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Mystical Realms Newsletter for October, 2008

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  • jef.murray
    Greetings! Welcome to my newsletter for October, 2008! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me. To
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 8, 2008
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      Greetings!

      Welcome to my newsletter for October, 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 events are
      at the bottom of this email.


      Ponderings ==============

      The first strangeness was being escorted by a wizard down the dirt
      road to the registration building. But apart from Gandalf, who regaled
      us on our walk with his knowledge of American Shaker history, we could
      also see other cloaked and gowned figures plodding down paths and
      bustling beside picket fences.

      Lorraine and I had just arrived at A Long Expected Party in Kentucky.
      And, although there were jarring moments that reminded us otherwise
      (Gandalf at one point excused himself to answer his cell phone in the
      midst of what might otherwise have been a protracted discussion of
      Shire road construction techniques), it seemed that the city we'd left
      behind that morning had been part of a bad dream: here there were no
      more gas shortages; no more political debates; no more predictions of
      financial catastrophe. Here, instead, were old oak trees, rolling
      hills with sheep, goats, and cattle. Here were ponies prancing in
      pastures as well as draught horses tugging carts beside
      drystone-bordered barnyards.

      Never mind that this Shire had furry feet in two very different
      metaphysical spaces; it seemed, as it often is with prayer, that the
      efforts of the organizers had transcended time and space. We almost
      felt that if we walked far enough away from the village center, we'd
      encounter a nothingness beyond which we could travel no further; a
      boundary that protected us from the outside world so that we could
      reflect, for a time, on the important things.

      That first evening saw most of us settled in, and we gathered in an
      enormous Pipeweed-drying barn for supper and lamplight tales. Once the
      sun set, the gloaming pooled through slatted barn walls and screech
      owls punctuated story and song. Music was primarily Hobbit-fare, and
      was warm and welcoming. Later, Gandalf regaled with ghostly tales…just
      frightening enough, I suspect, to trouble the sleep of those whose
      other cares had all been left behind.

      The ensuing days in the Shire were filled with stunning sights and
      mystical moments. Fog-filled mornings had Hobbits huddling. Crispy
      bacon, biscuits, and sausages washed down with strong coffee fortified
      us for long hours of listening to talks, fencing, hiking, and even
      testing of furred feet on riverboat cruises.

      The second evening brought us to the Hall of Fire, where many of us
      were coaxed into sharing stories, songs, and skits. Gandalf, Bilbo,
      Frodo, Eowyn, Galadriel, Arwen, Aragorn…all were present, as were Dora
      and Angelica Baggins, various Rangers, plus others of the Istari. We
      even had an appearance by Farmer Giles of Ham(!). And we were
      serenaded again, not only by Hobbit ballads, but also by Elven tunes
      of long ago. Late, late on the second evening, the bravest stayed up
      for a ghost walk through the village. Dares were made and accepted by
      the intrepid at the site of the most-haunted smial in all the Shire.

      The final full day dawned to much nervous anticipation. Bilbo's big
      party was to begin at 6pm, with preliminary games starting at 3 in the
      afternoon. Lorraine and I were housed near the Party Field, and at one
      point in the afternoon, we spotted dozens of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves,
      Rangers, and Wizards outside our bedroom windows, apparently on a
      treasure hunt. The sight was startling; fields that had seen only
      sparrows and jackrabbits were now seething with fair folk of every
      kith and kin. But for the fullness of the afternoon autumn sunlight,
      we would have thought that the Barrows had been opened and the
      glorious men and ladies of the Downs called back to life.

      Bilbo's party was, of course, the biggest and best part of the whole
      weekend. There were various entertainments, including the teaching of
      the Springle Ring to those who were inclined to dance, more Bard
      music, an encore of "May it Be" by an elven maiden, and enormous
      quantities of food, drink, and birthday cake. We were all taken by
      surprise at one point by the appearance of a Black Rider on horseback
      just after dusk, but the Rangers drove it off before it could cause
      any mischief.

      Bilbo's speech came, and we were all surprised and delighted by his
      complete disappearance at the end of it…many of us knew what was
      coming, but the reality of it still came as something of a shock.

      There's so much more I could say about our time in the Shire. Aside
      from the planned events, the land itself healed wounds and smoothed
      furrowed brows. We heard cows first thing each morning, lowing in the
      fields. We heard coyotes off in the distance each afternoon. Brilliant
      crystalline stars reeled through the Milky Way all night long, and
      immense autumn gusts buffeted the Pipeweed Barn during daytime
      gatherings.

      Our trips to the village (we were housed about a mile and a half west
      of Hobbiton) played out like nature dramas; we saw hawks, possums,
      rabbits, coyotes, and even a skunk on our rides to and from town. One
      sparrow, apparently unaccustomed to such magical devices, swooped into
      our car one morning , perched on the steering wheel, and would not
      leave; it was apparently intrigued by the strangeness of this new sort
      of carriage.

      When the final morning dawned, with just the barest outline of sun
      greeting the thick autumn mists, we didn't know what to say to all of
      the new friends we'd met. It was certainly not clear that there would
      ever be such an event as this again in our lifetimes. And many of us
      felt in our hearts that this weekend would stand as the closest any of
      us would ever come to truly visiting the Shire…unless, of course, a
      greater Shire awaits us once our journey on this earth is finally done.



      Prospects ===================

      - John Ottinger is a very gifted blogger and reviewer of sci fi and
      fantasy books. He and I met at this year's Dragon*Con, where he asked
      me for an interview for his online blog, "Grasping for the Wind". You
      can read the results at:
      http://otter.covblogs.com/archives/2008/10/full-color-tolkien-an-interview-with-jef-murray.html
      .

      - I will be speaking about my Tolkien-themed artwork to students in a
      class entitled "J.R.R. Tolkien and the Spiritual Journey" on
      Wednesday, October 22, from 7-9pm. This class is being offered by
      Emory University's Aquinas Center, and is being taught by Dr.
      PhillipThompson, the director of the Aquinas Center. The class is
      part of the ongoing Evening at Emory Writers' Studio series.

      - If you have copies of any of my signed prints, whether
      Tolkien-themed or otherwise, your print has just increased in
      value(!). Beginning this month, we've completed an inventory of all
      signed prints that I have sold or donated over the last several years,
      and all of these will be included in the totals for limited print
      editions of each image. From here on out, all newly purchased prints
      will be individually numbered, and there will be a cap on total
      produced. If you would like to know approximately which of the
      numbered prints you have, please feel free to contact me.

      - Divining Divinity, the first book of verse by Joseph Pearce, which
      includes my illustrations and cover artwork, was just recently
      reviewed in Dappled Things. You can read the review by going to:
      http://www.dappledthings.org/peterpaul08/review01.php .

      - ADC Books now has an online catalog featuring Tolkien-themed
      original paintings and prints from Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, Peter
      Pracownik, and myself. In addition, you'll find collectible items and
      rare books featured in the ADC Books catalog. Please take a look at
      www.adcbooks.co.uk.
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