by VERDE OTAARED
Photos by VERDE OTAARED, JENAIA MORANE, FRANCHELLA MILENA, CorDeROSA LOIRE
Helen Keller Day (June 27) was celebrated in Second Life with the launch of the first virtual guide dog. Christened Max, who was developed by Virtual Helping Hands (http://www.virtualhelpinghands.org/), a non-profit organization that works to help the disabled get into a function in virtual space. Max helps the blind and sight-impaired get around Second Life on their own.
Max's arrival in Second Life was marked by a variety of events, contests, and thought provoking presentations. One the most creative and engaging was the Vision Quest developed by Jenaia Morane, the founder of The Virtual Worlds Story Project (www.tvwsp.com). "The Vision Quest is based loosely on the Native American concept of the Vision Quest as a way to expand awareness and gain insight," says Morane. "Vision Quests take participants on journeys designed to explore the question, "What does it mean to see, and how might seeing differently change how you live your life?"
Participants in the Vision Quest were taken on a four-step journey to explore what it is like to be blind and work with a guide dog. They also had a choice between experiencing the Quest from the perspective of a blind person or the viewpoint of a guide dog. Regardless of the perspective, questers received a beta version of Max to find clues that helped them navigate the Quest.
After completing the four steps, participants were encouraged to write a story and submit it for consideration for cash prizes totaling $300. The winners of this year's Vision Quest were:
1st Place Winner: Franchella Milena (aka Pat Facciponti in her first life)
Teacher, photographer, videographer, academic technologist, GIS mapper; wife, parent and grandparent; animal-lover and historic preservationist; writer and poet, Pat Facciponti enjoys studying and writing about just about anything. Franchella Milena, her alter ego, was born into Second Life in January 2008. Together, Franchella and Pat collaborate on adventures of discovery, learning, writing, building, and teaching in Second Life. For her efforts, Franchella will receive $10,000 Lindens and the HKD award.
JOURNEYS and INTERSECTIONS
Part I: Solomon the Wise
Long before weaning they’d dubbed him Solomon the Wise.
He’d scan the kennel, ears perked at each unexpected noise,
As if he alone were designated guardian of them all.
“This is Solomon,” the manager stroked the wag-tailed labrador,
“He watches over us,” he joked. The visitor did not laugh but scrawled a note.
Soon Solomon was one of 18 hand-picked puppies on their way to they knew not where.
Their stacked cages rocked and pitched as the truck bumped along the backroads.
One after another was delivered to joyous open arms,
But not Solomon, who laid his golden head upon his paws and wondered.
At last they rolled down gravel trails to a well-worn farmhouse.
Children tumbled off the porch like apples from a toppled basket.
Warm arms and impish faces encircled the remaining puppy. He was home, for now.
A year and some months later, as morning broke across the country kitchen,
Solomon gazed out from the crate’s wide open door.
Like an airborne braided river, a web of rich aromas:
Coffee, bacon, toast and sizzling eggs, swirled past his quivering nose.
But this morning an unknown something hovered on the air.
Little Freddy toddled to the crate and for the first time crawled inside,
Rested head upon the dog’s warm belly, whimpered softly, drifted off to sleep.
Solomon curled around the child, muzzle laid across his back.
Change was coming, Solomon thought, not likely for the good.
Another trip, another place, new people, fresh routines:
Seeing Eye school was a romp of fun and games and buoyant canine friends.
Each morning brought new challenges, praise, and savory treats.
Solomon sped through training like a super mouse upon a table maze.
His handler, firm, fair, clear on the expected, soon earned the dog’s respect.
But it was Solomon the Wise who seemed to grasp the job’s most vital skill:
When to obey commands and when it was wiser to assess a situation on his own.
The building pattered with the beat of unfamiliar feet.
Expectation wafted on the breeze. One by one,
Handlers carried his fellow classmates, ears laid back, beyond the kennel door.
When Solomon’s trainer came to cradle him, scratch his ears,
Murmur comfort sounds, he knew his path was nearing yet another turn.
The lounge, alive with visitors laughing, crying, hugging puppies,
Was a sea of wagging tails, upturned bellies, joyous sounds.
But Solomon sensed intermingled dog and human sweat, fear of the unknown.
Where in this did he belong? At the far end, sat a young woman on a rolling chair,
Arms out, brave smile upon her lips, shadowed eyes dripping wet with tears.
As Solomon landed, tail wagging, in her lap, he licked her salty face.
Nose buried in his coat she sobbed once more, but this time tears of joy.
The next weeks were like a double rainbow after midnight thunder’s dawn.
It was Solomon who trained Denise, the one he now knew he was born to guard.
He was hers alone and she was his. He became her eyes, her ears, four steady feet.
He slept by her bed, guided her to class, down streets, to parks, to stores.
Graduation day, they moved as one across the stage to be pronounced complete:
Woman and dog henceforth to travel the selfsame path.
An almost forgotten, but so familiar, scent tugged Solomon’s nose.
In row two sat his Freddy, taller now, but loving and so loved always in return,
Weeping with affection, pride, as his beloved puppy moved on in life to serve.
Years later, Solomon and Denise once more took center stage.
The audience stood as one to honor the dog whose stubborn wisdom
Told him when not to follow his companion’s bid but refuse
To lead her onto a flame-scorched floor that was no longer there.
She, too, was lauded for her courage to so trust this golden dog,
Who had restored her freedom and, yes, her very life.
Part II: Denise
The legs failed me first but left behind the real, true me, intact, alert, alive.
I was less mobile, true, but still me, propelled by love, by engineering
To still savor the hills and hollows, risings, settings of life’s landscape.
