Sunday, 4 October 2015

Caesalpinia pulcherrii -- Dwarf Poinciana

"Caesalpinia pulcherrii -- Dwarf Poinciana", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Caesalpinia pulcherrima, a species of flowering plant in the pea family, Fabaceae, is native to the tropics and subtropics of the Americas. It probably originated in the West Indies, but its exact origin is unknown due to widespread transfer of the plant by both natural and man-made methods over the centuries. 

Common names for Caesalpinia pulcherrima include: Dwarf Poinciana, Peacock Flower, Red Bird of Paradise, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Pride of Barbados and Flamboyant-de-jardin.  

Caesalpinia pulcherrii -- Dwarf Poinciana
(photo taken from Internet)
Dwarf Poinciana is a shrub/tree with multiple trunks (see photo at right). The butterfly-attracting flowers are brilliant red-orange (the most common color), yellow or dark pink, depending on the variety. Young plants have thorns on the branches but they disappear as the plant matures and bark begins to form. Seed pods form as the flowers die. All seeds of Caesalpinia are poisonous. 

Although called “Poinciana”, it is not actually related to the famous Royal Poinciana tree. 

Caesalpinia pulcherrima is the national flower of Barbados, where the plant is known as "Pride of Barbados." The flower is depicted on the Queen's personal Barbadian flag. 

The genus designation of Caesalpinia is taken from the name of Andreas Caesalpini, a 16th century Italian botanist and chief physician to Pope Clement VIII. The species name of pulcherrima is taken from the Latin and means "beautiful" or "most beautiful".

Occasionally the flowers appear to form a "circlet".  I came across several photos depicting this and was sufficiently intrigued by the idea of a "crown" of Caesalpinia pulcherrima that I decided to use this formation as a model for my drawing.

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


Some new photos of "my boys"...

Braden showing his younger brother how to look like a "tough guy".
I think his younger brother is impressed!

Braden watching a movie, perhaps, while his younger brother is watching him.

Forgive the fuzziness of the photo, but it was captured from a video.
I wanted to include it because it was a video of Rònàn walking.  You 

can see from the photo that he has stopped for a moment to rest against 
the wall, but, believe you me, he soon left the wall and moved rapidly 
through the door and on down the hallway -- even trying to 
climb the stairs before his mom grabbed him for his own safety!



Suki waking up after a long nap in MY chair!
I don't think I have ever mentioned the relationship between Suki and my chair so let me tell you about it.

If you take a careful look at the photo to your left. In the photo, you can see a half-awake Suki in a tan-coloured recliner, a table with various items on it and one side of a wingback chair.  This happens to be a small section of my living room. While the scene may appear to be quite "homey", there is one item in it which is out of place -- Suki!

Normally, if a photo is taken of Suki in my living room, she will be
Suki looking at me reproachfully after being
awakened from her nap.
seen in various stages of wakefulness in the wingback chair, not the recliner (see the photo to your right).  The only time she goes to sleep in the recliner (better known as MY chair), is when I leave the apartment for any reason.  

I'm not sure how long it takes after I go out for a doctor's appointment or whatever, but sometime after I leave, Suki moves from her chair into mine -- which is where I always find her when I return home (unless she is waiting by the front door).  

Now, before you say: "Oh, isn't that sweet.  Suki misses you so much that she gets in your chair to wait for you.  What an adorable cat!", you should hear the rest of the story -- or, rather, what happens next.

I come home and find Suki asleep in my chair.  She wakes up, yawns at me, maybe says a "meow" or two and then goes right back to sleep (unless it's meal time, of course).  Meanwhile, I go and change into my house clothes, grab a glass of ice water, take some pain medication and head for a rest in my recliner.  As you may know, my recliner is the only place I can sit now where my neck and back get the proper support so that the pain is not too overwhelming. 

As I approach My chair, I start telling Suki that she has to move. She looks up at me with that look which says "make me"!  Of course, I am in no mood by now for any nonsense and even though all I want to do is collapse into the comfort of My chair, I have to grab 13 pounds of unhappy cat and dump her into the wingback chair (also known as Suki's chair).  After glaring at me for a few moments, Suki usually settles down in her chair and goes back to sleep.

Her behaviour, of course, makes me realize that the truth is that Suki is not being sentimental when she climbs into My chair whenever I go out; rather, she is simply determined to stake her claim on every piece of comfortable furniture in our home.  In other words, she is telling me once again that she is in charge around here, not me.  I agree -- except when it comes to My recliner!

Otherwise, things continue as usual in my life.  I had an appointment with the gastroenterologist this past Tuesday.  This was a follow-up to my visit to him three months ago.  After various tests and a thorough reading of my chart, he informed me that there was really nothing he could do to relieve the pain in my stomach due, no doubt, to the ulcers residing there.  He told me that so long as I had to take anti-inflammatory medications in such large doses, my stomach was going to protest. I told him that since the pain in my stomach isn't there all the time, I felt it was something which I could tolerate.

Personally, I had expected this answer from him all along.  In fact, I would never have chosen to see him in the first place but I did it to appease my family doctor.  I think she wants to be certain that she has tried to do everything she can to help me.  She is a good doctor and seems to really care about my suffering.  Anyway, as I told the gastroenterologist, previously when I have tried to reduce (or even stop) the anti-inflammatory meds, within a few days, I have found myself unable to walk at all (or even move very much) due to the excruciating pain in all my joints.

I have an appointment this week with another type of specialist and, in this case, I am really hoping that he will be able to help me. I will let you know in next Sunday's posting if he thinks he can.



"Icon -- Let The Children Come To Me", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 rev.

People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing."  Mk. 10:13-16 [Mk. 10:2-16]

As you may be aware, the first part of today's Gospel (verses 2-12) have Christ speaking about marriage and divorce.  However, rather than focussing on that aspect of His teaching, I decided to focus, once again, on the part of His discourse regarding the treatment of children. 

I continue to be so concerned about the large number of refugee children in various parts of the world at the present time.  I really think that any of us who put a "stumbling block" in the way of these children getting the care and help that they need, will someday have to answer for it -- both to our own inner sense of justice and to that Justice found in Divine Love.

Looking back at my own childhood, even though I lived with the constant threat of violence and the inner tension and stress which results from such an atmosphere, I did not ever have to worry about the basics: shelter, food, clothing and the stability that comes from living in a place where you and your family belong and are accepted.  How very different it is for so many children throughout the world right now.

May the "ears" of our hearts become ever more open so that we will hear Love, Itself, calling to us through the cries of these little ones -- crying because they are hungry, cold, frightened and, sometimes, even separated from family and friends.  Then, having heard, may we respond with acts of loving kindness.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Skull Symbolism

"Young Woman Holding A Skull", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

The human skull is a powerful symbol used by all cultures, from pre-history onward, to symbolize both death and life, good as well as evil, power, strength and even fearlessness. 

The human mind has assigned these various meanings over the centuries and many of them are still valid even today. The meanings, of course, vary from culture to culture; although, in all societies, the skull is seen as representative of our own mortality and death.  In particular, let me give the following examples of the use of  the skull as:  a)symbol of human sinfulness; b)symbol of loyalty and power; c)symbol of the briefness of life versus eternity; d)symbol for honouring the dead; and, e)symbol of the "house of the soul". 

"Icon -- The Crucifixion of Christ",
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie"
Thayer, rev. 2015
a)I have been fascinated for years by the various uses mankind has made of the human skull. I recall the first time I noticed the skull, along with a few other bones, at the foot of the cross in many crucifixion icons. After research, I learned that it symbolized the skull of Adam through whom Christians believe sin first entered the world making the sacrifice of Christ a necessity in order to provide all people with the means of salvation.

b)On the other hand, I had a dear friend who was fascinated with the various insignia used by the military during the Third Reich in Germany. When he showed me his collection, I was particularly struck by the use of the skull in Nazi SS insignia. It was called the Totenkopf (death’s-head) and represented loyalty unto death.  It also, I think, represented the frightening aspect of power.

c)During the years when I was very involved with religious communities, I saw many paintings of various saints sitting next to a table or desk on which rested a human skull. This, I was told, was to remind them of their mortality – that we are all in the process of dying from the day we are born. The skull was an aid to help them focus on the things of eternity and not the things of this world. 

"Day of the Dead" Procession
Photo copied from Wikipedia
d)As well, skulls are very evident is the Mexican (Latin American) holiday known as the “Day of the Dead” (Dia de los Muertos) — a holiday celebrated starting October 31 - November 2 (All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day). These are days for praying for the dead, visiting and cleaning their graves and honouring them with processions of skeletons and skulls designed of coloured sugar (see photo).

e)The skull was also a pervasive and powerful symbol to the ancient Celts. Celtic culture viewed the head or skull to be the seat of power. Some texts point to the skull as the house of the soul. Archaeological findings show us the Celts tossed skulls into sacred wells as offerings. Celts were very interested in openings such as doors, windows and so-called “thin places” and appear to have seen the openings in a skull, particularly the round eye sockets, as possible portals to another dimension.
"Young Woman Holding a Skull",
(black and white version by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015)

As for today's drawing itself, I attempted to make it as stark as possible.  At one point, I tried doing it totally in black and white. However, after originally editing the colour out of the drawing, I finally ended up, as you can see above, retaining some colour.  

