Sunday, 24 May 2015

Daydreaming

"Woman Daydreaming", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015


Daydreaming is defined as a short-term detachment from one's immediate surroundings -- a time during which a person's contact with reality is blurred and partially substituted by a visionary fantasy, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions, imagined as coming to pass and experienced while awake. 

There are many types of daydreams and there is no consistent definition among psychologists; however, the characteristic that is common to all forms of daydreaming meets the criteria for mild dissociation. 

Daydreaming is a natural, human activity --  especially among younger people.  Recent studies have shown that it can be beneficial for people in creative or artistic careers, such as composers, novelists and filmmakers, developing new ideas through daydreaming. Similarly, research scientists and mathematicians have developed new ideas by daydreaming about their subject areas.

Of course, throughout the centuries -- especially once mankind began working with tools that require concentration -- daydreaming has often been frowned up.  Sayings such as "idle hands are the Devil's workshop..." (Proverbs 16) have been used frequently to reprimand anyone appearing to simply sit and think.  So, daydreaming has often gotten a bad rap even though it appears to be something beneficial to the human race -- and like night dreams, maybe even necessary for good mental health.  

Of course, as most of us can admit, many of our daydreams, especially during our adolescent years, were often about us accomplishing great things -- we would see ourselves as a mix between Superman/woman and Mother Teresa -- righting the world's wrongs -- particularly those in our own lives!  Even though I can recall many such daydreams of my own, I also realize now how important those dreams were in helping me to cope, successfully, with the frightening, and often violent, world that was my family.

Now let me speak a bit about the inspiration for this particular drawing.  

Quite by accident, I came across a painting entitled La dormiente (The Sleeper) by Tamara de Łempicka (1898 - 1980 -- born Maria Górska in Warsaw, The Kingdom of Poland [Królestwo Polskie] under the rule of the Russian Empire, into a wealthy and prominent family).  In Łempicka's painting, the woman has her eyes closed in sleep; however, I decided that I wanted my drawing to be of a woman awake, but daydreaming.

Of course, I was first attracted to La dormiente by the sleeping woman's hands.  I knew at once that I wanted to try to draw those hands in that position and it was those hands on which I spent the majority of my effort.

Łempicka, by the way, was a Polish Art Deco painter and "the first woman artist to be a glamour star". Influenced by Cubism, Lempicka became the leading representative of the Art Deco style across two continents, a favourite artist of many Hollywood stars, referred to as 'the baroness with a brush'. She was the most fashionable portrait painter of her generation among the haute bourgeoisie and aristocracy, painting duchesses and grand dukes and socialites. Through her network of friends, she was also able to display her paintings in the most elite salons of the era.  

Łempicka's distinctive and bold artistic style developed quickly, influenced by what André Lhote sometimes referred to as "soft cubism" and by the "synthetic cubism" of Maurice Denis, epitomizing the cool yet sensual side of the Art Deco movement. For her, Picasso "embodied the novelty of destruction". She thought that many of the Impressionists drew badly and employed "dirty" colors. Lempicka's technique would be novel, clean, precise, and elegant.

     

[Portions of the above information were taken from Wikipedia]
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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki -- Too clever for her own good!

As you know, Suki has this annoying habit of beginning her campaign to awaken me about half an hour before my preferred time for arising in the morning.

Most of the time, her campaign techniques include such things as rattling the Venetian blinds or knocking small objects off the bedside table so that they hit the hardwood floor with bang. 

Recently, however, she has tried a new technique:  she sits on the bed, as far from me as possible, and repeatedly taps my head with her paw. After each tap, she quickly moves away from me until she is ready to tap again. She has tried the tapping technique on other parts of my body a couple of times, but she seems to realize that my head is the most sensitive area. 

So far, she has only used this technique when she sees me sleeping a bit past my usual time for arising and becomes, therefore, quite convinced that she is going to starve to death at any moment! However, she has learned, to her sorrow, that attempting a "wake-up" technique that requires her to get so close to me while I am still asleep puts her in grave danger.  

Suki has discovered that my hands and feet can strike out quite suddenly when she touches me while I am sleeping and, that my reach is much greater than she has calculated. As a consequence, in spite of her efforts to move away quickly, she has gotten knocked off the bed more than a few times now.  Of course, she may consider that the risk is worth it as my hitting her causes me to instantly become fully awake and full of apologies which means that she gets fed almost immediately!

I do feel rather badly about striking out that way, but I can't be held responsible for what I do in my sleep, can I? 

I'm hoping Suki will decide that this newest "wake-up" technique is not worth the risk and will quickly discontinue using it -- both for her sake and for mine.

As for the rest of my week, it was fairly uneventful other than a visit to the ophthalmologist this past Wednesday.  He was very displeased with my failure to use the drops he prescribed some months ago.  I tried to explain to him how much the drops irritated my eyes and interfered with my ability to work on the computer or stream my shows and movies, but he was insistent that I had to use the drops.  I was finally able to convince him to prescribe another type of drops and I started using these on Friday. So far, they have turned out to be just as irritating and painful as the previous ones! What to do? What to do? Why is nothing easy?


"Altocumulus Clouds and Diffused Sunlight", 
photo by G.W., 2015
One nice thing that happened was that my friend, G, posted some more of her photos on Facebook.  She is definitely demonstrating some real creativity in her newly-discovered talent for photography. There was one photo, in particular, which I found quite exciting (see right).



