Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lady in the Garden

"Lady in the Garden", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Today's drawing was inspired by an undated portrait painted by E. J. Poynter and entitled "Portrait of Lady Markham".  As usual, what I ended up with by the time I finished bears no resemblance to my model other than the pose!

Sir Edward John Poynter was an English painter in the Neo-classical tradition as well as a designer and draughtsman. He became best known for his large historical paintings and established his fame with his immense painting, Israel and Egypt, 1867. 

Poynter was the son of the architect, Ambrose Poynter. Although he was born in Paris, his parents returned to Britain soon afterwards. In 1853 he met Frederick Leighton in Rome, who made a great impression on the 17-year-old Poynter. On his return to London he studied at Leigh's academy in Newman Street and the Royal Academy Schools before going to Paris to study in the studio of the classicist painter, Charles Gleyre, where James McNeill Whistler and George du Maurier were fellow-students.

In 1866 Poynter married the famous beauty Agnes MacDonald, daughter of the Rev G. B. MacDonald of Wolverhampton, and they had three children. Her sister Georgiana married the artist Edward Burne-Jones; her sister Alice was the mother of writer Rudyard Kipling; and her sister Louisa was the mother of three-times-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Stanley Baldwin. 

Painting of Sir Edward J. Poynter
Poynter held a number of official posts: he was the first Slade Professor at University College London from 1871 to 1875, principal of the National Art Training School from 1875 to 1881 and director of the National Gallery from 1894 to 1904 (overseeing the opening of the Tate Gallery). In 1896, Poynter was elected President of the Royal Academy – a post he held until 1918. He received a knighthood in 1896 and was made a baronet in 1902. Poynter died in London on the 26th of July 1919. 

What really intrigued me about this painting of Poynter's were the placement of the hands.  Hands, as I am sure you know, are the most difficult parts of the body to draw and I am always on the lookout for hands that present a challenge -- and these certainly do. 

Of course, as you can guess, I am still not satisfied with the results, but will leave this drawing for now and, perhaps, try again another day.



Daniel with his father, and my nephew, David...
So many photos of Daniel are taken by his father so he
is behind the camera and not in the picture.
I cropped this one out of a family photo.

Daniel with his father on a holiday trip 
a few years ago.

Recently, my nephew, David, did something wonderful for his son and for other autistic children -- as you can see from the first paragraph of a news article from the Knoxville (Tennessee) Sentinel, dated the 25th of September, 2014.

OAK RIDGE — His solitary, self-imposed physical ordeal began at 4 a.m. Friday morning in downtown Oak Ridge. It shouldn't conclude until about 10 Friday night at a North Ridge trailhead on the outskirts of the city. He's doing it for the love of his son. After months of intensive training, Oak Ridge High School girls' basketball coach David Scott is pushing himself through a one-man triathlon to raise money and awareness about autism. It's personal. While it's a fundraiser, it's also a tribute to his 9-year-old son, Daniel, who is autistic. "He is a true joy in our life and though he is developmentally delayed and nonverbal, we consider ourselves so blessed," Scott said. During his triathlon Friday, Scott is planning to swim three miles, bike 130 miles and run and walk 30 miles. That's more than a traditional triathlon — which is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run....
For the entire article, go to 

[Above paragraph used with permission of the Knoxville Sentinel e-news.]



Suki looking very concerned just
prior to making a mad dash
for her closet hiding place!
Suki had a Friday like you wouldn't believe!  The plumbers returned -- or, as Suki describes it:  the Monster came back.

They arrived at my place around 9:30 a.m. Friday and the banging, clanging and general disorder continued until a little past 11 a.m.

With the first bang, Suki ran for cover and did not venture forth from her hiding place until almost 1 p.m.!  If I had been able, I would gladly have joined her in the back of the bedroom closet -- but once in there, I would have had to call the emergency services in order to be extricated.  

I am not really sure what all the noise was about; however, I do know that at one point the drill the guy was using was so smoking hot that it set off my apartment smoke alarms.  This caused me to hobble as quickly as possible to the front hallway (where the work was going on) and yell loudly until the man finally stopped his drill.  It turned out that the noise he was making was so loud that he had not even heard the alarms going off.

So what was his response when I told him that he had set off the fire alarms?  "Oh, don't worry," he said, "we contacted the Fire Department before we started today so that they know what is going on and know they don't need to respond!" 

Saying this, he quickly returned to his work.  I stood there thinking to myself that this was really rather upsetting.  I mean, what was the Fire Department going to do if there really was a fire in the building? Just ignore it because these guys said to?

Fortunately, there was no more smoke after that and all remained relatively calm -- other than the noises of the drill and the occasional complaints of the workman to himself when things were not going as easily as he had hoped.

Finally the work was finished.  The guy cleaned things up as well as most workmen do, apologized for taking so long and making so much noise and then he left.  What a relief it was as the normal silence and privacy of my home returned once again.  The next visit from these guys is not scheduled yet but it could be as early as this coming week.  One day, I pray, they will be finished.

As I said earlier, Suki did not show herself until about an hour and a half after the guy left.  I think she wanted to make absolutely certain that the Monster was really gone.  Poor thing, she doesn't know that the Monster may return as early as next Friday for another round.

As for me, I continue as usual with about the same amount of pain and suffering as last week!  

Nothing is scheduled for this coming week other than the possible visit of a dear friend.  This is the same friend who was supposed to come for a visit last month; however, she and her family all came down with the flu. Thankfully, they all seem to have fully recovered and so the visit is re-scheduled for this Thursday.