As usual, I am far from satisfied with the results so don't be surprised if I end up posting a revision before too long! 

Some details included in the above information were taken from various Internet sources.


"Suki with a Friend", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Suki has been well behaved for another week -- I am amazed and just a bit frightened!  

I mean, what if she is sick or depressed? I keep obsessing over whether to take her to the vet for a checkup, but, thus far, I have chosen the "wait and see" option.  

I mean, she could have finally decided not to be so demanding about food and about requiring-my-complete-attention-numerous-times-a-day-so-that-her-ears-and-chin-may-be-scratched-properly, couldn't she?  It is possible, isn't it?

Meanwhile, I am just trying not to obsess too much and to just enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere in my home -- especially since I am having more difficulty than ever in managing my pain problems.

I saw the doctor at the pain clinic this past week and he agreed that we need to do something more about the pain.  He said that with all the various forms of pain management available to the medical profession today, we should be able to find some combination that works for me.  So the experiments have begun!

The first item we decided to try was lab-created THC.  It comes in capsule form so the dosage can be carefully controlled (unlike what happens when you are smoking a joint!).  I saw the doctor on Monday and received the medication from the pharmacy on Tuesday.  I tried the new medication for the next three nights only to discover that it left me feeling light-headed and very weak in the knees. Most importantly, it didn't seem to have any noticeable effect on the pain. 

So we can cross THC off the list. I wonder what he will decide to try next? Wish me luck! 



"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, 
it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and 
you were thrown into the sea."  Mk. 9:42-43
(Photo of Pope Francis with children at Vatican, December, 2014)

"Whoever causes one of these little ones, who believe in me, to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' "   
Mk 9:42-43, 45, 47-48

This passage terrified me as a child.  I was told so often that I was a very naughty girl that I had images of myself ending up without feet, hands and eyes!  

Thankfully, in time, I learned about such things as symbolism, allegory, metaphors, etc. This knowledge, in turn, enabled me to understand that we are not being asked to chop off body parts or gouge out eyes, but, rather, we are asked to take the whole business of right and wrong very seriously. 

Since this passage begins with the powerful statement regarding children being led astray, it is obvious that Christ is telling us that our right or wrong choices regarding the care and protection of young children are some of the most important we can make.

So, let us pray that we may have the wisdom to always know what is the most loving choice and the courage to choose it.  


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Bouvardia laevis

"Bouvardia laevis -- 'Mexican Firecrackers' ", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Bouvardia is a genus of about 30 species of evergreen herbs and shrubs in the family Rubiaceae, native to Central America (Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama) where it is found up to an altitude of 4400 metres.

Bouvardia, formerly listed under the generic name of Aeginetia, was given the name, Bouvardia, in honour of Charles Bouvard, the personal physician to Louis XIII and the superintendent of the Royal Gardens in Paris. These 4-petaled, star-like flowers grow in clusters on thin, branching stems, like small flower bouquets in soft shades of pink, white, yellow, salmon and red. In the language of flowers, Bouvardia, with its delicate scent and refined appearance, is said to represent the quality of “enthusiasm.”

Bouvardia laevis, the particular variety of Bouvardia featured in today's drawing, is a small shrub with dark green leaves and yellow/salmon coloured flowers. Although this is a hot weather plant, it prefers to grow in the shade of large trees so that it is protected from too much direct sunlight.

The species name of laevis means "smooth" in Latin.  I assume that this refers either to the texture of the flowers or the leaves or both.

"Bouvardia ternifolia -- Firecracker 
Bush", drawing by Sarah "Sallie"
Thayer, 2010

I did some drawings of Bouvardia back in 2010.  One was a cultivar named "Royal Daphne" and the other was the "Firecracker Bush".  As you can see from the drawings below, they both share the Bouvardia identifiers of 4-petaled, star-like flowers growing in clusters on branching stems. 

