Sunday, 27 July 2014

Orange Picking

"An Orange Picking Girl", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

This drawing was inspired by another painting of John William Waterhouse entitled "The Orange Gatherers".  Of course, his painting is quite beautifully done and contains not only the young girl but two adult women as well.  One woman is climbing a set of stairs which appear to lead to some sort of open area on the back of a house.  The other woman is emptying a basket of oranges onto the blanket where a young girl is sitting.  The viewer might assume that at least one of the women has been picking oranges which she is now placing on the blanket next to the young girl.

It was the young girl who caught and kept my attention when I first came across this painting.  She is looking directly up and out at the viewer and so is the focal point of the entire work.  Of course, Waterhouse, a skilled artist, did a considerably better job of painting the young girl than I did of drawing her on the computer. As always, my inability to use shading and variations in skin colour means that it is extremely difficult for me to capture the look of a young face.  It is those very elements which enable an artist to create the actual look of children's faces, especially their rosy cheeks and bright eyes.

However, I did my best and since I wasn't really interested in trying to draw the rather indistinct figures (as one can do when painting) of the two women, I decided instead to draw only the young girl. I also decided that instead of showing her just sitting there, apparently doing nothing, I would put her to work and show her cleaning the leaves and stems off of the oranges which had recently been picked.

I don't know how many of you have actually ever picked oranges off a tree, but if you have, you know that they don't come off completely free of leaves and stems and other stuff.  Of course, the fruit is rarely ever very orange either!  More likely, the skin of the ripe fruit will be mottled and include the colours of green and dark orange.  In order to get the fruit to look uniformly orange -- the way we expect an orange to look -- colourant or liquid dye must be employed!  As well, cooler weather occurring during the ripening process, will actually bring out the orange colour in what is a naturally green-coloured fruit.  To explain this further, I have quoted from a U.S. web site I came across:

"The FDA does allow the addition of a colorant called "Citrus Red #2" to the skins of mature oranges. It's more of a liquid dye than a paint, and, of course, safe for human consumption. Oranges only turn "orange" if the temperature is right. In some countries where the temperatures never cool off, oranges remain green, even when mature. It is the cool temperatures which promote the release of the orange pigments (carotenes).  Before being sold in the U.S., green oranges used to be coated with an orange dye to make them more attractive to consumers. This practice is no longer acceptable by the FDA. To overcome this problem, oranges are now often treated with ethylene, which promotes the development of a uniformly "orange" appearance. This removes the chlorophyll layer and allows the orange color to emerge."

Obviously, the orange oranges in my drawing must have had just the right amount of cool weather during the ripening process in order for them to end up being so uniformly orange in colour!  Of course, such improbabilities are allowed in paintings just as they are in poetry where they are called, I believe, the use of "poetic license"! 



Suki showing off her beautiful fur coat!
Well, it is time, once again, to give you all an update on myself and Suki. 

Actually, I really did not think there was going to be much to say about Suki this week, as she seemed to be behaving reasonably well -- even allowing me to sleep until 6 a.m. on three different mornings!  As the days passed, I was began to feel hopeful that Suki might actually be starting to get a bit more mellow.  Then last night happened and now I have to admit that the "three nights" was just an aberration -- not a new trend at all!  So what did she do last night that was so awful -- well, let me tell you about it.

For some reason, Suki decided, about half an hour after I had fallen asleep, that she wanted to play with one of the few electrical cords I haven't yet taped to the wall.  In order to get to this cord, she had to climb onto one of the lower shelves of the room divider in the entryway and then crawl over a big stack of books and a couple of bookends.  It must have been a difficult and somewhat painful climb for her and I can only guess that she really wanted to play with this cord badly enough in order to put up with any discomfort.

Unfortunately, her form of play with electrical cords involves batting the cord, noisily, against the wall.  I was, of course, awakened by the noise, awakened out of that deep sleep which comes within the first hour of bedtime.  I admit, with some shame, that I yelled at her rather loudly as I grabbed her and chucked her in the bathroom for the night!  Thankfully, I was finally able to get back to sleep and, this morning, we "kissed" and made up!

Interestingly, in spite of these "playful" episodes, Suki continues to eat less -- not because I am feeding her less, but rather because she is actually eating less of her favourite food than previously.  Often now, she will walk away from her food dish leaving behind several teaspoons of this food!  I am not sure what is actually happening here.  Perhaps my repeated remarks to her about how much more comfortable her back legs would be if she just lost a bit of weight have finally had an effect. As all of us with arthritis know, getting your weight down to a more normal level takes a certain amount of stress off those arthritic joints!  I plan to weigh her some time in the week ahead and see if she has actually lost any weight.

Speaking of weight, I, too, really need to lose some myself as I have gained back most of the weight I lost in 2009-2010 when I first joined the gym.  Sadly, once I became unable to exercise due to increased pain, I found the weight just piling back on even though I continued to eat the same foods in the same (or less) amount. Now, since I can no longer exercise, I suppose I will have to cut back on my food intake considerably in order to lose some weight again. My joints, just like Suki's, don't need the added stress which comes with being overweight.