"Altocumulus Clouds and Diffused Sunlight (colourized)".
original photo by G.W., colouration by S. Thayer 


Of course, the moment I saw this photo, I wanted to play with it, turning it from a scenic photo into a something like abstract art (see left).

This is not to imply that there was anything wrong with the original photo.  It's just my love of taking ordinary things and "playing" with them in an effort to turn them into something else -- something not easily defined.  

I have actually "played" with a couple of G's photos now changing them from photographs into something like abstract art.  Let me show you a couple of examples:
"First Tulips", photo by
G.W., 2015


"First Tulips -- Abstract", original
photo by G.W., abstract form by
S. Thayer, 2015

"Spring Multicolour", photo by G.W., 2015

"Spring Multicolour - Abstracted",
taken from original photo by
G.W., abstract form by S. Thayer,
2015























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PENTECOST SUNDAY


"Icon -- (Detail) Pentecost", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009


On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”   John 20:19-23

I am not posting the traditional Pentecost icon that I drew some years ago now.  I did go and take a look at it, but discovered that I will need to do a complete revision before I am willing to post it again -- so maybe next year at Pentecost if I am still around. Instead I just pasted in a detail from that icon -- of Our Lady.

"The descent of the Holy Spirit" -- what a strange and difficult concept.  I have never met anyone who could easily explain what we mean by the Holy Spirit (or Ghost as it used to be called in English).  I mean, I understand that it is like the "breath of God" breathing in us and so I often use the Hebrew word ruach which means wind, breath or spirit (as in “The Spirit of God [Ruach Elohim] was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:2) when trying to make sense of "the Third Person of the Trinity".

But even then, I am faced with a mystery -- something beyond my understanding -- which is how it should be, I guess. All I can say is: 
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Amen.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Hippeastrum not Amaryllis!

"Hippeastrum 'Baby Star' ", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015


For many years there was confusion among botanists over the generic names Amaryllis  and  Hippeastrum. One major result of this confusion is that the common name "amaryllis" is used almost entirely for both Hippeastrum and Amaryllis. 

The plants in these two genera, available in stores in North America and Europe particularly during the Christmas/Holiday season, are usually found under the section heading of "Amaryllis". They are, however, two different genera. Hippeastrum is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas -- from Argentina north to Mexico and the Caribbean. By contrast, the genus name, "Amaryllis, applies to bulbs native to South Africa. 

Hippeastrum is, like Amaryllis, a genus in the family Amaryllidaceae.  The name Hippeastrum, given to the genus by William Herbert, (1778–1847, a British botanist, botanical illustrator, poet, and clergyman) means "Knight's-star-lily", although precisely what Herbert meant by the "knight" part of the name remains unclear.

The hybrid, Hippeastrum 'Baby Star', is reddish-orange with a white star center and green throat. However, don't be misled by the term "miniature" as they produce 2 (or even 3) stalks to a height of 18".


"Hippeastrum 'Baby Star' ", drawing, with
special effects, by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

After completing the drawing, I decided to play with it just a bit -- ending up with a somewhat interesting effect (see right). It now looks almost as though the drawing had been done using coloured pencils.

I tried using some new sfx (special effects) software that promised to turn my photo or drawing into an oil painting. I am not showing you the results of that experiment as I find what remained of my drawing rather distressing. In fact, the finished "painting" looked less like an oil painting of flowers and more like some really bad abstract art with reddish-orange and green blobs everywhere!



Portions of the above information were taken from various Internet sources.
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BRADEN AND RONÀN




How great is it to be the only grandchildren in the family?!!



Braden taking his sports car out for a spin!





While younger brother, Ronàn, ends up with the VW convertible!  Ah, well, 
he is just learning to drive after all!

 
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SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki resting comfortably in the mid-day sun
I know you will find it difficult to believe -- I certainly do -- but Suki has been reasonably well behaved this past week.

What can I say?  It must be the result of my excellent cat-training techniques!  No?

She did all the usual, but nothing strange or unusual -- which leaves me without any new stories to tell you in this week's blog posting. Personally, I wouldn't mind having this problem every week; however, knowing Suki as we do, we know how unlikely this scenario will prove to be.

I just stopped and asked Suki if she thought she might be well-behaved for another week.  She opened her eyes ever so slightly for half a second and then, promptly went back to sleep.  Ah, well, what can I say?

As for me, I have had a rather busy week with both an MRI and a doctor's appointment.  

The MRI took place at the hospital on Tuesday evening about 7:30 p.m. (they seem to have appointments scheduled for people from early morning until very late at night these days).  It has been just long enough since my last MRI for me to have almost completely repressed my memories of the experience -- so much so that I had forgotten about the noise!  It all came flooding back, however, when they put those big, padded headphones on me just prior to pushing me into that tiny, tiny space. By then, of course, it was too late. I was already trapped. Then the banging begin and went on and on and on for the next 30 minutes.  All of this in an effort to see complete pictures of my neck/cervical spine. I do hope something good was accomplished by all of this.  I won't get the results of the MRI or the other imaging tests until I see the specialist the last week of May.

