So long, Frank Lloyd Wright

In the past few months, my normally quiet Second Life has been changed somewhat by the spotlight of public recognition, due to a rather epic build I completed in July: a reproduction of Fallingwater, the famous Frank Lloyd Wright architectural masterpiece.

Others had built Fallingwater in Second Life before I did. My build drew attention for a few reasons. It was very detailed and accurate; I read everything I could find, spent weeks studying photos of the house and visited it in person to understand every detail of Wright’s vision. I challenged myself to a higher standard in the prim work and texturing. And perhaps most importantly, I recreated not only the building, but the surrounding landscape. Wright intended for Fallingwater to be a home in harmony with nature. How can you leave out the nature? Isolating the house from the landscape of which it is an integral part misses the point. Others had placed their build on top of a hill, or on a beach, or had ignored the palette of lush woods and dark slate, the shape of the sheltering ravine that rises around it, or the iconic soundscape of nature and rushing water.

My efforts paid off in an experience for visitors that helped them really understand what Frank Lloyd Wright was all about. It was so rewarding to me when people told me that, inspired by their visit to my build, they began for the very first time to take an interest in and appreciate the work of this great architect. That was worth the price. Donations never did cover the cost of keeping the sim open. Despite the fact that I really couldn’t afford it, I delighted in providing hospitality as more and more people visited Fallingwater each day. I would pop in to find couples having a romantic dance, people meditating by the falls, or just hanging out by the big fireplace in the living room. Everyone just loved being there, and I loved that they loved it. I think I achieved my goal of transparency: I didn’t want people to look at the build and see my work, I wanted people to experience Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision as if they were transported to the real place in First Life. Like a window, I wanted them to look through me, and see him instead.

Five months of enjoyment came to a sudden end this past week, when I was informed that the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation had issued a Cease and Desist order insisting that all reproductions of Wright designs be removed from Second Life. Although it was not directed to me personally, it shortly became clear that I would eventually face legal consequences if my exhibit remained. Rather than risk a lawsuit, I removed the build on Wednesday, amidst much protest and righteous anger on the part of those who loved the place.

The actions of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation are among the most shortsighted and misguided I have ever witnessed from a nonprofit organization. Of what was I guilty? Being inspired by a visit to an historic home and the genius of a legendary architect. Learning everything I could about it. Freely sharing my excitement with others. Educating people about the design principles that made it so remarkable. Celebrating and taking delight in the ability of human beings to create such marvels. Apparently, despite their stated mission, these things are contrary to the goals of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, who seemed more concerned about lost income than with the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright.

It would be easy to be bitter about all this. All I did was build something wonderful, not for any personal gain but to inspire and educate others. The result was to get shot down and squelched. Who wouldn’t be bitter? Well… me. You see, I have a choice. I can choose to be indignant and angry and resentful. If I were, those feelings would be completely justified. It would also surround me in that negative energy that, over time, eats away at one’s soul. But that’s not the only choice. I can also choose to forgive. To continue to give, to help, to build, to let go of the negative crap and embrace healthier, positive attitudes and actions. It’s within my power to choose. And I choose the good.

In his 1968 booklet, “The Silent Revolution,” Kent Keith advised, “give of your time and effort because you care and want to give, not because you are expecting glory and prominence in return… Do things because you believe in them, and the simple satisfaction of having achieved them will be enough.” He goes on to admit that helping others often results in being attacked and mistreated by those you are trying to help. “And yet,” he says, “a deep concern for people makes it possible to understand that attack with compassion, and to keep helping.” This means having compassion for everyone, not just the people who are nice to you. The price is high, but well worth paying.

Dr. Keith went on to propose ten “Paradoxical Commandments” that later were adapted by Mother Teresa and posted on the wall of her orphanage in Calcutta. These words have been much on my mind the last few days, so I will share them here:

People are often illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may cheat you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give it anyway.

In the spirit of these wise words, I will now turn away from the public spotlight and return to a quieter life. I will turn away from anger, blame and resentment. I will focus on giving and loving, and on building people up, not tearing them down.

Something wonderful came to an end, for no good reason. But building Fallingwater was worth the price.

..::::..

You can read more about the actions of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation at Prim Perfect and some of the reaction from other residents.

Our Collaring Ceremony

On 14 July 2010, our first anniversary, Walter formally collared me in a beautiful ceremony. I thought I would share that ceremony here, for those who have never experienced one.

