Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Great Gardens of Second Life II – First UCC


Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.


[ N.B. I'm doing something different with this story.  At the request of several readers, I'm now including pictures with the body of the text.  (I've also finally figured out how to do it.)  Below is a link to my flickr account for additional pictures.  Please let me know how you like this!]

          This is the second story in my blog series entitled The Great Gardens of Second Life. 

          My first entry was about the Asian Victorian Gardens part of Perryn Peterson’s Mieveille domain.  This is an explosion of flora in an Asian setting overlooking San Francisco bay.

          The story was rather well received.  (At least I thought so.  Even Significant Other was impressed.)  I had considerable feedback from folks and many suggestions on which Second Life (SL) garden to cover next.

          I try to be fair in these matters when selecting subjects for my stories.  Whenever I’m faced with a situation where I have multiple choices from several friends, I do what I do in Real Life (RL).

          I decide to not play favorites, make everyone equally unhappy, and select the subject myself.  (We’ll ignore Significant Other’s comment about looking at the RL consequences of this behavior.  And, no, this is not how I decided upon our relationship.)

          Anyway, back to the subject of this story…

          A drumroll please…

          The subject of this edition of The Great Gardens of Second Life is the gardens at First UCC.  (Location here.)

          My readers may recall that I first blogged about First UCC when I went looking for God inworld.  (In case anyone missed that one, I found Him.  He’s there just as much as He’s in RL.  I’m not so sure He’s too crazy about me tagging along but I still think there’s some significance in the fact that besides Starbucks, religious sites are the only other places I have yet to be thrown out of in RL.  Significant Other mumbles something about small children and puppies.) 

          Thanks to my SL friend, Becca (“Bec”) Kellstrom, who is a religious in both SL and RL, (She’s a great homilist.  Check her out the next time she preaches inworld.)  I was introduced to Jerome (“Jer”) Newstart , the pastor of UCC, and YoYo Rez, a congregant and a member of the pastoral staff there.
Jerome Newstart, First UCC Pastor

          Jer oversees the planning and building of the gardens at First UCC and YoYo is responsible for the exhibitions at the Art Garden.

          Bec was kind enough to arrange an interview for me with Jer to discuss the gardens at First UCC.  (After all my questions, she may be reconsidering that whole “never been thrown out of a religious site” shtick of mine.) 

          My reasons for selecting First UCC as one of the great gardens inworld are several. (What?  Do you think I pick a name out of a hat?  Don’t answer that!)

          First, let’s go over the layout of the gardens at First UCC.

          The church buildings sit in a forested area which runs down to the shoreline.  The grounds are laid out in a natural setting much like one would encounter in RL woods.

Forest Pathway

          Paths lead through the woods going around copses of trees and beds of wild flowers.  As of this writing, all are in autumnal splendor.  Trees arch over the walkways allowing for a nicely shaded effect.

          Buildings have integrated into the natural setting and one is given the feel of a classic older college campus setting as opposed to the more modern ones which are stark glass and steel with nature taking a back seat to man’s intrusion.

          Several areas have been set aside for specific purposes.

Peace Grove
The Peace Grove is deep in the woods and is an opening surrounding a firepit with torches at the periphery.  This serves the function of a meditation pit for either individual or group contemplation.  A cross looks over the scene.  Services occur here and sadly these days there’s too much cause for them in such a place.

          Another portion of the grounds given over to a specific purpose is the Art Garden near the shore.  Here different artists’ works are exhibited.  The placement of paintings and sculptures in the natural setting gives an effect difficult to achieve in RL.

          In front of the administrative building is an apple orchard.  (I’m told Bec keeps a bowl of apples on her desk on the third floor.  I never said a word!)  Looking the windows, citrus trees can be seen growing in the atrium. (This is what I love about SL, the laws of physics and nature are suspended.)

Rooftop Garden
          Entering the building and taking the elevator to the rooftop on the fifth floor one is greeted by fourteen planting beds filled with a colorful riot of flowers and vegetables.  The rose and aubretia beds especially draw my attention.  A small fountain and a greenhouse complete the scene. 

          When Jer and I meet in his office to discuss what he describes as his “very amateur landscape efforts,” (He’s being very modest, trust me.) he explains how he was looking for a peaceful, contemplative effect with the gardens.

          Jer has succeeded here.

          The purpose of the gardens and landscapes is to provide space for meditation and contemplation.  There are many places scattered across the grounds where one can find peace and quiet and be alone with one’s thoughts. 

          The use of the space on the rooftop was an attempt to take advantage of what was perceived as wasted space and gain some recreational value from it.  The swimming pool on one side certainly helps there.

          I’m shown around the rooftop gardens and the atrium by Jer before he has to head off to evening psalters.  (I have yet to hear him preach but I’m told by others that he’s very impressive and I’ll make a point of returning later to do that.)

           I thank him for his time and hospitality and head back home myself.

          My attraction to the First UCC gardens are their natural look and feel and having beautiful water views doesn’t hurt at all.   They are the perfect place inworld to come, to sit, and to sort through one’s thoughts.

          Being a religious site there isn’t the pandemonium that exists on other SL sims with lush forest scenes.  Form and function come together very well here.

          So, I include the gardens at First UCC among the Great Gardens of SL.

Wild Flowers
I do recommend that you come and visit.  Whether just for the natural scenic beauty or to take advantage of the site for meditation, please do come.  I promise that you won’t be disappointed!

I do ask that visitors remember that First UCC is a religious site so dress and act accordingly.  Be mindful that services may be underway when you arrive and be respectful of these even if you’re a non-believer. 

I would like to thank Jer for his time and hospitality while meeting with me for this interview.  Thanks to Bec for helping with the arrangements and to YoYo for answering my questions earlier!

Also, a big thank you to all of them and their friends and colleagues who are working tirelessly to help those who have nowhere to turn with their RL problems but SL.

          As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   

          In addition to the pictures included here, more pictures of the First UCC gardens can be seen at my flickr account

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

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          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

          Open roads and safe fires!

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