The crushing blow came the morning when the last spark in my fading eyes
Defected to follow those faithless worthless legs.
They left their shells behind, but the vibrant life they’d lived my early years
Evaporated into dust. I counted systems and their blessings:
Hearing? Yes! Touch, Yes! Voice? Yes!
Mind? Smell? Feelings? Oh, thank You, yes!
There was so much more of me remained than was no longer there.
It was left for me to build my future on the leavings.
First had come the chair, the ramps, now the cane, the Braile.
My smiling family bore me like a warrior on their arms.
Behind their brave facade my future seemed an earth-gnawed hole to nowhere.
I could negotiate a room, sense who was there and what’s for dinner.
I could type and “read” along with a bored mechanical voice.
Twenty-first century science was on my side, but could I ever hope
To roll out on my own across the street, the country, around the world?
Yet…I had heard that dogs, very special dogs, could guide the blind.
I had never had a dog. Dogs smelled. They messed. They slobbered.
They barked. They craved attention. Yet…
The school was two busses and a plane ride from my home.
Desperate, determined, I went alone, assured I would be met at journey’s end.
Along the way, voices, hearts, and hands of friendly faceless strangers
Materialized unbidden from the dark to speed me to my destination.
Once there, I was enfolded in the caring of those who knew the magic spells
That might yet free me from my spirit’s dismal cage.
I yearned for the dog for whom I’d prayed who would surely change my life.
Somewhere in that vast echoing space beyond my hall,
Solomon the Wise, matched and trained with care, was destined to be my dog.
I heard distant barking, tried to guess which voice bayed for me,
For I liked to think that Solomon, too, bewailed the gulf that parted us.
Neither would be whole until we were together.
We gathered in the lounge. The room steamed with anticipation,
Perspiration, the primitive scents of fear, alarm and flight.
The barking accelerated as the unseen dogs, too, sensed tension in the air.
Then they started coming. I heard shuffling feet, bright welcomes, laughter, and surprise.
But they didn’t come to me. Had I been forgotten, deemed unworthy?
Would they sentence this wonder dog to a lifetime
With a sightless woman who could not even run, play ball?
The room grew quiet. Even the dogs stopped panting.
Then I heard new footsteps and a collective sigh billowed across the room.
It felt like my birthday as hands laid a wriggling, wagging, lapping ball of fur
Onto my waiting arms and lap. Solomon at last!
Solomon the Wise, they call him? Hah! Solomon the bossy!
Weren’t well-trained dogs expected to obey?
Now we went to class together, learned how and where to move,
Negotiated stores and gatherings, elevators, busses.
Sometimes he’d lead me. More times, it seemed, he’d block my way.
I learned to listen with my hands to what he worked so hard to tell me:
Beware! Be careful! Go around. Stairs! This way! Not yet. Let’s go.
At night, he’d sleep beside my bed.
Mornings, our paired noses would find breakfast and adventures for the day.
I was ready to trust that wherever we would go
Solomon the Wise would see me safe to there and safely home again.
IN SIGHTS ON SIGHT
Vision is that magical ability to activate
Two small, slippery spheres within our skull.
They can automatically adjust their shapes,
Adapt to miniscule shifts of light, distance, movement, angle.
Together they produce stereoscopic images of curves, distance, depth.
Then assemble, instantly transmit living data
About countless colors, shapes and forms, speed, porosity,
So the brain with lightning swiftness can analyze and act on we see.
Eyes plus brain can record each subtle nuance on a face,
Help decide if its owner is friend or foe or lover – or all of the above.
These wondrous eyes update this input 24/7-365,
Each waking microsecond throughout our every day.
So, lucky us, we travel with these birthright-issued,
Pre-installed optic miracles within our heads.
We need not calculate, script, or program these delicate devices.
We need only open them and aim.
They make it so easy to move, to read, to choose a likely mate.
They help us create art, compose music, notate dance.
With them we can see dirt, stairs, the stars, and children’s faces.
All the beauty and mysteries of life are ours
At the flick of an eyelash.
Our eyes work every waking hour for us.
What do we do for them?
We rub them with filthy fingers.
We stare hours at flickering screens.
We fog them in tobacco smoke.
We insert unclean contact lenses.
We fry them in the blazing sun.
We poison them with toxic sprays.
We do 15-inch work on two-inch screens.
We dye their rims and lashes, wonder why they itch.
We ignore the call for safety glasses.
We laugh at the eyes-friendly diets.
We postpone checkups as long as we still see.
We ignore too long their silent cries for help.
No wonder eyes grow tired, sore, and cranky.
No wonder they feel scratchy, rasped, or dry.
No wonder some become infected, give up and power down.
Then, sometimes only then, we learn
How wonderful they were.
2nd Place Winner: CorDeRosa Loire (aka Laura Fedeli)
CorDeRosa Loire is the first and only and beloved SL avatar of Laura Fedeli, an Italian teacher and researcher working in the field of instructional media and distance education. Currently she is a PhD candidate in e-learning, Knowledge Management and Psychology of Communication at the University of Macerata, Italy. Her award winning entry is entitled, "The Story of a Dream." For her efforts, CorDeRosa will receive $7,500 Lindens and the HKD award.
The Story of a Dream
It's cold. I'm still sleeping, but feel the cool air penetrating my fur. I don't want to open my eyes. My dreams are full of falling leaves, and I can run after them happily.
I don't know why I was raised to be like a human rather than to live my dog life, but this is what I am: a canine living like a human among the humans who live next to me and share everything with me every day.
It's not easy to be human. Hopefully I will come back to my dog life when I get old, but if I ever come back to this (my dog life, I mean) I would like to continue living with my current human companion. I’d like her to experience how funny it is to live with a dog – chewed slippers and confusion all around. Oh, that's life, and you will laugh at this my dear companion. Oh you will laugh as you have never laughed in the last years.
