Botanical Greenhouse

The room you have just entered is all white, and well lit. It is the same size as the rest of the rooms here (15' x 15' x 15'), but it seems rather smaller. All along the walls going from the floor to the ceiling are shelves of plants of all different types. Hanging from the ceiling are various specimens of greenery as well, and there is a square stack of shelving in the middle of the floor which extends out to within about four feet of the wall shelves. The shelves of the center stack are covered with more plants. Opposite the door you came in there is also a large open window on the north side of the room.

The air in here is warm and humid, and quite pleasant. You have never before seen so many plants in one place, and you are led to look down at the floor, half-expecting to see grass. You don't, but you look through the window, and then you do. The other side seems to be a similar greenhouse-like area, except the floor is green grass, and it seems to continue further than just 15 feet. It looks like you could fit through the window if you wanted to.

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Botanical Greenhouse

You are in the interior greenhouse. The door to the strange black room opens to the south, opposite the window to the true greenhouse.

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A True Greenhouse

You squeeze through the window and inspect your surroundings. There are a bunch of shelves around like before, but the far side seems to be open.

The floor has grass on it, and feels like ground, and when you look up, you see the open sky through thin glass panes. It looks as if you are outside, more or less, and you decide to draw the tentative conclusion that you are no longer within the strange house.

Suddenly worried, you whirl around, only to see the window is still there, a gap in the shelving. At least a return trip doesn't seem out of the question.

You turn your attention more fully back to where you are at the moment, and you make out an open area just outside the opening in the shelves on the north side. The air is fresh and clean, and you decide that you like being where you are.

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The True Greenhouse

You are in the truer version of the greenhouse; the more artificial version lies through the window to the south. A breeze blows in from the opening to the north.

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Great Lawn

You have come out onto a huge lawn, stretching wide and perfectly flat for hundreds of feet in every direction. You are definitely outside. The temperature is about 80 degrees, and from the sun it looks like it's midafternoon.

The grass is fairly short, but it doesn't look like it has ever been cut by artificial means. It is a dark, healthy, well-watered green. The sky is deep blue, with a few fleecy clouds drifting lazily about. You can see some trees off to the east, what looks like the entrance to a garden to the north, and a long, tall row of hedge to the west. The hedge seems to have an archway built into it. There are a few lawn chairs here, and you can see a gazebo nearby. The place you just came from looks like some sort of a natural enclosure, and it lies to the south.

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Lawn

You are out on the great lawn. You can see a bunch of trees to the east, and a long row of tall hedge to the west, with some sort of gap in the middle. There is what looks like the entrance to a garden to the north. The enclosure you originally came from lies to the south. There is a white gazebo a few feet away, and a few lawn chairs are sitting here.

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Leaves Dancing in the Wind

What more could those lawn chairs be for than to be used on an afternoon like this? You head over to one and stretch out upon it.

It is a beautiful day. Your body is kept warm and toasty by the sun while occasional breezes keep you from getting hot. You lie watching these winds play through the leaves of the trees and hedges - how intricate the dynamic patterns that come about as each leaf reacts in its own way!

The branch bends according to the wind the leaves collect, and the force on each leaf is in turn altered as this changes the direction it faces. How complex it would be to calculate it all on a computer, you think! Surely it is beyond our present capabilities to do it even for one branch.

But why would one ever need to do this anyway, when the tree already does it? To predict what the tree will do, comes the answer, but why would you want to do that? You think about this. Suppose a man's house was situated under a tree, and he wanted to know whether a branch might break off and fall through the roof. Yes, this seems like a good reason to simulate the tree on a computer. But what about the tree itself? It seems like it would stand to benefit from such information as well. Probably the tree uses its own natural computations in a direct way by having its cells divide and thicken the branch according to the pressures that are put on it, you think.

Your thoughts wander on to ask: what, then, is the difference between the tree and the man? The tree reacts to the wind in its environment by computing forces and thickening its branches accordingly. The man reacts to the tree in its environment by simulating it on a computer and possibly moving his house or chopping the tree down accordingly. Both compute and react, but in some way the man seems more extended...

You start to get confused and find it difficult to continue concentrating. Instead you find yourself recalling a poem by that great English reactor to nature, William Wordsworth.

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at one I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand I saw at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:-
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought;
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

These eloquent, moving words trigger some more thoughts along the lines of those earlier, but you are unable to hold them for long, and soon you find yourself restless enough to get up and walk around.

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Maze Entrance

You walk up to the archway in the hedge and see that just a few feet in is another wall of hedge. Stepping through the arch confirms your suspicions, as you find yourself in a long, grass passageway between hedges bending into corners perhaps 30 yards away on both ends. You're in a hedge maze, an example of the fantastic creations that were first dreamed of and constructed by English gardeners in Elizabethan times and have thrilled the imaginations of children everywhere ever since. For, in these labyrinths, an idle pencil-and-paper amusement is transformed into a real-life situation with real-life consequences. What could be more amazing, more fun?

