Sunday, 24 August 2014

Woman with a Fan

"Woman with a Fan", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Today's drawing was inspired by the work of a minor Spanish artist [Pedro Sáenz Sáenz (1863-1927)].  His painting, entitled: "Disfraz japonesa" (Japanese costume), shows a lovely young woman, holding a large, flat fan and dressed in what Sáenz considered to be a Japanese costume.  For some reason the pose and the face attracted my attention and led me to use this painting as the guide for the above drawing which I have called "Woman with a Fan".

Pedro Sáenz Sáenz was a Spanish pre-Raphaelite painter whose work was dominated by portraits, religious scenes and nudes -- what a combination!  His paintings were full of light with many elaborate details.  

Sáenz was born, lived and died in Málaga, Spain. As a young man, he studied art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Málaga. In time, he became a member of what was known as the Málaga School of Painting where his work was strongly influenced by Bernardo Ferrandiz whose leadership revolutionized the teaching of painting in Málaga where he restructured the curriculum to resemble the teaching in the fine art schools of Europe.

There is little information available online about the life of Pedro Sáenz Sáenz.  I did find a photo taken in his studio, showing him standing in front of a large canvas of a religious scene.  However, there were mostly just web sites showing some of his paintings and always including what seems to be his most well-known work:  "Disfraz japonesa".

At any rate, my drawing is definitely not of a woman in a Japanese costume; however, I did like the idea of drawing a Spanish-looking woman holding a fan.  I considered adding a peineta (comb) with a mantilla (lace head covering), but decided not to try something this detailed at the moment.  Maybe I will, at some later date, try reworking this drawing and adding a peineta y mantilla!  Time will tell... 



Suki spouting some foolishness just because
I forced her to move from one sleeping place
to another (I needed the paper on which she
was lying)!
Well, Suki had a very exciting night!  Somehow, during the day yesterday, a fly got into our home. This foolish fly, which had obviously been resting for some hours, decided to start buzzing around the apartment just as I began my preparations to go to bed.  

Suki discovered the fly as she was about to have her bedtime snack (she had been begging for this snack for about half an hour).  However, just at the moment I put her food dish on the floor, we both saw a black object come flying up from that same floor.

Suki's food was completely forgotten as she began to make valiant efforts to capture said fly.  When she realized, once again, that she can no longer jump very high (due to the arthritis in her back legs), she immediately started making plaintive cries which translated as "please help me catch this flying thing... please, please, please!"

Even without Suki's pleas, I knew immediately that I was going to have to be the one to take care of the fly -- Suki is not a very good hunter even minus the arthritis!  Reaching into the rag bag, I quickly grabbed an old towel which I expertly wielded, knocking the fly to the floor on about my third swing.  

Once the fly was down and obviously stunned, I attempted to prove to Suki that this black object on the floor was the very same object she had just been chasing.  Sadly, she did not believe me. Even when I showed her the remains of the now dead fly as I held it in a tissue, letting her sniff it thoroughly, she still was not convinced.

So, for the next half hour, while I continued getting ready for bed, Suki did a complete search of the entire apartment.  She seemed certain that the dastardly fly was still hiding somewhere.  Even after I turned off all the lights and climbed into bed, I could still hear Suki searching for the fly as I fell asleep.

What about her bedtime snack sitting on the kitchen floor, you ask? Well, her dish was empty when I got up this morning so, obviously, she finally decided that the fly was gone and her food needed to be eaten!

I will have to be more careful in the future when opening the balcony door as this is the time of year when many a fly begins to seek the warmth of indoors as the nights get cooler.  I can't deal with having to catch too many flying creatures for this silly cat!

As for me, I continue to do poorly, as usual these days.  As you know, I have found ways of dealing with much of the pain and discomfort of each day. These techniques work fairly well for me most of the time and so I manage. There are those days, however, when nothing seems to work and all the unpleasantness seems to be magnified.  Thankfully, with help, I am still able to manage living on my own.



"Icon St. Peter the Rock", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so 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.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.  Matt 16:13-20

May these words comfort and sustain us in these troubled times.
May peace be with us -- one and all.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Meriania nobilis

"Meriania nobilis", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Meriania nobilis is considered to be one of the most beautiful flowering trees in the world! For almost the entire year, this tree, native to Colombia, is covered with big bouquets of luxurious blooms in various shades of purple and red. 