What a nuisance the whole weight business is -- especially as we get older and those fat cells just seem to attach themselves to the body as though by the hand of an evil magician.  As well, a lot of the medications that are prescribed for us older folks also cause weight gain!  What a dilemma!  It seems so unfair -- especially when there are so few pleasurable things left to indulge in when we get old, sick and disabled.  Woe is us!

Otherwise, I have nothing new to complain about.  The pain continues unabated and I am still using art work, movies on Netflix and drugs to try to keep things under control.  Anything that can dull my awareness of the pain and does not cause me any additional harm is welcome.  You may have noticed that I did not include sleep in the list of things that help me keep the pain under control. Although sleep, as necessary as it is, does occasionally help, it is also the means, sadly, by which the pain can take charge again. 



"Like a Dragnet Cast in the Sea", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010

Here is a portion of this Sunday's Gospel reading:
Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that is cast in the sea and brings in a haul of all kinds of fish. When it is full, the fishermen bring it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in baskets and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the upright, to throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. 'Have you understood all this?' They said, 'Yes.'  Matt. 13:47-51

Praying that we all, at the end, may be placed in those baskets reserved for the "good".

And, in the week ahead, may peace be with you all.  Amen.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Hedgehog Blossoms

"Hedgehog Cactus -- Echinocereus triglochidiatus"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

As most of you are aware, I alternate the type of drawing each week... one week I post a flower drawing, the following week I post a drawing of a person.  This week, though, I am posting a flower drawing (even though I just posted a flower drawing last week). The reason for this?... well, I simply did not have a finished drawing of a person that I felt like posting.  

The drawing I had planned to post feels just too unfinished somehow.  I am not sure as to why I feel this way about a particular drawing, but it happens every so often. Sometimes I can rework the drawing so that I feel comfortable about posting it; however, there are some drawings which will never be seen in my blog or elsewhere (and there are some which were posted in the early days which I wish I could also permanently delete!). These drawings usually remain hidden away in my software files. Occasionally, I end up deleting a completed drawing because I find myself being unable to even look at it -- it seems as though everything is wrong with it!   

Maybe by next Sunday I will have completed one of several "people" drawings I currently have underway.  Well, enough about me and my art work -- let's move on to Hedgehogs!


Echinocereus triglochidiatus, Family: Cactaceae, commonly known as Hedgehog Cactus, Claret Cup Cactus or King’s Cup Cactus, is a small barrel shaped cactus that grows in clumps of a few to a hundred stems. The flowers are a beautiful red (varying in colour from orange-red to deep red), with many petals that form the shape of a cup. The spines can be up to three inches long; however, there are "subspecies" which have no spines at all.  The fruits are red, and edible (see photograph below).

Fruit of the Hedgehog Cactus
(spineless variety)
The flowers bloom from April through June, and are the first to bloom in the desert. Unlike other cacti, they stay open at night, and bloom for about 3 to 5 days.  

For many decades, Echinocereus triglochidiatus has been separated into a dozen or more varieties found throughout the Southwest. There have been numerous revisions of the genus attempting to sort the many varieties into distinct species on the basis of flower structure, spine structure, chromosome number, etc. As of the end of the first decade of the 21st century, there still is no consensus. The drawing I have done, however, is of the "variety" that seems to most commonly be referred to as 
Echinocereus triglochidiatus.

Echinocerens is from the Greek echinos, meaning "a hedgehog," and cereus meaning "a wax taper (candle)." These names refer to the plant's shape and spiny resemblance to a hedgehog (or so the early Europeans thought) and the spines themselves which look like the tapers or candles used at Mass. Triglochidialus means "three barbed bristles" and refers to the fact that many of the spines are arranged in clusters of three.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus is native to North America being found primarily in California, the southern part of the Rocky 
Mountains, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado Texas and Northern Mexico The plants often grow against a rocky outcrop or within a rocky outcrop in the middle elevations of deserts and mountain deserts and occur from 150 - 3000 m. in elevation.

As mentioned, the Hedgehog produces edible fruit.  As well, some Native Americans collect the flower stems, burn off the spines and mash them. Sugar is added and then the mashed stems are baked to make sweet cakes.

I was attracted to the possibility of drawing this plant the first time I saw a photograph of the blossoms.  It just happened to be the variety that has the orange-red petals -- and you know how much I love this colour!  As I began my research in preparation for doing a drawing, I came across all the different colour variations in which these blossoms can occur.  Each shade of red is beautiful and, for a while, I was tempted to forgo using orange-red and using the deep red instead.  Of course, as you can see above, my favourite red won my internal contest!

Much of the information given above was taken from various Internet sources.


Suki wondering why she has been disturbed
during her nap time!  [Photo by Sarah "Sallie"

Thayer, 2014 -- enhanced by Pencil Sketch app]
Suki, for some reason, has been reasonably well behaved this past week. Even her early morning noise making has been modified somewhat. I hope she isn't coming down with something!

