By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published November 12, 2015
For many years my Saturdays had a serene and predictable pattern. My husband and I slept a little longer than usual, had our customary breakfast of oatmeal and coffee—and then headed to our separate cubbyholes to do our creative work.
For me, that’s my study overlooking our backyard, a place where I write my columns and books while pausing occasionally to watch the latest antics of squirrels and birds. For Jef, that was his basement studio where he had a large wooden easel set up and a generous nearby stash of oil paints, brushes and canvases.
At the edge of the easel he had draped a pair of rosary beads, and behind him on the wall was a large silver crucifix, both reminders that his artistic gifts came from God—and were offered back to him.
Jef spent hours down there, working on his latest oil painting, emerging now and again to refresh his cup of green tea in the kitchen. When I heard hammering noises in mid-afternoon, I knew he was adding a painting to the wall—and he’d soon be at the kitchen sink, cleaning brushes.
In the evening, he busied himself in the kitchen conjuring up a luscious meal, which we savored on the back deck—pausing midway so he could show me his latest creation.
It was a thrill being the first one to see his artwork, and cheering him on, which was easy to do since his paintings were quite astonishing. But every so often, I might say something like, “Isn’t her arm too long?” and the next day he would pick up his brush and make a few adjustments.
One glance into Jef’s studio and you would know he had an unusually strong imagination. Nothing else could explain his collection of walking sticks, wizards’ hats, black robes and even a crystal ball—all props for his artwork.
When he painted, he somehow entered the world he was fashioning—and would later write about his experiences. The other day, I was in his studio and felt especially drawn to the scene of a faun and an owl, titled “Moonrise,” which had led him to write:
“I spent Saturday on the edge of the Eastern Sea, north of the Great River, and nigh unto the woodlands of the Owls. Here the shores are peaceful; here are sands, and rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea, and long miles of blue and emerald waves breaking upon the beach. I walked the long tide line until I came to a trail that led up from the sands.”
You see, while I was upstairs munching on ginger cookies and dwelling in the ordinary world, my husband had escaped to an island near Narnia, the realm created by C.S. Lewis. Not only that, but Jef had encountered some fellow travelers there:
“I heard the delicate clicking of hooves on stone. A faun … was trotting toward the highest point of the rocks, and there he rested … Soon an owl circled down from the trees and joined him; both sat and breathed in the peace of evening.”
In Lewis’ books, Aslan is the talking lion who represents our Lord Jesus Christ—and I wasn’t at all surprised to discover this lion in my husband’s reflections:
“The glimmers of the first moon of autumn, the Harvest Moon, began to show on the horizon, and soon she rose, grandly, flinging a gold and silver path down upon the waters. It beckoned us all, stretching from the sands below us to the very shores of Aslan’s Country, and I knew we all thought, as a single person, how we wished that we might walk on that gilded highway this night …”
My husband has been gone three months now, and I will never hear that hammering in the afternoons again—but I trust that his wish came true, and he journeyed down that golden path leading him home to Aslan.
Artwork (“Moonrise,” oil on canvas) by Jef Murray. You may email Lorraine at firstname.lastname@example.org.