Meriania nobilis tree

Meriania nobilis, a member of the Melastomataceae family, typically grows to a height of around 20 feet. It is found in the cloud forests of Columbia, at between 1900 and 2900 meters, where humidity is high and temperatures are cool to mild all year and frost is almost non-existent. 

Columbian Cloud Forests
The genus name of Meriania is taken from Maria Merian, an entomologist and botanist who lived during the 17th century. The species name, nobilis, comes from the Latin "noble" and refers to the "nobility" of the lovely flowers found growing on these trees. 

Even without flowers, these are beautiful trees with large, satiny leaves showing distinctive veins. When you add the blossoms, of course, you have something quite spectacular. The approximately 3 inch blossoms are red when they first open, then progress through shades of purple and violet. These vivid petals are accented by unusual stamens (the pollen producing part of a flower) with purple and white filaments. At the top of the filaments are anthers (the part of the stamen where pollen is produced) highlighted in yellow.

To be honest, it was the reproductive parts of this flower that caused me to decide to do a drawing of Meriania nobilis in the first place.  
Closeup of Meriania nobilis stamens, etc.
The colourful stamens combined with the vivid colours of the flower petals of red, violet and purple were all just too irresistible.  As you all know, the more colours, the better I like it and the more vivid those colours, the best I like it!

The leaves were also very appealing -- so green and shiny, but, alas, I really can't show a shiny finish on leaves or flowers with the computer software I use.  I keep hoping that one of these days I will discover a way to give a satiny finish when the leaves or flower petals require it.  Meanwhile, I do the best I can and just enjoy the many colours I can create on the computer.



Suki sitting and thinking about what
mischief she can get into next!
Suki never ceases to surprise me!
Last night something occurred that I never would have imagined possible -- Suki did what I told her to do!

Let me tell you what happened...

I was awakened about 5 a.m. by Suki making some kind of strange noise (I think she was pulling her claws over the lattice work under one of my tables).  At any rate, whatever she was doing, it was noisy enough to rouse me from sleep.

Normally, I would have gotten up to investigate what Suki was doing and after yelling at her, I would have tried to prevent further noise by putting pillows over the area, moving things or whatever. However, this time, I simply stayed in bed and yelled, loudly, "Stop it, Suki!"  

Amazingly, the noise ceased.  So I continued yelling, loudly, "No! No! No!  I am not going to get up now and feed you.  Just STOP making that noise right now!"  With this, I turned over and quickly fell asleep again.

The next time I was awakened by Suki's noise making, I knew that some time had passed, but I was shocked when I glanced at the clock and saw that it was now 6:30 a.m. -- the perfect time for me to be getting up.

I have no idea what happened here.  Did Suki really understand that I was determined to stay in bed and give up trying to awaken me again for an hour and a half?  Did she go back to her original noise making but somehow this time I slept through it?  Or, does Suki really understand words like "stop" and "no"?

I know that dogs can easily be trained to understand the sounds and tones of words of command, but I never thought it was possible for cats to do so.  Not that cats are so unintelligent that they cannot understand, but, rather, they simply do not believe in obeying any commands except their own!  

I do realize that cats can be trained by expert trainers to obey commands, but this usually involves a combination of great patience and many treats.  For example, those cats who appear in movies doing things on cue. But the idea that Suki might suddenly begin to obey me just because I have yelled "stop it" or "no" to her so many times over the years seems almost unbelievable!

I will try to get Suki to repeat this behaviour next time she awakens me at some inappropriate time and I will let you know what happens.  Personally, I think it was just a fluke; however, time will tell!

Otherwise, life goes on in its usual mundane fashion for the two of us.  I had one appointment this week but it was not a medical one so there is nothing new to report regarding my health (or lack thereof!).  

I did have a visitor this week.  A very dear friend of mine, who moved from Toronto to Virginia some years ago now, is presently here visiting family and friends.  We had a wonderful visit in spite of my pain and discomfort.  She is such a special friend and it was wonderful to see her again after almost a year.

"Our Lady, Hope of

As well, I received two requests for permission to use 2 different "icons".  One gentleman wrote to ask for a print of Our Lady, Hope of Africa to use in relation to a child he and his family are
sponsoring from Africa.