Actually, speaking of her early morning noise making, I have discovered that if I can just manage to ignore Suki from between 4 to 5 a.m., she will usually give up and let me sleep until I wake up on my own around 6 a.m.  Of course, the difficult part is ignoring her between 4 to 5 a.m. as this is the hour during which she finds all sorts of ways to make those unpleasant noises.  Lately, I have taken to just putting one of my pillows over my head and waiting for the noise to end.  Some days I manage it and some days I don't.

I can only assume that hunger awakens her around 4 a.m. and pushes her to pester me until I feed her (this is a technique that usually works fairly well for her during the daytime). For whatever reason, the hour between 4 and 5 a.m. seems to be critical.  It is as though she believes that if she can get me up during that time period, she will get fed. On the other hand, she seems to believe that if she hasn't been able to get me out of bed by 5 a.m., then she may as well give up and just go back to sleep and wait!

Of course, this morning Suki had lots of help in the noise making department...  

It seems that some sort of road work, pipeline work or whatever was going on throughout the night just a half block away from my apartment.  I first became aware of the workmen around 10:30 last night when both Suki and I were startled by the sudden eruption of loud, booming noises.  At first I thought we might be in the midst of a really bad thunderstorm, but after checking the balcony for rain, I knew this wasn't the case.  As well, after listening more closely to the noise, I realized that the booms were too regular to be thunder and must be man-made sounds.

Much to my relief (and Suki's), these booming noises stopped by around 11:15 and I was finally able to fall asleep.  Unfortunately, I was awakened a few hours later by a high-pitched electronic sound. It made me feel as though I was trapped in one of those spy movies where the hero is being tortured by the bad guys who are using high-pitched sounds to drive him to the point of revealing the secret computer code that will enable them to control the world's banking! Seriously, it was a most unpleasant sound.

After shutting the balcony door and putting a pillow over my head, I was finally able to get a bit more sleep until Suki started her campaign around 4 a.m.  After such a night I find myself longing to spend a few nights in the house in rural Alabama where I grew up. At night, the only sounds you could hear, other than the occasional faint whine of a big truck as it geared down on the highway a couple of miles from our home, were the sounds of the night birds such as the Whippoorwill or the owl and in the summertime, the cicadas and the distant sound of the frogs who lived in the pond at the bottom of the hill. 

I apologize for so often writing about me and my sleep difficulties, but sleep is one of the ways in which I can escape, to some extent, this chronic physical pain.  When I talk about my sleep problems caused by Suki or outside noises, I am not including the many times I am awakened each night by pain. All it takes is one wrong move in my sleep to bring me fully awake, desperately trying to find a position, quickly, that will bring me just a bit of relief.  

After each of these episodes, I have to try to calm my body down again so that I can fall asleep once more.  Sometimes I have to get up and take additional pain meds, but I try very hard not to do this once I have fallen asleep each night as it is too easy to get confused about the number of pills I have already taken. Sometimes, however, I just don't have any other choice than to get up and take something. I do, however, try to keep the pill bottles situated in such a way so that there is little chance of overdosing.

My only outing this past week was a visit to the lawyer as I had to make some revisions to my Powers of Attorney, etc.  It was tiring, but much less so than going for medical tests would have been! Otherwise, I have had my usual, quiet week with only a few visits from friends along with phone calls from family and friends.



"Jesus Teaching to the Crowds", icon by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfil what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.  Matthew 13:39

May peace be with you.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Bromeliad -- Vriesea carinata

"Vriesea carinata -- Bromeliad", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

As I mentioned in my posting of May 4, 2014, entitled Bromeliads, Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads) are a family of flowering plants of around 3,170 species native mainly to the tropical and sub tropical regions of South America. These days, they can be found growing from Virginia, USA down to Argentina. Areas with a particular abundance of species include Mexico, some regions of Central America, the West Indies, eastern and southern Brazil and the Andean region from northern Chile to Colombia. 

Most bromeliads grow in moist mountain forests between 1500 - 2500 metres altitude where they have cloud envelopment for several hours a day. A few inhabit nearly rainless coastal deserts. Some survive frequent flooding. Others grow so close to the ocean that they are subjected to salt spray that would kill most other plants. However, no bromeliad can tolerate prolonged subzero temperatures, although a few species have adapted to high tropical mountains where nights can be frosty. 

The species Pitcairnia feliciana is the only bromeliad that is not native to the Americas. Its discovery in Guinea in West Africa was unexpected and it is thought to have reached Africa by long distance dispersal around 12 million years ago.

Humans have been using bromeliads for thousands of years. The Incas, Aztecs, Maya and others used them for food, protection, fibre and for ceremonial purposes.  The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is the only member of the family used for food, however.

Vriesea is a genus of the botanical family Bromeliaceae. The genus is named after Willem Hendrik de Vriese,  a Dutch botanist and physician who lived from 1806–1862. 