When I first saw her she was a beautiful young woman with blonde hair and a weird way of walking. It seemed she was drunk, but when I got to know her better, I understood that was just her way, her lovely peculiar way of moving around. She smells. She smells like a daisy. Have you ever tried to sniff a little fragile, single daisy? It has no smell, just a soft nuance of warmness.
My companion likes to bend down close to my ears and speak words I can't quite understand. The sounds are familiar, but the meaning is far from me. It seems she knows I'm far from her, but she doesn't mind. That’s what I like most about her, she is so comfortable with herself!
It's hard to make her listen to me. She always wants to do things by herself, so I began to think she didn’t like me. I started to stop while we were walking in hopes she would realize I was irritated. But she just kept walking, so I quickly caught up with so she could follow me. Actually, I did everything I was taught to do to behave like a human, but it didn't seem to work with my companion, at least not at the beginning of our story.
We met a lot of people on our path. Some of them were similar to her and which they were, my companion was always speaking to them with the same stubborn tone.
Early yesterday morning, I was trying to access my sweetest childhood dreams. In those dreams I used to run after leaves and play and run. Happiness was all around men. Then suddenly I saw her. She was there in my dreams from the past. She was young, much more younger than she is now, and beautiful. As always, she was running with me after the leaves and laughing, aloud with me.
I woke up and she was bending over me, staring at me with her large liquid eyes and speaking. Finally her words were no longer far from me. Both the sounds and the meanings were perfectly clear.
3rd Place: Louise Later (aka Louise Nicholson)
Louise could not be considered for an award because she is one of the organizers of Helen Keller Day. In Second Life, Louise Later is the avatar of Louise Nicholson. Louise came to Second Life to develop and teach classes that business managers are required to take by state and federal law. The classes would help managers create inclusive environments in the workplace.
She thought the highly adaptable world of Second Life would be the perfect place to demonstrate inclusion. After all, in SL, a big quarterback-sized CEO could have an avatar who is a little old black woman in a wheelchair. So, Louise was all revved up and ready to go with her team of innovators at KEY Ethical Advisors and Moderne Communications. However, she discovered she could not see well enough in SL. Second Life itself needed to become more inclusive. So she put the "business mangers" project on hold, while she and members of Virtual Helping Hands developed Max, the VHH Virtual Guidedog as assistive technology so that people who are visually or print-impaired can use SL effectively.
Louise is an award-winning writer, a California-credentialed preK through adult teacher and specialist. She won the “Golden Rule Award for the top volunteer in Southern California” for her work at LARRS—the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service. She also co-produces "Access Unlimited" on KPFK 90.7 FM, a radio show about issues involving disabilities that is streamed inworld at Wheelies and over the net at KPFK.org.
Louise Later shares her apartment at Wheelies with Max who has his own incredible one-prim doghouse by this year’s “Resident Choice Award-Winning Prim Sculpter,” Vickie Greenwood. Louise Later is the Concept Developer and Team Coordinator of Max, the VHH Virtual Guidedog project.
LUCKY'S GREAT HOPES
I am a golden Labradoodle. I know I am small for my size and female - so I will probably have a small woman as my teammate. I so hope that I do well by the Dog Code! I know that I have had excellent training Barbara Vogel at Guidedogs of America, a trainer with years of experience.
But I have always known by the scent around me of SO many dogs around me - dogs who were no longer here - that this is not my "real" pack and that someday I would migrate as all dogs do to find a pack to stay with.
Today is the day! Let's get the harness, Barabra. I am ready for adventure.
So, NOW , I am "Lucky." I am the third guidedog for my teammate, Louise Later - and she loves dogs. Wow, she is good with dogs and very consistant.
I love her, and I can tell she loves me.
Outside we go, for a good long walk! I was started. My first jaunt out, and this place has coyotes. I can smell them. I am scared of coyotes. They have been in these streets and now are hiding up in the hills. I have to protect my human, but, boy, I hope she knows how to protect me!
My first night HOME. And tonight, as i do my ritural 3 circles and recite the Dog Code, I finally have my human's name to complete to the Dog Code:
O Great Dog,
help me stay loyal
help me stay kind
help me stay with my human, Louise
I join with you in guarding my pack.
P.S. And they also have huge hawks here. I am glad I did not live here as a puppy. I could have been eaten! Great Dog, protect me from nightnares.
P.P.S. She gave me bacon. I love bacon. I am going to dream about that instead.
This morning, we are going out to meet people,
I like living with Louise. She can still see some, and uses the hand signals that I have learned.
Thank the Great Dog that I am smart - this is challenging!
Let's get that harness on, Louise!
Oh, okay! I am going to take Louise shopping!
So, here we are at Apple May shoppe.
[10:33] Guidedog 3.6: goto 7, 189, 35
[10:33] Xenobia Foxclaw: Hello, Louise
[10:33] Louise Later: Hi, Xenobia
[10:34] Xenobia Foxclaw: I fear this outfit may be too dark for you
[10:34] Louise Later: I wanted to get the Michael Jackson outfit
[10:34] Xenobia Foxclaw: It's right behind you
[10:34] Louise Later: Is it trans?
[10:34] Xenobia Foxclaw: I'm wearing parts of it
[10:34] Xenobia Foxclaw: let me look
[10:34] Louise Later: I was thinking of getting it for Jolie
[10:34] Xenobia Foxclaw: no, I'm sorry, it can't be transferred
So much for shopping! We got nothing!
Let's try exploring!