"Icon, Christ the Teacher", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’   Matt. 22:15-21 MRSV

For today's Gospel illustration, I choose one of the original Rosary icons from 2009 -- "The Proclamation of the Gospel".  Here we see Christ teaching to all sorts of people. Even though I was just learning how to draw on the computer at the time, I think I did mange to draw a few faces showing some amount of questioning, dislike, unhappiness and even anger.

This passage from Matthew is one of a number which indicate the strife between those who rigidly interpreted the teachings of God and those who felt that God just might not be quite so rigid after all. Of course, we must not allow ourselves to think that we are that different from the Pharisees and Herodians of the first century! I know I don't like change anymore than those Pharisees did and I can certainly feel just a bit of irritation when my beliefs are challenged!

As always, it is love that makes the difference.  If we enter into dialogue with truly loving hearts, then we will eventually find a way to bring people together rather than driving them apart.

Let us pray for the wisdom we need to be able to really listen to others without seeing them as the enemy.  For only then can we hope to find that Truth which will lead us to the fullness of Love.

May peace be with you today and always.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

"Kakabeak" Clianthus puniceus

"'Kakabeak' Clianthus puniceus", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Clianthus puniceus, most commonly known as Kakabeak, is a stunning shrub known for its dense clusters of brilliant red, claw-like flowers, which hang from arching branches in the New Zealand summer (September-December).  This evergreen shrub is native to New Zealand's North Island where, sadly, it is critically endangered with only about 200 plants still to be found in the wild. 

Clianthus puniceus seed pods
The names of this plant allude to the splendour of its brightly-coloured flowers with the genus name, Clianthus, being derived from two Greek words:  kleos, meaning glory, and anthos, meaning flower.  The species name, puniceus, is derived from the Latin and refers to the particular bright reddish colour of the flowers. 

Kaka bird of New Zealand
Its common name, Kakabeak (Kaka-Beak), comes from the perceived resemblance of the flowers to the beak of the Kaka -- a large species of parrot that used to be common in New Zealand forests. Other common names for Clianthus puniceus are "lobster claw" and "parrot’s-bill". 

Plants can grow up to 2-3 m. tall, producing long, trailing stems that form new plants when they come into contact with soil. In this way, one parent plant can cover a large area. It is an obvious member of the pea family, Leguminosae, evidenced by its long green leaves made up of smaller, opposing leaflets. The flowers, are succeeded by large, dangling "pea pods". 

No one is certain as to the primeval distribution of Kakabeak, of course. However, the Maori are thought to have transported it extensively around the land mass now known as New Zealand. It was used by the Maori to feed caged Tui birds. These beautiful, native birds, able to imitate even complex speech better than any parrot, were kept in captivity in order to help the Maori attract and capture other birds. The flowers and edible seedpods of the Kakabeak were also used by Maori for gifting and trading. Its seeds remain viable for a long time and could, therefore, be stored and easily transported. 

As this shrub is still commonly found in New Zealand plant centres, gardeners are often surprised to hear it is endangered. This very nutritious plant has no defences against browsing by deer, goats, pigs, hares, stock or introduced garden snails (many of which have now escaped into the wild).  As well, introduced plants, such as the Mexican daisy, gorse and Buddleja, also threaten the survival of Kakabeak as these hardy invaders seek out similar habitats.

I was, of course, immediately attracted to the brilliant colour of the Kakabeak flowers when I just happened across a photo of them on the Internet. Prompted by this photo to further searching, I found several more photos.  Fortunately, a few of these provided enough detail for me to use them as models for my drawing. 

Of course, the problem with photos is that they don't always provide me with the proper colour balance.  As I have continued my research on these "red" flowers, I have come to learn that the Latin, puniceus, actually refers to a colour which is described as "reddish-purple"!  The red I used in today's drawing, as you can see above, is certainly more reddish-orange instead of reddish purple. So, after even more searching, I have finally found a few photos which appear to show a red with more purple and less orange. 

Thus, I am already thinking of doing a new drawing of these beautiful flowers in which I will re-mix the red on my palette and see if I can come up with a colour a bit closer to that colour intended by the Latin term "puniceus" and meaning "reddish-purple".  Meanwhile, I do hope you enjoy these bright, reddish-orange flowers -- it is one of my favourite shades of red!



Suki considering her next activity!
I am uncertain as to what actually happened last night -- after all, I was asleep at the time -- but for some unfathomable reason, Suki allowed me to "sleep-in"!  

I was actually awakened this morning by sunlight shining in my window rather than by rattling Venetian blinds and plaintive meows from Suki. 

When I realized that the bright light bothering my eyes was not a lamp I had failed to turn off before going to bed, I quickly glanced at the clock which appeared to reveal that it was almost 8 a.m.  As that amazing information sank in, I could feel a sense of confusion followed by panic.  This led to the following thoughts -- tumbling across my mind, almost one on top of the other:
"Oh, no, what has happened to Suki?"  
"Have her joints finally given out on her?"
"Is she ill?"
"Please, God, she isn't dead!"

Fortunately, that same bright sunlight allowed me to quickly locate Suki lying in her favourite chair, looking at me with very alive but very accusatory eyes!  Maybe it was only my guilty feelings caused by the knowledge that it was almost two hours past Suki's breakfast time, but I am sure I could hear her thinking:
"How could  you do this to me?"
"What have I done to deserve such treatment?"
"Shame, shame."