Containing some of the largest bromeliad species, these tropical plants harbour a wide variety of insect fauna. In the wild, frogs may go through their whole life cycle living within a Vriesea bromeliad.
This genus has dry capsules that split open to release parachute like seeds similar to the Dandelion. 

Most Vriesea are epiphytes (a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain instead of from the structure to which it is fastened). They have no roots but have special "hold fasts" but these do not take in any nutrients. All nutrients are taken in through the centre "tank" made by a rosette of leaves.

Vriesea carinata, the flowering plant in the drawing above, is a species of the genus Vriesea. This species is endemic to Brazil. Vriesea carinata is commonly known as lobster claw or painted feather. This bromeliad has branching flower spikes that can be found in a range of colours from yellow/orange-red, violet or pink. 

I, of course, chose to use the yellow/orange-red for my drawing as the yellow-red mix provides some of my favourite colours! I well remember when I first begin using oil paints years ago, I had to constantly discipline myself so that I did not use too much Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red in all my paintings!

Birthday card created by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

I have already used this drawing for a friend's birthday card. You can see the cover of the card in the photo to the left. 

I must say again ... I do like those bright colours! 

Much of the above information was taken from various Internet sources, especially Wikipedia.  



Suki on my bed
(photo/drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014)
Suki must certainly be one of the most cleverly devious creatures on the planet!  Just when I think I have fixed, put away, hidden, impounded or thrown out every single item that she can use to try to get me to wake up early and feed her, she discovers something new with which to rouse me from my sleep when her tummy begins to grumble around 5 a.m.

Believe me when I say that I have "fixed, put away, hidden, impounded or thrown out" all sorts of things.  All plastic bags and all wastebaskets lined with such bags are put away in the storage closet prior to my bedtime.  As well, the venetian blinds are fixed so that there is no way to rattle them.  Anything that I think she could use for making enough noise to awaken me is also locked away in the closet.  Last night, as I looked around my home prior to going to bed, I really could not see anything that I thought she might be able to use to awaken me.  But, as I said before, Suki is nothing if not clever.

Not surprisingly, this morning around 5 a.m., I was awakened to the sound of something sliding across the hardwood floor.  I knew immediately that it must be Suki making the noise, but I could not figure out what on earth she was doing to create such a soft, swishing sound. After a few minutes of trying to analyze the noise, combined with the useless yelling of "Suki, stop that", I gave in and got up!

As I turned the corner, I was amazed to find Suki's "scratching post box" from the bedroom sitting in the middle of the hallway.  Behind the box, there loomed the dark shape of a very naughty cat who, I could almost swear, was smiling in triumph.

By the way, this "scratching post box" is about 3 feet long by 1 foot wide and about 3 inches deep.  Made of porous cardboard and seasoned with catnip, it is one of Suki's favourite toys. Normally, it sits, moving only slightly when Suki plays with it, on the floor by the back wall of the bedroom.  This morning, however, Suki had managed to push the box, in starts and stops, all the way from the back of the bedroom, under the bed, out the door and into the hallway.  Each push had created a soft sliding sound which, over time, created just enough noise to finally awaken me from sleep.

Of course, now I was up and awake!  So, after yelling all sorts of unsavoury things about Suki and her ancestry, I gave in and fed her. Tonight I guess I will be putting the "scratching post box" into the storage closet along with all the other items Suki has used in the past to get me up and get herself fed.  I can only wonder what noisemaker this crazy cat is going to come up with next!  I fear that eventually up to half of my possessions will be residing, nightly, in my storage closet!  Why did I have to be graced with such a clever feline?

As for me, other than being slightly sleep deprived, I remain much the same.  As you may recall, in last Sunday's posting I mentioned having a medical appointment scheduled for this past week.  When the day arrived, however, I felt worse than usual and since it was only a follow-up, I cancelled the appointment.  I can reschedule it sometime soon when the pain level is just a bit lower.

Otherwise, outside of a few visits from friends, I have had a very quiet week.  I expect this coming week to be similarly quiet -- for which I am grateful.



May the week ahead be filled with many blessings;
May the trials and difficulties which come our way lead us into greater wisdom and understanding; and, finally,
May the peace of God be with us -- now and always.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Annunciation Revisited II

"Annunciation of Gabriel the Archangel", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

 In my blog posting of Sunday, June 22nd, I wrote the following paragraph:

[This week's] drawing, entitled "Annunciation to Our Lady", was inspired by another John William Waterhouse painting. The Waterhouse painting, entitled simply "The Annunciation", is a large canvas with the two figures (Our Lady and the Archangel Gabriel) placed in a horizontal frame. I, however, decided to do two separate drawings showing a single figure in each vertical frame. Thus, today's drawing is of Our Lady at the moment the Archangel appeared to her. Very soon, I plan to begin working on a drawing of the Archangel Gabriel as shown in this same Waterhouse painting and will probably be posting it a couple of Sundays from now.

