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17799Mystical Realms Newsletter for March, 2007

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  • jef.murray
    Mar 1, 2007
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      Happy Feast Day of St. David! And welcome to my newsletter for March,
      2007. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be
      interested in keeping up with me. To receive these newsletters
      regularly, 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 =========

      At first I couldn't hear the sandhill cranes. It was a blustery day,
      and the creaking of bare tree limbs and the roar of the wind through
      the pines muffled their cries. But then I caught the sound...a warbling
      refrain from south of us, moving fast. Lorraine heard them first and
      froze in her tracks. "The cranes!" she cried, "I hear the cranes!"

      We had just returned from a funeral in Tampa. Our uncle Ray, a man of
      the hardened "cantankerous southerner" persuasion, had passed away
      after many years of illness. The funeral was held on Ash Wednesday. It
      was a military funeral; uncle Ray was an airplane mechanic who helped
      keep the Corsairs flying on the eastern front during World War II.

      Lent began even as we gathered together with family members we'd not
      seen in months or years. Despite the solemnity of the occasion, we
      found time to share stories, to laugh, to catch up with family news,
      and to play with the newest clan member, Jordan, age 2. Described by
      her grandmother Julie as a "real girly girl", Jordan insisted that I
      stay warm by keeping her stuffed animals' pink blanket wrapped snugly
      around my knees.

      This Lent I'm rereading "The Practice of the Presence of God" by
      Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century French Carmelite monk. God can
      often seem so distant, especially when every day brings news of the
      horrors in the Middle East, or crashes in the stock market, or the
      deaths of loved ones. But Brother Lawrence speaks of a God whom he
      knew intimately, and with whom he communed almost continually from the
      moment of his waking until he slept at night.

      Brother Lawrence began to develop his deep love for and sense of the
      presence of God when he was eighteen. It was winter, and as he
      contemplated the bare limbs on the trees, he was reminded that they
      would soon be bursting forth with new growth, would flower, and would
      bear fruit again, even though they appeared dead. This realization,
      and the recognition of the faithfulness of God to His world that it
      implied, filled Brother Lawrence with a deep and profound sense of
      joy. He resolved from that point forward never to forget that God was
      always with him, was always just at hand, even in the most trying of
      circumstances and even in the deepest of grief.

      As a result of his resolve, Brother Lawrence found that he could
      endure all trials by simply acknowledging his successes as being due
      to God's grace and his failures as due to his own shortcomings. But
      neither success nor failure troubled him; the only thing he ever
      feared was the loss of that deep and ongoing certainty of God's
      nearness, and his profound trust that in all things, God was present
      and would ultimately prevail. The joy he experienced as a result of
      this trust was contagious and almost uncontainable, perhaps reminding
      those around him of St. Francis, the "jongleur de Deux," who embraced
      lepers and preached joyfully to the birds.

      These musings over Brother Lawrence and St. Francis reminded me of the
      great observation of G. K. Chesterton on the nature of God. In the
      final lines of his book, "Orthodoxy", Chesterton says of Christ that,
      despite his years on earth and all of the emotions and facets of
      Himself that he revealed to us, he yet restrained something.

      "I say it with reverence;" says Chesterton, "there was in that
      shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was
      something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray.
      There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or
      impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for
      God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes
      fancied that it was His mirth."

      The cranes were now clearly visible, just breaking free from the
      treetops. They formed a huge "V" spanning half the sky. Their raucous
      cries echoed from house to house as they passed us. And between the
      sight of their triumphant wheelings overhead and the rich bite of the
      late February winds, it seemed to me that perhaps Brother Lawrence,
      St. Francis, and Chesterton were all right. This world, despite all of
      its flaws and its sufferings, is still in greater hands than ours. And
      beyond the signs of death and pain all around us, there will yet be a
      joyous spring, and a summer, and a bearing of fruit beyond measure.

      Events =========

      - I have just posted 11 (eleven!) new paintings on my website at
      http://www.JefMurray.com . These include two new Tolkien paintings,
      five new "Whimsical Beasts", and one new painting in each of the other
      galleries. The Tolkien gallery includes one entitled "Ithilien" which
      is, in one very kind person's opinion, among my best Tolkien paintings
      ever. For those who like "reading critters," please be sure to check
      out the "Mythological & Whimsical Beasts" gallery! And, as always, I
      welcome comments on any or all of these, favorable or not!

      - The March/April issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR) (http://
      www.staustinreview.com/ ) will feature a number of my sketches and
      paintings in celebration of The Celts and their contributions to
      literature and western culture. Please take a look! It's a great issue
      (perhaps _despite_ my contributions :)!

      - The folks at the UUCA gallery in Atlanta will be hosting a show of
      my work during April, 2007. Tentatively entitled "Rivers, Reefs and
      Reading Rooms; The Whimsical Wildlife Paintings of Jef Murray", the
      show will feature about three dozen oil-on-wood cutouts, primarily of
      wildlife. There will also be a number of "reading" critters and other
      magical beasts in addition to the "straight" wildlife paintings. I'll
      email out more details when they're available.

      - As I mentioned last month, dragons seem to be in evidence everywhere
      at present. The Tolkien Society is using my latest "Reading Dragon 2"
      to advertise Tolkien Reading Day on March 25 (which is also, not
      coincidentally, the Feast Day of the Annunciation). To view the
      poster, you can go to the Mystical Realms website at
      http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms/files and click on the
      file listed on that page.

      - A group of folks associated with the Oak Lane Labyrinth (modeled
      after the one in Chartres) in the UK will be using my first "Reading
      Dragon" image for leaflets they will be making available at the Bury
      St. Edmunds cathedral in Suffolk. These will describe some of the
      spiritual/religious aspects of Bury St. Edmunds, its ancient abbey,
      and surrounding sites of interest.

      - Lorraine will be giving two talks in March and one in April in
      locations in and around Atlanta, and I will be bringing prints for
      folks to see at these. If you are interested in learning specifics of
      locations and times, please drop me a note.

      Nai Eru laitalyƫ (may God bless you),

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