[11:19] Maryrose Mariani: hello Louise
[11:19] Louise Later: hello maryrose
[11:19] Louise Later: I am doing Jenaia's Vision Quest
[11:20] Clint Peccable is Online
[11:20] Maryrose Mariani: I see. I 'm not familar with that
[11:20] Bmoe Titanium is Online
[11:20] Louise Later: there should be a sign that the dog takes me to
[11:20] Maryrose Mariani: good luck
[11:21] Louise Later: ty! have a good day!
[11:21] Maryrose Mariani: you too
Hmm. That was not what I expected. These other humans don't know as much as I'd like. Sigh. Maybe we should go somewhere else!
I know, let's try teleporting to the great beyond with LM 5 .
Don't worry, Louise, I'll help you do something yet! ( I sure hope so! Who knew that being a guidedog is filled with so much failture. I never did anything wrong at Barbara's. And I know all the rules at Louise's. But out here? Nothing goes right the first time.)
* * *
Ah, good news at last! I was able to do something really well. We just sailed from /2 Findvisionquest1 to the next and the next and the next.
Louise got to check out the notecard and I got to sniff the flowers.
I have learned it takes a LOT of patience to be a good guidedog. The most important thing is not to give up!
P.S. She gave me bacon and called me a good dog when we got home. Ah, Life is so good.
Other memorable events that helped mark this memorable day included:
A virtual building contest, focusing on the accessibility of buildings in Second Life
A presentation by the grand niece of Helen Keller
A photo contest
A scripting contest
And more ...
According to the event organizers, Helen Keller Day was, "...a day dedicated to raising our level of awareness for our fellow Second Life Residents who cope with disabilities. At some time in our lives, we've all felt what it feels like not to be able to participate... not to be included. Knowing how to include someone with a disability, and make them feel welcome, is an important social skill, and a small but significant kindness that we can all benefit from and feel good about."
In support of Helen Keller Day and the increasing number of visually impaired individuals using virtual worlds, Alliance Library System and Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center also recently announced the opening of “Second Sight,” a new island and initiative in the Info Island Archipelago. “Second Sight will have resources and events for the visually impaired and their families on vision loss, healthy eye care, and other issues related to vision,” stated Kitty Pope, ALS Executive Director. “There are some very innovative and exciting initiatives and amazing community development happening in virtual worlds for people with disabilities. In these economically challenging times, this is just the type of innovation that will meet the needs of an expanding community of visually impaired in the social networking environment of Second Life.”
by DULCIE MILLS
Photos by DULCIE MILLS and JENAIA MORANE
Machinima by PIA KLAAR
Jenaia Morane of Storybook Island and newly appointed coordinator for Karuna (the HIV/AIDS sim she build for the National Library of Medicine) hosted another successful "quest" in honor of National Poetry month in the U.S. this past April. The goal of the quest was to write a poem a day during the month of April based on writing exercises that Morane created that included topics and places to go that would inspire poetic muses.
"Literally dozens of poets tackled the Quest, which covered everything from haiku and limericks to sonnets and free verse," Morane said. "Questers were also asked to visit a wide variety of sims throughout Second Life and write about dozens of different topics - love, despair, nature, famine, and mythology. They danced in fountains, talked to dragons, meditated, practiced tai chi, and sat at the top of waterfalls."
Two poets, Franchella Milena and Lizzie Gudkov, who completed the quest by handing in 30 poems were awarded $1,000 Lindens each (donated by Saxet Uralia) and a plaque at an awards ceremony that took place on May 10. In addition, all the poems of those who participated were displayed in the new Poetry Gallery and Garden. According to Morane "The Garden was conceived as a place to display the work of Second Life poets and artists. These include not only sculptors/builders (the first displays are by Sledge Roffo), but photographers as well. Each of the poems in the garden is superimposed upon an original photo taken by an SL photographer. Many of the photos are also by Sledge, who specializes in building 3D sculptures and then photographing them. His work is a stunning example of what is possible in SL. In the future I plan to feature other artists and do additional poetry quests around particular themes. For example, one quest may be about nature and all the artwork will reflect that."
Below are brief bios of the winning poets and two of their poems:
Franchella Milena (Patricia Facciponti in real life)
Patricia is a teacher, photographer, videographer, academic technologist, GIS mapper; wife, parent and grandparent; animal-lover and historic preservationist; writer and poet, Patricia enjoys studying and writing about just about anything. Franchella Milena, her alter ego, was born into Second Life in January 2008. Together, Franchella and Pat collaborate on adventures of discovery, learning, writing, building, and teaching in Second Life.
Tai Chi at the Dawning of My Time
by Franchella Milena
The tree behind me may seem solid.
It must be, for those above depend upon it for support.
Yet not a leaf rustles in the ocean breeze that surely blows
If not from one direction, the next moment from the other.
How strong can a living being be if it cannot flex with the wind?
Surely, life’s gusts and storms destroy if one cannot bend to meet them.
The rock below me, though it too a shell of make believe,
Looks a crushing landing for one who, heedless, walks
The lofty gangplank overhead. But this all-too-solid rock,
So fixed, seems a ready victim to a hard, well-chiseled blow.
But not today, for my shoeless footfalls shatter not the silence of the dawn
When even the music of this timeless dance rings only in my mind.
A granite mausoleum, the eternal cage, is embedded in the rock below
Between me and cool blue, endless waters just beyond.
As solid and lifeless as the desiccated corpse
That might before long lie within, I doubt that it would hold me long.
For on this glowing morning I feel like the sky itself.
Clean, flowing, unfettered, light, pain-free,
I move this way and that, tracing ancient patterns,
Yet knowing that within this enduring ritual
Lies freedom to paint my own shifting colors, storm and rain.