A collaring ceremony is in some respects like a wedding. It signifies a permanent commitment between a Dominant and a submissive. The “ring” went around my neck instead of my finger, and the nature of the promises is slightly different. But like a wedding, the Dominant and the submissive make vows to one another, promising their love and support. The collar symbolizes their mutual consent and the vows each has made to the other.

I dressed carefully, wanting to be elegant and pleasing but simple, to signify that I would be letting go of my personal power and consciously, willingly, joyfully handing it over to him. It would not do to dress like a princess or in any way that seemed ostentatious. When a collaring ceremony is private the submissive might even be nude, as a symbol of the consensual power exchange at the heart of the relationship. But for this occasion I chose a simple Grecian style white gown by Nicky Ree, with long flowing gauze draped from the shoulder. I carried a single white rose, the traditional symbol of submission.

With joy in my heart, I made my way down to the ceremony pavilion on our island. The path wound through the trees and down the hill into a sheltered valley. As I emerged into a clearing, I saw the rustic pavilion, surrounded by trees. It was generously adorned with hundreds of white roses that seemed to burst from every beam and rafter. Master waited on the pavilion, by a small table that held a jeweled box. An intimate group of family and close friends greeted my arrival. I smiled, unable to contain my happiness.

Camryn Darkstone Collaring Ceremony“Camryn, would you join me please?” Master called.

I stepped onto the pavilion and went to him. “It would be my honor, Master.” We both smiled. Then he spoke with solemnity.

“Camryn, it is my intent to offer you my collar as a sign of your submission to me. Are you willing to accept my collar?”

My heart leapt with excitement. “It would be my greatest joy, Master… yes!”

Master turned to the table and opened the box. I gasped with delight as he removed a collar that he had made especially for me. Bright silver, engraved with a Celtic design and sporting a gleaming sapphire, it sparkled in the sunlight. It seemed the loveliest thing I had ever seen. 

Reaching out, Master placed the collar around my neck, but did not yet close the lock. He looked into my eyes with love and made his vow to me.

“Camryn,” Master said solemnly, “with the placing of this collar around your neck and your acceptance of it, I vow to do everything I can to be worthy of you. I promise to hold you and keep you safe, to stretch you and give you flight, to respect the needs of our relationship above all others, to love you, honor you, support you in all things and be sensitive to your needs and desires . I acknowledge the trust you have placed in me and the responsibility that goes with my acceptance of that trust. I will never violate or even threaten to violate that trust. I acknowledge and accept with all my heart the gift of submission you have made to me. This collar will be a symbol of that which we already know: that you are mine, and by wearing it you will always be safe to be everything that you are.

“Do you accept this collar in the spirit by which it is given you?”

Looking on my Master, and hearing these words, I felt my heart fill with love and happiness such as I had never known. Without any hesitation, I spoke clearly and with conviction.

“Master, of my own free will, with clarity of mind, heart and conscience, I surrender my life to you, submitting to your will in all things.” I had difficulty holding back tears of happiness as I spoke from the depth of my heart. “I accept your collar as the outward and visible sign of my deepest joy: that I am yours. I gladly accept your authority and trust you to guide me on the right path. I vow to honor you with my every thought, word and action. I promise to stay with you, support you and fulfill your needs and desires as you allow. You are the center of my universe, the light of my life and the love of my heart. I give you my love, my heart and myself, now and always.”

I knelt, in a traditional posture of submission. He reached out and locked the collar firmly in place around my neck. As the lock closed forever with a satisfying click, my world seemed to fill with light and love. I am his! At last I am become who I was meant to be. I have found my heart’s desire. I smiled up at my Master in utter devotion.

“Camryn,” he continued, “I will never forget the responsibility that I have undertaken here. I am charged with your well being in all you do. My decisions will affect you in every way. Your life is literally in my hands and I will never shy away from that responsibility, but use the power you have given me wisely. I will never consider only myself. I will always remember that you will follow wherever I may go. I will not lead you into danger and I will be mindful that you will look to me in all things for guidance and teaching. I promise to learn from you what is good and safe for you, and be prepared to give as much, or more than I receive from you. The Master’s hand is a double edged sword. It can give pleasure and it can punish. I will never forget that, and will consider every facet of any situation before using that power. It will never be used in anger, and will always be justifiable.

“Thank you for giving me the gift of your submission, Camryn,” he said softly. He took my hand and helped me rise, and we kissed, through my happy tears as our friends and family showered us with congratulations, warmth and love.

