Aedan meets himself - several times

A fog that lasts for a week with no retreat, that seeps under door and down stairways should disrupt the mood of anybody. Yet, today Aedan felt a bit of sadness as the sun pulled back the curtains and fully immersed everyone and everything for the first time since he arrived in this town over a week ago. It was though an old friend had left while he slept without saying good bye.

In any other circumstance he would have been overjoyed to see the sun. His vacation had been delayed and he was stuck in a town in which he didn’t know anybody before arriving. And frankly, Aedan had always preferred the sunny tropics to the cold north. However, things had worked out well. He warmed up to the locals who were nearly always bending over backwards to make him feel at home.

When he learned that one of the cases he was trying had been rescheduled and that his physical appearance was no longer necessary, he made arrangements to work remotely until the fog lifted and he could make his flight.  His associate Cathy was quite capable and Aedan imagined she probably relished the idea of ‘being in charge’. Without the typical interruptions of the office to deal with, Aedan re-evaluated all of the cases in his office and when prudent, communicated his concerns back to Cathy. He felt way ahead of the game and physically, was also feeling better than he had in years. He was ready for a well deserved vacation.

It wasn’t long before he had all of his bags packed and after verifying with the airport, the time of his departure, Aedan set off for a final walk along the waterway. He had seen it many times now but none with the sun shining.

Approximately halfway between his hotel and the cathedral housing the tall statue that caught his attention on his first day out,  there was a small sitting area in an open garden that had become a favorite spot for him. It was secluded and he had never once seen anybody there. Best of all for him, it was surrounded by a small, block faced garden wall which he found very convenient for leaning against while sitting in meditation.

On the floor of this small patio was etched roman numerals indicating the hours of a clock along with smaller divides between each hour.  It seemed an odd place to paint a clock face but it was a perfect place for meditating and with three hours to kill he thought a perfect place to spend the rest of the morning also.

It was no surprise that he found the patio empty other than the table and chairs that sat in the center. With the sun shininig it was a brighter white than he had imagined and all around, in the heavy trees that surrounded the area, birds sang in celebration of the sun.  It seemed that not everyone here preffered the fog.

After the relaxing walk, Aedan wasted no time in finding an open spot on the outside of the wall and sitting with his legs crossed, he leaned back against the wall and turned his palms up as his eyes closed. Not only did he prefer to have some support for his back while meditating, he had given up long ago in trying to sit in a lotus position. He simply hadn’t started this practice at an early enough age he told himself. Normally he would set a timer on his watch for 45 minutes but since he had plenty of time, he didn’t bother.

After years of meditating almost daily, Aedan still dealt with the ‘monkey brain’. Often he felt that he was just doing something wrong. Occasionally dozing off and finding his head nearly in his lap was another struggle he dealt with. At least he wouldn’t fall backwards with the wall behind him. Occasionally he would hear conversations in his head or see things but he was never quite sure if they were day dreams or important…still he persisted if only because he always completed a meditation session feeling rested.

When he began hearing voices today he was sure he wasn’t dreaming. He knew exactly where he was and that he had never seen anybody there over the last week. Thinking it was just his monkey brain having fun with him he practiced letting the voices flow into the distant road noise and singing birds.  They were just notes in a beautiful orchestra.  But they persisted.

There were three voices, one a child and the others adult men.  He tried to ignore them but soon came to realize that one of the voices was his. A smile filled his face as he told himself in yet another voice in his head that surely the monkey was having fun today. He sat third party to a conversation that he was participating. It was both amusing and unsettling because he couldn’t feel any of the thoughts in that voice. He played back and tried to change the conversation in his head but it went on and payed no heed to him. Finally he gave in and just listened.

As he listened it became quite apparent that the three of them knew each other very well. As they talked, a curious feeling came over Aedan as the child’s voice became more familiar to him.  Maybe it wasn’t the voice but the questions he asked and his responses…they could have been his own at a young age. At some point Aedan tried to join in on the conversation but nothing he thought changed the course of their discussion. He tried again but only grew anxious when he was ignored. Finally, in frustration he spoke out loud “Oh! Just stop it already!” and decided this meditation was over. The voices stopped but he had opened his eyes and was pulled himself back to his feet.  He brushed the dust off the seat of his jeans and turned around.