Snowflakes dust my hair, birdsong piques my ears,
Far above, a quarreling squirrel chatters me: be gone.
So I will move on, but yet one more pirouette in this glorious dawn of me.
For I know this morning, finally, that I am I and I am beautiful and I am strong.
I have braved the winds, carried those I love to safety.
I have etched my words upon wind’s passing scrolls,
Brought sunlight to darkened minds, warmth to chilled and hollowed hearts.
I am the one I this universe has ever and will ever know.
I am here. I am now. There has been no I before me.
Though my seeds are sown, resown, and I can see bits of myself reborn,
There will never be another I, wholly I, from my time on.
(With apologies to William Blake)
by Franchella Milena
Dragon small, who made thee?
Dost thou know who laid thee?
Could some solitary spine-tipped being
Have given thee parthenogenetic life?
By these sunlit waters, meadows green
She fed thee dragon’s milk by night,
Wrought scales to shield thee, golden, bright.
Sing me legends, speak your name, cast your voice
Over storied mountains, make ancient vales rejoice!
Dragon small, what intrepid mother birthed thee?
Dost thou wonder how she could have left thee?
Dragon small, on your breath I taste
Pungent grass, mold, musk and smoke.
Why do you lie here in the night?
Why do your eyes gleam golden bright?
Do you see but fear me not?
Or do you, patient, simply lie without,
Claws neatly tucked beneath your cheek,
Fangs peeked from within a Cheshire grin?
Dragon small, I should, I know, quite fear thee,
But Dragon small, your mysteries draw me closer, near thee!
Lizzie Gudkov lives in Lisbon - Portugal where she is a teacher of English. Her main interests in Second Life are connected to social, educational and management areas. She has managed a Theatre where she organized events such as concerts, voice readings and chats, trivia, classes and talks. She has also worked as a host of several different types of events such as discussions, club events and sports events. Lizzie believes Second Life has great potential for enhancing people's social and organizational skills enriching everyone's lives.
The Space Between These Trees
Plunged to death.
Compassionate wisdom of shelter.
Waiting for you...
Music of magic pathways and archways
whispering lower and lower whispers of greens and violets.
Pianos and music and sounds and symbols,
I sit at the piano and play softly, Immortalis..
My soul floats in words and words
and spirals slower and slower potions of greens and violets.
Feeding opuscula, drumming blood, whispering through...
Pathways and archways... and souls.
I sit at the piano and play, softly...
ebony of lives and black winds... I play.
Alchemy and Magic, Immortalis...
Other Poets Who Presented at the Awards
1. Elegia Underwood
2. RayVal Dreadlow
3. Divad Garvois
4. Twilight Dreamscape
5. Ludow Merit
6. Marty Snowpaw
Morane shared some of her other special plans coming up both on Storybook Island and Karuna. Since the poetry event was so well received, she plans to have a poetry quest each month on a smaller scale with just one quest or task for each poet who enters. She is also planning a Phoenix Quest that will include telling stories of personal transformation. And, for groups, organizations, and educational institutions she will also be available to create custom quests. One of the custom quests she is already working on is a storytelling quest for the launch of the virtual seeing eye dog.
The next quest starting June 4th will be a series called The Healing Quests. This first one will be in honor of HIV/AIDS Testing, which is being celebrated in June (National HIV/AIDS Testing day is June 27th). It will be announced and held on Storybook Island with the results added in two places: The Healing Path on Karuna and the Poetry Garden on Storybook.Here is some additional info about the Healing Quest:
HOW IT WORKS
When: The Quest will begin on Thursday, June 4th. and continue throughout the month of June. On Thursday of each week, participants will visit Karuna, view a video related to HIV/AIDS testing (important because info in the video relates to the Quest) and receive instructions and a new clue. Where: The Quest will take participants to a variety of sims to collect and use information in their stories and/or poems.
What: Entries can be either narratives, poems, or a combination of both, but they must contain all the elements required in the clues. Results: When participants have completed all four sections of the Quest, they can submit them to be considered for one of three prizes. Entries will also be displayed on Karuna along the Path of Healing and in Storybook Island's Poetry Gallery and Garden. Prizes:
$3,000 Lindens for First
$2,000 Lindens for Second
$1,000 Lindends for Third
For more information about the quests, Storybook Island, or Karuna, you can contact Jenaia Morane or Ellehcim Fizzle or visit The Virtual World Story Project web site orMorane's blog. Information about the healing quest will also appear on the Karuna website and the AIDS.gov website.
by LUDO MERIT -
Ludo Merit is an ambassador from Prism, where color dancers, singers and bards are the heroes. She came to SL to awaken the memories of the other Prismatics here, who forgot Prism Home so that they could make true homes here. That is how we colonize. However, as Prismatics are heroes by nature, they are all too busy with their own missions to help Prism much right now. (Ludo came to SL in late April, 2006 to play test the game 'Heroes of Prism.' It is an unusual learning, growth and relationship role-playing game based on color, dance, song, story, myth, and the idea that everyone is a hero. Sources include Joseph Campbell's hero journey, Max Luscher's first eight colors, Sam Keen's book _A Passionate Life_, Raph Koster's book _A Theory of Fun for Game Design_ , a group and play system called Interplay founded by Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, and a few other ideas.) Being a hero, of course Ludo soon got distracted from her mission by heroic opportunities in SL, including Lilayana Culturearts Unltd., Gianfar Peaks of Pern, AngelGate, Cedar Island, Unitarian Universalists of SL, Religious Society of Friends Quaker, SL Mentors, and SecondAbility Mentors. Right now she owns the island of Prism Lila and wants to rent half of it, and is trying to decide what groups to drop so she can join three more groups.I woke up this morning expecting another ordinary-extraordinary day in Second Life. I got on line for a few minutes before a dental appointment and answered a few requests for help, then left with some problems unsolved to take care of my teeth. When I got back, I answered a notice and found myself on a quest for healing.
