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Mystical Realms Newsletter for April, 2008

Subject: Mystical Realms Newsletter for April, 2008
by Urulöké on 2008/4/15 10:59:01

Artist Jef Murray's latest newsletter. Of particular interest for Tolkien collectors is this tidbit from the bottom:

ADC Books now has an online catalog featuring Tolkien-themed original paintings and prints from Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, and myself. In addition, you'll find collectible items and rare books featured in the catalog. Please take a look at http://www.adcbooks.co.uk.

Greetings!

Welcome to my newsletter for April, 2008! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me. To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com ) or at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of new paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.

Epiphanies =========

"We don't have anything like this place back in Georgia."

I was standing at the edge of the stage in Redesdale Hall. This was the opening evening of "Castles in the Mist", the first joint exhibition I'd had of my Tolkien paintings in England. Ruth Lacon and Ted Nasmith were in the audience, as were dozens of other folk to whose faces I would pin names over the next three days. The hall itself was warm stone with dark exposed beams overhead. The hall's rooftop clock tower was home to birds who scuffled on the slate shingles.

I was being asked to say a few words of introduction; to let folks know a tiny bit about who I was and why Lorraine and I had traveled some 4000 miles to visit this tiny town in the Cotswold hills.

And I was reminded of a time not too long after Lorraine and I were married, when we first traveled to Mississippi to visit my father's family. Dad died when I was in first grade, and we'd subsequently moved to north Georgia to be nearer my mother's family. Mom was one of only two children, so my total exposure to "family" for most of my childhood had been to one grandmother, one aunt, one uncle, and two cousins.

Our trip to Mississippi was not only so that I could meet my father's family as an adult, but also to introduce Lorraine to my grandmother, who had been unable to attend our wedding.

We arrived at the hotel in Jackson, and I went inside to check us in. As I entered the lobby, a large woman on a phone in the corner eyed me, then put down the receiver and approached.

"Are you Jef?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Well, I'm your Aunt Chris!" she cried exuberantly, grabbing me round the waist and literally lifting me off the floor in a bear hug.

That was my first experience of "being home" in Mississippi. It was followed by outings to Cindy's, a fried catfish restaurant in Brandon that was not only owned by the Murray clan, but also filled to capacity with more cousins, aunts, uncles, and distant relations than I'd ever thought it was possible to have.

"So this is what it means to have a real home and a real family," I thought.

I'd been told that our trip to England would be like going home. Many kind folks reassured us and gave us advice on travel and tips for avoiding problems. But many more had simply assured us that the Cotswolds would be like stepping into the Shire.

And they were right.

Over the course of our trip, we found many aspects of England curious and others downright annoying or incomprehensible: taxes are incredibly high, and are onerous enough, apparently, to deter even would-be newlyweds from marrying. Goods are costly, and the variety of items for sale in shops is much more modest than we're accustomed to (although the quality is better). Taking tea in the afternoons remains popular, as is sipping on a few pints in the pubs most evenings. Almost every automobile we encountered would be considered a subcompact in the States, and the bewildering variety of accents, both British and European, sometimes made getting directions difficult.

But other aspects of the Cotswolds, and of the folk who attended "Castles in the Mist," we found marvelously reassuring. Conversation was preferred to other entertainment, good humour abounded, and an astonishing sense of "commonality" existed as we discussed ourselves and our experiences with regular references to "The Silmarillion", "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings":

"We're real hobbits," we'd hear one couple declaring. "We hate traveling too far from home."

"Yes, I think, as writers go, he's very Bard-like," someone else would say. "Very wise, and not shy about standing up for what he believes in."

"Your President may well be remembered as another Ar-Pharazôn," another person opined.

- - -

Standing on that stage at the beginning of a grand weekend, I could only agree that, even with the short introduction I'd had to these wonderful folk, I felt once again like I'd gotten a glimpse of what a real home and real family were like. The ensuing days would see us judging a costume contest; taking tea at Tilly's; jawing with Tony about the writings of G. K. Chesterton at the Cotswold Bookstore; holding Lulu the blue eagle at arm's length; and shoveling snow off the hotel steps when we got an unexpected 4 inches on Sunday morning. But what we'll likely remember most were the warm hugs we gave and received as we said our goodbyes on Monday afternoon, and the raucous cries of "See you next year!" from all and sundry.

This reality we inhabit may well find us looking "through a glass darkly." But for those of us who crave a sense of place and a sense of belonging, even these dark glimmers are balm to the soul. Because they speak to us, ultimately, of a greater Home and a greater family; a
place where we know we will belong, and where there will be no tears,
no pain, no sighing…and no need to ever say goodbye.

Nai Eru lye mánata (may God bless you)

Jef

P.S. You can see pictures taken by me and other folks at the "Castles in the Mist" exhibit by going to www.photobucket.com and searching for username "threefarthingstone". Or, you can click on the following link, then select either "Jef" or "joe":

http://s98.photobucket.com/albums/l275/threefarthingstone/Castles in the Mist/

Events =========

- Divining Divinity, the first book of verse by Joseph Pearce, is now available from www.amazon.com. Joseph is a world-renowned biographer of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Shakespeare, and many others, in addition to being editor of the St. Austin Review. I was privileged to have worked with him to develop illustrations for each of his poems, and Leslie Kaufmann did a magnificent job of pulling our efforts together into a sparkling jewel of a book. This is the book that I highlighted in my talk at "Castles in the Mist", and it is now available.

- I will be a guest at the upcoming Tolkien celebration, "A Long-Expected Party" (ALEP) in Kentucky in September, 2008. I was also asked to develop one of the logos used for the event. You can see it on my website at:
http://userwww.service.emory.edu/~jmu ... hes/Sketch_ALEP_logo.html . The official website for ALEP (and registration info) can be found at: http://www.alongexpectedparty.org/ .

- The latest (May/June 2008) issue of the St. Austin Review (please see http://www.staustinreview.com ) will focus on 20th Century authors, and it includes a number of my sketches, plus one of my Lord of the Rings paintings ("The Bridge of Khazad-Dum") on the cover (see http://userwww.service.emory.edu/~jmu ... Bridge_of_khazad_dum.html ). It's a great read, perhaps despite my input.

- ADC Books now has an online catalog featuring Tolkien-themed original paintings and prints from Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, and myself. In addition, you'll find collectible items and rare books featured in the catalog. Please take a look at http://www.adcbooks.co.uk.