On the other side of the waist high wall were three people sitting at the table not 5 feet away from him. To his right was an older man that resembled his father but directly facing him was a man that could have been his twin! Nearest to him was a young boy who had turned in his chair to face him. Aedan stood their speechless. They all smiled at him.  His mind raced as he looked at each one again. He hadn’t really seen his father the last few years of his life but this is how he imagined him to look before he passed some twenty years prior. The boy was a spitting image of the photos his parents had kept of him in the photo albums that got pulled out every Christmas. His gaze turned back to his twin. He stared and thought “this must be a dream”.

“No, no it’s not. Come sit with us” His twin voiced and motioned to the one empty chair around the table.

Completely overwhelmed and expecting to wake up at any moment, Aedan made his way around the wall to the entrance of the patio. He looked at each of the three of them very closely as he slowly approached the table. As he took a seat in the chair a feeling of joy came over him. It was as if a huge secret was being shared with him. He was barely able to speak as he listened to them one by one.  It’s not that they wouldn’t have given him the chance but they answered all his questions even before he voiced them. As he listened he realized that he already knew the answers, he just hadn’t fully appreciated their implications. He simply sat in awe of what was being revealed to him.

“Mr. Charron! Mr. Charron, wake up!”

Aedan grasped for his breath and opened his eyes to find the young clerk from the hotel shaking at his shoulder.

“Hurry or you’re going to miss your plane!”

Media SL Contest – Behind the Scenes

Image submitted for the Media SL contest
This way!

This was the first contest I participated in on flickr.  The prize for fist place, 20000L would make up for a significant chunk of what I spent since going down this path.   …Lumipro, new head, body, skin and the works for Christi. Additionally, after spending so much time trying demos for Christi I had become much more comfortable with tossing unwanted bodies and heads out the window and staring over that when I realized that Christi would be embarrassed to be seen with Aedan, it was necessary to get him a new skin also.  This lead to (in my mind, anyway) a reason to toss Aedan’s current skin which I had so carefully selected only a couple of years ago when trying to choose something that would more accurately fit my RL age. In the end, the desire to have Aedan and Christi working as a team won out.

Anyway, back to the contest!

A dispute about which way to go when the Media SL sign appeared was the concept from the beginning. A desert scene seemed perfect. Placing the sign so that it would be seen in a realistic manner dictated the intersection with a forced turn. Finding the backdrop was relatively easy though it is huge. To make it useable I had to cut it into 6 pieces…or so I thought.  In hind sight, since so little of it was in the shot, I could have made it vertically shorter and shown much more of it in the photo.  It would have made for a much more interesting background. Windlight was used to move the sun to the correct angle to match the shadows in the backdrop  and I attempted to bring the light down a bit though looking at the result, it could have been reduced more.

The fact of the matter is that this was very much a learning experience and every moment was worth it even if I win nothing. When I couldn’t get the shot I wanted in the beginning without exposing the edge of the backdrop, rather than rethink the shot, I decided to use a green screen and add the background in gimp. Four hours later I was still removing green pixels from everything from hair to brush branches. When I began seeing other ‘issues’ that would have to be manually fixed it became evident that I could spend another week on this image and still hope that nobody noticed the technical shortcomings.  That is when I finally decided to start from scratch and created a scene that did not need to go behond the edges of the green screen. There was still some touch up required with the biggest pain being some of the bushes that were set to bright even though they were near white. Those I disabled and set them to colors picked from their vicinity.  After all of that I noticed that Christi’s height wasn’t set correctly because her platform heels weren’t projecting any shadow.

When all was said and done and I had an image that I felt I could work with for the contest submission, I determined to get a shot of the entire set before I boxed it up.  Somewhere in there came the idea to also get a pic of Christi in the car.  Something went wrong there. Before I knew it I had several pics of her and I in the car but none of the entire set. I had just boxed everything up all without a photo of the set.  Too late.

Better luck next time!  ..hopefully that won’t be my motto after this contest ends but hey! that’s fine too!