My perennial quest is a quest for wholeness. I know I am a woman of many parts. I have given names to eight of these parts. I am not always in control of my team of parts. They are often my antagonists, eager to block me from what is best for me, to discourage me, to feed my fears. Today's quest was no exception.
My quest began on Health info island, where I kept bumping into unicorns and getting note cards. Worth Dwing Well took control and insisted that I not stop to read the note cards, but hurry on with the quest. "You have a lot to do today, Ludo. Don't take the time to relax and think. Gather the clues, write the story, and get back to work." Worth Dwing Well is such a perfectionist, and so task oriented. If he always had his way I would never relax.
Then I went to Asagao Memorial Park and Golden Moccasins stepped in. "Worth," she said, "shut up! This is important! We are talking about suicide here." Golden was born with the golden rule in her mouth and always tries to walk in the other fellow's moccasins. She reminded me of Crag, a man with a pockmarked face, a husband and father of several delightful children, who killed himself. I didn't know him well enough to guess why. I wrote my strongest memory of him. I was directing "Jonah, Unwilling Prophet," a church play, and his child was in it. Not only did he play a role himself, he also drove the cast hundreds of miles to enter the play in a contest, supporting his child. I intend to leave a memorial to him in the park.
Princess Nopeas was the next to distract me. She's the center of the universe, and whenever something bad happens to us, she screams, "This should never happen to a Princess!" She saw treasures in the park and, since she is a princess, wanted to collect them all. Elide Sojourner, the lonely one, wanted them too. We found four of the seven treasures before I could talk those two into continuing our quest.
When we left for Sunshine Therapy Garden I knew I would soon be interrupted by more people I had promised to help. Nevertheless, I collapsed on a cushion by the fire for a few minutes. It was good to sit still and silent with others who were on the quest, and with the garden owners. Worth Dwing and Calm Petent,the practical one, got me moving again. When I saw the teleport sign I said "Wow!" This small plot offers so many ways to learn and grow! I went to rebirth, but simply gathered the note card, because Muse Moose, my showoff performer, saw a violin. She grabbed it and began to play "Air for the G String," one of my favorite pieces.
That was when all my parts began to come together. My throat and eyes filled up with lumps and tears of regret. I lived that moment, forgetting distractions and duties, swaying to the music. I was a child again, playing, making beautiful sounds. Every one of me screamed, "Why isn't life more like this?" None of us had an answer.
Calm Petent saw an opportunity, and Muse Moose and Joy Fardles, the one who sings in the rain, agreed. Golden Mocassins saw the chance to serve some of my friends. The Prince spoke up, and said "You must do this. It's a matter of Prince Appall." Prince Appall is a bit judgmental, usually judging me. Worth, Elide, and even Princess agreed, so we spent the next few minutes talking to RJ Muni and Sweetpea Wise about getting instrument animations for Gianfar Peaks, and about bringing the players of my game, Heroes of Prism, to the Garden.
As I left the quest to keep promises elsewhere, I wondered whether it has been worth it. Every one of me finds things to do in Sl. We take on obligations, for our various reasons, and we are always busy. However, the game I came here to play test has not even begun, and I have been here almost three years now. Have I learned? Have I grown? Am I any closer to being whole than I was almost three years ago when I learned of SL? Am I whole enough to develop a game about wholeness and offer it to SL, and to the world? Or am I inadequate to the task, a failure?
I was called to AngelGate Sim to help, and then to the Octagon, and returned two hours later to our quest. I returned to childhood again, to my Second Life childhood this time. I wrote an article about Dreams for the Metaverse Messenger in 2006. I interviewed The Sojourner, and other survivors who were able to dream because of her.
As I rocked on her porch, high above Dreams, the same porch where I had interviewed people for that article years ago, the Committee of the Whole came together. Golden Moccasins pointed out that The Sojourner must often have felt the way I do, busy and frustrated. Calm Petent reminded me of the skills I have learned. Muse Moose reminded me of the people who have been eager to hear me perform, and to hear about the game.
Elide Sojourner, the one who chooses to be different even if it means she doesn't fit in anywhere, said that she feels more at home here than anywhere else. Even Worth Dwing Well admitted that I have learned to do many things well, and taught others what I know.
Princess Nopeas pointed out that here some people treat us the way we deserve to be treated, like a Princess. Prince Appall praised me for coming from the peak of musical frustration to a discussion of ways to help people. Golden remarked that for me, that's a natural progression. When I walk in the moccasins of others I forget to worry about whether I'm good enough, or happy enough, or 'right' enough.
Most convincing of all, Joy Fardles began to sing. She sang the songs I have composed in and for Second Life, that I have sung to others to teach them what I have learned. I cried, up high on The Sojourner's porch, cried for the joy of my three rich, full, alive years in SL. Even Worth Dwing Well had to agree that those three years were well spent.
So what have I learned? I have learned to take time to let myself feel. I have learned not to measure my success by game rules written and prepared for sale, not by whether I win, or whether I influence others, or even by whether I am happy. I will measure success by how I have grown more whole by playing with the most important ideas, with playmates who play the same vital game, the game of growth, learning, and love.
by RAYVAL DREADLOW
Dreadlow was born with three peculiarities: A pencil in his hand, his tongue tied to it, and a head crowded with characters ready to become physical. The first allowed him to write stories as soon as his fine motor skills had developed enough to shape characters. The second encouraged a lifelong preference for the written word. The third proved an endless source of inspiration for conversations, conflict, and complications. He established himself as shape shifter by transforming his body to match the patterns of his heart. As a writer, he wants to nudge at people's established realities. His greatest delight is when he succeeds in doing so."Now I'll definitely never get promoted," thought Moyla, looking at the Wasteland before her.