As well, I had an appointment with my family doctor on Wednesday to get the results of the ultrasound that was done a few weeks ago.  I may have mentioned that my doctor wanted to take a look at my kidneys. Well, it turns out that my kidneys are doing just fine; however, my poor, old liver isn't!  The ultrasound revealed a possible problem with my liver. However, if it is a type of liver disease, it is in the very early stages.  I won't know anymore until after I see the specialist (gastroenterologist) and he/she has a look at the ultrasound. My doctor said that probably it will turn out that there is nothing serious going on. Most likely, I will just have another long-term physical "affliction" to add to my ever-growing list of things that cause me discomfort and pain. Oh, joy, oh, bliss! 

This coming week I only have one medical appointment -- my annual visit to the ophthalmologist.  It shouldn't be too unpleasant except for those tests they want me to do with the tiny, blinking lights.  Too often I seem to end up with a migraine after having to watch those little lights blinking off and on, over and over again.

Tomorrow is a holiday -- Queen Victoria's Birthday is celebrated on the Monday preceding May 25th each year. The holiday is also known as the May 24th weekend as that is the actual date assigned to the birthday. This is our long weekend in May since we don't celebrate U.S. Memorial Day which this year will fall on Monday the 25th of May -- we almost got to share our holidays with the U. S. this year! Anyway, happy Victoria Day to you all.



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SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (OR ASCENSION SUNDAY WHERE TRANSFERRED) 



"Divino Niño Jesús", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012, rev. 2015



Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”  John 17:11b-19
OR

Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.  Mk 16:15-20


Even though the Canadian Church is celebrating the Ascension on Sunday the 17th, having transferred the Feast from Thursday the 14th, I have chosen to focus on the reading for the 6th Sunday of Easter.  

----------

"Lifting up his eyes to heaven..." I suppose that Christ had prayed this way since childhood -- having been taught by Joseph and Mary to pray standing -- as is traditional for people of the Jewish faith. The only drawing I have ever done of Christ standing, quietly, in prayer is the one of Him as a young boy -- known as the Divino Niño Jesús. 

Although, as a Catholic, my normal prayer posture is to be on my knees, I remember some particular moments when I, too, have stood in prayer. In particular, the times I stood and prayed at the Western Wall (all that remains of the Jewish Temple that was in existence while Christ walked the earth) in Jerusalem.  At those moments, I thought particularly of Christ standing, perhaps in the same location, lifting His eyes upward and saying: “Holy Father, keep in Your name those that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one ... so that they may share my joy completely ... Keep them from the evil one ... and consecrate them in the truth.

So, I pray that we may know, in our own lives, that joy and peace for which Christ prayed.  May we, too, be consecrated in the Truth of Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Amen. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

St. Theodore (Božidar)

"Icon -- St. Theodore, Soldier and Martyr (Božidar)"
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


Some of you may recall that when my godson's son, Braden was born, I posted both of his given names: first name, Braden, middle name, Božidar.  The name "Braden" is Irish (his father is of Irish heritage). Božidar is a Slavic given name used by Serbian and Croatian peoples (his mother is of Serbian/Croatian heritage) meaning "God's gift". It is a calque of the Greek name Theodore, itself derived from the Greek word "Theodoros".
"Icon--St. Ronàn", by
the hand of Sarah
"Sallie" Thayer, 2014 

So, for some time, I have been planning on "writing" an icon of St. Theodore to give Braden as a special gift.  I kept procrastinating, however, until Braden's brother, Ronàn, was born and I decided that I wanted to "write" an icon for him of his patron, St. Ronàn. [You may recall my posting last year in which I featured the icon -- see right]. Finally, amazingly, I have finished both icons!

Now, let me tell you a bit about St. Theodore (Božidar). There are actually a number of  saints with the name of Theodore in both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions.  I want to tell you a bit about the best known of these: St. Theodore, Soldier and Martyr. 

St. Theodore (
Božidar) is said to have been born in the Near East (Syria or Armenia are mentioned by some writers) some time after 280 A.D. While still very young, he enlisted in the army and was sent with his cohort to winter quarters in Pontus. 

When the fourth and final Diocletian edict against the Christians was issued in 304 A.D., Theodore (Božidar), a Christian, was brought before the Court and asked to offer sacrifice to the gods. Theodore, however, denied the existence of such gods and made a noble profession of his belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Normally, he would have been condemned to death immediately; however, his judges, apparently, felt pity for Theodore because of he was such a very young man and so gave him some time for reflection.

Theodore (Božidar), however, used this opportunity to burn down the Temple of the goddess, Cybele. After this, he was again taken prisoner and tortured for quite some time before being burned at the stake. His martyrdom occurred in the year 306 A.D. In only 7 more years, Constantine, who became emperor following Diocletian, would issue the Edict of Milan which finally lifted the Roman ban against Christians permanently.

Due to the number of saints bearing the name, Theodore, it is difficult to say, with certainty, the date on which his feast should be celebrated.  The feast days I could locate included September 19th or 20th and November 11.

St. Theodore (Božidar), pray for us.




Much of the information on the life of St. Theodore was taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

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BRADEN AND RONÀN 





Braden intently watching everything at the recent Monster Jam
while just about to have some cotton candy for the first time!
(no report yet on whether he liked the candy or not.)




Ronàn's arms are getting stronger and stronger -- soon he will 
be crawling everywhere -- poor mom will be playing "chase the baby" again!