As I promised above, this week I am posting the drawing of the Archangel Gabriel inspired by the same Waterhouse painting -- The Annunciation.  

I have posted not only the new drawing showing St. Gabriel, but the previous drawing of Our Lady.  I did this because I wanted you to see both individual drawings so that you could better appreciate the third drawing included in this section -- a combination of the two single drawings into one.

"Annunciation to Our Lady", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Of course, the combined drawing is a bit forced as I have always found it difficult to exactly match two separate drawings when combining them --even when I have purposely worked at making the two fit.  Each drawing occurs in a different time and state of mind and so it seems, to me anyway, that they never really quite fit. Maybe at first glance it appears that both pieces were drawn as one, but a closer look reveals the differences -- not only slight mis-adjustments, but a lack of balance especially in the figures.

"Annunciation (inspired by Waterhouse)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Of course, I may be making more of these seeming discrepancies because I know each drawing so intimately.  I can't help seeing all the mistakes and aspects of each and then when I combine them, all the problem areas just seem magnified.  



Suki taking a break from playing with her
favourite pieces of string!
Suki has had a difficult week!

First there was the strange man who came to visit and stayed well past Suki's midday feeding time. 

Suki really does not enjoy having unknown people in her home and this person stayed for over two hours! Even worse, I stayed with the man, talking and talking, which meant that Suki had to stay in the same room since she insists upon being wherever I am. Oh, did I mention that this strange man was a computer repair person?  Sorry, I thought I had already said something about why he was here, anyway.... 

My computer had developed a couple of unpleasant problems and even though I had tried my best to correct them, I just couldn't seem to manage it.  So, I called in a professional.  It turned out that the problem was some very stubborn malware (malicious software). Fortunately, the computer guy knew all about it and was able to boot that old so and so right out of my hard drive and clean up some other junk while he was at it!

To add insult to injury, as far as Suki was concerned, this strange man stayed until about 20 minutes past noon (he arrived at 10 a.m.).  Suki has me well trained so that she always gets her midday meal by noon at the latest.  As each second passed after the kitchen clock struck noon, I could see Suki becoming more and more upset. The moment the man left, Suki begin to cry piteously.  I fed her immediately.

The second reason Suki had a difficult week was due to the fact that the building's fire alarm went off at about 8 p.m. Thursday. Suki was well into that deep sleep that occurs within a couple of hours after a meal (she had her supper at 6 p.m. as usual) and so she jumped about a foot in the air when the alarm sounded.  She then made a mad dash for the bedroom closet and dove into her "bolt hole" (a storage box with old towels in it) in the very back of the closet!

Suki and I both truly dislike that fire alarm -- it is terribly loud, almost painfully so.  I quickly followed her to the bedroom as the sound is just a bit less intense there than elsewhere in the apartment.  Fortunately, the fire engines arrived quickly and soon after that the alarm was turned off.  I did not smell smoke, hear any running in the hallway and no one came knocking on my door so it was, I assume, another false alarm.  

Suki took no chances, however, and stayed in the back of the closet until after 10 p.m.  Ever since the time the alarm sounded within an hour after going off the first time, Suki has become seriously cautious about the whole matter!

As for me, I have had another quiet week with no appointments of any kind.  The visit from the computer repair person was tiring, but worth it.

This coming week I have a couple of appointments, but I do not expect either to be too difficult as they are both just for follow-up. Otherwise, everything remains pretty much the same with me -- only a few new aches and pains -- nothing major.



This Sunday's Gospel reading contains one of those statements that gives such comfort in times of trial and difficulty:
Come to me all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.  Matt. 11:29-30

I pray that we may all experience that comfort which comes from resting in the Lord.

This Scripture passage reminds me of one of my favourite Irish blessings:

May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow. May the soft winds freshen your spirit. May the sunshine brighten your heart. May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you and  May God enfold you in the mantle of His love.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Aristolochia clematitis

"Aristolochia clematitis, European Dutchman's Pipe", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Aristolochia clematitis, also known as European Dutchman’s Pipe, Birthwort or pipevine, is a twining herbaceous plant in the Aristolochiaceae family, which is native to Europe. The leaves are heart shaped and the flowers are pale yellow and tubular in form. The plant seeks light by ascending the stems of surrounding plants.

This flowering plant, known commonly in Europe as Birthwort, is one of the very old healing plants already in use at the time of the ancient Egyptians and later by the Greeks, including Hippocrates and Pliny. It was an ingredient in a remedy which was used as a panacea against ulcers, fevers, and snake bites. The ancient Egyptian name for the plant translates as “anti-snake”. 

The Latin name Aristolochia is compounded from ├íristos “the best” and l├│chos “birth”. It refers to the use of the plant in aiding childbirth. Hildegard von Bingen taught that Aristolochia opens the closed female inner organs and dissolves hardened menstrual blood. Lonicerus wrote in his 1564 herb book: “Birthwort powdered and mixed with so much myrrh and used with warm wine purifies the uterus and drives out the dead birth. Every woman in childbed should drink this herb and root.”   The species name clematitis derives from the Greek “klema” meaning “tendril”. 