In response, I quickly cried out my apologies to Suki as I began the arduous effort, now required, to get myself out of bed and into a standing position.  This necessitates making myself move, joint after joint, in spite of the pain. These movements are combined with all necessary precautions to keep myself from falling over as I struggle to reach a standing position, rarely making it on the first try.  

Suki simply sat there and watched -- she knows better than to get in my way at such times as I occasionally have to let myself fall back into bed due to discomfort. I, then, start the process all over again. In the early days of my current problems, Suki would frequently come close to getting squashed on occasion because she wanted to do the "rubbing-purring-cat-thing" in hopes that this would enable her to get fed more quickly.  Now, she knows better than to take such dangerous risks.  Finally, I was up and mobile and on my shuffling way to the kitchen.  

Once I had Suki's food in front of her, she devoted herself to the eating of it with that absolute, "living-in-the-moment" attention that our fellow creatures possess.  Thus, I was finally able, for the first time since awakening, to reflect on all that had just happened and to begin the process of trying to figure out why.  As I said at the beginning of this column, I have no idea why I was allowed to sleep in (as the Canadians say), but I simply cannot believe that Suki decided to do me a favour this morning.  I mean, she is a sweet kitty-cat, but we all know how she is about her mealtimes! 

I can only assume that she tried all her usual methods for waking me up at the "proper" time, but, for some reason, these failed -- maybe I was more tired than I realized.  Perhaps -- and this is a big perhaps -- Suki simply decided this morning that she was tired to making such an effort to awaken me at 5:30 a.m. every day. Or, maybe her techniques just didn't seem to be working very well and she didn't feel like devising new ones.  So, growing tired of trying, she gave up, ate some of her "crunchies" (even though it is her least favourite food) and then simply went back to sleep to wait for me to finally get up on my own.  Knowing Suki as I do, this argument just doesn't sound very logical to me! What do you think?

So, here I am after having a bit more sleep than usual and, unfortunately, I do not feel any better for it.  In fact, I sense what could be the beginnings of a migraine -- migraine sufferers are cautioned to never sleep-in as that is a known migraine trigger. We, who are prone to migraines, are told over and over again to establish a sleep schedule and stick to it -- weekdays and weekends -- and we will, thereby, help ourselves to prevent migraines.  

I find it interesting that so many of the ailments from which I suffer are, in some way or another, related to sleep. Combined with this information is the awareness of just how dangerous sleep times were for me during those first 18 years of my life when I lived in my parents' house.  I wonder if the "mind doctors" will ever figure out how these things are connected and how to treat the medical issues which result.

Finally, Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to all my Canadian readers!



"Icon, Wedding at Cana", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”   Matthew 22:1-14

 I used the "Wedding at Cana" icon today simply because I do not have any other icon that relates to weddings.  As well, I thought that seeing Christ as He: 

  • lovingly set aside His own agenda by taking Himself and His small group of early followers to a village wedding; 
  • sat with His Mother, relatives and friends as they spoke of mundane things, and; 
  • performed His first public miracle in this out-of-the-way place;
might shed some light on today's parable from Matthew's Gospel -- a parable which I find to be extremely demanding.

Of course, I, personally, have always struggled with this passage from the 22nd Chapter of Matthew as I really do not like parties of any kind -- never have.  I enjoy meals and good conversation with a few close family and friends, but anything bigger causes me to normally find excuses for staying home by myself!  Perhaps this has to do with the need to be hyper-vigilant which I needed to acquire early in life.

I can see myself in this parable as one of those people who were invited by the King, but who made excuses about why they unable to attend. Although, if I really loved the King's Son, then I would probably have agreed to attend.  Throughout my life, I have said yes to invitations to large gatherings only out of love -- weddings, baptisms, birthday parties, etc. -- if I am there, you know it is simply because my love for those being honoured is great enough so that I am willing to set aside my own preferences and desires.

So, once again, we come back to love -- always love -- setting aside our likes and dislikes because love requires that we put the other first. When we do that, we don't just say "yes" halfheartedly -- rather, we do all that love requires, including putting on the proper garments for the occasion, participating joyfully and, in fact, laying down our lives -- our preferences -- for the other.  The teachings of Christ always come back to love.  And, so I pray...

May I continue to be willing to learn to love -- now when life seems so often to be almost unbearably difficult for me -- now when putting the other first so often seems almost impossible for me -- especially now.

May we all know the peace and joy that comes when we love enough to lay down our lives -- our own desires and preferences -- for the other.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Lady with a Parasol

"Lady with a Parasol", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

This drawing was inspired by a painting entitled:  "The Green Parasol" by one of the most gifted of California's Impressionist artists, Guy Rose (1867 - 1925).  He was the only artist among the early Impressionists to be born in Southern California.

Guy Orlando Rose was the seventh child of Leonard John Rose and Amanda Jones Rose. He and his wife raised their large family on an expansive Southern California ranch and vineyard – the San Gabriel Valley town of Rosemead. 

In 1876 young Guy Rose was accidentally shot in the face during a hunting trip with his brothers. While recuperating he began to sketch as well as learning to use watercolours and oil paints. After graduating high school, he moved, in 1884, to San Francisco where he did his art training at the California School of Design. There he studied with the Danish-born artist Emil Carlsen
Guy Rose, 19th-20th
century artist

In 1888, Rose enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris and studied with Benjamin-Constant, Jules Lefebvre, Lucien Doucet and Jean-Paul Laurens (you may recall a couple of these names previously mentioned in such postings as the recent one on the artist Henry Ryland). At the Académie Julian, he met and became lifelong friends with fellow student, Frank Vincent. In 1889, Rose won a scholarship to the Académie Delacluse.  

