Resting at The Outer Garden in Second Life

The Outer Garden, October 2022 – click an image for full size

For want of the need to unwind, I found myself in-world and re-visiting The Outer Garden, the always-engaging garden world designed by Bisou Dexler. The last time I visited, he gardens had moved from a sky platform to the ground; with this visit, I found it has not only moved back to the sky, it has relocated to a Mainland region.

The Outer Garden has always been a place of beauty and enigma, and this remains the case for the current iteration. The core of the build are the ruins of what appears to have once been a mighty manor house, much of it roofless and caught within the glowing light of a misty morning / evening (take your pick as to the time of day) which haunts the huge building with a ghostly glow.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

The landing point sits at one end of the ruin’s main hall running from west – and the landing point – eastwards, various rooms and halls opening off of it, each with its own theme or secret. The first of these, opening on the right as one walks away from the landing point, forms a watery garden where water tumbles from the walls and forms a curtain within the arch of the room’s great window. These falls feed into a stream running within the room, shrouded in mist, and with trees and plants growing along its banks to form a mystic garden enclosed by the high stone walls.

Further along the hall sit another room, this one under a surviving part of roof of the manor house. Cluttered with furniture, it forms a cosy yet untidy space full of the warmth of life and a sense of retreat. Balloons float within the room, and a bed and painting canvases suggest this is home to someone, and the manor house not entirely deserted.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

And there is still more: a broken access way into an inner garden the manor house may once have surrounded; a hall heavy in vines and with a stairway within it forming an artistic statement rather than being intended to anywhere; and a strange room of vanity screens and bed and an mannequin, all of which appear to be trying to tell a story. All bring character to the setting and are linked by smaller details waiting to be found along the hallway.

Beyond the ruins, the land continues to be shrouded in mist, the inner courtyard garden flank on this far side by the broken remains of the main house and a smaller, glass-roofed hallway now serving as a unique, if narrow, tea house.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

The garden is also home to both a carousel and what looks to be a small Ferris wheel. Lit by a hundred glowing bulbs, the latter is beautifully ornate, if lacking cars one which people might ride around it. Beyond this, amidst the trees and mist lie still more ruins, chapel-like in form, but sans anything within their broken walls.

In my previous visits to The Outer Garden, teleports offer then means to visit two more settings The Moon is Serene and The Rose Garden, both of which I had in the past enjoyed spending time within. While the Destination Guide entry references a teleport mirror within The Outer Garden’s landing point and providing the means to visit other gardens, I confess that I did not see any such mirror either at the landing point or during my wanderings. Ergo, the images here only represent the main build.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

Whether my lack of success in finding any teleport is down to my own failure or because the other gardens mentioned on the DG description are no longer available, I have no idea. If I did miss both teleport and additional spaces to explore, then the fault is mine alone, and I offer my apologies to Bisou from missing them.

Even so, The Outer Garden still retains its sense of beauty and mystery whilst offering multiple opportunities for photography and for simply escaping and relaxing. As such, it remains a recommended visit.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

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More about a Green Story in Second Life

Green Story, September 2022 – click any image for full size

I hadn’t realised that it’s been four years since my first visit to Green Story, the Homestead region held and designed by Dior Canis. Indeed, it might have been even longer before I hopped back to have another look, but for a poke from Shawn Shakespeare; admittedly, that poke was given to me at the end of June 2022, so even now I’m being a little tardy in just getting around to a visit and an article, given October is now peeking over the horizon at us!

At the time of hat visit, which I wrote about in Stories and memories in Green Second Life, the region was very much a place of two halves, one in the sky and one on the ground, and both equally attractive, and which offered a continuity of theme and expression, one to the other.

Green Story, September 2022: “catch a falling star”

So far as I can tell now, Green Story exists in its current iteration as a ground-level build only; I certainly didn’t note any suggestion of a teleport to a sky platform – so if I did miss it, my apologies.  Both the 2018 iteration of Green Story and this are joined, however, by the fact that whilst each has its own landscape, neither is what might be said to be  contiguous location; rather, each exists to offer a series of locations – or vignettes, depending on how they are being utilised – scattered within a landscape which helps to link them as places to be found and appreciated.