This plant is one of the best examples of the problems arising from the belief that the look of a plant determines its use medicinally. The small yellow flower has a bulb at one end with a tube and a trumpet shaped opening. This was taken to be a representation of a womb and birth canal which led to the idea that the plant should be given to women in labour. It may well have been responsible for many tens of thousands of deaths since earliest times. 

While I find this to be an interesting and attractive plant with great leaves, I could not help thinking, as I worked on this drawing, of all the women and babies who have died through the centuries because someone with influence had decided that this plant had healing or restorative properties -- especially for pregnant women. Birthwort actually does have actual healing properties, but it is also a killer. 

So many stories have been told about this plant through the centuries -- I recall reading somewhere that Pliny is reported to have said that eating this plant with beef immediately after conception would definitely ensure that the woman would give birth to a male child!  Even today, in spite of the knowledge we now have about the effects of aristolochic acid on the human body, there are still people using this deadly plant in herbal and folk medicines in an effort to be cured of all sorts of ailments.



During the past week, we celebrated Braden's birthday.  Thanks to decent weather and my pain medication, I was able to attend!  It was truly a wonderful event and I managed to stay for almost 3 hours before I became too uncomfortable and had to come home.  I was, however, able to be there for the delicious meal, largely prepared by Braden's grandparents, as well as the opening of gifts. Braden was truly overwhelmed by all the stuff that he received from adoring family and friends and I am sure it will take him some time to get around to playing with all of his new toys.

Fortunately, there were plenty of people there taking photos and Braden's mom was kind enough to send some of them to me. Following are a selection of some of my favourites...

His birthday adventures began with a trip to a farm where Braden got to pretend to drive a tractor (this boy does love tractors!) and ride a horse (again).

Braden on a big red tractor!

Braden the equestrian!

Later in the afternoon came the gathering with family and friends for a BBQ followed by the presentation of Braden's birthday cake along with all of his gifts!

Braden taking a moment's rest in his grandparents' back garden (note tractor in hands)!

Braden looking oh, so, cool (note tractor close at hand)!

Braden's birthday cake!  He is more interested in the toys on top than in the cake itself!

A group shot which includes me (Braden wanted me to dispose of the napkin he had just used to wipe cake icing off his hands)!  The other folks in the photo are family members.



Suki being watchful and alert -- probably hoping
I was headed towards the kitchen!
There's not a great deal to report this week about either Suki or myself.

Suki hasn't done anything too terrible during the past 7 days. In fact, rather than Suki doing something outrageous, I am the one who managed to foil Suki in her efforts to awaken me in the early a.m.  Let me tell you what happened...

One recent morning, when I was awakened by Suki's rattling of the blinds on the balcony door at 4:45 a.m., I suddenly had a revelation about an easy way to get Suki to leave me alone so that I could go back to sleep.  I would simply open the balcony door just a bit!

You may well wonder why such an action would cause Suki to cease and desist in her efforts to get food.  I mean, cats usually like open doors -- especially ones that lead to the outside.  Well, it just so happens that Suki is afraid of the noises that she hears coming from that open balcony door -- the noises of a big city coming to life in the early morning.  Suki, remember, is a true indoor cat -- she has never lived outside -- and those street noises are foreign and rather terrifying to her.  She is used to living in a very quiet home where the windows and doors are always closed in order to keep our home quiet.

Well, I can report with delight that the plan worked.  I opened the door just a bit and Suki, after a moment or two of hesitation, retreated to the back of the bedroom closet where she stayed until I finally awakened again at 7 a.m. At that point, I closed the balcony door and almost immediately Suki presented herself to be fed! 

Since then, I have used this trick several more times and so far it has worked well each time.  All I can hope is that Suki never gets used to the noises and starts to ignore them.  If this happens, then I am right back to trying less effective methods to get her to leave me alone while I get my normal six hours of sleep uninterrupted by kitty cat "feed me now" tactics!

As for me, I did have one medical appointment this past week, but it was just a regular followup appointment.  You already know about my outing to help Braden celebrate his birthday. 

Unfortunately, I am still in the process of recovering from that experience.  However, it was well worth any extra tiredness as I got to be with Braden on his special day.  As well, I got to visit with his family and friends -- some of whom I had not seen since Braden's parents' wedding some years ago.  The party was a wonderful experience and well worth any extra pain and discomfort I may still be suffering.



"Icon Saints Peter and Paul", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

"I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16: 18-19

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Annunciation Revisited

"Annunciation to Our Lady", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Even though we are several months past the date for celebrating the Annunciation (in fact today is the Feast of Corpus Christi), I felt that today was the time for posting this particular drawing. 