Since there was no story involved with this post and it really is a ‘behind the scenes’ post, I won’t add the additional page this time. The image was taken on a platform above my lot and the rest you already know…even though Christi wasn’t supposed to be out of the closet yet…

In The Fog

A moment of reflection

Aedan opened his eyes yet again, having never really gotten to sleep. This time however, he could see from the gray outside the windows of the airport that the night had passed. It wasn’t exactly sunny outside but it was daylight. The fog was much thicker than when he had decided to spend what was rest of the evening on a bench in the airport but certainly something would be open now.  A place to clean up, to eat and to explore while he waited for the next flight to the vacation he had been looking forward to for so long.

The constant sounds from inside the airport had permeated his flesh and blood over the last several hours. He barely noticed it until he stepped out the door and it closed behind him. Even the passing shuttle and the smell of diesel in the heavy moist air failed in comparison.  It came and it went. It didn’t take over his very being. Seeing a taxi at the curb, he transferred his suitcase to the other hand and waved to get his attention.

The driver was an older gentleman who similar to the shuttle driver from last night was eager to talk and wore an unending smile. Fortunately for Aedan, there were few pauses where he would actually be expected to respond. Aedan learned there was no hotel close to the airport.  There was only one within a fifteen minute drive making his choice quite easy. As they drove, the driver gave him the full tour of the city which, even through the fog seemed quite organized and clean.  Perhaps the best part he thought, was that he saw very few people on the streets.

Four hours later, Aedan was up, showered and even shaved his beard off for the first time in years. There was no specific reason for this.  He was simply feeling a desire to make some changes in his life and while on vacation seemed like a perfect time to do that. Fortunately, the waitress in the small restaurant across the street from the hotel wasn’t nearly as talkative as everybody else he had run into though she didn’t smile any less. Her smile didn’t change even when he requested a couple changes in his order to make his breakfast vegan.

By the time he stepped out of the restaurant, he was feeling much better even though he hadn’t really slept. The fog had become somewhat comforting and he felt, let him blend in with the surroundings as he explored the city. The city too began feeling more welcoming. Many times had he passed through but now that he was walking the sidewalks and docks he realized he had never actually seen the place even on bright sunny days. Today, barely able to see through the fog twenty feet in front of him, he saw so much more.

He walked the docks admiring the sailboats. He had actually considered chartering and sailing the last leg to his destination but determined it would take too much time. Upon reaching the end of one dock, he headed up the stairs cut into stone and into thicker fog.  At the top he found what appeared to be a Cathedral but had no doors. It was decorated with stained glass and archways that towered over him as he walked in. At the center of this great hall was a huge statue of a female figure above her head was raised a sword. He wondered if this was a tribute to a last and fatal stand or a victory.

The solitude and emotion swept over him. Out of nowhere came a memory that a long time friend had passed away a week prior and today would be a Celebration of Life for him. It wasn’t quite two years since his wife had also fell to the tragedies of cancer. Because he had already planned this trip and was unable to reschedule it, he left condolences for the children before he left. Now he stood here alone. It seemed quite appropriate to spend a few moments reflecting this passing of life before continuing his own journey.

Days Like This

Waiting for the next clerk
Better late than never

Compared to the preparation to depart on this vacation, the drive to the airport was uneventful. Atypical for him, Aedan surpassed the speed limit several times knowing he was pushing it but it was all for naught when both lanes came to a crawl to gawk at an accident going the opposite direction. A deep breath and a bit more volume on the radio seemed to pacify his angst. After all, there really was nothing he could do.  He tried to not think about the ‘what ifs’ should he not make it to the airport in time. Hopefully the line through security would be short.

Shortly before arriving at the airport the radio had become more annoying than soothing. The commercials ran on and on until he searched for another station playing anything that interested him at all. As they too became filled with mindless voices telling him to buy this or that he pressed the power button and filled the car with silence…as much silence as was possible anyway. In this silence he made his way through the dark. The bluish LED headlamps peeled away the darkness to reveal a soft haze beneath the pine trees that lined either side of the road.