"Bouvardia X domestica -- 'Royal 
Daphne' ", drawing by Sarah
"Sallie" Thayer, 2010

While looking at the drawings done in 2010, I realized that I must have re-worked both of them at some point since then as they are not exactly the same as the drawings I originally posted.  What can I say... you know me well enough by now to know that I am never fully satisfied with any drawing that I do!

Botanical information on Bouvardia laevis was taken from various Internet sources.


Here are some new photos of "my boys" looking as good as ever!

A car for each hand!  Things don't get much better than this unless.... (see next photo) are getting to ride on a motorcycle-go-around, dreaming of the day when you just
might have your very own "bike"!

"Captain Adventure" is on the move -- watch out everyone!

"OK, I am ready for my next adventure ... what mischief shall I get into next?!"



Suki's Dilemma:  "Should I get up or just go
back to sleep?"
Suki has had a quiet week which means I have had a quiet week as well.

The only exciting event which occurred for Suki was when my very dear friend, G, sent me a photo which she had taken recently with her iPad. How, you may well ask, was this an exciting event for a cat? Well, it was because the photo contained an image of an black cat that happens to be G's new neighbour!

G's New Neighbour, (iPad Photo by G.W.)

When I called Suki over to take a look at my computer screen, on which I had the photo displayed, she exhibited a great deal of interest in the screen. Of course, since I'm really not sure just what Suki sees when she looks at things, I can't be certain that her interest was due to the fact that she could see another cat. Perhaps she was just excited because I was, for once, allowing her to actually get up close and personal with my laptop computer (I usually am very careful to keep her away from it otherwise she will try and sleep on the warm keyboard).

Anyway, after a great deal of sniffing, she sat down on my desk, yawned, licked her fur in a few places and then proceeded to go to sleep -- right next to my laptop keyboard!

The only exciting thing I did this week was visit the specialist who looks after my asthma.  While I was there, he asked me to have another lung function test -- yuck. 

After I had completed the test, he informed me that my lung function had not changed over the past months.  He concluded the visit by giving me a prescription to cover my medication for the next six months -- which means that I won't have to have this test again until my next appointment with him in March of next year -- Hooray, hooray! 



"Icon -- Let the Children Come to Me", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” Mk. 9:30-37

Very young Syrian and Iraqui refugees
(taken from U.N. photos online)
However we choose to respond to the world's current refugee crisis is between us and our own conscience.  However, those who profess to be followers of Christ need to carefully take note of the last verse from today's Gospel:  "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not only me, but the One who sent me."

May I put aside my fears and join with others in welcoming the stranger, the homeless, the orphan and especially the children -- just as He has always done and will always do.


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Listening to Nature

"Listening to Nature", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Today's drawing was inspired by another painting by the artist Sophie Anderson.  Her work was entitled "The Song of the Lark". I chose to have my subject listening instead to a male cardinal singing!  I did attempt to use a pose similar to Anderson's for the reclining woman as I mainly wanted to challenge myself to attempt to draw the right hand and arm in that unusual position.  I am still, as always, far from satisfied with the results.

"Girl at Butterfly Conservatory --
(holding bowl of sugar water)"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer,
Speaking of Anderson, you may recall that I wrote about her back in February when I featured another drawing based on one of her paintings.  The posting appeared on the 15th of February, 2015 and my drawing that I featured showed a young woman surrounded by butterflies. 

Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823-1903) was a French-born British artist who specialized in painting children and women in scenes from everyday life, typically in rural settings. She began her career as a lithographer and painter of portraits, collaborating with Walter Anderson (an English artist who was a painter, lithographer, and engraver) whom Sophie eventually married.

Listening to Nature has always been, for me, an intriguing concept. Growing up in the country as I did meant that I learned at an early age to listen to the sounds around me -- listening to hear what was being said by Mother Nature.  

I remember so well walking out into the woods near our house. They started just beyond the fenced pasture behind our barn. There, on a cool, windy, Autumn day, I would find a sheltered spot under the high branches of a stand of longleaf pine trees growing in a mix of oak and hickory.  The pine straw would be thick and warmed from the sun. Snuggling into a hollow, I would be well-hidden and protected from the wind.  Then I would begin to listen.

The most obvious sound was the wind soughing through the pine trees, but as soon as I would get really quiet, I would hear other sounds as well.  There were the bird calls that would begin to repeat once I had stopped moving about (upon my arrival at the spot, the birds had either flown away or else gone very quiet).  Next I would begin to hear rustling in the leaves nearby and I knew that, most likely, these sounds were being made by field mice, ground-hunting birds and insects. If I remained very still for quite some time, I would often have birds, mice or other small creatures come close to where I was sitting. 

