Happy Mardi Gras, and welcome to my newsletter for February, 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 ( ) or at: . Notices of new paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.

Epiphanies =========

When I think of Lent, a bubbling brew-pot of images boils in my head. Most of them have to do with Mardi Gras, that tinsel trollop of Catholic feast days. I can recollect more strangeness associated with Lent and Mardi Gras than with any other liturgical season.

I was never actually in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, although Lorraine and I were there once for the aftermath. In the French Quarter, as the forty days progress and the memory of Ash Wednesday fades, things pick up again. There are curious echoes of Carnival on Canal Street: St. Joseph's Day brings floats and parades and women flashing bare bosoms for booty. This despite the fact that March 19th always falls during the Great Fast.

Lent is desert time. It's time for pulling back before the boomerang of Spring-then-Graduation-then-Summer-Vacation. Lent is sand in shoes, the buzzing of blowflies.

We really don't like Lent.

What we like is Mardi Gras: the big party with no rules. "Play it again," yells the crowd to the Pink Panther, and he obliges on his saxophone. Masques mutate and transmogrify from before dawn through morning, evening. Alcohol fuels fetishes, faux fowl, fantasy figures, each more desperate than the last to hold onto the Fat of Tuesday. Carpe Diem!

But it escapes, and we're left with...Lent.

I've never seen it, but I've heard that just before midnight on Mardi Gras, New Orleans police officers link arms and sweep the streets. A blue-black billy-clubbed tide floods each alley, each shop doorway. The voodoo nooks close, the bars empty in advance of the surge. Tourists, heads swimming, tired of using door stoops as latrines, stagger or crawl to hotel rooms.

At midnight, the clock strikes. The streets are stripped of all but broken beads, dented dubloons, cracked coolers.

Now the bust begins. Now the piper is paid, the fiddler fired.

Some of us take all of this seriously. During Lent, we try to mortify feel what it might be like to make do with a dollop of dearth. Starved body steels will and strengthens it's said. "Going short for Lent" meant just the three pints of beer in the morning for C.S. Lewis. Tolkien teased him for his "asceticism."

So, Ash Wednesday comes. How should we approach it? This is the stopping off point...the way-station on a course from costumes to Calvary. We've all a ticket to post at the door, but not all of us want to go in. Better glitter than Golgotha, we figure, and I'm as bad as anyone.

But, I think, this Lent, instead of giving up, maybe I should give in. The one thing we're 'spozed to do during the Forty Days is pray. I hate prayer, and as a result, my forty days are often forty thieves... each stealing a single chance for silence. Each day's pale promise pinched. be still. To molt the mask, to hush the braying horns, to go with God.

This is what I seek. And...what I wish for you on your own journey to Jerusalem.

Eru laita ar tiralyë (may God bless and watch thee)


Events =========

- The latest issue of Mallorn, the journal of the Tolkien Society, has just been published. This issue, number 45, features the first change in cover design in literally years. Previously, the cover image was a black and white sketch of a mallorn tree by renowned illustrator Pauline Baynes. The latest issue, under the editorship of Henry Gee, features one of my paintings (see ) on the cover. Future issues will hopefully feature the work of other artists.

- The first-ever Heren Istarion Shire Reckoning calendar (see for details) is now out, and looks great! It features paintings by Ted Nasmith, Catherine Sparsidis, and myself, with full colour Middle Earth images and B&W sketches for each month. This will definitely be a collectors' item, and I'd encourage interested folk to snag one ASAP.

- The first-ever issue of Silver Leaves, the journal of the White Tree Fund (see ) features my painting of "Amon Hen" as its cover image (see ... tolkien/195_Amon_hen.html ). This is a lovely inaugural issue of a journal that includes scholarly articles, fiction, and artwork. Well worth a look!

- I feel greatly honoured to have been asked to develop the logo for the MythCon 39, the Mythopoeic Society's annual conference, scheduled for August 15-18th, 2008 at Central Connecticut State University. You can see the logo at: ... ketch_mythcon39_logo.html . For more information on the Mythopoeic Society or the convention, visit .

- I will be a guest of honour 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: ... hes/Sketch_ALEP_logo.html . The official website for ALEP (and registration info) can be found at: .