You dive in, get lost, and spend hours running into dead ends before finding your way out without ever reaching the center. You wonder whether there WAS a center.

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White Gazebo

The gazebo is white in color, and made of wood and wicker. Inside is a three foot high table with several chairs arranged around it. You enter, and as soon as you do, you are filled with an overwhelming sense of well-being, peacefulness, and satisfaction. You find this place very relaxing. You have a seat, noting that the the chair turns out to be a lot more comfortable than it looked.

You look around, and the world seems better defined; the colors are brighter, the contrasts more distinct, the sound of the wind seems crisper and clearer. In general you feel you are perceiving much more around you than you ordinarily do. You are getting a strong, vivid impression of what you can only describe as the gestalt of the environment.

At first you feel a vague urge to verbalize and write about what you are feeling - to preserve it that you might bring it across to other people and recall it to yourself in the future. But you have no paper, and soon this urge fades. Of what importance is the future? It is an abstract idea that does not exist as far as you can tell. What need for words? They are blocky things which only encumber the mind's operation.

You sit back and allow impressions to sink into you. You recall your grandfather saying to you one time, "Your mind should not be like the ocean or the river - which are restless and full of their own motions, but rather like the pool or the lake, which are still and only react to what comes to them."

You do not move for a time, and you find you can no longer feel your body; it does not seem connected with you any more. But then, as when the stars become visible at night once the sun no longer floods the sky with its brilliance, you begin to notice connections with other things. Sounds and breezes caress your entire being, and somehow every one is an expected matter of course rather than a random, unpredictable occurence. Birds fly through your field of vision, and you cannot say for certain that you do not control them. And whether there is any place or any time aside from where you are right now, you cannot know for sure. Other times, other experiences seem as brief dreams, nothing more.

...

All of this slowly fades away - or something changes, at any rate - and you are left sitting in the gazebo, a human, looking around, thinking about things. For some reason you remember your experience with the computer.

After a time, you stand up and step back out onto the lawn.

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Divine Garden

The garden entrance is a square archway made of white stone. Rows of tall shrubs on either side of it separate the garden from the lawn, cutting off visibility, but through the door you can see a red brick path beginning inside, leading in. The portion of it that you can see forks fairly often.

You pass through the archway, and as you do, you feel some kind of change, as if you are entering the sphere of some kind of influence. If it is an influence, though, it is benign in nature, and the place is beautiful, leaving you speechless. The color of the grass, the placement of trees and shrubs, the patterns of flowers, the arrangement of small plants - everything - seems just right. You feel yourself to be in the only environment you were ever meant to be in.

Every here and there is a little brook running through the garden and under small bridges in the paths. Occasionally there is a bench along the side. You walk around, following random forks until you reach a circular section of the path. You hear the sound of falling water coming from further north, but paths lead in other directions as well.

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Divine Garden

You stand at a circular path intersection in the garden. Ways lead in various directions. To the north you can hear the sound of falling water, and you can make out the arched entrance to the south.

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Statuary

You wander onward through the garden, enjoying the pure aesthetic appeal of this place. Eventually, you come to a place where there are a number of statues of different sizes made of some sort of white stone. They depict all different types of subjects, including animals, people, and even mythical beasts. Most of these forms are smaller than life, but they are not miniatures - approximately half-size is the usual reduction.

Rather than standing starkly on their own, they are blended with the natural landscape. Vines climb onto their forms, and shrubs and plants grow around their bases. They seem to be extremely detailed from a distance, but when you look at them up close, the details seem to fade away into abstraction. There are quite a few statues in this area, scattered about, and they give you a strong overall impression: you seem to be wandering through a world where all these creatures exist. The area goes on for some distance, and you see at least a dozen different kinds of animals, even more mythical creatures, and a few humans.

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Exquisite Fountains

You move on, towards the sound of the water, which lures you now, like a magnet. The sound grows louder, and soon you find the source - a creation of enrapturing beauty. Glittering liquid streams arc high in artful curves, soaring up to an apex, then following an identical path on the way down.

There is a medium-sized pond here, and in it you see every kind of fountain you have ever imagined and many more. In the middle is perhaps the strangest thing you have ever seen. It seems to be made up of hundreds of tentacles tangled in the most complex ways. You gaze at this weird structure, recalling a funny little wisdom someone once told you: "Spaghetti looks the same viewed from any perspective."

Indeed it does, and the middle of this fountain looks about the same, totally disorganized and chaotic. However, each of these tentacles is shooting water in a different direction, and the patterns from the water are anything but chaotic. They interweave to form an amazingly complex pattern, so complex that you find it difficult to pick out a single stream. The effect of this is that the pattern seems to be weaving about in an intricate manner. Amazingly enough, none of the countless streams ever seem to cross. The fountain seems to be a meeting of order and chaos, and an example of the creation of one from the other.