Even though none of these sounds were loud or harsh, when combined in the "silence" of the woods, they could seem amazingly clear with various sounds combining with others.  It was almost as though I was listening to a symphony with passages labelled allegro, tremolo and vibrato. Some sounds lively and fast followed by a rapid alteration between two or more sounds leading to a quick variation in pitch and then silence again except for the wind soughing through the pines.  What a beautiful masterpiece Nature would "play" for me when I took the time to listen.  I really miss, perhaps more than anything else, being able to be out in the natural world -- tasting the wind, smelling the earth, seeing Nature up close, touching trees, plants and creatures and hearing the song of Nature.

Details on Sophie Gengembre Anderson were taken from Wikipedia.


"Why are you interrupting my nap?"

Because most of the visitors I have these days are well known to Suki, I had more or less forgotten about her embarrassing behaviour that always occurs whenever someone "unknown" comes to call. I was clearly reminded this past week, however. 

I had a phone call from a woman I had not spoken with for a number of years. The two of us had been members of the same professional organization back in the 1990s. Due to health problems, I left the organization in early 2000.  It turned out that she was calling to see if and a friend could stop by for a short visit in order to get my input on what I recalled about the group's history from those years as they are in the process of writing about it.

Reluctantly, I agreed to see them the following day -- I say "reluctantly" because all visits are difficult for me now as I have to work at keeping the pain away from my facial expressions and my movements while visitors are here as well as delay my next dose of morphine.  However, I did want to help them if I could.

Upon their arrival, I suddenly realized that I had something else to worry about -- something I had forgotten about until they politely removed their shoes upon entering my home as is the custom of visitors here in Canada. I realize that I had forgotten about the problem of Suki and shoes!

As I think I may have mentioned several years ago in another posting about my beloved kitty, Suki has a thing about shoes.  As you know, if a workman noisily arrives, Suki heads for her hiding place in my bedroom closet. However, when guests arrive, Suki, who seems to know beforehand that they are expected, sits and watches as the person (or persons) enters and removes their footwear. Then Suki slowly proceeds towards their discarded shoes or boots.

Suki doesn't wait politely until the guest(s) and I are seated and in conversation -- no, she heads immediately for their shoes as soon as they begin to walk away.  This means that the guest(s) see where she is headed and so they watch her as she begin to carefully sniff the inside and outside of their footwear. 
Suki Doing Her Sniffing Thing!

Since most people are a wee bit self-conscious about the possibility of having stinky feet or shoes, this behaviour of Suki's always creates some embarrassingly awkward moments for everyone.  I try to smooth things over by saying something like: "oh, don't mind her, that's just Suki's way of getting acquainted with you!", but I can see that my visitor(s) is uncomfortable about the whole business.

At this point, I usually just sigh and say something along the lines of: "I do apologize for what my cat is doing now and for what she will do next".  This always brings a quizzical look to the face(s) of my guest(s) and so I explain that after she has sniffed their shoes, she will probably be coming over to sniff their feet as well! (I can only assume Suki wants to make a connection between the footwear and the owner of said footwear).

At this point, everyone gives a nervous laugh or two and we go and settle ourselves in the living room.  Since my guest(s) is forewarned, we are usually able to continue our conversation and ignore Suki when she quietly walks in and begins sniffing feet.  If the person visiting is a cat lover then they understand that cats do strange things like this; however, if they really don't care for cats in the first place, conversation can become quite strained at this point.

Fortunately, the ladies who came to visit seemed reasonably comfortable with Suki's behaviour once I had explained things to them and we were able to have our discussion.  For whatever reason, they only stayed a short time and then hurriedly put their shoes back on before saying their "thanks" and "goodbyes".  Suki simply sat there and watched them in that scary, Sphinx-like way she has.  Maybe, the truth is that she really doesn't care for visitors and behaves in this strange way to frighten folks away... who knows with this crazy kitty-cat!

Otherwise, it has been a quiet week for both of us.  I did have a medical test on Tuesday which was arduous but uneventful.  As well, I had a doctor's appointment scheduled for this past Friday; however, I had a "senior moment" due to the short week after a long weekend and kept thinking that Friday was only Thursday and so ended up missing the appointment!  What can I say other than my memory just ain't what it used to be.  I will have to call and apologize tomorrow (Monday) and arrange for another appointment.  I do have another medical appointment this week so I am putting up post-it notes in several places so that I won't be missing this one.