"Nunavut Madonna"
The other request came from a gentleman with the Salvation Army who wants to use the "Nunavut Madonna" as part of a Power Point presentation he is doing.

Hearing from people who think my art work is worthy of use does please me since my art is and has always been, for me, more of a way of moving beyond physical and emotional pain and, in my mind, has little to do with what I consider to be the work of serious artists.



"Jesus Healing the Canaanite Woman's Daughter"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.  Mt 15: 21-28

When I was young, this seemed like such a strange story to me. Here is the always kind and compassionate Jesus suddenly saying such harsh things to a poor woman whose only child is severely mentally disturbed.  Not only that, He makes it sound as though she deserves such harsh treatment because she is not Jewish, but a lowly Canaanite!

Of course, Jesus knew exactly the depth of this woman's faith and just how much He needed to push her in order for her to realize the need for even deeper faith.  What she was asking for was so important that it could not be given easily. Their faith would have to persevere in this "pagan" land where faith in the Jewish Messiah would not be easily tolerated.  Once Jesus sees that she understands how harsh the struggle to hold onto this faith will be, she hears those precious words: "O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish."

Long ago, I came to the realization that this encounter was recorded, in all its harshness, in order that those of us who belong to the community of faith will be aided in the realization of how blessed we are to able to receive the healing presence of Christ daily or weekly at Mass.  There is no need for pleading or groveling -- just the need for our ongoing perseverance in holding onto our faith in good times and bad. Like hungry, trusting children, all we have to do is approach the altar, open our mouths and feed on the Bread of Life.

Peace be with you all.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Picking Grapes

"Our Lady Picking Grapes", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Early Picasso entitled "The Old
Fisherman".  Note the realistic detail
in this work as compared to Godward's

"classical antique influence".
Today's drawing was inspired by one of the works of an artist by the name of John William Godward (1861-1922). He was an English painter from the end of what is called the Pre-Raphaelite/ Neo-Classicist era. His style of painting fell out of favour with the arrival of artists such as Picasso.  Godward, tragically, committed suicide at the age of 61 and is said to have written in his suicide note that "the world was not big enough" for him and a Picasso!    

“In Godward‘s work we see the final summation of half a millennium of classical antique influence on Western painting … It vanished during Godward’s generation – killed, as it were, by contemporary nihilistic philosophies … [such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche].   What Godward does represent is a microcosm for all classicists during a period aptly called The Twilight of the Gods or The Eclipse of Classicism. Vern G. Swanson


Self-Portrait, John William 

At the time of his death, he was already estranged from his very conservative family who had strongly disapproved of his becoming an artist. As well, they were extremely ashamed of his suicide and, upon learning of it, burned all his papers. No photographs of Godward are known to have survived as the family is said to have cut Godward's picture out of every group photo and burned those of Godward alone; however, there is a self-portrait of the artist as a young man in one of his paintings.  One of his best known paintings is Dolce far Niente (1904), which resides, currently, in the collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber.  

The Godward work which inspired me to do the drawing at the beginning of this posting ("Our Lady Picking Grapes") is entitled simply "Autumn" and shows a young woman, in classical dress, picking grapes in a grape arbour.  

At first glance, it was the pose of the woman that caught my attention -- especially the slender arm reaching upward.  Next, Godward's painting made me think about Our Lady and how the home she shared with St. Joseph and Our Lord most likely had its own grape arbour.  If so, Our Lady would certainly have spent time sitting in its shade and, at the end of the summer, gathering the ripe grapes -- a task that Our Lord would have, no doubt, helped her with as he grew older.

And, so, as we come closer to the end of our own summer season, I give you a drawing of "Our Lady Picking Grapes".  

Much of the above information was takes from various sources on the Internet.



I believe that Braden received this "electric" car for his birthday, but I am not certain.  Anyway, whenever he received it, it hasn't taken him long to become a very good driver! Notice that he made a very nice right-hand turn and moved over smartly when the pedestrian came along the sidewalk.  I predict that he is going to be an excellent driver by the time he is old enough to get a licence!  

Unfortunately, the photos are not that clear because they were "captured" from a video, but you can still get a good idea of how well he was doing.  