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SUKI AND SALLIE






Suki looking out the window --
just in case a pigeon should fly past!

Let me tell you about my fur stole!

Recently, sometime during the early morning hours when old ladies like myself should be comfortably sleeping, I was awakened out of a terrible dream.

I had gone to bed at the usual time and although it was one of our first warm days, the evening air was cool on my face as I fell asleep.  There was no reason for me to suspect that only a few hours later I would be sweating profusely while fighting for my life!

Of course, the fight for my life wasn't a real fight, but while I was still dreaming it seemed totally real and very frightening.  In the dream, I was being chased by men who, I somehow knew, wanted me dead.  As I ran, I was getting so hot and winded that I knew I had to find some place to hide from them or pass out from exertion. Finally, I saw an open door ahead of me.  Rushing into the darkened room, I quickly shut the door behind me while trying to control my breathing so that it would not be heard by my pursuers.

Suddenly, I heard a loud clicking noise coming from the door and realized, too late, that I had just allowed myself to be locked into this room.  Frantically, I began trying to find another way out, but, in the absolute darkness of this room, all I could find were the walls which seemed to be made of some sort of stone.  

Then, without warning, the lights came on. This was followed almost immediately by the noise of something that sounded like a generator.  The next thing I knew, the room began to fill with steam and I quickly begin to realize that the room, into which I had run in hopes of safety, was actually a sauna or steam room of some sort. As I stood rooted in place, I could see the steam getting ever more dense while the temperature seemed to be increasing rapidly. In that moment, I realized that if I could not find a way out, I was going to die and by the time anyone found me, I would be well-steamed and very dead.

Frantically, I began to pound the walls in a futile effort to break out. There were no windows, of course, and the only door seemed to be the one through which I had entered the room.  As the full reality of my situation hit me, I suddenly found myself feeling extremely angry -- so angry, in fact, that I hurled my body against the door in one last effort to break free.  

The impact in the dream was sufficiently real, I guess, so that I finally woke up only to discover that there was something wrapped around my neck -- something frighteningly hot and heavy.  As I groped with this "thing" in the darkness of my bedroom, I suddenly realized that the thing wrapped around my neck was Suki!

As I began to fully comprehend what had actually been going on, I realized that Suki had somehow gotten herself wrapped around my neck, like a fur stole.  The resulting heat generated by her heavy body lying on top of one of my major arteries had led my poor subconscious to create a dream trying to explain my ever-growing discomfort.  I realized that I had become so, so hot that not only were my p.j.s damp through and through, but my hair was wet with perspiration!   

Shaking my head in disbelief, I grabbed that crazy cat and dumped her, unceremoniously, onto the floor beside the bed and begin a rather lengthy lecture on what can happen to bad cats -- especially very bad cats. Suki observed me for about half a minute, yawned and then headed off towards the kitchen to see if the "food fairy" had visited her food dish in her absence!

By the time I had dried my hair and changed into dry p.j.s, it was almost time to get up.  However, with a few last warning words to Suki, I managed to drift off again for another hour or so.  What a night! What a cat!

Otherwise, the past week has been a quiet one with no medical appointments or special visitors.  Starting this week, however, things will be a bit busier for me and will remain that way for the remainder of the month.

The pain management problems persist, but I am hoping that by the time all these latest tests are completed, the specialist will have a better idea of how to use my pain meds to their best advantage. We'll see.



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SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER




"Icon--No Greater Love", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 rev.

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”  
John 15:9-17

Christ says that if we keep His commandments, we will remain in His love ... what commandments did He give us?  As you recall, He said that He was giving us a new commandment: 1) love God above all else; and 2) love your neighbour as yourself. I call this "the commandment of love".

Of course, how we put this commandment into daily practice is, has been and will continue to be, a matter of some controversy and, sadly, the conclusions people have often reached about the "how" have been anything but loving.  So, I ask myself, how can I live out this commandment; how can I be that person who dwells always in the Love that is God?

First, I seek to always "keep it simple". In other words, I try not to get tied up in knots over theological niceties but rather attempt to do whatever is most kind, generous, thoughtful and loving and to do, to the best of my ability, whatever will possibly most benefit the "soul" of another person. As well, I always seek to be true to myself and to the Truth, as I understand it -- remembering that my understanding is limited and flawed. Finally, I try to always be mindful that it is not my place to judge or condemn... that is a job for God who is all-knowing Truth and Love.

So, I pray that we may all be granted the wisdom needed to know how best to love one another and ourselves -- how best to serve one another and ourselves. May this wisdom bring us peace and joy as we seek to apply it in our daily lives. 

Amen.   

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Flame Tree -- Delonix regia



"Flame Tree Blossoms -- Delonix regia", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Delonix regia is a very distinctive tree with large, bright red/orange flowers. The genus name is derived from two Greek words: delos, meaning conspicuous, and onyx, meaning claw, referring to the appearance of the spectacular flowers. The species name of regia is Latin for royal. The tree is commonly cultivated in the tropics and subtropics, including the Caribbean and south Florida, for its ornamental value, but is under increasing threat in its native environment (Madagascar) due to habitat destruction. 


Flame Tree -- Delonix regia -- in full bloom
The Flame Tree, which produces striking, flame-coloured flowers, is also known as Royal Poinciana (named for Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, an 18th century governor of the French West Indes). It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful tropical trees in the world. For many years, this tree was placed in the genus, Poinciana before being moved to Delonix, a genus of flowering plants in the pea (or bean) family of Leguminosae.

