I have a little more than 2 years of experience in Second Life. In this time some amazing things have happened... nomination for the Linden Prize, building of Winthrop & the Sunken Gardens, the art and machinima challenges, hosting the artwork of then CEO of Linden Labs, M Linden, Peter Greenaway being guest of honour at UWA, and many more things. However, in my mind, what I will do this Tuesday, will be the most important. I'll explain below.
Now I dont normally write like this. There is in almost all of my previous posts, an 'official sheen'. However I need to be myself if I want to convey this evolution of understanding that has come about in me through a number of things that have happened across and following MachinimUWA III: Journeys.
I think these days, it is very hard to get below the surface with anything, to really know something or someone beyond the superficial exterior. News, happenings with acquaintances, friends, relatives sometimes go by in a blizzard of email, facebook and twitter posts. Many times we look, we read, we post, but we do not really see, we do not truly understand, nor do we really communicate. Sometimes though something happens that allows me to break through this fog...
On the 4th of February, MachinimUWA III was launched.... entries started coming in steadily, and on the 11th of April, I received an entry called 'Twinkle's Journey', by Bay Sweetwater of North California, USA, and it carried this message from Bay. "My machinima entry for MachinimUWA III is finally done and entered. Wipes forehead in relief. What a heartrending ordeal."
I looked at it, I remember wondering a little bit about why I didnt see the star too much through 'Twinkle's Journey', apart from right at the start, and I do remember one of my colleagues commenting to me that it was very different from all the others. I didnt really know how to relate to it though then, and to me it seemed a quaint video for kids. The comment I made on the machinima in fact referenced not the machinima, but one of the art creators whose work featured in it:
"Very nice Bay... and wow... Julia Hathor, of legend"
The competition continued, and reached its finale on the 22nd of May 2011 Peter Greenaway's talk and the winners announcements. 'Twinkle's Journey' did not feature among the winners. Bay Sweetwater however, did, as she was in a 4-way tie for 3rd place in the viewer participation event. Part of her prize was to be the book '100 Treasures From UWA' released for the 2011 centenary of the University of Western Australia.
The following day many people sent me links to various news articles and posts about the winners ceremonies, and one of the links I received, was a link to a post Bay Sweetwater had written in her blog:
"I was feeling so low all day (yes, even tears) at my little “Twinkle’s Journey” video not placing anywhere in the MachinimUWAIII machinima competition this year. (See results here, heartfelt congratulations to all the amazing winners and award recipients)."
I know through my experience over the past 2 years with the art and machinima challenges that there will always be brilliance missing out on any awards that might be given out following the conclusion of the challenges, and I always try to be encouraging with anyone I know to be feeling disheartened, and hence, I responded to her in comments as follows:
"Hey Bay, don’t feel down. Your work was wonderful, and had a lot of great comments during the Machinima review days. Full audio is linked on the uwa website. It was truly truly hard not to give everyone something. some brilliant brilliant works including your missed out, and with so many talented artists and machinimatographers out there, thats always going to happen. Chin up. Smile. Your work is wonderful"
I then reminded her that she had actually won a prize, and that there was to be a book posted to her. She said instead of sending it to her, I should donate it to a primary school. When I heard this I thought it was a rather unusual request and I was a little ambivalent as to whether I would in fact do that, or let it be, as I was busy organizing to post the book to all the other winners and it would have been so much easier if I could have done the same in this case.
Anyway, some little thing inside me told me I should contact a school, and try to honour the request. And so it was that I contacted the principal of the North Woodvale Primary School, Greg Brice, and told him that, someone in the United States had won a prize, and asked for me to donate this prize to a school, and that I would like to donate it to North Woodvale Primary, along with the machinima 'Twinkle's Journey' that Bay had created (this will be happening on Tuesday, the 31st of May).
Having organized this, I wrote to Bay and told her this and asked if she had a message that I could convey, as I was giving this on her behalf (in my mind, it was to be a message to the principal). Anyway, here is the message Bay asked me to convey:
Twinkle always believed in herself and her dreams, and look, she got all the way to the stars! You can too. Always believe in yourselves, no matter what anybody says, and you'll find your dreams, just like Twinkle. I'm so glad you're watching my little video. You'll probably notice that you feel Twinkle in the movie, but you don't see her anywhere! That's Twinkle's little mystery. No one can see her, but she lives everywhere. You can feel her in the trees and the rocking horse and the unicorn--all the things she loves. Especially that star up in the sky that has her name. So when you go home tonight, go outside when it gets real dark and wave to Twinkle high up in the sky. I bet she'll wave back to you! A big hug to every one of you, Bay Sweetwater
Again, I thought it a rather unusual message, and found it quaint she chose to direct her comment to the kids. But I did flash a smile when I saw through this comment, that the star not being present through most of the machinima was by design, and I thought here it made sense at last as to why I didnt see the star throughout the journey.