In the early 1890s, Rose returned to the U.S., living in New York City where he did illustrations for Harper's, Scribners, and Century. Then, in 1899, he and his wife, Ethel, decided to return to France where they bought a cottage at Giverny

In 1900, however, they were in residence in Paris, spending the winter in Briska, Algeria where Rose continued painting. Then from 1904 to 1912, the Roses lived in Giverny. His works from this period show the influence of "the master", Claude Monet, who had, by this time, become Rose's friend and mentor.

"Blue Kimono"
by Guy Rose
Sadly, by 1913, Rose was suffering on and off again from the effects of lead poisoning*.  So in 1914, he and his wife returned to the U.S., setting up a home in Los Angeles, California. Then, in 1921, Rose suffered a debilitating stroke that left him paralyzed.  Four years later, in 1925, Guy Rose died at Pasadena.  

Now, as to my version of "The Green Parasol",  entitled: "Lady with a Parasol", the most exciting part of the drawing, for me, was designing that very parasol! 

To be honest, it is the only part of the drawing with which I am entirely satisfied. I remain ambivalent about the other elements involved -- particularly the colour and density of the leaves and the tint of the lady's skin.  I am already thinking seriously about redoing both of those. I know I need to somehow create the illusion of greenish-blue light -- especially on the lady's skin and clothes -- as she is sitting in the light but under the shade of a greenish-blue parasol!  

Sadly, my old software attempts to do such things with great difficulty and is often unable to give me the kinds of shadows and tints that I know I need. Anyway, we'll see what happens... If I do revise the drawing, you will know, of course, as it will suddenly appear, in its revised form, in a subsequent posting!

*[White lead oil paint, known as "flake white" or "Cremnitz white", was valued by artists for centuries because of the ease of handling and resilience the lead confers to such paints. Lead white paint dries relatively quickly to form a strong, flexible paint film. It was the only white pigment available to artists in appreciable quantities until the twentieth century, when zinc-white and titanium-white became available. Many artists worked with lead in order to create their own paints and, as a consequence, were gradually sickened and eventually dying from complications due to the lead poisoning.]

--Much of the above information regarding Guy Rose was taken from Wikipedia and other Internet sources.



Suki playing with one of her many strings
(note the knots tied in it so that she cannot
easily swallow it -- got to protect her!)
Suki had quite an adventure this past week although I am not sure that is quite how she would describe it!  Actually, she probably found the event to be very distressing -- just as I did.

A group of plumbers (or should that be "a flush of plumbers") descended on my apartment Thursday morning! They came to noisily make a huge hole in the back of my coat closet by the front door. Evidently, this is the best location for reaching the pipes which go from my kitchen, into the building pipes and eventually meet up with the City's pipes.  The object of this?... to clean out the "sludge" that has formed there over the past 17 years since the building was first inhabited by myself and others!

In order to drill this hole, everything had to be removed from the closet.  I told these men, in no uncertain terms, that I was not physically able to do this myself and gave them permission to move the stuff for me.  After a bit of discussion about this, the plumber who ended up doing the actual work and was very nice, handled my things carefully (after seeing what he removed, I now have to admit that here is another clean-up job for Joycelyn!).

Then came the noisy part of making a big hole in the wall.  Once the drill started, Suki began growling loudly and then gave up the fight, running straight for her hiding place in the back of the bedroom closet.  I simply endured the noise until it stopped. Fortunately, the hole-making exercise only took about 15 to 20 minutes as the machine was, indeed, very loud.  Next, the nice plumber covered the hole with plastic (he taped it down carefully so that there is no way a cat could find her way in!).  Then, he cleaned up as well as I could expect him to.  Finally, he put most of the stuff back in the closet, trying valiantly to push as many boxes as possible in front of the now-covered hole.  

The next part of the process will occur some time this week.  They have promised to let me know the day before they return so that I can prepare myself.  Let me explain... these days, when I have to be up and about for any period of time, I require additional pain medication plus an inner pep talk telling myself that I can endure this without giving in to crying and swearing!

I was told that they will have to return a third time in order to repair the wall in the closet, closing up the hole permanently.  I haven't yet told Suki that these men will be coming back and so, at present, she is totally unaware that the "monster" will return in a day or two!  

Poor Suki.  It was both sad and funny to watch her when this guy started drilling.  As I said, she growled loudly for about 15 or 20 seconds and then turned and ran quickly for her safe place in the bedroom closet -- she's no fool!  It was about an hour after the guy with the drill left that I heard Suki making her way, cautiously, out of the bedroom closet and meowing loudly until she found me. Of course, it was getting close to lunch time so it was possibly just her stomach growling that caused her to emerge from hiding and not her courage. 

After she had eaten her lunch, she spent a good half hour carefully sniffing the area where the "monster" had been!  It will be very interesting to see what she does this week when the "monster" returns to clean out the pipes.  There is no telling what sounds that kind of machine will make.  Whatever the sounds, I am sure that there will be another mad dash for the back to the bedroom closet for poor Suki!

Otherwise, my week was a quiet one -- thank goodness.  

The only thing of note which occurred, other than the plumbers, was the building management's decision to turn off the air conditioning on September 30th.  This, as it turned out, was more of a problem for me than it might have been as the weather continued to stay relatively mild until yesterday and, so, for four days, my apartment was really hot.  Fortunately, I have two floor fans which I was painfully dragging with me everywhere in an effort to remain as cool and comfortable as possible. 