Disappeared -- her boss.
Gone -- the payroll staff.
Evaporated -- the promotions committee.
All of them.
Poof, dissipated into gray, fluttering dust while she was out to smooth her disappointment with a nice glass of hot sake and a generous helping of the "daily sashimi special."
She had come back to the building slightly tipsy, climbed up the stairs to the office suite of "Bridel & Soot," motto, "Screws for all Jobs," and instead of the five rows of desks, the middle of the floor was crowded with a floor-to-ceiling ball of sparkling glitter dust. The computers were shattered, smoking, the phones ringing relentlessly.
She picked one up to hear rushing water; another, to be assaulted by cackling voices; yet another for music. She picked up all the phones until the last, which kept ringing even after she picked up the receiver.
"There you are," said a reproachful, full male voice.
"Now get your ass inside and let the show begin."
"What's going on?" she said.
"See that big, obvious contraption in the middle of the room? That's your clue."
Curiosity before practicalities ("I should get help." "I should call 911." "What the hell is going on?" "I'm supposed to be scared shitless..."), Moyla stepped up to the moving particles. Seeing in her mind a key scene from "2001 Space Odyssey" combined with a dash of "ET," she put out her fingers and touched. There was a tingle and attraction - no better word for the mental, physical urge to allow herself to move forward. Against reason ("what do I have to lose?"), she let herself be drawn inside by her curiosity. Turns out she had plenty to lose -- including consciousness and the whole of her life.
She came to hovering above a graveyard set on top of a sandy hill with 24 stones in neat rows. Her branch office had 24 employees. "Burn Oak Cemetery" was written in the sand in huge, sweeping letters.
If she was in a nightmare, maybe she could will herself down. She closed her eyes, imagined herself on the ground, and felt hot sand under her walking shoes. She opened her eyes and found herself standing in front of a headstone that read, "Alison Mando" (the secretary -- excuse me, executive assistant to the boss). Right beside Alison was "John Parker," the head hardware designer. The last memory she had of him was asking whether, after a year of designing new screws, she could get a promotion, a small raise, and a reassignment to hinges. His response had been, "Sorry, my dear, but you're going to be screwed forever." Then he cackled loudly at his own joke. When she glared at him he apologized perfunctorily -- he was well aware of the harassment thing -- but stuck with, "No," adding, "we need you where you are, and I just don't see the commitment in you that I would expect from someone interested in moving up the ladder." That's when she'd rushed out for lunch.
The last stone in the last row was blank. She'd read enough fiction to figure out who and what it was for. No way. She shouted. "No way! I'm going to figure this out."
One step at a time. First, she sat down and had a good cry. She curled up in the warm sand, cried and sobbed, letting her body shake in stress and panic. Then she listened to the wind, feeling its warm caress on her shoulders. She took in a large stream of air and then counted her breaths to one hundred and eight, the number of moves in the tai chi long form. She would need water, food, and someone to talk to - in that order - before she could solve any of her big problems.
She got up. The sun was getting lower above a line of buildings a few hundred yards away. She saw neon lights glittering on one building. Otherwise, they all looked the same - gray, rusty looking brick, worn down and decrepit with corrugated roofs. Post apocalyptic junkyard theme. Maybe she was on a movie set. She jogged lightly to the neon-sign building across hot, dry sand. The sun was comfortable, leaving her unworried about cancer on her pale arms. The creaky door under the neon sign opened at her sharp tug. Inside were some mostly empty shelves, a bar, dusty glasses, old metal and plastic furniture, and a donation jar with a large, yellow smiley face. Her steps kicked up blown-in dust. The faucet behind the bar offered no water. She followed winding stairs upstairs. The wind blew in through cracks between the corrugated sheet metal roof and the brick wall. The room was bare and showed no signs of having served a purpose before...before what?
She shrugged and went back outside and noticed a water tank on tall, strong scaffolding. It had a thick gash in its side and a construction sign attached.
Moyla decided to try flying. With her eyes open, she willed herself up until she was high enough to survey the whole desolate area. As she rose higher, details dissolved, as if the buildings were moving back in time as she put distance between them, until she saw only a huge sandy island dotted with deep ditches.
Willing herself down as she'd willed herself to fly, she touched the earth and walked towards the ocean at the edge of the island. One last step would take her into the water,. She was stopped dead.
Below her stretched deep, blue water, but an invisible something was preventing her from taking that last step. She stretched out her hands, yet her feet refused to cross the line between land and sea.
A sharp whooshing sound startled her and she whirled around to see a dust devil forming above the sand. Whirling faster and faster, it quickly grew into a ball ten feet across. She thought she heard laughter. The dust ball moved towards her fast. She edge sideways along the invisible barrier, not expecting to actually escape. The wind sounds rose to a roar, sand clogged her nostrils. She clamped her mouth and eyes shut and let go of all thought.
A world built of green stone and the sound of bubbling water greeted her. She followed her ears, up and down marble stairs, to a fountain. Fresh smelling water ran out of a pipe into a large fountain. She did not hesitate to drink. The water tasted as sweet as it smelled.
This world, too, seemed devoid of life, and the only sound was of the water. She wandered, hoping to find food. She stepped on a small platform. A trapdoor opened into a multi-media lounge.