You see various other fountains in the pond, as well as many that are sitting on land, with their own little pools among the pathways. You also notice an island in the pond. To the north, you see a sort of opening leading into a bunch of trees.

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Exquisite Fountains

You stand by the side of the pond, watching streams of water at play in various forms. The island sits on one side of the pond, and to the north, you see a sort of opening leading into a bunch of trees.

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Water Island

The island in the pond is green, as far as you can tell, although as to what exactly the surface is you can only speculate. The whole island is barely above the surface of the water, and it it weren't for the color, you would have difficulty telling that it was there.

It seems populated with creatures of a most curious sort, resembling perhaps giant grasshoppers more than anything else. They don't resemble these very much though, for they leap with fluid energy in graceful paths, and their bodies are nearly as clear as the air itself.

It is only after watching for a while that you realize that these are actually little bursts of water that are shot out of the ground by some invisible means. When they land somewhere, the ground seems to absorb them completely, almost to swallow them up. Then another burst is shot up a short distance away, the effect being that the water seemingly dives down into the surface and then shoots back up out of it, as if it had a mind and existence of its own.

These little bursts of water cavort about as if they were alive, sometimes moving together in graceful formation, sometimes chasing after each other, sometimes going about by themselves. Some take long, graceful leaps, while others make short little hops in rapid succession. They can shoot up at all different angles, and, despite what your brain tells you, the illusion that they are living creatures is so strong that you can't help half-believing it.

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Magic Trees

You have come to a place that really seems unreal. You are in some kind of a forest, but it is of a sort that you have never imagined possible. Is it magic, you wonder, or just centuries of skillful care? For the trees here are not traditionally-formed by any stretch of the imagination. Rather they are in all manner of fantastic shapes and kinds. Trunks seem to be molded to accomodate human forms leaning against them. Vines and roots combine to make stepladders leading up the trees. You can see hollows, nests, and leafy mattresses in and amongst the branches. Everywhere, the ground is a spongy, short, thick grass growing through moss that feels very pleasant beneath your feet.

This forest seems as if it was tailor made for human dwelling, and you wonder if this is what it seemed like to early man, as he was just beginning to descend from the trees and the lifestyle of the apes. If it was, life for him must have been very pleasant indeed.

You wander further into the forest. The outside world is hidden from view here, except for a few patches of sky to let in light. Occasionally you glimpse small clearings shrouded by hanging vines; they are like outdoor `rooms' separated from the rest of the forest. Eventually, you come to an archway formed of living branches. Through it, you see something which is rather intriguing, and you decide to investigate further.

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A Paradisical Blend

You pass through the archway into a place that you are tempted to think can only be a creation of members of the race of elves. This mythical race of fair and long-lived humanlike creatures is known for intelligence and wisdom of the earth. The elves' highest ideals are embodied by Nature and songs celebrating it. And elven structures are supposed to be so completely natural as to be nearly indistinguishable from the environment surround them.

It is this type of structure that you have just entered. The walls consist of closely spaced trees and shrubs, and the leafy branches form a solid canopy overhead, so you feel truly indoors. The floor is made of the same carpet-like grass/moss that you saw outside. There are giant mushrooms here taking the place of tables and chairs. Experimentally, you sit down on one of these and find it not only strong enough to support your weight, but also extremely comfortable, as it molds to fit your shape. You tap the table, and it seems quite hard and solid enough for its function. You see shelves formed by branches along the walls, and on them sit gourds that obviously serve as drinking mugs, as well as natural bowls and plates. There is a little stone cairn in the middle of the room, and water flows out of a thin tube at the top and falls down to land in a foot-wide stream that runs through the room. There are leafy couches, as well as beds lofted a few feet off the ground. This is a dwelling place, but the artificial function of all the furnishings is perfectly blended with their natural character.

What a good idea, you are thinking, when suddenly you see a small man standing before you, dressed in green, loose-fitting clothes. His features appear delicate, and his eyes seem wise beyond his apparently young age. This first impression, however, is all you get of him, as the world around you suddenly starts getting very blurry, and when it clears up, you are no longer where you were...

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FlowerSong

You have wandered into a literal explosion of color. There are flowers everywhere you look. Not just subtly placed here or there like they were before, but everywhere. The flowers are of the most beautiful and emotion-evoking colors, and they are everywhere arranged into incredible, intricate patterns. When you look at them, you can see no definite form or representation, but instead you get a sensation that is more like listening to a song than anything else. You can't really explain how this can be, but the song is the purest and most beautiful that you've ever heard. It's sweet, it's lively, it's perfect. Strange, but beautiful.

Sooner or later, you move on.

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Leaving...

You walk back along the path, and, eventually, you come to the white stone entrance. You leave, and, as you do, you feel like some of the benign aura of the garden is still with you. It is good.

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