"Icon -- Christ said 'take up your cross and follow Me' ", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 revision

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”  Mk 8:27-35

As an illustration for today's Gospel reading, I used one of my "Stations of the Cross" icons -- the one where Christ meets the women of Jerusalem.  It seemed appropriate since it clearly shows that Christ not only called us to "take up our cross and follow Him", He demonstrated exactly what he meant.

So, if we are followers of Christ, then we have to try to do what he did which includes picking up and carrying the crosses we are each given.  It doesn't mean constantly looking around and trying to determine if my cross is larger or heavier than another's cross.  Nor does it mean refusing to carry our crosses because we feel that we are not being treated fairly in this "cross carrying" business!

Nor does it mean we have to like our "cross" although sometimes being able to embrace it seems to make it much lighter. What it does mean is that we have to deal with whatever life gives us without blaming others for the difficulties, misfortunes, etc. with which we are currently living. 

Let us pray: for the strength to carry whatever crosses we have been given; the wisdom to accept that "crosses" are a normal part of life; and, the humility to acknowledge (and request) our need for help from our brothers and sisters in order to carry our crosses.  

May we not be afraid to face whatever the future may bring -- even if things occur that will make our cross even heavier.  Let us look to Him as He walks ahead of us, showing us the Way -- always remembering that whenever we walk with Him, we are walking in Love.


Sunday, 6 September 2015

Afzelia quanzensis -- Pod Mahogany Tree

"Afzelia quanzensis -- Pod Mahogany Tree Blossoms and Buds", drawing by 
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Afzelia quanzensis, featured in today’s posting, gets its genus name, Afzelia, from the name, Adam Afzelius, a 19th century Swedish botanist who lived in Somalia. The specific name, quanzensis, refers to the Cuanza River in Angola, where the tree was first found and described by European botanists such as Adam Afzelius

Afzelia is a genus in the family of Fabaceae (legumes). The thirteen species found in this genus are all trees native to tropical Africa or Asia. 

Afzelia quanzensis --
Pod Mahogany Tree

Afzelia quanzensis is a very attractive, medium-sized, deciduous tree, with bright green leaves that turn to a copper colour in autumn. Commonly known as pod mahogany (although not a true mahogany), it may grow to 35 metres in height with a large spreading crown. Its bark has a grey-green or creamy grey bark that is patterned with raised rings. The flowers are sweet-scented, borne in erect clusters and are green with pinkish-red petals. Large brown seed pods are produced in late summer. In autumn they split open to release distinctively marked black seeds with scarlet “tips” known as arils. These seeds are in great demand for ornaments and charms. 

Afzelia quanzensis leaves, pods and seeds

The distribution of Afzelia quanzensis stretches from Northern KwaZulu-Natal, through to Limpopo, Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries. It is also found in Somalia. 

In the past, an Afzelia quanzensis root infusion was used as a remedy for bilharzia and for other eye complaints. As well, an infusion made from both the roots and bark was believed to bring huntsmen luck if they washed in it. 

Afzelia quanzensis is now a protected tree in South Africa.

This was a very interesting plant to draw as the shape and design are very unlike the majority of flowers, including those found on most blossoming trees.  I would really like to see what the pod mahogany tree looks like in full bloom.  I searched for a photo online, but could not find one that satisfied me.  If any of you come across a photo that shows the tree in full blossom, please send me a link.  Thanks. 

The above information and the two photographs were taken from various Internet sources.


"Yes, I agree ... I am beautiful"
Photo and artistic additions by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015
Whenever I have guests (and Suki deigns to put in an appearance), the visitors always say: "What a beautiful cat."

Suki responds to this praise, usually, by allowing them to scratch behind her ears and under her chin while purring very loudly. I stand back and observe her behaviour while taking a moment to really look at Suki.

Upon doing so, I agree that she is, indeed, a beautiful cat -- a bit on the overweight side, but still beautiful.  At the same time, I can't help but be aware of the real Suki -- the cat I live with 24/7 -- the cat that awakens me every morning using various, annoying techniques -- the cat that has to get in my lap and try to push the telephone receiver out of my hand every time I get a phone call (which makes it extremely difficult to concentrate) -- the cat that sits and stares at me, unblinkingly, as the second hand on the clock slowly approaches her feeding time -- and so on and so on.

Not that I seriously mind any of these (or other) aspects of my life with Suki, but they do keep me mindful of Suki's personality which influences how I see her whenever I stop and take a good look at my feline companion.  