As the trees mature, they develop broad umbrella-shaped crowns, and are often planted for their shade-giving properties. The delicate, fern-like leaves are composed of small individual leaflets, which fold up at the onset of dusk. This tree also produces brown, woody seed pods that reach lengths of up to 60 cm; they turn reddish-brown to almost black when ripe. In the Caribbean Islands the pods are used for fuel.  It is here, as well, that the pods are called "woman's tongue" because of the rattling noise they make as they strike against one another when the wind blows through the tree. Please don't let me get started on what I think about that!  

The individual flowers have four, spoon-shaped spreading scarlet or orange-red petals. Most of the blossoms also have one slightly upright, larger petal (the standard) which is marked with yellow and white although I have seen photos which show the flowers without "the standard". As you can see from the drawing above, I chose to omit "the standard". In both versions the flowers contain the same basic colours -- lovely reds, oranges and yellows. Of course, as you can imagine, I enjoyed once again using my favourite section of the palette.




Portions of the information given above was taken from various Internet sources.
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RONÀN AND BRADEN


Ronàn discovering the pleasure of playing with one's toes and fingers -- 
especially when no soother is available!





Braden discovering the pleasure of playing hide 'n seek behind mom's curtains!




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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki sitting in the sunshine as she enjoys the first warm
days promising that summer is finally on its way!
You should hear the conversations I have with this cat almost every morning after she awakens me.  I am sure I sound quite mental!

I sit on the side of the bed while Suki sits, ever hopeful, at my feet and I tell her such things as:  "well, Missy, just because I am awake that doesn't mean you are going to get fed.  I think I will just sit here for an hour or so before I even consider opening that can of food you want so badly!"

If I am feeling particularly grumpy and in more pain than usual, I may do something like stick my finger in her face and say, with mock anger, "I am sick and tired of having to get up according to your schedule and not mine.  From now on, I am going to put you in your carrying case and stick you in the closet before going to bed.  You will be stuck in there all night and I won't be able to hear a single meow.  So how do you like that?!"

By this time, Suki, ignoring everything I have been saying, has gotten up onto the bed next to me and is busily rubbing her chin against my hand while emitting a very loud purring sound. She knows all my threats are idle ones.  As well, she knows that all that rubbing and purring is more effective than any words would be in getting me to give in to her request.

So, up I get and into the kitchen I go with Suki close by my heels. It's time for the kitty to have her breakfast.  Then I will be allowed to prepare my own breakfast in peace.

Otherwise, things are pretty much the same with me.  I did have two unexpected visitors this past week.  One was an acquaintance I hadn't seen in about 10 years.  It was wonderful to see her again and catch up on a bit more of our news than we would have time to share in our occasional emails.

The next day I had a visit from a dear friend who actually was instrumental in getting me an apartment in the co-op where I now live when it opened 18 years ago. This is the best place I have ever lived and is an excellent apartment in which to spend my "golden years"!  My friend and I have stayed in touch through the occasional email or phone call, but it was wonderful to be able to finally sit down together again and just visit.

I expect this coming week to be a quiet one; however, after that there are all sorts of medical tests and appointments scheduled for the rest of May.


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FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER



"Icon -- I am the Vine", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 revised


Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. ... If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”  John 15:1-8

Throughout mankind's history, people have continually yearned to be rooted in something greater than themselves -- something that gives our short, difficult lives meaning and purpose.  So many systems have been "devised" over the centuries and most of these continue to evolve in some form or another into belief systems that have value and merit.

I was born into a family whose tradition was Christianity and, except for a brief fling with Buddhism in the 60s, I have never seriously considered being a part of any other tradition.  Of course, there are plenty of people who believe that my tradition within Christianity -- Roman Catholicism -- is a branch long ago broken off the vine that is Christ!

Be that as it may, even though I have carefully studied most of the major religious traditions currently practiced in the world, I have never really desired to turn my back on my faith -- even when things look very dark and God seems very far away.  

The reason for this is simple:  I have longed all my life to know a parent's love -- a father's love; a mother's love. These were not really available to me.  However, in spite of my negative experiences, I still feel that child within me yearning for love. Christ promised us love. In fact, He taught us that God is Love -- not Judge, Torturer, Sadist or Killer, but Love.

So, when I read the verses in today's Gospel, I hear Him saying:  "I am the Vine; you are a branch in the Vine" or, to put it another way, "I am Love and if you remain in Me, you will be rooted and grounded in Love forever."

May all of creation catch a glimpse of this Love in the way we live our lives and in the love we show to others -- thereby being "attached" to Divine Love for all eternity.

Amen.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Bright Sunlight

"Girl in Bright Sunlight", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015


Once again, I was drawn to a painting because of the hands -- actually, in this case, it should be "hand".  I can't explain it, but, lately, I find that I am frequently inspired by "models" who have their hand or hands in interesting and challenging positions -- as the girl does in today's drawing.

The work that I used as my model is a painting entitled, "Far Away" by the artist, Sophie Anderson whose work has inspired me previously (see posting for February 15, 2015, "Girl at Butterfly Conservatory"). I have found two more paintings by Anderson that I also plan to use as models and in both of them, it's the hands of the women that first caught my attention.

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.


In a moment of whimsy, I considered calling this drawing "Where are my sunglasses when I need them?"  However, as you can see, I restrained myself.  I did find myself, on occasion, squinting just a bit -- as you do in bright sunlight -- while drawing the hand shading the eyes! As well, I reflected (no pun intended) a bit about the fact that sunlight -- whether in a clear, blue sky or reflecting off grey clouds filled with rain or snow -- has always been my enemy. People with fair skin that gets freckled easily know better than to stay out in direct sunlight with uncovered skin for more than a few minutes at a time!  

As well, my eyes have always been very sensitive to bright lights of any kind and, in consequence, I have often gotten strange looks from people when I have been wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day. What people forget is that with eyes that are sensitive to light, even the glare of a cloudy day can be uncomfortable.  As well, bright lights -- particularly flashing ones -- have always been a migraine trigger for me. Yet, without that bright sunlight we would not be able to see beautiful shadows or the inviting shade on a summer's day.  



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RONÀN AND BRADEN


Ronàn still working on those teeth!





Braden with a truck that is almost as big as the real thing!




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SUKI AND SALLIE


"Surely, you didn't awaken me just to
take this picture -- did you?!!"
Suki continues to enjoy this cooler weather that seems unwilling to ever depart! I may be fed up with cold weather, but Suki continues to enjoy it.

I mean, here it is almost the end of April and, yet, it has remained cool enough so that the furnace has come on throughout the day in order to keep the indoor temperature at about 21 degrees Celsius!  As you might guess, it's this business of the furnace that Suki has been enjoying.

You see, long ago I placed her favourite chair in a position so that when the furnace comes on, the warm air blows directly across the back of her chair. Suki finds this quite delightful and you can actually see her snuggle down into the cushions, ever more deeply, whenever that warm air begins to blow.  

It has always puzzled me how much cats enjoy heat.  You would think that with that heavy, fur coat they are always wearing, extra heat would be the very last thing they would seek out. Yet, typical images of cats show them sleeping soundly in direct sunlight, curled up next to a fire or draped over the top of a floor-furnace grate. This is true of cats not only in the cold of winter, but even on a summer's day when you can find them sleeping on the window sill with the hot sun shining directly on them.

What a wonderfully, strange creature is Miss Suki and her fellow felines!

As for me, I am continuing to re-do all my various imaging tests at the hospital. I was there again on Friday for CT scans of my spine (particularly the lumbar area) and of my neck.  The process was more than a bit unpleasant, but I managed to put my body in the required positions long enough for the images to be successfully taken! I still haven't quite recovered, however.

Thankfully, this coming week contains no appointments -- just a visit from a dear acquaintance -- someone I haven't seen in a number of years.  I am very much looking forward to seeing her again.


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FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER



Add caption


Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”   John 10:11-18

In quiet moments, when rational thinking comes easily, we say that we believe or disbelieve one thing or another.  We may say we are Nihilistic -- that we don't believe in anything and all values are meaningless.  Or, we may say that we believe in many gods -- one or more of whom are in charge of all the different areas of our lives.  Yet, interestingly, when most of us are in imminent and terrible danger -- as the earthquake strikes, as the hurricane makes landfall, as the car skids out of control, what do we all cry out in our own language and way? "God help me, God save me". 

So, I have to admit that no matter how conflicted I may feel about matters of faith at various times, deep down I yearn to believe that there really is a loving God -- a Good Shepherd -- who, personally, loves me so much that He is willing to lay down His life in order to protect me from "the wolf" -- that symbol for life-threatening danger -- a Good Shepherd who is not only willing to lay down His life to protect me, but who is also, in His omnipotence, willing and able to "pick it up again".

So I pray that the Good Shepherd will lead us all "beside still waters and restore our souls" so that we may know with certainty that even when we "walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil".

Amen.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Vireya -- Rhododendron

"Vireya -- Rhododendron Blossoms with Spanish Moss",  drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015


To be honest, I have no idea exactly which species of Vireya I have drawn.  There are so many of them as well as so many cultivars that I found it absolutely impossible to say "yes, this is Rhododendron dianthosmum," for example  So let's just call it Vireya.

The first published description of what is now known as “Vireya” appeared in 1822 based on material collected by the author, William Jack, while he was in Sumatra, working for the East India Company. In 1826 a further five species of similar plants were described by Carl Blume, the director of a botanical garden in Indonesia. For these plants, he proposed a new genus to be called Vireya in honour of his friend Julian Joseph Virey. The rank of genus was rejected by Blume's peers; however, the name has continued to be used for this sub-genus (section) of the genus Rhododendron.

About a third of all rhododendron species are tropical Vireya rhododendrons. While Vireyas, like azaleas (also part of the rhododendron grouping), do not look like rhododendrons they obviously have characteristics that make them definite members of the rhododendron (Ericaceae) family. 

They are usually called Vireyas not rhododendrons; however, when you search for them on the Internet, you always end up getting results with the word “rhododendron” attached! As well, Vireyas do not grow where other rhododendrons grow. They are more likely to be growing in the same sort of area where orchids might grow. Thus, they are found in tropical areas where there is no frost.