In its form at the time of writing this piece for example, the landing point sits on a winding track running towards (or away from, depending on your point-of view), a little railway stations which has perhaps seen better days. Rain falls from a star-filled sky cut through with the ribbon of the Milky Way, and the shadowed forms of the station buildings, their mix of warm yellow lights and bright white platform illumination reflecting of banks of mist, beckon the new arrival with the promise of a warm reprieve from the downpour.

Green Story, September 2022: “the inner light”

This station is a strange hodgepodge of buildings platforms, music store, café, waiting room, and so on, which look as though they have all come together to huddle against the rain rather than being built with intent, a single rail car hunched at the end of one of the lines and suffering the rain in silence. The very oddness of the station buildings – which includes a very cosy artist’s studio floating above the rest as if daring gravity to say something – givens them a unique attractiveness which further draws visitors to them.

Travelling the other way along the track from the station takes the visitor past a little telephone booth before the trail peters on on a shoulder of the hills descending from the south and west to meet the north-facing coast, the course of the trail marked only by the march of a line of street lamps beyond where the trail’s guiding fences end.

Green Story, September 2022: “catspaw”

Further travel from here is either a case of climbing the rough slope of the hill or descending it towards the waiting shore. The way upwards can lead one to where the skeletal form of a cabin occupies an out-thrust of rock. Looking to be only partially complete (and a neat combining of builds by Wendy Keno and Cory Edo), the cabin is nevertheless cosily furnished and offers a comfortable retreat from the weather with an uninterrupted sea view. The path down, meanwhile, offers the way to where a deck sits over the water. Reached via stepping stone, it offers a view to the brilliant arc of the Milky Way as it rises from the north-east to arch over the region in a swathe of starry colour. Also visible from this deck is a little boat sitting far out on the water and laden with pillows and blankets as a further retreat  for visitors to partake.

And therein lines the raison d’être for this design: not s much as a place to be explored in the traditional sense, but as a place where people can come, relax, share (intimately, if they wish, given much of the furniture scattered around includes cuddles / adult poses), take photos of themselves within the various vignettes – art studio, cabin, deck, telephone booth and so on (several more await discovery as one wanders) – or simply remember or lose oneself in thought.

Green Story, September 2022

In this latter point, it doesn’t matter that the art studio floats over the back of the station buildings or a single window frame is suspended alone on a hill slope; what matters is how the mind, the eye and / or the camera opt to use the locations within this region, be it for expression or escape.

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A return to Green Acres in Second Life

Green Acres, August 2022 – click any image for full size

Back in March 2019, I dropped into Green Acres, a Homestead region designed by Alsatian Kidd with assistance from Iniquity Constantine. At the time, the setting presented a slice of rural Americana in a very photogenic setting, one I enjoyed exploring and photographing (see A Trip to Green Acres in Second Life).

Three years is a long time in Second Life; it’s a period sufficiently long enough that it can see many changes take place. This is certainly true with Green Acres; much has changed, making a re-visit (as suggested to me by several people over the last couple of weeks) very worthwhile; although at the same time, the changes are such that they show a natural progression for the setting in its rural appeal, rather than a complete revolution in its style and sense of place – a fact that makes a revisit even more appealing.

Green Acres, August 2022
Green Acres provides the three R’s. Rustic. Rural. Retreat. This adult-themed region has open vistas providing opportunities for photography, horseback riding, and hanging out. Explore the farm with livestock, crops and a farmers market.

– Green Ares About Land Description

The land retains its split between rugged grassy uplands and equally green lowlands. The former run from the south-east corner of the region and point their way inland and northwards. Nestled to the east of them sits the landing point, located between a copse of trees and the main path which runs around most of the island.

Green Acres, August 2022

The path partners with a stream originated the foot of falls which drop from the inner highlands, the two running north before parting way once more, the stream turning to follow the foot of the hills and then joining a broader river flowing along their west side, the path continuing to run close to the coastline as it also turns westwards.

Go south along the path and it steps its way up onto the feet of the hills, offering a climb up wooden steps up to the hilltops and the large pond nestled there, reaching the water by way of the deck and cabin facing it – the cabin being a public space. For those who prefer, the point at which the steps commence also offers a grassy climb up to the spine of the hills.

Green Acres, August 2022

Westwards, the land is largely flat or low-lying compared to the hilly east. The majority of it is separated from the hills by a rocky escarpment and a river which flows north from a broad lake at the foot of the cliffs. This land is home to the Green Acres farm, the farmhouse set back overlooking the west coastline, the farm’s outbuildings – barns, farm produce store and greenhouse – all scattered around, set between fenced meadows where livestock and horses graze, and  where crops grow.

A point to note here is that while the farm’s outbuildings are available to the public, the farmhouse itself is a private residence, so please keep that in mind when visiting.

Green Acres, August 2022
There is no direct route over the hills from the landing point to the farm; if you want a safe way to go from one to the other, it have to be by following the footpath north and then west. This brings visitors to Sahar Point, occupying the north-west corner of the region, and Constantine Harbour.

This is marked by a broad, dune-waved beach nestled in a small cove watched over by a lighthouse sitting between it and the river estuary that forms the waterfront for the harbour, the wharf and harbour buildings the home to a seafood market. A stout bridge spans the neck of the river just before it broadens into the estuary, presenting a crossing-point to reach the farm.

Green Acres, August 2022

Rich in places to sit – just check the annotated map at the landing point -, with wildlife waiting to be found throughout and finished in a fitting soundscape, Green Acres remains a beautifully photogenic visit.

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An Endless: Birdlings Flat in Second Life

Endless: Birdlings Flat, July 2022 – click any image for full size

It was back to Endless:, the Full private region held by Sombre Nyx for me recently to witness her latest design inspired by a physical world location. For this build she has turned to the southern hemisphere, and a country for which I have a certain fondness; for reasons I’ll not bore you with here.

Birdlings Flat takes its name from a settlement in Canterbury, New Zealand, at the eastern end of Kaitorete Spit and the southern end of Lake Forsyth, where the lake discharges to the sea. It’s a place of rugged natural beauty named for the Birdling family, the first European settlers to farm the area.

Endless: Birdlings Flat, July 2022

In her About Land notes, Sombre describes the setting thus:

Inspired by a small and isolated coastal settlement in the South Island of New Zealand, Birdlings Flat offers wide vistas, unkempt fields, a pebbled coastline strewn with driftwood, a sprinkling of science, and a chance to find stillness.

However, prior to the arrival of William Birdling and his family, the area was called Te Mata Hapuku, with Birdlings Flat nowadays used to specifically in reference to the  pebble beach on the ocean side of Kaitorete Spit, a location well known as a place to find small agates and a variety of other attractive rounded pebbles.

Endless: Birdlings Flat, July 2022

Designated as a rural settlement, the area actually thrived for a time as a centre of farming, even gaining its own branch of the local railway, connecting the area to the nearby town of Lincoln to allow for easier shipment of goods and produce. This line became known as the Little River Line when it was extended to another settlement (called by that name in the 1880s), and while the line was closed in 1962 and the tracks torn up, the route today is known as a public walking and cycling track called the Little River Rail Trail.

Over the years, the area has seen various uses – it is popular for those carrying out coastal studies, and the the waters are known for the presence of significant number so Hector’s dolphins and can be used by southern right whales, while during certain times of the year, fur seals and (occasionally) elephant seals can be found along the pebbled coast.

As well as coastal studies, the area was once used by the University of Canterbury for meteorological studies, the university establishing a weather station there for several years. Birdlings Flat has also been used for launching sub-orbital sounding rockets, using the US-built Arcas (All-Purpose Rocket for Collecting Atmospheric Soundings) system. These launches also fall under the prevue of the University of Canterbury, which also established a radar station in the area to monitor rocket flights and the airspace around the launch area.

Endless: Birdlings Flat, July 2022

The latter forms a part of Sombre’s build, which encapsulates the small, rural nature of the location and its tiny community (in 2018, the local population was just 195) whilst also capturing the rugged nature of the landscape and life along this coastal area  simply but perfectly. It’s not a setting one needs to wax lyrical about, because it speaks very eloquently for itself, and exploration and photography within it are both a delight.

However, in order to reach Birdlings Flat, visitors must go via the region’s Landing Point, and this once again presents visitors with the opportunity to visit not one, but two settings within the region. This is because Sombre is once again joined by Jackson Cruyff, who offers people the chance to visit his Forest.

Occupying a sky platform some 2,000m above the ground-level setting of Birdlings Flat, Forest presents a wooded environment somewhat mindful of the North American continent rather than anywhere antipodean; a place left to the wilds and where assorted animals and wildfowl might be found wandering and / or circling over head. It’s a place where people can simply roam and find refuge, and also – for those who look – places to sit and contemplate.

Endless: Birdlings Flat, July 2022

Two easy-on-the eye settings; one offering a rich depth of background on one of the more remote parts of the physical world few of us are likely to have the opportunity to visit.

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Pemberley: beauty and music in Second Life

Pemberley, December 2021 – click any image for full size

You won’t find Fitzwilliam Darcy waiting to host you at Pemberley, the Full region in Second Life held by Jude Mortensen and NataliaLinn. Nor, to be honest, will you find any grand manor house ready to captivate your gaze from afar, or signs of the gardens and English countryside across which  Elizabeth Bennet first caught sight of the house.

What you will find, however, is a public region landscaped by Dandy Warhlol (Terry Fotherington) that presents a rich rural environment  dusted in snow, surrounded by icy mountains, and watched over by the remnants of what might have been a once great manor – or, possibly, a fortified house or even a church.

Pemberley, December 2021
It is Pemberley, but not of old, time has passed, and the land has grown wild, and yet the magic lives on at Pemberley.

from Pemberley’s About Land description

The latter stands to the south of the region, on a table of rock that forms the main highlands for the setting but which is cut off from it via an narrow, stream-like channel that connects the east and west sides of the region’s surrounding water. Whilst rocks and debris offer various points where this little channel can be crossed, the primary means of doing so is via two bridges, one to the east and one to the west.

Pemberley, December 2021

It is the former – eastern – bridge that offers the most direct way up to the ruins. Constructed of stone, it links the snowy slope leading up the the broad steps of the ruins with a rutted road that meanders northwards to connect with the farms, homesteads, smaller ruins and other structures along the east and north side of the region on slightly elevated land. The core of the island remains mostly low-lying, a mix of small fields, outhouses, ruins and fences, interspersed with trees, shrubs and spaces where horses can roam.

The landing point to the region sits within these lowlands, lying towards the north-east. Its position means that explorers have the opportunity to freely choose where they want to go within the region. Paths are available that lead to various locations in the region, such as the little shingle beach on the east side, or the broader sandy beach to the north-west, and which comes complete with a rocky overlook, or the western cove with its old lighthouse. There’s also the promontory running between cove and water channel to reach a more recent lighthouse (with its own little footbridge connecting it with the slopes below the manor house ruins).

Pemberley, December 2021

But to return to the main ruins on the island. These form a point of interest not just for there visual impressiveness and photogenic nature, but also because they are the venue for the region’s music events. Details of these can be found both on the Pemberley website, as and when they are announced, or within the region’s event calendar. However, given this is New Year’s Eve, here are some highlights for those looking for something to do to celebrate, here’s some highlights:

  • Friday, December 31st:
    • 18:00-20:00 SLT – D.J. Mist.
    • 20:00-21:00 SLT – Samm Qendra live.
    • 21:00-23:00 SLT – D.J. Cati.
  • Saturday, January 1st, 2022:
    • 15:00-16:00 SLT – Fly Kugin live
  • Tuesday, January 4th, 2022:
    • 13:00-14:00 SLT – Tay live.

Pemberley, December 2021
The direct SLurl to the events space is provided at the end of this article. In the meantime, the region offers an engaging environment with many opportunities for photography. It also – at the landing point – presents visitors with the opportunity to join The Nature Collective group, described as:

The Nature Collective is a Second Life group created with the goal of cultivating a community around sims, spaces and projects which share a common focus on nature and nature conservation/preservation. It is our hope to foster a movement to help people engage and reconnect with the wonder and joy of nature, in the virtual world and beyond.

Click the poster on the the wall at the landing point for more information on the group. And for me – I’ll see you in 2022, when I’ll be resuming my travels through Second Life.

Pemberley, December 2021

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Note that Pemberley is rated Moderate

Hera’s Drune Giger City in Second Life

Drune Giger City, December 2021 – click any image for full size

Hera (Zee9) forwarded an invitation to visit the latest iteration of her Drune City design – Drune Giger City – which she has just opened on the ground level of her region.

If you read the name “Giger” and think of the late Swiss artist, Hans Ruedi (H.R.) Giger, perhaps most famous for his work on the original Alien film (with elements of his work – notably the alien itself – being used in the subsequent films in the franchise), you’d be absolutely right; this is a build that openly draws inspiration from Giger and his work – not just the Alien franchise, but also other elements of his extensive portfolio as well.

Drune Giger City, December 2021

The city is reached via Hera’s main landing point, where a brief introduction to the setting can be obtained, using a poster-sized teleport board to complete a journey down to the city proper. Before making the trip ourselves, I would point out a couple of things: make sure you accept the local environment settings for the region and that you have Advanced Lighting Model enabled, and do be advised that in taking its lead from Giger, the region is in places somewhat explicit in some of its elements.

The city retains the general layout found within the various iterations of Drune, but this time under a distinctly alien sky. However, this does not mean the buildings are in any way derivative of earlier iterations. As I’ve noted before when writing about her work, Hera goes to extraordinary lengths with her designs, using her own meshes and textures – and this is very much the case here. As such, I do recommend spending time and looking around carefully, as there is a lot of Giger-esque details to be appreciated, not all of them at first obvious to the eye.

Drune Giger City, December 2021

The city’s landing point again takes the form of a docking / landing station for aerial vehicles to one side of the cit. It is home to an alien vehicle, potentially a single-seat spacecraft, entirely of Hera’s own design but entirely in keeping with Giger’s approach to design.  The walkway from this landing area gives the first direct example of the richness of Hera’s texturing: the mural is clearly homage to Giger’s bass relief style of art. This is continued through the outer walls of the buildings, the streets and elevator doors that provide teleport access to street-level in the city.

The streets themselves undulate around the buildings, here and there offering exits to the road that runs around the exterior of the city. The architecture of the buildings carries more of the Giger bass relief style of texturing, together with stronger hints of his work: xenomorph heads extending gargoyle-like above covered walkways, and strangely designed oval doorways that have the edge of genitalia to them  – and these doorways / tunnel entrances are not the only sexualised elements.

 

Drune Giger City, December 2021

Scattered across the city and its surrounds are further suggestive elements – phallic growths and extrusions in the hills around the city (offering hints of Giger’s Landscape series), more obvious references to female genitalia on what look to be some form of machinery, a refreshment stand offering drinks from nipple-like dispensers. This vendor also offers novel seating – the “eggs” from which one of  Giger’s Facehuggers once leapt and made a mess of John Hurt’s day. More of these eggs are laid out along an alleyway – with one open, so be careful when looking inside!

In keeping with past Drune cities, this one again features a night club. With more phallic elements, this also includes something of a homage to the holographic navigation systems used by the Engineers of the Alien films, while the interior as a whole has a Giger-like fluidity to it, with a further sexual undertone that goes beyond the phallic elements.

Drune Giger City, December 2021

Across the road from the club is a small lounge bar (replacing the hotel that has been present in some earlier iterations of Drune) where the sheer beauty of Hera’s work is on full display in a form that not only encompasses clear inspiration from H.R. Giger, but also to one or two sci-fi franchises.

This latter might be coincidental, but for me, it looking at the figurehead between the pair of xenomorphs, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the death mask used in the opening sequence of the first season of Stargate SG-1, with the patterns on the walls a little mindful of hieroglyphs and runes often seen in that series. Elsewhere, the bar setting that first seen (I believe) in Drune: Sleazy Street has been give a perfect redress to further enhances the further Giger / Alien vibe.

Drune Giger City, December 2021

Atmospheric, strange – yet familiar, alien – yet identifiable, and rich in detail, Drune Giger City might be a little discomfiting for some given some of the sexual motifs present, but that does not change the fact it is another work of art from Hera. So, if you have a love of her work and / or of H.R. Giger and / or sci-fi, this is a build not to be messed.

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