And welcome to my newsletter for December, 2013! 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 and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
• A final call for Christmas Prints! For those interested in obtaining prints of my paintings or sketches for loved ones, we are rapidly approaching the point where I will be unable to get items to you before Christmas morning! If you still are looking for a magical gift for someone, please take a look at my galleries at www.JefMurray.com and let me know what you need. I’ll do my best to get it to you in time!
• The 2014 Jef Murray – AL3P Middle-earth Calendar is still available and selling briskly! With half of all proceeds going to support A Long Expected Party III (AL3P) in Kentucky in September, 2014, this calendar features painting images from the entire spectrum of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium. To learn details, and to order yours, see: www.JefMurray.com
• For all Narnia fans, I’ve created the first ever 2014 Jef Murray Chronicles Calendar. The calendar features original portraits, scenes, and landscapes inspired by C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales. Each month features one painting image and one sketch; the calendar also includes moon phases, equinoxes and solstices, many major holidays, and visual cues for other dates of significance. To inquire as to its status and availability, please contact Jef directly.
• Seer: A Wizard’s Journal is continuing to be well received, and several very kind reviews have been posted of late. For more about this collection of tales, poems, and illustrations, see: www.JefMurray.com
• I am honoured to be a guest at Mythmoot II, sponsored by The Mythgard Institute (http://www.mythgard.org), this coming weekend (December 13-15, 2013). This weekend of celebration and discussion will be held in the Baltimore Maryland Conference Center at the Maritime Institute. It’s not too late to join us! For more info, see: http://www.mythgard.org/news/events/
• A Conference on the spiritual underpinnings of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien will be held in Atlanta in January, 2014, at St. Peter Chanel church. Featuring Joseph Pearce, Phillip Thompson, and myself, this conference will explore many aspects of Tolkien’s works. I am honoured to have been invited to speak on Tolkien’s impact on the visual arts, and on themes of light and darkness in his writings, as translated into paintings, sketches, and other media. Watch this space for more details as they are announced!
• The Urbana Theological Seminary (see http://www.urbanaseminary.org/ ) is hosting a conference on Saturday, February 1, 2014, on the theme “Tolkien and the Arts”. This is their second annual Tolkien conference, and I have been invited as a guest and keynote speaker for the conference. I’ll be speaking on the topic of art, and fantasy art in particular, as a spiritual vocation. Watch this space for details as we get closer!
• The third great gathering of Tolkien fans in Kentucky is being planned for September, 2014! A Long Expected Party 3 (acronym “AL3P) is completely booked, but you can still be put on the waiting list to attend on-site. You can also still register, and offsite lodging is available. I’m delighted to announce that I will be one of three guests at the event, along with Dr. Michael Drout and Dr. Amy Sturgis. For more information, see: http://www.alep-ky.us/
“Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.”
The poem and song echo through my mind this week. It is a fact that I never heard a melody setting for Tolkien’s original poem that truly fit it; that is, until Howard Shore’s recent soulful rendering. And when first I read the poem as a child, the words seemed to have more of a martial than a melancholic ring to them. But melancholy suits the poem, as it suits much of Tolkien’s work. Why is that? Why does Tolkien’s storytelling cast over us a perception of loss: a deep sense of something precious sundered?
“The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells,
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.”
The bitter winds arise beyond the walls of our home, and there are predictions of snow in Maryland, whither I shall travel at week’s end. On my way, I’ll glimpse true misty mountains as we fly over the Shenandoah Valley and follow the white-dusted ridges of the Appalachians. Peering through curled clouds at fog-shrouded valleys, I wonder what creatures might yet dwell in some forgotten vale or hidden cave below; more importantly, I wonder, too, what dark things sleep within my own heart, and that remain unshriven….
“On silver necklaces they strung
The light of stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, from twisted wire
The melody of harps they wrung.”
We shall gather together Friday evening; an informal setting with one old friend and one new, and we shall attempt to blend voices together in celebration of ancient tales and legends. My friends are far more skilled in the making of music than am I, yet if time permits, I may attempt to chant Bilbo’s tale of “Earendil the Mariner” to those who have yet to hear it. For that tale, of a soul caught up from a mortal into an immortal life, surely has relevance to all of us as this year passes, and as we contemplate the failing light….
“Now call we over the mountains cold,
‘Come back unto the caverns old!’
Here at the gates the king awaits,
His hands are rich with gems and gold.”
Despite the seeming melancholy, at the heart of all things written by J.R.R. Tolkien there lies this promise: a promise of good things and true; of desires, dreams, and destinies wrought with great magic, skill and beauty….
“To Rivendell, where Elves yet dwell
In glades beneath the misty fell.
Through moor and waste we ride in haste,
And whither then we cannot tell.”
…and these things are promised, but not fulfilled. That is why, I believe, we return to Tolkien’s tales over and over and over again; because the stories have bedewed us with a glamour, with a longing, with a hope. But C.S. Lewis writes that “creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.” Could it be, then, that all of the things that Tolkien’s tales promise us, all of the things we yearn for, might someday be granted?
“With foes ahead, behind us dread,
Beneath the sky shall be our bed,
Until at last our toil be passed,
Our journey done, our errand sped.”
Longing: it is what keeps us moving in the right direction in this life, provided we nurture in our hearts and in our will the True, the Good, the Beautiful. Longing: we yearn for a point of light, seemingly just beyond our reach, glimpsed through boles of winter trees; sometimes lost, sometimes shining out brightly….
“We must away! We must away!
We ride before the break of day!”
But the Light is always present, even if time is fleeting. Ours is to seek it, and to strive to come to it, even knowing that, in this life, we may only find it one instant to lose it the next. It is a glamour; but it is a glamour that does not deceive; instead, it helps us to find our way Home.