As well, they are often epiphytes (growing on other plants in the rain forest with their roots growing on the bark but not parasitically). Some even grow as lithophytes, meaning they grow on rock surfaces. Usually the rock or bark on which the Vireya is growing is mossy and the moss seems to provide the correct environment for the roots. 

Most Vireya are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea. Almost half of the 319 Vireya rhododendron species grow in Papua New Guinea, just south of the equator.

As usual, I enjoyed drawing the flowers; however, I must admit that I enjoyed trying to draw Spanish Moss even more!  Spanish Moss always reminds me of the deep South where I grew up and, particularly, it reminds me of my sister, Betty, who died in early March six years ago. Her home, in north-central Florida, was surrounded by huge live oak trees filled with Spanish moss. Requiescant in pace, dear sister. 





Portions of the above information were taken from various Internet sources.

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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki -- She Who Must Be Obeyed!

Suki has been relatively well behaved this past week.  Of course, I have been very conscientious -- 
  - making certain that she is fed on time, 
  - making certain that her sandbox is always fresh and clean, 
  - making certain that my lap is available whenever she decides she wants to sleep there.

The only real problem area is the ongoing battle between Suki and myself regarding the time I am willing to get out of bed in the morning.  I have made it very clear to this crazy cat that I am perfectly willing to let her awaken me any time after 5:30 a.m.; however, Suki continues to try for somewhere closer to 5 a.m. So, this battle of wills continues with me stubbornly staying in bed, even if I am already wide awake, until the clock reads 5:30! 

"She (Suki) who must be obeyed" is not pleased about this -- but, then, neither am I.  So, my friends, expect this battle to continue.

As for other activities, I did have a long chat with the specialist at the pain management clinic this past Monday.  During the course of our conversation, it became obvious to the doctor that my pain is no longer being "managed". So he decided that I need to repeat all the x-rays, CT scan and MRI that were done of my spine (cervical and lumbar) and head in early 2011 so he can clearly see how much worse things may have gotten and adjust my treatment accordingly. 

"Chippy", a photograph taken by G.W.
(Copyright 2015, used with permission) 

Once again, I am including another excellent nature photo taken by my dear friend, Grazyna. 

The picture of the friendly chipmunk was taken using her iPad. 

I really like the composition of chipmunk and shadow.  The colours and lighting say to me: "spring is here at last."






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THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER



"Icon -- Emmaus and Revelation", by the hand
of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, rev. 2015



The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  Gospel portion Luke 24:35-40


Even though today's Gospel is really about the appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples gathered in the upper room, I decided to use the icon of the revelation which occurred at Emmaus -- referred to at the beginning of the Gospel.

I have always been intrigued by that story which depicts a moment of revelation that changes how those two disciples would see everything for the rest of their lives.  Hopefully, we have all had moments like that -- moments where we suddenly see what before had been hidden -- that moment of understanding and insight which can come after hours, days, weeks of puzzling and questioning.  A light shines and something new is revealed -- suddenly, all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place -- and in that moment of revelation people are frequently heard to say something along the lines of: "how could I have been so stupid not to have understood this before now?"

Lord, open our eyes that we may see.

Amen.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Will Winter Never End?

"Lady with Her Hourglass", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Time... what is it?  This is a question philosophers have been asking since the "beginning of time".

We are told by scientists and philosophers that time does not really exist.  That it is our brains that categorize our sense of the present moment, of time passing, of time past, along with the expectation that a future time is coming.  Yet, all of these only exist in the present moment.

We have our clocks and we watch the hands as the days, years, decades pass and, yet, all we ever really have is this present moment of awareness.  The past only exists in our memories which are stored in our brains and even those are subject to distortion and fading. Yet, the only way we can perceive of living, of having lived a life, is to be aware, in some way, of each moment's arrival and passing -- even if it is only by glancing at the clock occasionally and seeing that the hands have moved from one position to another.

Most of us have experienced some distortions of time in our lives either through meditation, drugs, illness, dreaming or traumatic events.  We all know what it feels like when something bad is happening to us and time seems to have stopped or, at least, slowed down to a crawl.  Other times, in moments of great happiness or joy, time passes so quickly that we simply cannot believe it when someone tells us what time it is. 

Because I have suffered from PTSD, I have experienced, on occasion, something known as an "dissociative disorder".  There are a number of different types of dissociative disorders; however, in my case, during a dissociative episode, usually triggered by a flashback, I "lose" time.  Let me try to explain:  
A flashback occurs and once again, I am "inserted" into some violent scene from my past -- then, suddenly, everything goes blank. I mean, hours pass during which I have no awareness of myself and when I do become aware of myself again, I have no memory of the time that has passed, no sense of time having passed at all.  

People who have observed me during one of these episodes have told me that all I did was sit, staring into space! As far as my brain is concerned, I remember sitting down in a chair, suddenly and vividly recalling an event from my childhood for a few seconds and then becoming aware of my surroundings again.  My brain says less than a minute has passed.  Those observing me tell me that three hours have passed.

In spite of all these difficulties with time, we still, most of the time, just keep it simple and get on with things.  We live our lives as though present, past and the expected future are all reliable constructs that are as real as anything else we experience.  This sense of time passing is what the featured drawing above is all about.  Our sense of time is what allows us to say to one another: "will winter never end?"  "It feels as though it has gone on forever!"