Braden getting ready to make a turn

Braden making a nice turn

Braden carefully passing a pedestrian by staying well within his "lane"! 



Suki looking a bit blue!

I am loathe to admit it, but Suki has been extremely well behaved this past week!  I have no idea why and, I must admit, it is making me very nervous.  As the days pass with no real bad behaviour on her part, I find myself waiting "for the other shoe to drop" -- so to speak.  I keep asking myself: "What is she up to?"

Examples of her current "good" behaviour include such things as:

  • allowing me to sleep until a reasonable time each morning;
  • allowing me to feed her at the proper times without making a big fuss about it;
  • allowing me to talk on the phone without insisting on my holding her in my lap at the same time (this can be very painful); and, 
  • allowing me to stay on the computer without insisting on sitting in my lap (also very painful) or on the keyboard!
So, I think you can see why I am nervous.  I am trying to enjoy all this while it is going on, but my joy is tinged by worry -- worry that Suki is preparing something really, really outrageous while appearing to be so well behaved.  I mean we all know just how clever she really is.

So, if there is no posting next week, please check immediately with the hospitals in my area -- especially the psych wards!

As for how I am doing otherwise, all I can say is that I never really knew until now what people meant when they talked about experiencing chronic pain.  Perhaps this is why Suki is being so kind to me.  Maybe there are no ulterior motives on her part and she is just aware of how bad the pain can be for me these days.

Thankfully, I am getting through it and managing it the best I can.  I will be seeing the Pain Clinic doctor in September at which time we will once again discuss the possible options of spinal injections and/or surgery -- neither of which sound very promising to me.


Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Icon - St. Peter: 'Lord save me' ", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010

"In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea, and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. 'It is a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, 'Courage! It's me! Don't be afraid.' It was Peter who answered. 'Lord,' he said, 'if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.' Jesus said, 'Come.' Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink. 'Lord,' he cried, 'save me!' Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. 'You have so little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?' And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, 'Truly, you are the Son of God.' "  Matt. 14: 25-33

Well, at least St. Peter had the courage to try!  I am sure that I would have just cowered in the boat, hoping it would all be over soon.

St. Peter, pray for us -- pray that we, too, may have the courage to step out onto the water with you.  Hold onto us tightly so that we don't sink in the roaring waves and bring us to the Lord.

May peace be with you all, dear friends.


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Primulas and Hellebores

"Primula Victoriana 'Silver Lace Black'", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

"Helleborus 'Onyx Odyssey'", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Today I am featuring two flower drawings.  Why?  First, because Primroses (Primula) are so well known to most people since they appear in summer gardens everywhere and really should not need that much of an introduction.  Second, Hellebores (Helleborus) have been featured previously in my blog (see postings for December 27, 2011 and August 18, 2012) and, thus, should need little additional commentary.  I will comment just a bit, however, on both.

SILVER-LACED BLACK PRIMROSE:  Silver and gold-laced Primroses have been grown in gardens for centuries. This strain produces blooms of deep purple-black with a scalloped silver-white edge and a golden eye. Blooms are fragrant with stems just long enough for cutting, appearing in spring.  This type of primrose can also be found in various shades of red with both silver and gold edging around the flowers.
The full botanical name of the flowers in the first drawing is Primula x polyanthus 'Victoriana Silver Lace Black' of the family Primulaceae. "Primrose" is ultimately from Old French primerose or medieval Latin prima rosa, meaning "first rose" although it is not closely related to the rose family. The term polyanthus or polyantha refers to various tall-stemmed and multicoloured strains of hybrids. 

The common, non-hybrid primrose (Primula vulgaris) is native to, and originally was found growing wild in, western and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia.

HELLEBORE 'ONYX ODYSSEY':  Hellebores are one of the floral harbingers of spring, blooming for six weeks or more beginning in late winter. They are often flowering during the Christian season of Lent from which they get their common name, Lenten Rose.

For centuries Hellebores have been used for various medical purposes, and all contain alkaloids and other chemicals that could lead to poisoning if ingested in large quantities. Hellebores are even mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman literature. They have also been cultivated in western Europe and can be found naturalized around ruins of old monasteries and other structures. Extracts from hellebores have been used in homoeopathy and traditional medicines over the centuries. 