What I am trying to say, I guess, is that when we live daily with a person or a "pet", no matter how beautiful they may appear to others, we can't help but see them through the eyes of our relationship with them -- and the more difficult that relationship, the less likely we are to be able to see their physical beauty.

Thankfully, my relationship with Suki is quite wonderful and so when a visitor exclaims over her glossy coat and bright eyes, I can easily, once again, stop and "see" what a beautiful creature she really is.

Other than admiring (and catering to the needs of) Suki, enjoying the occasional visit with friends and talking on the phone with dear ones, my life continues as usual.  In other words, there is nothing new to report.

I do have an echo-cardiogram coming up this week.  As well, I am in the midst of treating another infection with antibiotics. However, these fall under the category of normal activities for me. 

Suki and I will let you know if anything unusual occurs in our quiet lives!



"Icon -- Christ Heals the Deaf-Mute", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mk 7:31-37

Think of it... here is a grown man who had lived all his life with hearing any sounds or being able to speak properly and suddenly he can do both.  It must have been a terrible shock to him to discover how loud the world around us actually is.  Even more shocking would be the discovery that other people hear his noises -- his footsteps, his coughing, his humming, etc. I can only hope that this and all of the healings of Christ were so complete that they not only restored the bodily function but also healed the psychological trauma involved in being healed. Surely, this must have been the case as we are talking about people being healed by that Absolute, Unconditional Love which is God.

Most of us, these days, will not be healed of our physical ailments but I pray that we all may experience some amount of psychological healing -- that kind of healing that will bring us at least a modicum of that inner peace for which we all seem to long. I am especially aware of this need as I, and the rest of the world, watch, daily, the plight of the Syrian refugees.  So, let us pray...

May we, like the deaf-mute in today's Gospel, be blessed with an encounter with a generously loving heart at some point during our lives -- a loving heart which expresses true kindness, compassion and mercy -- a loving heart which shows us, however briefly, the joy and peace which comes from being loved and accepted just as we are.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Artistic Endeavours

"Daydreaming of the Concert Stage -- Instead of Practicing Those Scales"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

[See information about Frank Thayer's new book mid-way through this section]

Today's drawing was inspired by a painting entitled, "Melodian", by the American artist, Eugene Montgomery.  His painting showed a woman sitting in a similar position with a melodian, not a piano, in the background (a melodian is a small organ popular in the 19th century, similar to the harmonium).  He used his wife as the model for this work.  I, on the other hand, used his painting as the "model" for my work.

Montgomery was born in Texas in 1905.  As a young man, he studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago.  In time he became a well-known painter and illustrator.  He died in December of 2001, leaving behind a very large portfolio of portraits, murals and commercial illustrations.  In other words, he was a man of real artistic talent who took the necessary steps to properly develop this talent. This dedication allowed his artistic endeavours to bring him recognition as a true artist -- a recognition which has lasted over time.

On the other hand, as the title of my drawing above suggests, too many of us spend our time daydreaming of being successful in one vocation or another instead of actually doing the work required to develop whatever talent we may possess in a particular area.  I say this with myself in mind!

From the time I was a teenager, I dreamed of being an artist, but, sadly, I spent most of my time doodling and dreaming rather than actually doing the hard work required to master the skills required. While I may have had some small successes over the years, I know I have never truly done the "grunt work" required to become something other than mediocre.  

On the other hand, there have been people with whom I am well-acquainted who have actually worked diligently at developing their talents. In fact, their artistic endeavours, over time, have reflected not only their talent, but, eventually, their determination to master their craft through repetitive practice and plain hard work.


One such person is a family member by the name of Frank Thayer. He is a writer whose natural abilities have been enhanced over the years by his education and the disciplined, hard work of writing. Frank has been writing articles, books and newspaper columns (fiction and non-fiction) since he was a very young man.  As well as working in the field of journalism, he has, for many, many years now, been teaching others how to write.  For a number of years, and up to the present day, this teaching as been done at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Front cover of Frank Thayer's
most recent book

[Photo used with permission 
of the author]

His most recent offering is a fictional work entitled: "The Cobston Trilogy: the Ontario Horror".  I have just finished reading it even though, as many of you are aware, reading has become a very uncomfortable activity for me these days due to my ongoing eye problems.  However, I was determined to read the entire book and have done so by reading approximately 5 pages each morning and 5 pages each afternoon, most days, for the past couple of weeks. 