The limits of sweetness

In the last year or so, I’ve occasionally allowed my inner curmudgeon a little more freedom to express herself. It’s subtle, and if you aren’t paying attention you might miss the mildly acerbic remark, the subtle sarcasm, the “we are not amused” raised eyebrow.

Normally I am very mellow, so when this happens it sometimes takes people by surprise. I have a reputation for being kind and nice. And most of the time I am. That’s what makes my curdmudgeon so effective.  Watch out for Camryn, Walter chuckles. It’s always the quiet ones.

A few years ago I was invited to a friend’s birthday party on a private sim. The birthday boy was a very popular persona, and the sim was filled to capacity with at least 40 of his closest friends. Hijinks were encouraged. He loves flamethrowers! said his partner. So I secretly planned to display a huge explosion generated by the Omicron from Omega Concern. I’d tried it on my own sim, and it produced awesome fireworks. I imagined everyone smiling with delight, saying “oo” and “ah” as the flashes and particle flames lit up the night sky.

I quietly bided my time until everyone was gathered, dancing and laughing and celebrating. Then I walked into the midst of the crowd, unnoticed (I am almost always unnoticed). Smiling to myself, I pressed the button: apocalypse.

What I didn’t realize was that they had damage enabled on the sim.

The explosion lit up the night sky, alright. A blinding nuclear blast enveloped the island. All 40 of us, including the birthday boy, were killed instantly, and teleported home.

To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement. I was mortified. I apologized over and over and over again to the hostess and to the birthday boy. It was hard to get a word in edgewise, though, because they were laughing so hard.

Needless to say, after that incident, I had something of a… reputation. I had been the sweet one, but now I was the  assassin who blew up one of the most popular people in SL and 40 of his closest friends. Watch out… it’s always the quiet ones.

Besides providing many giggles over the years, that incident is a great metaphor for what happens when I ignore my anger and resentment. I can try to deny that I have any; I can resolutely maintain my serene demeanor at all costs. But that takes a lot of energy. Energy that drains me. Eventually my shields fall. Boom! Apocalypse.

It’s probably wiser to let my anger leak out gradually, when it is still only a spark, before it reaches nuclear proportions. I’ll continue to let my inner curmudgeon out of her cage from time to time. I promise not to blow anyone up.

Two Three Six Five

Here’s my submission for Two Three Six Five!

Camryn Darkstone and Walter Balazic

As a drizzling November rain brings a hush over my quiet First Life, my day begins as usual, with silent meditation. Then, as every day, I go to meet my love on Second Life.

I work from home, where I live alone. My social life centers on an intimate group of dear friends. We have known each other forever. We share the same passions, activities, and opinions. We smile together about a favorite quote: “I don’t know if I need a lover. I think I would settle for five good friends.”

Most of us look for such good friends, with whom we share much in common. We like to bond with “people like us.” Social media tools make it even easier to filter our friendships, associating only with those who reflect the views and tastes we already have.

Seeking relationships, we make lists of desirable attributes ranging from the superficial, such as appearance, to the provocative, such as politics or religion. We look for personality or character traits, or mutual interests and ambitions. We envision what we want, and we find a partner who fits into our predefined vision.

But this can be very limiting. Envisioning a certain outcome can blind us to glorious surprises. We may miss out on wonderful gifts because we were expecting something else. Focusing on our goals, potentially beautiful friendships with lovely people slip past us, unnoticed.

At first, I didn’t think I needed a lover in Second Life. It caught me totally by surprise. Walter was a surprise. Outwardly, in RL, he is very different from me. Had I stuck to my preconceived notion of what I was looking for, I might easily have missed the gift of knowing, loving and being loved by this beautiful soul. No one could have foreseen his impact on my life. No one could have predicted who I’d turn out to be: that I, the rebellious, independent loner, would willingly and happily surrender my freedom, opening my heart to the surprise and delight of unexpected pleasure.

So I advise that you let go of expectations. Have goals, but don’t be enslaved to them. Something better might happen. Don’t assume you know what the best outcome is. Be open to the possibility that you will be surprised by someone completely different from what you expected. Leave a crack in your armor, so that grace can leak in.

Get over it

Dear world:

Yes. I am a strong, intelligent, secure, capable, boringly normal woman in a D/s relationship. Get over it, already.

Don’t call me a doormat. I am independent and self-sufficient and there is only -one- person who gets to tell me what to do.
 
Don’t call me weak. My way of life requires a reserve of inner strength you only wish you had.
 
Don’t call me passive. I made a carefully considered decision, of my own free will, with clarity of mind, heart and conscience. Our life is a mutual, consensual choice.
 
Don’t call me a bimbo. I have exquisite taste and I don’t wander around SL dressed like a hooker. My sex life is as private as yours, and probably no kinkier. 
 
And p.s. It’s none of your business anyway.
 
I have been given the gift of submission, the freedom to surrender, the grace to trust, the privilege to love.
 
If that bothers you, I’m not the one with the problem.
 
Everyone should be so lucky as me.

Stonehaven

I had become rather cynical by the time I visited Stonehaven. I held no hope of finding anything more than an evening’s entertainment. My first impression was forgettable. The place looked rather bland. Like other BDSM clubs, it had various bondage devices scattered around, the requisite castle, and a few noobs engaged in capture roleplay. In other words, it did not seem very inspiring. Still, it was a capture roleplay sim, so it held at least a small promise of danger, a little bit of intensity perhaps. So I entered.

I wandered around for a few minutes, but no prospective captors caught my eye. Bored, I noticed a group of people gathered on a terrace beside the castle. Hoping to stay out of sight, I circled up behind them and stood at the edge of the terrace, hoping not to be noticed until I could eavesdrop for a bit.

Hello, Camryn. Welcome to Stonehaven. Oh well, so much for not being noticed.

I looked around for the person speaking to me. I saw him, prominently seated. He seemed to be holding court; others deferred to him. Among the group gathered there, he stood out. Tall, muscular but slender, with generous long hair, his avatar was thoughtfully put together. He was dressed tastefully in black leather, of good quality, with a contemporary look, not the dreary gothic sameness of most dominants.

I’m Walter, I’m a warden here, he said. If you need any help, or have any questions, just ask. I’m always available to help.

I relaxed a little. This was different from the arrogant opening lines most dominants employed.

I explained that I was new to Stonehaven. He offered his protection, and told me a little about the place. When I confessed that I was not well versed in the ways of capture roleplay, he smiled.

Do you have shackles, or something? he asked. Otherwise… it’s a little hard to capture you. He smiled. I blushed. I rummaged around in my inventory, found some, and put them on.

Now that I said that, Walter smiled, I’m going to capture you, of course. He laughed. I smiled, increasingly at ease. A friendly captor? That was unexpected. And yet I sensed something more within him, that made me think his good natured manner might have an inner strength behind it. I wondered what he was like if provoked. I decided I’d rather not find out first hand.

He reached out and grasped the shackles. There was an ominous yet satisfying snick as the locks snapped securely shut. Walter took the keys. I shivered slightly, feeling an inner thrill.

The shackles were more secure than I ever imagined. They locked not only my wrists, but my heart as well. Three years later, even when I do not wear them, I am still locked. Walter still has my keys.

.

Control, Intensity, Trust

My experience with that passionate young man taught me what I desired from D/s: control, and intensity. Those who think of BDSM as little more than sex with handcuffs might find it difficult to understand either desire. It is difficult to explain to someone who isn’t wired this way. The experience of surrendering, abandoning control of myself to a trusted dominant, thrills me beyond words—and the more control I give up, the more extreme my surrender, the better it gets. I also need for the space between me and my partner to be alive with intensity; without that, I am easily bored. In the absence of the emotional and sexual intensity I had known with Jonah, the world felt pale and bland.

After several weeks of searching, I began to despair. There was no shortage of dominants in Second Life; just a shortage of good ones. Again, those who are unfamiliar with D/s might imagine that being a submissive means that I like for people to tell me what to do—and that might seem like an easy desire to fulfill. It is not easy at all. In fact, I find it nearly impossible. The third thing I need, in addition to control and intensity, is trust. I do not trust easily. In my life, I don’t let anyone tell me what to do. I am rebellious and fiercely independent. In work and social situations I am usually the one in charge. Not because I want to be; but because no one else can dominate me. I am too smart, too strong, and my standards are too high. I want desperately for someone else to be in control, but I cannot trust enough to give up control to anyone unless they are smarter and stronger than me—and very few people are—and unless they earn my respect.

Jonah was one such person. It had been so easy to surrender to him; I had not fully appreciated exactly how many things had to click before that could happen. With each unsuccessful encounter, I began to despair that my relationship with Jonah might have been the kind that only happens once in a lifetime.

I was wrong about that.

Next: Stonehaven »