My drawing, entitled "Annunciation to Our Lady", was inspired, once again, by another John William Waterhouse painting.  The Waterhouse painting, entitled simply "The Annunciation", is a large canvas with the two figures (Our Lady and the Archangel Gabriel) placed in a horizontal frame.  I, however, decided to do two separate drawings showing a single figure in each vertical frame. Thus, today's drawing is of Our Lady at the moment the Archangel appeared to her.  Very soon, I plan to begin working on a drawing of the Archangel Gabriel as shown in this same Waterhouse painting and will probably be posting it a couple of Sundays from now.  

In my drawing, I decided to show Our Lady working at a implement used for making thread from carded wool -- something like a very simple spinning wheel.  I am not sure how accurate my depiction is as I worked from some drawings of various primitive instruments used for this purpose; however, I tried to imagine what type of implement Our Lady could have had for spinning the woollen thread that her family would use in the making of their clothes.

As I worked on this drawing, I was definitely trying to capture a look of surprise and amazement on the face of Our Lady, but I remain unsatisfied by my attempts to accomplish my goal.  As I have stated previously, I am a pretty good "copyist", but not a trained artist.  I mention this so that you won't be surprised if I end up revising this drawing in the future -- as I have done with many other drawings in the past!   



Following are what appear to be three watercolours of pastoral scenes.  They are, in fact, photographs to which have been applied the "Pencil Sketch pad" app I discovered a few weeks ago.

I am aware that the ability to create similar effects with photos has been around for some time; however, maybe it's just my failing eyesight, but I really like the results given by this software. Particularly, I like the gentle quality of the light as well as the soft shadows created by that light.

My favourite of these three is (as you probably guessed) the third picture -- the one of the trees.  Not only does it have the natural characteristics of a watercolour, but the software manages to retain the lovely hues and tones of the colour green.    

I would be interested in knowing which one of these three you would most like to have hanging on your own wall in your own home or office.

"Watercolour" of a pastoral scene created from photo after applying Sketch Pad software

"Watercolour" of a pastoral scene created from photo after applying Sketch Pad software

"Watercolour" of a pastoral scene created from photo after applying Sketch Pad software



Suki as a kitten watching  one of her
favourite TV channels with me
Suki really isn't much of a TV viewer.  Normally, all the murder mysteries I enjoy watching just put her to sleep.  She even seems to find fast car chases to be rather boring!

She does, however, enjoy watching the Aquarium Channel! Even though she doesn't care for fish as food, she does seem to enjoy watching them swim.  It can be really funny to see Suki jumping up on the table and trying to get inside the TV screen where those dastardly fish are swimming around and around!

The only other time Suki gets very excited by the TV is whenever there is a real cat meowing in any show.  Whether it is a kitten mewing or a Siamese yowling, Suki's ears perk right up whenever such sounds occur -- even when she appears to be deeply asleep. Sometimes she even gets up and searches the apartment, trying to find the cat she has just heard on the television!  

Poor kitty... I really feel sorry for her at times like these and think that maybe I should have gotten a second cat a long time ago to keep Suki company.  Of course, the moment I think about how much extra work that would mean for me, I dismiss such foolish thoughts.  Anyway, upon serious reflection, I am pretty certain that Suki would not really be pleased at all with any other creature who expected her to share her food, toys and, most of all, me!

As for me, I continue to do much the same.  

Once again I had a week free of medical appointments.  I find this to be a great blessing as these trips always end up leaving me in much more pain than I would have been in otherwise.  As well, these doctor visits rarely seem to produce anything other than more bad news anyway!

This coming week does include a medical appointment as well as a very important engagement occurring on Saturday the 28th.  I am sure I will have both photos and lots of comments to share when I prepare my posting for next Sunday.  So make certain you don't miss my column for the first Sunday in July!



The Gospel reading for this Sunday contains some of the most astounding words in the New Testament.  One cannot read these words without agreeing with C. S. Lewis when he said:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

"Corpus Christi", icon by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Following is a portion of today's Gospel reading:
Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me."   John 6:52ff

After reading these and similar passages from the Gospels, one must either dismiss Christ as a madman or, as Lewis said, fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.

I wish all of you a blessed Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  


May God bless us and Our Lady intercede for us in the week ahead and may that peace which God alone can give fill our hearts and minds today and always.  Amen.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Camellia and Morning Glory "Black"

"Camellia x 'Night Rider' ", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

The first featured drawing this week is of a Camellia hybrid by the name of Camellia x 'Night Rider'.  It is also sometimes listed as Camellia japonica 'Night Rider'.

The flowers and young foliage of this slow-growing camellia are deep reddish-purple with the underside of the flower petals tending towards black. 

The Night Rider Camellia originated in New Zealand from a cross between Camellia 'Ruby Bells' and C. japonica 'Kuro-tsubaki'. The cross was made by the late Oswald Blumhardt (1931-2004) in New Zealand and the plant flowered for the first time in 1980. 

Blumhardt was a plantsman, nurseryman, hybridizer, and plant explorer of the first order. Working with a variety of taxa including Magnolias, Rhododendrons, Camellias, and Orchids, he produced a quantity of hybrids, many of which are important commercial plants. 'Night Rider' is his best known Camellia. 

Family: Theaceae; Botanical Name: Camellia 'Night Rider'; Plant Common Names: hybrid camellia and Night Rider camellia. 

As I have mentioned in previous postings, Camellias are broad-leaved evergreens from warm temperate regions of eastern Asia. They are known for their abundant showy flowers, their handsome leathery foliage and their longevity.

Much of the above information was taken from various Internet sources.

I was attracted to this plant because of the unusual colour of its blossoms.  It is one of several dark red or dark purple flowering plants I have been working on recently.  For some reason, at the moment, I seem to be very attracted to flowers of dark colouring -- some so dark that they appear to be black.

Here is second featured flowering plant for today -- another almost-black flower:

"Ipomoea purpurea, Morning Glory 'Kniola's Black' ", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Ipomoea purpurea, Morning Glory 'Kniola's Black' has deep velvety, near-black purple blooms which are accented with a vivid cerise throat topped with stars.  As beautiful as these blossoms are, this particular morning glory can be very aggressive.  Unless managed carefully, 'Kinola's Black' can become a nuisance plant.

This plant is, of course, one of the very familiar Purple, Tall or Common Morning Glory species in the genus Ipomoea, family Convolvulaceae.  It is native to Mexico and Central America. Like all morning glory varieties the plant entwines itself around structures, growing to a height of 2–3 metres. The leaves are heart-shaped and the flowers are trumpet-shaped, 3–6 cm in diameter.



Suki looking very displeased -- I disturbed her nap
in order to take a photo!
(Pencil Sketch Software has been applied)
Suki and I have had a very difficult week simply because I became determined to put her on the diet that the vet said I should!  

When I had Suki at the vet a few months ago, he told me that if I could get her to lose a bit of weight, she would have less pain and discomfort in her arthritic joints.  So, I have tried over the ensuing weeks to put her on a diet and keep her on it, but, usually, I gave up after about 12 hours.  It seemed too difficult to have my life constantly interrupted by a begging cat. And, you know, she doesn't just sit at my feet and look at me with a mournful expression like a dog might -- oh, no -- she jumps up on me, meows loudly, tries to lick my face, plops herself down on top of whatever it is I am trying to do and so on...

Last weekend, however, I noticed that she was limping a bit more once again and so I made the decision that I was going to put Suki on a diet and keep her on it!  Let me tell you, because of that decision, this has truly been the week from Hell!

My plan was to only feed her the turkey and gravy she craves so badly 4 times a day.  That equals two of the small Fancy Feast cans which seems, to me anyway, to be more than sufficient.  Suki definitely does not agree with this regimen.  I also decided that I would feed her at the times when I have my own meals.  Normally, I have breakfast, lunch, supper and an evening snack.  

Believe it or not, I have actually managed to keep Suki on this diet for the entire week, but in order to do so, I have truly had to endure some really unpleasant experiences.  As well, I have even had to shut Suki in the bedroom on occasion in order to keep her from pestering me to death!

As I have mentioned previously in the blog, Suki gets very vocal whenever there is a shut door in the apartment.  Her rule seems to be that there can be no doors completely closed anywhere other than the front door and the closet door where the dreaded vacuum cleaner lives.  Otherwise, every door, even closet doors, must be open just a crack -- just enough for a curious kitty to push her way in should she want to!  

To be honest, I have even used my big headphones on occasion to block out the Siamese cat-type sounds coming from behind the shut bedroom door.  After a while, of course, I give up and let her out to pester me some more. Sometimes I do this because I feel sorry for Suki, sometimes because I feel guilty and sometimes because I fear my neighbours may end up calling the police or the Humane Society because of the noisy, pitiful cries coming from my apartment!

At any rate, I hope to stick to the diet for Suki throughout this coming week and, hopefully, when I weigh her next Sunday, she will have lost at least a pound or two.  Actually, the vet said she only needed to lose a couple of pounds so maybe by next Sunday the worst will be over. Of course, I will have to keep her on "short rations" from now on so that all this suffering will not  have been in vain.

As for me, I am doing pretty much the same.  There have been no medical appointments this past week for which I am grateful.  I did hear back about my potassium level and, at the moment, it is sitting at the very top of the normal range.  I am hoping it will stay there from now on.



Since the earliest days of Christian artistic expressions of Biblical passages, the three angels visiting Abraham and Sarah in the Genesis story have been seen as representing the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  The most famous iconic representation is by Rublev (see below):

Rublev Troitsa
Today's feast of the Most Holy Trinity is a concept uniquely Christian -- that God is three persons in One -- one God in Three Persons.  That God is not alone in His immense universe, but is, in fact, a community of three persons in one God.  Within the One Godhead there is a constant, loving community.

I pray that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will bless us on this special feast day by giving us all an increased awareness of His presence within us, around us and throughout the whole of creation. Amen.

Peace be with you.  Amen.