Back cover of Frank Thayer's
most recent book

[Photo used with permission 
of the author]

As the title suggests, this book fits into the horror/mystery genre -- in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft (for those familiar with this master of horror fiction). In my opinion, it is very well-written with only the occasional typo to interrupt the flow of the narrative.  A good read with a number of interesting attachments at the end which enhance the actual story.

If any of you should be interested in getting a copy of the book, you can contact the author at: P. O. Box 3136, Las Cruces, New Mexico, 88003.  The cost is $19.95 (USD) plus shipping and handling.  



Here are a few recent photos of "my" two boys.  It is difficult for me to believe that Rònàn is already walking, but, then, he will be one year old in a little over two months!

Big brother helping little brother -- I think!

Brothers playing together -- so many toys, so little time!

Rònàn playing on his own

Braden feeding the goats at the petting zoo



What's that cat doing lying on top of me?!!
Suki, like most house cats, enjoys sleeping under various items such as blankets, pillows and both my clean and dirty clothes!

Recently, I had carefully placed my "I Don't Do Mornings" cat T-shirt over the chair in the bathroom so that it would remain unwrinkled until I was ready to put it on after my shower.  However, when Joycelyn went to pick up the T-shirt so that I could put it on, she was startled to find a cat sleeping underneath!  Fortunately, my iPad was close to hand and so I was able to snap a couple of photos before Suki, showing great displeasure, got up and left -- moving to the bedroom where she partially crawled under the pillows on the bed and went back to sleep.

Actually, Suki has had a couple of close calls over the years because of her liking for crawling under things and going to sleep. Once, I almost sat on her after she crawled under a couple of folded blankets.  These had been left on the bed in preparation for making room for them in the linen closet.  I thought the blankets looked a bit lumpy, but had just started to let myself sink down on top of them when I became aware of a purring sound (fortunately, I still have excellent hearing).  Since this occurred a few years ago when I had less pain, I was able to stop myself in "mid-sit".  As I quickly stood up and looked behind me, I witnessed a very sleepy cat poking her head out from underneath the blankets.

At that time, I remember telling Suki that if she wasn't more careful in the future, she would end up getting sat upon. Sadly, she did not seem to be too impressed by my words -- rather, she looked at me with mild contempt and, crawling back under the blankets, returned to her nap!  

The only other time Suki came really close to getting squashed was more recently when she crawled under some pillows left in a chair while Joycelyn was changing the bed linens.  I came into the bedroom and decided to sit down in that chair while putting on some clean socks. Fortunately for Suki's sake, I lowered myself very carefully onto the edge of the chair due to the number of pillows involved. This fact alone kept her from being injured. As is usually the case, however, Suki did not appear to be impressed as she popped her head out from under the pillows and proceeded to express her displeasure with a number of very loud meows. What a cat!

As for me, another quiet week has meant that the pain was a bit easier to manage -- until this past Friday that is. On Friday morning I had an appointment with one of my doctors which included a visit to the lab for more blood work followed by a visit to the X-ray department at the hospital for another picture. All of this left me feeling a bit out of things for the next few days. Hopefully, the coming week will be a truly quiet one as, to the best of my knowledge, I have no appointments scheduled at all. Hooray!



"Icon -- Christ the Teacher", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 rev.

...  So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”  Mk. 7:5-8, 14-15, 21-23

Lately I have been streaming a TV series about scientists who have developed a scale for rating people who commit various types of murder.  These killers, as you can imagine, range from those whose spontaneous actions in a moment of extreme passion lead to the death of another all the way to those whose actions reveal the horrors found in the minds of the most psychopathic serial killers.  

As the documentary episodes explore the stories of the types and degrees of malice exhibited by these killers, the viewer begins to hear what sounds like the same story over and over again.  These stories reveal persons whose hearts are filled with varying amounts of lust, hatred, anger, greed, lack of forgiveness, arrogance and envy.  People whose unfounded sense of entitlement causes them to feel as though they have the right to take away a person's most precious possession -- their life. What do they feel gives them this right? Well, usually because some person (or persons) stands between them and something or someone they want -- something or someone they feel they are entitled to have -- no matter the cost to others.

Over time, our words and actions always reveal what is truly in our hearts -- what really motivates us.  

So perhaps our prayer should be something like this paraphrase of the words of Psalm 19, verse 14:

"Let the words of my mouth flow from a heart that is pure so that both my words and actions may be acceptable in Your sight and be a blessing to others, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer."