Mystical Realms Newsletter for April, 2008
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.
"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 travelled
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 travelled 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
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
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)
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":
- 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
- 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:
. 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
). 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 www.adcbooks.co.uk.