I feel the heat much more than in the past due to all the medication I am now taking -- it makes me uncomfortably warm almost all the time.  I am very grateful that the weather has now become more fall-like and is expected to stay this way indefinitely.  I am looking forward to colder weather!

Even now, my place is not as cool as it might be were I able to keep my windows open.  However, I have a corner apartment with a busy street on one side and a public walkway on the other.  Young people like to congregate just outside my bedroom window -- especially late in the evening.  As well, the young men of the neighbourhood seem to think that the large space without windows at the corner of my building is a perfect place off which to bounce basketballs!  

Oh, well...  that's enough complaining.  At least I understand the why of all these things.  Just think how it must be for Suki for whom the world outside of this apartment is a total mystery and, thus, a very frightening place!



"Icon, Master of the Vineyard", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Jesus said, "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance." So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.  Matt. 21:33-43

What is it that makes us so greedy that they are willing to lie, deceive and even murder to gain something that belongs to someone else?  

Have you ever felt, as I have, the sticky fingers of greed wrapping themselves around your heart?  If so, you hopefully have learned, as I continue to, that the only remedy for greed is love.  There is no way we can really "cast it out" other than by loving enough to be willing to let others have what we, ourselves, desire -- if that is what they want.  We may, in fact, end up with whatever it is we desire anyway; however, it will then have become ours, honestly and freely, without any deception or "murder" on our part.

Those men in today's parable who had leased the vineyard, and all the things that came with it, began to desire to possess it all for themselves. Why were they not satisfied with the agreement they had entered into?  I am sure that the amount of produce that they had contracted to give the owner in payment was reasonable for that day and age.  Yet, after giving their word, look what they did.

Yet, even after they had beaten, stoned and even killed His slaves, the Master was still willing to try to give them another opportunity to do the right thing.  Sadly, and rather foolishly it would seem, we are told that the Master sent His own Son to collect the produce due -- thinking that surely these people could not be so greedy and wicked that they would not respect His Son and Heir.  Knowing human nature as we do and being the cynics most of us have become, we, of course, could have predicted how the tenants would behave!  

But, in the end, what did these tenants actually achieve?  They lost everything -- even their lives -- and the vineyard was given to others who would, we are told, honour their contract.  Of course, we know that these new tenants turned out to be basically no better than the old "tenants".  None of us, no group, no religion, no organization, is free from greed and the wickedness that goes with it.  No wonder it is one of the so-called Seven Deadly Sins!

There is only one way, in my opinion and as I mentioned previously, to defeat greed or any other "deadly sin" and that is with love.  What is it that St. Paul says: 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Cor. 13:4-7

May I be granted the grace to always choose the way of love whatever choices life offers me.

May we all know the joy and peace that comes when we willingly, lovingly, give rather than grasp.  Let us have open hands.


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Turquoise Puya

"Puya berteroniana, Turquoise Puya", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Turquoise Puya as it looks 
growing wild

For those who work in or visit a botanical garden where Puya berteroniana has been carefully cultivated, the appearance of blossoms is a moment of great beauty tinged with even greater sadness. An exotic plant that flowers once in its lifetime before dying has bloomed. 

The spiky plant had shown no signs of blossoming for over 10 years but has now burst into an array of turquoise petals with orange anthers -- a very unusual colour combination in nature.

While searching online, I found the following quote from Chris Kidd, curator at the Ventnor Botanic Gardens located on the Isle of Wight: 
"The Puya berteroniana is a monocarpic plant which means it flowers just once and then dies. It will be in flower for a couple of weeks and then hundreds of the seeds will be pollinated by birds, and only one or two of those will survive. The Puya berteroniana can grow up to 10 ft. tall and last for [a great many] years before it flowers."

The flowers of the Puya berteroniana are expected to last for around two weeks but it will sadly be the first and last time the tall plant blooms as they die shortly after the flowers fade.

Occasionally, monocarpic plants can be kept alive after flowering if: (1) the flowers are removed as soon as they are done blooming, before seed formation begins, or (2) if the flower buds are removed before they begin blooming (option 2 seems rather pointless, however, as you would never be able to enjoy the beautiful turquoise flowers!). 

The plant - a bromeliad - is a relative of the pineapple and is native to the Andes in South America (where it is known by the local residents as chagual). The dry shoots are used in construction and as fuel.  As well, the fibres are used for the fabrication of mats. Fresh leaves can be eaten in salads. 

The name "Puya" was derived from the Mapuche Indian word meaning "point" and probably refers to the spiny points that cover the leaf margins. The species name of berteroniana comes, perhaps, from someone named Berteron (a French name); however, I could find no definite information on this matter even after extensive research. 

Puya berteroniana is seldom seen outside of its native Andean areas except in botanical gardens or research facilities.  Some determined and patient gardeners do make the effort to cultivate this plant in their gardens where it requires just the right temperature and moisture.  As well, while waiting for the blossoms to appear, you would have to be wary, constantly, of the fish-hook shaped spines on the leaves!

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

"Turquoise Puya, Puya berteroniana", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

I have tried drawing this plant several times previously and have always given up because I could never quite get the right colour of turquoise from my palette.  This time, I simply forced myself to keep working on the drawing even though I remain unsatisfied with the shade of turquoise I achieved.  The drawing immediately above is an earlier drawing I went on to finish after completing the one featured at the beginning of this posting.  Notice that the colour in the drawing here is a bit more turquoise than the one shown at the top.  

