[Posted on behalf of Jef Murray]



Welcome to my newsletter for June, 2007. 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 a note or subscribe online at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms. Notices of new paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.

Epiphanies =========

We continue without rain. Between the heat and the constant winds, all of Georgia is browning or burning. Grass shrivels, leaves droop. Wildfires in southern counties pump smoke into Alabama, Florida, South Carolina. The odor and haze of burning brush causes Atlantans to dial 911; they report conflagrations that seem imminent, sure that some building blazes only a block or two away.

Those of us in urban canyons wonder at the crackling air. It feels wrong. Mosquitoes which normally torment us lie in dormancy; they coccoon in cracked canal beds.

Lorraine and I were driving once through swamps along the Florida gulf coast. Firefighters had torched part of the wetlands to clear out the underbrush, and at one point the tongues of flame came to the very edge of the road. We went from daylight into twilight in moments. I slammed on the brakes because I could only see a few feet ahead.
With windows tight shut, we crept more than drove through this shadow world. Odd shapes loomed on either side, never quite resolving themselves. We wondered, first privately, then out loud, whether this wasn't something more than a normal fire. It occurred to us both that perhaps we'd had an accident; perhaps what we were experiencing was neither of heaven nor of earth, but rather a glimpse into a place where smoke and fire and embers burned without end.

These fires make me think of our passions, and how they come and go. We're addicted to advancement, sycophants of style. We have a personal prejudice that to really _live_ is to be an explorer of every new conviction and cult. We prove our "aliveness" by keeping up with the latest diet, following the exploits of the latest celebrity, humming the latest tune.

But these, like the wildfires, are passing things.

G. K. Chesterton put it best: "The whole curse of the last century has been what is called the Swing of the Pendulum; that is, the idea that Man must go alternately from one extreme to the other. It is a shameful and even shocking fancy; it is the denial of the whole dignity of mankind. When Man is alive he stands still. It is only when he is dead that he swings."

This, then, is the challenge; we must learn to quiet our souls.

Let the earth bake and the flames fill us with the illusion of novelty; it is still only in deep silence that we can hear the whisperings of God. And it is only by being still that we can know that we're truly alive.

Events =========

- I have completed the preliminary conversion of my website, www.JefMurray.com, into two different sites. The latter will continue to highlight my oil-on-canvas paintings of sacred images, imagined fairy tales, and scenes from Middle Earth. The second site, at www.JefMurrayWildlife.com, will include all of my oil-on-wood cutout paintings ("Wildlife Silhouettes" ) of "critters", both realistic and whimsical. Please check them out and let me know what you think! I'd also appreciate pointers to any problems or inaccuracies you come across with either site.

- At www.JefMurray.com , I have posted two new Tolkien images and three new "Once Upon A Time" images. I've also updated the sacred/religious gallery to include the "St. George" painting posted last month. Do let me know what you think of these new works!

- At www.JefMurrayWildlife.com, I've begun the long task of placing listings of _all_ available Wildlife Silhouette originals so that they can be purchased online. There are brand new images in the first three galleries ("River & Reef", "Cloud & Cliff", and "Field & Forest"), plus some older works that haven't been online in quite a while, if ever. JefMurrayWildlife.com is oriented towards nature/wildlife lovers, so if you have friends who love the great outdoors, please let them know about the site! I think scuba divers and aquarists, in particular, will enjoy it!

- The May/June issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR) (http://www.staustinreview.com/ ) is out. It features a number of excellent articles on liturgy, plus my first regular foray into the world of feature writing(!). With this issue, StAR inaugurates a column entitled "Fenestrae Coeli", or "Windows into Heaven". The column will highlight the work of contemporary Christian visual artists from around the globe. The May/June column discusses the work of Tommy Canning, an extremely gifted Catholic artist from Scotland (see http://www.art-of-divinemercy.co.uk/).

Nai Eru laitalyë (may God bless you),