The full botanical name of the flower in the drawing above is  Helleborus x hybridus 'Onyx Odyssey' of the family Ranunculaceae.  Onyx Odyssey is a cultivar and is a "member" of a trademarked series known as "Winter Jewels". In the information I found on the Internet regarding this series, there was the following statement: "Marietta O'Byrne, of Eugene, Oregon, ... has spent over 15 years pursuing her passion for hellebores, meticulously selecting and hand-crossing only the best stock plants which she has gathered from around the world."

Helleborus is believed to come from the Greek ‘ellos/hellos’ meaning ‘fawn’ and ‘bora’ meaning ‘food’ -- thus, food for a fawn. An alternative possibility is that the first syllable is from 'hele' meaning ‘to take away’ thus, take way food. This could quite possibly refer to the emetic nature of the plant which, if consumed in even small quantities, would certainly take away your food!



Suki enjoying the morning sunlight
I never cease to be amazed at how clever Suki is at devising new ways to try to awaken me when she thinks it is time for her to have breakfast! Last night, she amazed me once again.

There I was, sleeping soundly, when I was suddenly startled awake by this loud jangling sound.  At first I could not imagine what on earth could be happening.  My sleep-befuddled brain was trying its best to figure out what was causing this strange sound and simply couldn't.

Then the sound changed and I heard things clattering to the hardwood floor.  This loud noise was followed by more clangs and bangs.  I knew it had to be Suki making the noise, but I simply could not figure out what she was doing to cause it.  Then, finally, in a flash, I understood what she was doing and exactly what had caused the strange noises.  

Somehow she had managed to stand on her hind legs, reaching up quite a distance in order to grab a string of wooden parrots perched on metal circles which I keep hanging in the living room (see photo to the right).  
Wooden Parrots -- Wall Hanging
These parrots were a gift from the young son of a home care worker who once had help take care of me years ago.  She was from the Philippines originally and once, while the entire family had been visiting there, this son, Darwin, had suggested that she purchase the item and bring it to me as a gift. This home care worker had three delightful young sons and I used to send them little gifts whenever I came across something in threes that I thought they might all enjoy.  Sadly, this particular son, the one who had suggested getting the parrots for me, died a few years later of cancer at age 7 1/2 -- so this gift became even more special to me and I have always treated it with great care.

How on earth Suki managed to reach the wall hanging I cannot imagine as I had placed it at a height which I was sure was beyond her reach.  But somehow, arthritic joints and all, she had managed to grab onto it from the back of the sofa.  After some rather violent tugging (the jangling sound that first awakened me), she had managed to pull it off the wall and onto the hardwood floor (the loud clattering sound I had heard)!

Once I realized what was going on, I began yelling and painfully pulling myself up out of bed.  Once Suki realized that I was awake and in the process of getting up, the clattering noises ceased. Instead, I could now hear Suki's plaintive meows -- the kind she uses when she is begging to be fed! Of course, I paid no attention to her meows but begin immediately to search for the wall hanging parrots.  Once I found them, I checked each one carefully and, thankfully, was able to determine that none were damaged.

At this point, I begin giving Suki a good lecture about her bad behaviour including several negative comments about her ancestry --- the sort of comments I can't post in a "family" blog -- if you know what I mean!  Suki, as usual, paid little attention to my remarks but instead just kept trying to push me towards the kitchen.  Finally I gave in and fed the silly cat -- it was already 6 a.m. I normally get up about 5:30 so, in spite of all her shenanigans, I had gotten an extra half hour of sleep!

Now, I have to decide where on earth I am going to hang the parrots so that there will never again be the possibility that Suki can find a way to reach them!

Other than events such as this one, Suki and I have had a very quiet week.  I must say that I have greatly enjoyed these past weeks which have been free of appointments of any kind. My life is always more pleasant now when I don't have to endure the painful process of going out.

However, I do have a medical appointment this coming week -- nothing of import, just a follow-up with more blood work.  I will let you know if anything of interest occurs, but I really don't expect that it will be anything other than routine.



"Icon of St. John the Baptist", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010

"When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them..." Matt. 14: 13-14a

May we be able to set aside our own agendas on occasion in the week ahead and allow our hearts be "moved with pity" for the needs of others 
May peace be with you all. Amen.

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.