Puya berteroniana blossoms
If you look at the photo on the left, you can a better idea of just how rich this shade of turquoise really is and how the petals shine with the colour.  My drawing looks, to me, so very dull by comparison -- but then, I guess capturing the brilliance of a colour saturated by sunlight has always been a challenge for any artist.



As you can see in the photo below, Braden is growing into a big boy.  As well, he is obviously quite pleased with his Batman shirt. I must say, he does look very handsome in it!

As the day draws ever nearer for the arrival of his baby brother, Braden is still trying to figure out exactly what is going on.  As his mother says:  "he knows a big change is coming soon!"

Braden looking so happy in his Batman shirt



Suki thinking about what mischief 
she can get into next!
Well, Suki must have heard me bragging about how well she was behaving as she seems to have outdone herself misbehaving this past week!

She has been up to all her nasty habits, especially the ones which include finding ways to make repetitive noises starting at about 4 a.m.!  She tells me, when questioned, that it is because she is so very hungry.  I ask her, in return, why she feels her hunger so much more during the six hours when I am trying to get a night's sleep? 

Sure, she wants to eat but I know for a fact that she is always fed a big meal sometime between 11 and midnight.  I also know that during the day, she goes six hours at a time without being fed her favourite food (her "crunchies" are always available but she eats them only in desperation). 

Suki gets through these six hour periods during the day without any noticeable misbehaving.  She may, indeed, notify me when it is 30 to 45 minutes before feeding time, but she doesn't misbehave in order to bring this to my attention.  At the very most, she will give me a few mournful meows and will then, probably, position herself somewhere very close to me -- like in my lap or on the back of my recliner -- but, otherwise, she simply waits. She does not misbehave.

So, I ask myself, what is it about those nighttime hours that causes her to misbehave?  I know that cats are often more active during those hours that we humans are and so maybe since she is less likely to sleep during those hours, she feels the hunger that much more.  I am just speculating here.  I have asked Suki to explain things to me, but thus far, all I have gotten are some more mournful meows!

If I was feeling as well as I did up until about a year ago, I would have continued to spend more time playing with Suki in the evening -- I could watch TV and pull a catnip mouse back and forth across the sofa at the same time.  Now, however, I just do not feel well enough plus any repetitive movement on my part quickly becomes very painful.  

So, while I may have identified why Suki misbehaves as she does during the night, I have not yet come up with a solution.  Perhaps I need to ask someone to volunteer to come by each evening and play with this silly cat for an hour or so before bedtime.  If, after a few days, I find that it makes a real difference in her behaviour, then I might have to consider hiring someone full-time.  I wonder how I should word the ad for such a helper... any suggestions?

As for me, other than having to deal with Suki each morning while trying to get sufficient sleep, I am doing the same.

I had expected to have a visit this past week from a dear friend; however, I received an email from her early last week informing me that she and her family were all suffering from the flu!  I was distressed to hear that flu season has already started, but I was grateful for her kindness in not trying to visit while she might still be contagious.  I really don't know how I would handle all that extra joint pain that the flu brings with it!  Hopefully, she will be feeling better soon and we can arrange for another visit.

This coming week looks as though it will be very quiet for me and I am grateful for that -- no medical appointments for a few more weeks yet.  I can hardly believe that Wednesday will be October 1st.  Just one more month and it will have been a full year since I became basically housebound!

Ah, well, perhaps my aches and pains will settle down for a while and there won't be any need to deal with any additional problems until the new year... No matter what the doctors say, I find that I still have a bit of hope that this whole painful process will slow down. Truly, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast..." as Alexander Pope so wisely said all those years ago.



"Icon, The Good Shepherd", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching and challenged his authority. So Jesus asked them this question. “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
Matthew 21:28-32

I chose the icon of The Good Shepherd to accompany today's reading as I do not have an icon illustrating this particular story and the story does say something about God as the Good Shepherd... let me explain what I mean.

A really good shepherd, it seems to me, would take care of all the sheep equally whether they were pretty, fluffy and well-behaved or prone to get dirty, messy and constantly wander off, getting into all sorts of trouble.  Just like the two brothers -- one of whom ended up doing as he was asked while the other one lied and was disobedient. Did the father stop loving one and love only the other after this? Not our Father, certainly.  

Our Father doesn't stop loving us even if we are now, or will be in the future, "tax collectors and prostitutes".  Nor does He love us because we are "chief priests and elders".  No matter what we are or what we may become, we will always be welcomed into the Kingdom so long as we never stop trying to love... so long as we never completely turn our backs on Love. 

Some of those who were listening to Christ as He spoke had hearts so full of pride, envy, jealousy, greed and so on that there was simply no room left for love.  So, they were being told, just as we are, that unless they "changed their minds and believed" there would never be room in their hearts to desire the love that is necessary for us to enter into the Kingdom.  We must never forget that God, the Good Shepherd, is Love. 

May I be granted the grace necessary to follow the Good Shepherd wherever He may lead -- simply out of a desire to respond to His unconditional love for me -- not out of any hope for reward or desire to be well thought of by my fellow "sheep"!

May we all experience peaceful hearts as we become ever more aware that the Good Shepherd loves us whether we are "chief priests and elders" or "tax collectors and prostitutes".