A projector responded to her touch and displayed whirls of color and sound. A blue package materialized in her hands. When she dropped it, it dissolved. She tried to work the projector, to get information, but all it did was produce another parcel, which she threw at the wall in frustration.
Wandering again she found another fountain. This one held yellow, bubbling liquid that smelled like oranges and peaches on a hot summer day. She dipped a finger into the liquid and the liquid coated it like honey. She tested it with the tip of her tongue. It tasted sweet and rich, and nourishing. She dipped her finger in again and licked a few more times, then sat down, waiting for peace or poison to act on her. All she felt was satiated and slightly sleepy.
After resting for a few minutes, she made herself get up and continue her explorations. Nothing. Finally, she sat down on the rim of a balcony that overlooked the whole world. She counted her blessings.
She'd always wanted to travel to far away places. She had little to miss in Fremont, California. Her goldfish had died a week ago. Her bank account would pay the rent, at least for a while.
What she really wanted to know was what story she was in.
Seconds later she recognized a familiar whooshing sound behind her and turned around. This time, she did not wait to be devoured. As soon as the dust had formed into the whirling ball, she walked towards it. Maybe the next world would hold cues to an answer.
Moyla opened her eyes. In front of her face was -- rock. She took a few steps back - color-banded sandstone and a needle that reached to the sky. A narrow beach encircled the needle's base. Then the vast ocean. A faint trail hugged the spire. There was nowhere else to go. She started to climb. It didn't take long for her to feel dizzy, then uncomfortable. A few more steps and she was overwhelmed by the familiar terror of "I am going to fall and die." Hurriedly she descended. She circled the spire twice, stared out over the waters, sat and hoped for an exit to materialize in front of her. The sun didn't move in
the sky while she waited. Finally she sighed and started on the trail again. This time, she faced the rock, touching it with both hands outstretched, her chest brushing its rough solidity. With each sideways step up she breathed in the dry, comforting scent of warm stone.
She didn't count her steps or breaths. The shadow of her face changed position, moving from her left to her right. The trail opened onto a wide ledge and a cave entrance. A tall, muscular man in a loincloth was scraping the ground with a hoe. Sweat glistened on his sun-darkened back. He was the first living being she'd seen on this journey. She cleared her throat, preparing to speak. He looked up.” You have completed the hardest part," he said. "Please, sit." He pointed at a pillow on a frayed blanket near the edge of the ledge. She hesitated. "It's quite safe. I will make tea. I will answer your questions."
With three short sentences he had addressed all her immediate needs. She went and sat down. She watched him make tea on a tiny stove at the cave entrance, outside but protected by the overhang. A few minutes later he returned with a tray, sat down opposite her on the bare ground, poured tea, and handed her a tiny cup. She sipped the liquid, which drove away her thirst and filled her with comfortable warmth to the tips of her fingers and toes.
He handed her a drawing pad and a pencil. "Draw a screw," he said.
He refilled her cup. "Draw a screw."
She shrugged and quickly sketched a screw. She looked up. He wasn’t' smiling or frowning. He just sat, a quiet calm presence with eyes that were deep and alive.
She could do better. She transformed her sketch into a drawing of her idea for a universal screw.
"Now draw a hinge." She drew a hinge to go with her screw.
"A door." She drew a light, carved door, just the kind to match her hinge.
"A room." That was a bit more challenging. She forgot everything else and drew an airy room. She added a low table, cushions, and a tea set to give it ambiance.
She completed the room with a shingled roof, it's beams curved upwards at the ends like outstretched arms. She drew a tree for the house to rest on, and an island for the tree to anchor its roots. She looked up.
"What did you learn?" he said.
She looked at her drawing. She had not drawn like this in a long time. She liked it. "It's good."
He nodded, inviting more.
"I can draw." She shook her head. No good. There was something she was supposed to figure out here. The set-up was obvious. Whoever was pulling the strings expected something.
"No expectations," he said. "I gave you parts, you drew the story. You had forgotten about that, the part that you always write your own story." He refilled her cup.
"Sit and find the heart of your story." He stood up and went back to his patch of dirt.
She closed her eyes. What did she need to figure out? She dug around her mind for wisdom and insight. It all seemed flat. Her legs fell asleep. She opened her eyes. The sun had not moved. The teacher was picking up pebbles from his patch of earth and tossing them over the edge of the cliff. She closed her eyes again. She counted a hundred and eight breaths. She thought about the beginning. Her job, her boss, her loss of enthusiasm, her desire to move up and become more important. She wanted to make a difference, do something relevant; something to change the world before her life was over. The pain in her knees became unbearable. She shifted her weight around but did not dare to get up. Maybe she fell asleep. She woke to a rhythmic scraping sound. The hermit was hoeing again. The sound stopped and he swore. His hoe had come apart. He put the three pieces down in front of her: the handle, the hoe, the screw.
"Just screw it back into place," she said. "The screw holds it all together."
He looked at her, as if he did not understand. She repeated her instructions, louder.
The words started to dance inside her head. They whirled until every atom in her body was resonating with them.
The hermit smiled for the first time.
She looked at him and repeated slowly, "The screw holds it all together."
He picked up the rusty screw and pressed it into her hand.
"Remember that," he said.
The resonance spread from her body to encompass the world, blurring and dissolving
everything around her until she was standing at the center of a huge ball of gray, sparkling dust.
She closed her eyes, breathed out, and let go.
"Welcome back," said a nurse with a round, brown smiling face.
They answered her questions as soon as she was able to focus. Apparently, it had been the fish. She had collapsed in the bathroom. Her cell phone had dialed Emergency.
"This was in your pocket," said the nurse as opened her hand, revealing a large, silvery screw.
Last Updated on Sunday, 05 April 2009 14:49