As he got closer to the airport the haze had grown to a light fog and slithered across the road, eagerly swallowing him as he followed the path into it. Aedan thought to himself that this might be a good thing, if there were any a delay in the departure of his flight for any reason whatsoever. When he pulled into the long term parking lot he found an open spot close to the shuttle stop. He had no sooner pulled the suitcase from the passenger seat and locked the doors when the shuttle pulled up. A minute later he was on the shuttle and headed for the terminal. Things were looking up.

The shuttle driver was a friendly guy and seemed to enjoy talking. In the five minutes it took to get to the terminal, Aedan was certain that the driver spent more time looking up into the mirror at him than at the road. He had probably driven the route thousands of times and might be able to do it blindfolded. His voice soon became a drone in Aedan’s head. It went on and on and was only relieved with the shuttle pulled up to the curb and with a huge smile, turned his head and looked at Aedan “We’re here. Enjoy your trip”. Aedan quickly grabbed his suitcase and jumped off the bus.

Inside the terminal, there was a buzz of conversation. Arriving and departing passengers exchanged greetings and goodbyes with loved ones and friends. The loud speaker rattled off flight information and who knows what else. He wasn’t listening but looking for the information board to check on his flight status as he made his way to security to be screened. When he finally found his flight information, a wave of regret passed through him. His flight had already departed. He couldn’t have missed it by much. It was probably still on the runway waiting to depart but it would do it without him.

With his suitcase now feeling much heavier, Aedan stepped out of the screening line and headed back to the ticketing agents to find out when the next flight was and whether there was space available. As he stood in line wondering what his future plans were, the constant noise of conversation, ringing bells and announcements over the loud speaker filled his head. The words were barely intelligible in the droning sound. He looked at a couple near him and just as he pulled their voices from the buzz, they both looked at him and smiled. Not trying to be nosy he looked away immediately but this repeated several times. It had been a long day.

After what seemed an eternity, he made it to the ticketing agent.  The next flight to his destination, twelve hours from then was full. There wouldn’t be another for two days but there was a seat available. He asked about alternate routes but there was only one daily flight to his destination. The isolation is why he chose the destination he did and now he would have to wait.

By now the fog had become quite thick outside and he was tired. He was too tired to go looking for a hotel at this hour so he found an empty row of seats in a corner, pushed his suitcase beneath it and made himself comfortable.

No Surprise Here

Loading the car for a trip
Trying to leave again

Of course vacation plans in SL are subject to complications just as in RL  You think you have everything packed and just as you’re about to get into the car you panic that you forgot something. Is it in the suitcase or..or is it lost? Similarly, I had spent hours setting up for this shot, tweaking the light, setting the pose – and that was after chasing down suitcases, cars, cats and parking lot textures! We won’t even talk about the cars I got at a very good price – too good to be true even with broken scripts. (Yes, I am lodging a complaint because at least one had a negative review because of the same issues I had).  After all that and then taking the picture, editing in Gimp because the only opening suitcase I could find that was half modern or not beat up was pink…after all that, you realize the jacket you’re wearing is a mess!

In all fairness, it was a few years old and the creators have a tough time dealing with the varied size avatars..but my avatar is 6 and a half feet tall and muscled…and small is too big!  So, refusing to leave home like that I had to go shopping.  I hate shopping for men’s clothes for this very reason.  Time lost shopping only to pull something else out of the drawer and set everything up for the photo again.

Unable to get the exact same lighting, I then spent another hour trying to (and took screen shots of the settings this time!) get the same angle, same light ( and failed) before saying ‘enough!’.  I’m getting really good at changing the color of items in Gimp by now so that was easy.

Almost ready to upload and then I noticed the cat was missing half it’s head! Really!? Log back in, set everything up as close as I can and…get a good picture of the cat from the same angle and distance…and hopefully with light close enough that it’s easy to bring into the image.  One last check and I realized that on one of my monitors it was too dark so I lightened the image before uploading.

There! Now we’re ready to go.  Get into the car! No, not you kitty…

Yes, it wasn’t too long before I was told the image was too dark.  I’m just ready to hit the road by now though I am a bit concerned that I’ve missed my flight…

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