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Bluebird of Happiness

"Our Lady with Bluebird by Clock Vine", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Today's drawing, "Our Lady with Bluebird by Clock Vine", was inspired by a painting from the early part of the 20th Century, entitled: "The Captive's Return" by Henry Ryland (1856-1924).  Of course, my drawing looks nothing like Ryland's other than the pose of a woman and a bird on her hand. This is not surprising considering that he was a British artist of some note who studied at the Académie Julian under such well-known figure and portrait painters as Gustave Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre!  

Example of Henry Ryland`s illustration
work taken from "The English Magazine"

Ryland's paintings established him as an important neoclassical painter, of his day, working mainly in watercolour. His subjects were typically two or three girls with soft faces, short dark hair, little expression or action, draped in graceful folds of cloth and shown relaxing on a marble terrace with birds and/or flowers (drawn with botanical exactitude) along with the occasional classical vase. Ryland also became a notable illustrator, designing illustrations for books and magazines (see the example above). Evidently, he also did some work designing stained glass windows -- something I wanted to learn to do rather badly when I was in my twenties, but, somehow, never got around to.   

My drawing for today was, of course, done using my normal computer-graphic technique.  I did do something a little different, however, in that I decided to include a portion of a previous drawing of mine from earlier this year of the flowering Clock Vine with its bright orange flowers. This, once again, calls for allowing a bit of artistic licence on my part as the Clock Vine is only native to Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia, not the middle east! However, as you well know by now, my motto is: any excuse for more colour in a drawing is allowable!  



Suki expectantly
waiting for her
food dish to be put
down on the floor!
Suki... well, I really do not know what to say about her as she continues to be quite well behaved -- for a cat, that is!

She seems to accept, reasonably well, the discipline of only having a serving of her favourite food 4 times a day -- (I say "reasonably well" because she still makes a bit of a nuisance of herself in the half hour leading up to the time for feeding!).

Speaking of the "time for feeding"... I really wonder how she is able to tell time so very accurately?  I mean, she doesn't start begging until exactly a half hour before the time I have told her she will be fed.  I mean, she knows that her mid-day feeding time is at noon and at exactly 11:30 Suki appears and begins reminding me, for the next half hour, that it is almost time for her to be fed.  She doesn't even own a watch!  How does she do it?

Anyway, I am remaining on the alert just in case all this good behaviour is just an attempt to lull me into not paying close attention while Suki skillfully manages to open her own food cans when I am sitting and dozing in my recliner.  This cat is too smart for her own good!

As for me, I am feeling neither smart nor comfortable -- but that is the way my life seems to be most of the time these days.

I did see a doctor at the pain clinic this past week.  He, once again, suggested spinal injections for pain relief.  And, I told him, once again, that I am not willing to try this option as the last time I had it done, the doctor accidentally nicked something and I ended up with more pain than ever!

So, all he did was increase the dosage for one of my pain medications and wished me well!  I really think doctors don't enjoy dealing with older people who have chronic, incurable conditions. It must make them feel pretty helpless and nobody likes to feel that way -- especially people like doctors, who, as a group, usually enjoy the illusion that they are in control of things!  Ah, well...

Thankfully, this coming week looks like another quiet one for me with only a visit from a dear friend on my schedule.   



"Icon, Christ the Healer", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each (the normal daily wage at that time). When the first came, they expected to get more but they too received one denarius each. They took it but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last”, they said, “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you. Did we not agree on one denarius?  Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay those last hired as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.    Matt: 20:10-16  

I chose to use the icon of Christ the Healer to illustrate today's Gospel because it shows Christ healing those who can give Him nothing in return except the possibility of their love.  The poorest of the poor, reaching out in their neediness and being given absolute, healing Love -- even while Christ knows that many of those to whom He gives this gift will, perhaps, not love Him in return.

This passage from the Gospel has always been a difficult passage for me because I am so used to rewards being given because of merit -- the more you do for someone, the bigger your reward will be.  It is so difficult to remember that real Love doesn't work that way!

Love, real love, is never based on what someone has done for us, what they will do for us or how much we are indebted to them. Love simply is and it gives to everyone the same.  God is Love and whether we reach out for that love after a lifetime of service or after five minutes of prayer at the end of a "wasted" life, we will be given the same amount of love -- total, unconditional, absolute Love.  

Have you ever experienced anything close to this kind of love?  I haven't -- in fact, I cannot even imagine the nature of such love. Surely to experience that kind of love would be "heavenly" and to experience it eternally would be an incredible gift.  To believe that there might be the possibility of your receiving such a gift requires a faith so great that it, too, must be a gift.

So, may I never forget that, like all mankind, I am a sinner -- always have been and always will be while in this mortal body -- and totally undeserving of that Love which is God. Thus, I deserve nothing.  Yet, according to the Gospel, I, along with all of creation, am offered eternal, unconditional Love no matter when I may, in faith, accept it -- whether at the beginning of the day or an hour before quitting time!

May this knowledge bring us all exceedingly great joy and hope.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Seemannia sylvatica -- Bolivian Sunset

"Seemannia sylvatica -- Bolivian Sunset", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

The flowers in today's drawing are most often seen as houseplants. This is hardly surprising since they are native to only a small area of the world -- primarily the higher Andes (Bolivia, northern Argentina, southern Peru and southern Ecuador).  Seemannia sylvatica, a brightly-coloured, tubular-shaped flower, is not only the most widely grown of the Seemannia species, but it has also contributed to a number of equally-beautiful hybrids.

All the species in the genus Seemannia (including sylvatica) were previously placed in the genus Gloxinia until a revision of the group in 2005 (this is why you will still sometimes see this plant listed as Gloxinia sylvatica). The revisions resulted in a number of other changes to the Family, Gesneriad, to which both
Seemannia and Gloxinia belong.

