Welcome to my newsletter for May, 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:
. Notices of new
paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.
The honeybees are busy in Decatur. I mainly know this from the sight
of tulip poplar petals littering the streets and sidewalks of our
neighborhood. Bees don't come down to chat; their business is with
pistol and petal, and they have too many small mouths to feed to waste
time with us Big Folk. But I know they're up there, gathering in
nectar to feed their babies.
I gave up beekeeping for the third time three years ago. I had two
hives in the back yard. January saw them thriving, and February saw
them dead. Victims of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), my bees had
vanished in the depths of winter, leaving behind honey, pollen, and
even baby bees. These had been abandoned by their elders; they never
had the chance even to emerge from their cocoons as the hives went
cold and dark.
There's plenty of speculation as to why the bees are going crazy
environmental pollution, to pesticides, to genetic mutations, to
invasion by foreign parasites and viruses. But, for beekeepers, the
issue of CCD isn't just a simple one of cause and effect; it spurs
thoughts on deeper issues.
C.S.Lewis once wrote his "analogy of a woodshed", in which he
suggested, after noting a beam of light coming through a chink in the
roof of a darkened woodshed, that one could look _at_ the beam of
light or one could look _along_ it. Thus, you could spend your time
examining the beam of light, or you can look along it and see the
glory of the sun, the sky, and the trees above.
Lewis used this concept to describe being in love. If you look _at_
being in love, you can note the emotional responses of lovers, their
hormonal changes, social behaviors, etc. But if you look _along_ the
_process_ of being in love, by being in love yourself, your whole
world changes...the flowers are brighter, the moon more romantic, the
music around you more poignant...all things speak to you of your
beloved; and of deeper questions and deeper answers than just those
posed by your immediate circumstances.
The beekeepers I've known have always been more of the "looking along"
type of folk. They often don't see their role as so much businessmen
as co-creators and stewards in the grander scheme. They certainly
might in some ways deal with their bees as any businessman might, but
there's always a mystical something that they encounter, day in and
day out, that encourages reflection, meditation, even prayer.
Maybe it's something as simple as the fact that they spend their days
surrounded by hundreds of thousands of stinging insects. It has a way
of focusing the attention.
But, working with bees connects you to other rhythms and other
realities. You see the health or the dis-ease of the world around you
through thousands of multi-faceted eyes. Worker bees rocket out of the
hive each day in search of nectar and pollen, then they buzz home,
heavy-laden, with bright yellow and white and pink pollen packed into
the "pollen baskets" on their hind legs.
When bees don't do what you expect them to do, there's something
wrong. We may not know what it is, but it's there
sure as a sunset and
as serious as a stroke.
I've never known anything as sad as when I opened my hives up to find
them empty. It was like encountering some great civilization that was
poised at its height, ready to seize the new spring and build riches
but that fell, so much harder for the heights it had
already attained. How many civilizations, I thought, might have had
just as much promise, only to miss some crucial thing, some tiny
misfire in its genetic structure or in its cultural underpinnings
to have all of that potential lost forever.
I think of Atlantis, of Númenor, of ancient Greece, of Babylon. But I
also think of post-medieval Europe. And I cannot help but feel a cold
chill run down my spine whenever I hear about skyrocketing modern
divorce rates. Or when I hear about fewer and fewer babies being born
today in Italy, in France, in Spain, in Portugal.
A world without new life is a sick and dying world. And when we make
it more and more difficult for young lovers to wed and to raise their
children, regardless of whether it is due to taxes, or rampant
materialism, or anti-life agendas, or God knows what else, what is
important is that something is wrong. Something is deeply, horribly
And it seems to me that we won't ever understand what is wrong without
looking _along_ the problem rather than at it. Perhaps this
disturbance in our collective conscience will prod us _not_ to try for
a quick fix, but to ponder deeply and to try to understand how we have
gotten onto the road we're on; this so that we might reverse our steps
and find our way back onto firmer ground.
The wild bees remain abundant. Although I miss having my own colonies
to watch over, I am satisfied in knowing that the bees themselves have
found a way forward. And maybe they are thriving in the wild now
because a greater steward than I has them under His protection. And
that is a comforting thought, as I watch the tulip poplar petals fall
Nai Eru lye mánata (may God bless you)
- I've completed and added five new paintings to my website. These
o A new "fairy tale" painting entitled "The Repentant Dragon":
o A Tolkien image of Glorfindel entitled "The Search for Frodo":
o Another Tolkien image of "The White Tree of Gondor":
o A third Tolkien image depicting the Wizards Vale "After the
o And, finally, a painting inspired by a medieval legend entitled
- I have added a new button to my website for a "Newest Works"
gallery. On it you can view the last 16 paintings I've completed,
regardless of the gallery in which they reside. You can reach the
"Newest Works" gallery by clicking the following:
- 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 (StAR). 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 available. If you'd like a copy signed by me, please drop me
- The latest (May/June 2008) issue of the St. Austin Review (please
) 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
- I will be a guest of honor at the upcoming Tolkien celebration, "A
Long-Expected Party" (ALEP) in Kentucky in September, 2008. I was also
delighted to have been able 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
- 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 their catalog. Please take a look at www.adcbooks.co.uk.
- You can see pictures taken by me and other folks at the "Castles in
the Mist" exhibit in Moreton in Marsh in April, 2008 by going to
www.photobucket.com and searching for username "threefarthingstone".
Or, you can click on the following link: