich in fir trees and cut by slow-moving rivers, the banks of which are occupied by ranch-style houses, while away from the rivers are cabins also available for rent. Most of the homes are reasonably separated from its neighbours to offer privacy. The entire layout is suggestive of a untamed setting – lived-in, yes, but still untamed: deer graze at the waterside, birds can be heard in the trees, and while there are no beavers or otter to be seen, there is a sense that if you look around quickly enough, you might just catch sight of them.

Valium Creek donates each month to The Nature Conservancy, an international organization dedicated to preserving our natural surroundings.  A portion of the Valium group join fees are donated. During 2019, Valium Creek donated the equivalent of L$80,000 and our 2020 increase to $35.00 per month will give an additional L$105,000. 

– Vallys Lavender, on continuing the charitable work
she started with [Valium]

Valium Creek, January 2020

Unlike [Valium], this new design doesn’t sit alone. To the north, and reached via a bridge, is Valium Creek Park, also held by Vallys. In some ways this continues elements found in Valium Creek – the fir trees, the railway lines – even the bridge connecting the two regions. However, Valium Creek Park is also very different.

Entirely open to the public, half the region forms an art park operated by Vallys and which will shortly be opening its first exhibition, featuring the work of Mistero Hifeng. It also encompasses a series of event spaces – a chapel set for weddings, a café, and a bar. At its western extreme, the park is dominated by a house and pond that between them mark the point of access to the rest of the region, offered through a stone arch.

Valium Creek, January 2020

The arch offers the way to two bars occupying the north side of the region. The first is Bardeco, operated by Terry Fotherington and Bridget Genna, and which has featured in the Kekeland design (see here and here for more). East of this sits Bar Relax, the work of Bridget, together with NightAttack Guardian and Lillynot Jinx.

The setting for the latter is perhaps more homely than for the former; and whilst I cannot be sure, it felt as if the land around Bardeco was perhaps still in development, denuded of trees or other flora as it was during our visit. Both of the bars share a commonality, and not just in terms of those involved in building them: they each have a local camp site, for example, while one has a small circular inlet that almost resembles a fishing hole, mirrored by the other having an actual pond.

Valium Creek, January 2020

For those seeking a new home in Second Life, Valium Creek is every bit as a attractive as [Valium] was, while the park with its arts area and three bars may offer a further attraction for those who appreciate attending events. As noted, the region on which the park sits had, at the time of our visits, something of an “unfinished” feel to it – so you might well find some additional elements when visiting. However, and make no mistake, Valium Creek is marvellously photogenic and makes for an excellent visit.

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Aradia’s Winter in Second Life

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020 – click any image for full size

Update, January 12th: Aradia has now been re-dressed for spring.

Aradia is a Homestead region designed by LadyOnia that offers a mix of public spaces and rentals for those seeking a home. We first visited in November 2019, not long after the the region had opened, and when it was dressed for autumn. I jumped back with the start of the new year to take a look at it under winter’s blanket.

The landing point sits to the west of the region, above a broad spread of beach – although given the snow and the winds, it might take a very brave soul to take a dip in the waters or attempt any sunbathing on the sands! The rest of this predominantly low-lying region spreads out eastwards, cut by channels of water that serve to break it up such that exploration is a case of findings ways across the water (and even then, once or twice a little wading might be required!).

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020

I say “predominantly low-lying”, because the north-eastern corner of the region is raised slightly above the rest to form a circular table of land on which the rental properties are located. This looks across the region to where the land unmistakable bulks up in a rocky hill to the south-west.

The rentals are clearly separated from the “public” parts of the region, with just a single point of access by foot to their round plateau. Five cottages and a lighthouse form a ring around the outer extent of their rocky table, the centre of which forms an open space marked by ancient stonework built around a water feature.

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020

Rental information on the properties is available at the information board located on the steps that form the access point for the rentals, spaning the channel separating them from the rest of the region. However, I understand from LadyOnia that she is currently using two of the properties, leaving just four with rental options. Wildlife is very much a feature of the region: herons and egrets keep an eye on the waterways, doubtless watching for unwary fish, although they may face some competition for fishy meals from the otters floating on the water or playing nearby.

Away from the waters, peacocks strut around the territories they’ve claimed for themselves, while rabbits and deer take a more relaxed view of things, content to hop through the snow or graze on the grasses poking up through its blanket. Weasels are also to be found as they scurry through the snow, while sheep and goats can be found at various points, with the sheep laying claim to the ring of standing stones to the north-west.

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020

For those fancying a bit of a climb, the south-eastern hill can be reached via log bridges and a rocky arch, the climb made easier by the stone steps winding up its flanks. The hill’s lower shoulder is broad enough to be home to a large frozen pond, a little café raised to one side of it. The latter offers a place to sit and rest and perhaps enjoy a hot cocoa before carrying on up to the peak, while a sign at the edge of the pond will deliver skates for anyone wanting to make use of the ice as a rink.

The central and eastern lowlands offer open spaces and various features of their own – some of which may be changing a the next few weeks as they are decidedly Christmas oriented, and LadyOnia noted to me that she’s looking to introduce a spring setting to the region in the not-too-distant future. Much of these lower areas are marked by trees with trunks bent so they stand as if crouched against an unrelenting wind. Places to sit and cuddle can be found under some of them, with more places of to to be found scattered around, from simple benches to a giant stone-carved hand to winter’s crescent Moon swing.

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020

One of the pleasing aspects of this region – for me, at least – is that the volume of snow didn’t impact my system’s performance as much as it has elsewhere. However, it does combine well with the region’s windlight to add a natural softening to the landscape as one looks across the region, just as now does in the natural world.

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