The genus name, Seemannia, was given to honour the German botanist Berthold Carl Seemann (born 1825 in Germany – died 1871 in Nicaragua) who travelled widely and collected and described plants from the Pacific and South America. The name assignment was made by the German horticulturalist and botanist, Eduard August von Regel, (1815 - 1892).  Regel ended his career serving as the Director of the Russian Imperial Botanical Garden of St. Petersburg. As the result of naturalists and explorers (such as Seemann) sending back biological collections to the Imperial Botanical Garden, Regel was able to describe and name many previously unknown species from frontiers around the world. 

The species name of sylvatica comes from old Latin, meaning 'of the woods'.  This is the same Latin that gives us such words as sylvan -- a word still used to describe wooded areas in a pleasantly pastoral setting.  Seemannia sylvatica also has common names -- the best known is "Bolivian Sunset" (obviously for the rich colours of the flowers) and "Hardy Gloxinia".  When these flowers are found in gardens, the air around them is often filled with the whirring sounds of hummingbird wings as these birds find the flowers very appealing for satisfying their almost constant need to feed.

Of course, I find the flowers very appealing as well -- particularly the rich colours which were what first attracted me to the plant and made me desire to draw it.  Sadly, even with my almost unlimited palette of colours, I am still not able to capture the natural glowing quality these flowers possess.  Mother Nature always does it better! 



Suki sitting peacefully -- waiting for me 
to wait on her!
Suki has been very pleased with me lately ... I have been sleeping more than usual.  Obviously, you ask, how could my sleeping more possibly please Her Royal Catness? -- I mean it's not like she gets fed every time I fall asleep! So, what is going on here?

Well, my experience is that as much as Suki likes to eat, she likes getting to sleep with me equally well -- or so it seems.

This statement may cause you to remember all the stories I have told about Suki's tricks to awaken me in the morning -- leaving you to wonder exactly what the truth is here.  Well, the truth is that Suki thinks she should eat breakfast at 5 a.m. (even though I have told her over and over that breakfast will be served at 6 a.m.).  Once she has eaten her breakfast, she would be perfectly happy for us both to then return to bed -- together!

Now, what do I mean when I say that I am sleeping more? Well, I am not going back to bed after breakfast -- that's for sure. However, I am going to bed earlier in the evening as I seem to "run out of steam" about 9:30 or 10 now instead of 11 p.m.  This means that Suki's bedtime snack, which I serve her immediately prior to going to bed, is put out at 9:30 or 10.  

As I settle in for the night, I can hear Suki munching away on her favourite food.  Then, usually just as I am about to drift off to sleep, I feel Suki jump up and snuggle in beside me.  For cat lovers, there is no sweeter sound than that of a purring cat settling in next to you as you fall asleep.

Of course, as most of you know, I do not sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time -- no matter how tired I may be.  Usually, after an hour and a half or so I am awakened by pain in some part of me and spend the next little while trying to find a position in which the pain becomes bearable and I can fall asleep again.  

During these restless times, Suki often makes her displeasure known with a plaintive meow or two, but once I have settled down again, she also falls back to sleep.  Sadly, by about the third time I wake up and start moving about, Suki gives up and moves elsewhere for a few hours ... but she almost always comes back to bed with me the next time she hears the sounds that indicate that I am once more awake.

So, as far as I can tell, Suki is pleased about the extra time that we are spending together in bed.  I know she really likes to eat, but that is only when she is hungry and takes about 5 minutes to accomplish.  The requisite bath afterwards takes about 10 to 15 minutes and then that's it... then it's time for more sleep.  So, sleeping takes up a lot more of her time than eating and she seems to like sharing her sleeping time with me.

Otherwise, my week, which included more sleep than previous weeks, was a quiet one.  I do have an appointment this coming week with my doctor at the Pain Clinic where we will be discussing possible changes in my prescriptions for pain medications as well as possible options for surgically relieving some of this pain I experience daily. 



"Icon, Look Upon the Cross and Live", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 rev.

"No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him."  John 3:13-17

Remember the story about Moses and the bronze serpent?  It is found in the book of Numbers 21:5-9.  Following is my telling of it:
During the long years that Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert, the people grew tired and frustrated -- they wanted to reach the "promised land" immediately, if not sooner!  So they began to grumble and complain with poisonous words against God and Moses.  The next thing you know, their camps are suddenly overrun with poisonous serpents and the complainers were being bitten and dying.  So, the people went to Moses, confessed their bad behaviour and asked him to pray to God on their behalf.  Moses did so and God told him:  "Make a poisonous serpent [of bronze] and set it on a pole.  Then let everyone who is bitten look at it and they shall live."  Moses did so and it came to pass that anyone who was bitten only had to look upon the bronze serpent and they would live.

In today's Gospel, Christ calls this story to mind and uses it as a comparison to what He will accomplish when He is placed upon the cross -- "a pole".  So, what does it mean to me, to you, when we hear the words "look upon the cross of Christ and live"?

What does it mean when God says that He loves the world so much that He is willing to give up everything for us -- even allowing us to attempt to kill Him, to crush Him out of existence?  That kind of love is truly beyond my comprehension.  Think of the world, the people, us, and then think of how we treat the earth, its creatures and one another. I marvel that Love still loves, even now ... that God loved the world so much that He gave (and continues to give) His only Son...

I pray for mercy and peace for us all.