For so many of us, this winter has been far too long, too cold and too snowy.  We are ready for it to be over.  We are ready for spring to arrive in all its glory.  We want the sand in the hourglass the lady is holding, which represents the passing of wintertime, to run out completely so that there will no longer be snow on the barren branches; rather, the branches will be covered by leaves of springtime green.  

Up here in the frozen north, we are all saying "enough is enough". It is time for winter to be gone.  It is time for spring to arrive.  If you are living in a place where it is already spring, be very grateful.



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RONÀN AND BRADEN



 Ronàn may be just a wee lad, but he already has that look 
that will cause the heart of many a lass to melt...




BRADEN ON THE HUNT FOR EASTER EGGS




2.  "I found one!"
3. "Look at all my eggs!"
1.  The Search Begins




4. "The Easter Bunny was very
good to me!"




Braden sharing his moment of glory with his brother --
while saying to himself:  "thank goodness, Ro is still too young
for chocolate!"



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SUKI AND SALLIE


"Some days it's easier just not to move at all..."
Suki normally, after eating a meal, gets onto (or into) one of her favourite sleeping places and stays there for anywhere from two to four hours before moving on to a new sleeping place.

This past Monday, even though Joycelyn was cleaning various things in the vicinity of Suki's sleeping place, the cat was zonked out as usual -- only occasionally opening her eyes just a bit whenever Joycelyn and I started talking again.

Suddenly, though, mid-way through the morning, Suki simply disappeared.  Of course, there was a bit of a crisis going on at the time which might explain her behaviour, but where could she be? Joycelyn and I searched everywhere and it appeared that Suki had simply, magically vanished from a locked apartment.

Perhaps, I had better explain a bit about the crisis...  I have one of those useless balconies -- useless because it is the balcony at the end of a long line of balconies which all slope slightly downwards towards my balcony.  This means that all their debris, melting snow and rain water end up on my balcony.  Unfortunately, whoever designed this system of balconies failed to put in a large enough drain in my balcony to handle all of this stuff  Thus, I have a balcony which is constantly in a state of flooding -- usually caused by the debris blocking the one drain hole.  This means that someone has to frequently go out onto my balcony and clear the drain hole in order to keep the water from backing up into my apartment.  

On the day Suki disappeared, Joycelyn noticed there was some flooding on my balcony (probably from melting snow) and the next thing I knew, she had the balcony door wide open and was out on the balcony with a stick and a broom trying to get the blasted drain hole clear.  My building's maintenance supervisor was outside while Joycelyn was clearing the drain hole and there was a certain amount of shouting back and forth as she enquired as to our activities.  I suppose this was all just too much for Suki and so she decided to pull a disappearing act.  We only noticed she was gone, of course, after clearing the water from the balcony and closing the door.

At any rate, we searched and continued to search but there was no sign of the crazy cat. Calling her got no response -- not even rattling her food dish accomplished anything.  After we had searched through all the usual places (and even the unlikely places) a second time and just before I picked up the phone to call the Humane Society asking them to be on the lookout for a fat, black cat, we heard a slight scratching sound.  Joycelyn and I both stopped and listened carefully.  The noise had gotten a bit louder. It was definitely coming from the coat closet near the front door -- a closet with sliding doors -- doors which Suki is able to both open and close.

I hurried over, opened the doors and there discovered Miss Suki crawling out from a very narrow space between two large plastic boxes -- one for storing extra scarves, mittens, hats, etc. and the other for storing blankets and lap robes.  She had obviously been sleeping as she looked up at me with those half-open, sleepy eyes. We looked at one another for a few seconds and then Suki said, rather plaintively, "meow".

We had checked that closet twice but I had never imagined that fat Suki could fit into such a small hole, but cats, as all cat lovers know, can, amazingly, fit into all sorts of unusual spaces.  We figured she must have gotten in there when the balcony door was open and I was shouting to the maintenance lady.  Suki has a real fear of whatever lies outside of this apartment and is prone to run and hide whenever the balcony door is open even a little bit.  As well, she dislikes shouting or any loud noise and has been known to run and hide when people get too boisterous.

Although I welcomed Suki back from hiding with much happiness, I told her straightaway that this adventure did not entitle her to extra rations!  I knew this was what she was hoping for as she immediately began to try to lead me into the kitchen -- the way she does at meal times.

Otherwise, things have been relatively quiet for me this past week. I had two "medical" appointments -- a fasting ultrasound one day and a visit with the podiatrist on another.  There has been no news back from the ultrasound and my feet are doing as well as can be expected.

This coming week I have two more medical appointments -- one with the pain specialist and another for a particular testing procedure.  I expect these to be routine as well although I am hoping that the pain specialist will have some suggestions for ways to treat these new pains in my neck and upper back -- suggestions that do not include taking more pain killers!   



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SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER -- [DIVINE MERCY]




"Icon -- My Lord and My God", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, rev. 2015


Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  John 20:24-29


On this Divine Mercy Sunday, I am reminded of what I once heard a priest say.  It went something like this:

"At the time of my death, if there is anyone waiting on the other side asking me what I have to say for myself, I plan to say only one thing and that is 'mercy', 'mercy', 'mercy'."

This has become my plan as well.  

I have missed the mark; I have fallen short; there is nothing I can say that would justify all the wrong I have done in my life.  And, so I cry out now and forever, "Lord, have mercy".

Amen.