So, had organized everything, had received the message, and copied the movie onto a thumb drive and was feeling good that I could do this. And I decided to watch the machinima again. 'Nice songs', I remember thinking.
But I still wasn't 100% happy with the message, and I wrote again to Bay (26th May, 11:57) saying:
"One other thing I would like you to add, if you could, is a general message from you to them (the kids). why you wanted to give your prize to them :)"
A few hours later (26 May, 14:37), I was to write again:
Oh my... i have read it now a few times and finally really really understand it. Its perfect Bay. In every way."
What had happened was, I had watched Twinkle's Journey again, and finally saw what I should have seen before. The comments she had in the description:
"A child's journey to the stars, told by those of us who are left behind."
I was thunderstruck. I was finally starting to see.... the curious words appearing close to the start of the in the machinima became crystal clear to me at last:
"How I wonder where you are my little star. We thought you'd gone, yet here you are. You never left us."
The words from her blog, when she submitted the machinima, came back to me... 'what a heartrending ordeal'. I could hear the sound of a million pennies dropping.
I went back to her blog, and saw another post which said the following:
"I love my Twinkle’s Journey entry. I know it’s probably not the best technically or artistically, but my heart is in it. Here’s a poem for Twinkle; no matter how far your journey to the stars, your home is always in my heart.
FIREFLY IN A JARIt was so clear now to me how Bay was in overcoming her sorrow trying to share the best memories of her little star with all of us. I was so glad that I had taken the trouble to contact the school and had looked beyond the surface.
by Bay Sweetwater
Spring never woke that year, no eye
beheld the flowers, no tender sigh
escaped its lips. My tears wouldn’t dry.
I hailed a passing butterfly.
He’ll carry me, he’ll carry me.
Through stormy nights and days anew,
O’er woodland green and waters blue,
I see all love come shining through.
Yeah, love itself will get me through,
And carry me, and carry me.
It doesn’t matter where you are,
My own cupped hand or farflung star,
I’ll always hold you in my heart:
My firefly in a jar.
I’ll carry you, I’ll carry you.
I watched Twinkle's Journey again and felt drawn to one of the songs in it. Emelia Sleeps, by Loveshadow. I searched for the words and found them:
Emelia 9.04.08 - 4.01.09
Under pastures green
Under leafy Skies
By the old Oak tree
And the windmills turn
And the toys will fade
The Seasons come
And the angels play
But she speaks to me
From another place
Tells me she was loved
More than most will know
China Teddy Bears
Say it’s so
If I could trade one day
Then I surely would
Cause Emelia Sleeps
By the Blubell wood.
There was not one, but 2 heart rending stories contained in Twinkle's Journey. Mirroring my thoughts that many of us look but do not see, these comments were made by someone who has listened to Emelia Sleeps, 'A sweet and tender lullaby', to which Loveshadow responded, '...if only it were just a lullaby'.
I made an announcement that Bay had donated her prize to the School, and more people started to understand the truth behind Twinkle's Journey, and had I believe communicated their feelings and support to Bay.
I had hoped that all of this would somehow help her through her grief, but it wasn't something I could ask of course. Then she posted this message in the comments section of Twinkle's Journey:
"Thank you everyone for all your kind and heartwarming comments. They mean more to me than I can say. How thoughtful of you, Jay Jay, to extend Twinkle's Journey to Woodvale school, along with the copy of the UWA book, quite an amazing treasure in itself! Btw, in addition to Loveshadow's bittersweet tune "Emelia," this video features the music of Anchor Mejans' gladdening song "Welcome Home," which opened up my heart to make this little video. A big hug to you all."
And this is the evolution of my understanding, and in my thoughts the most significant chapter in what has been my own journey through Second Life, and will come full circle when Twinkle makes the journey to North Woodvale Primary School.
This is what happened next, with images of the occasion at the Primary School