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:
. Notices of new
paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.
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.
- I have just posted 11 (eleven!) new paintings on my website at
. 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
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 laitalyë (may God bless you),