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.  

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Another Woman with a Fan

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

Geisha like all Japanese nouns, has no distinct singular or plural variants. The word consists of two kanji, 芸 (gei) meaning "art" and 者 (sha) meaning "person" or "doer". The most literal translation of geisha into English would be "artist," "performing artist," or "artisan." Some prostitutes refer to themselves as "geisha", but they are not. A Geisha's sex and love life, if any, is normally distinct from her professional life. A successful geisha is able to entertain her male customers with music, dance, and pleasant conversation. 

The appeal of a high-ranking Geisha to her typical male guest has historically been very different from that of his wife. The ideal Geisha proudly displays her skills while the ideal wife is modest. The ideal Geisha appears carefree while the ideal wife is somber and responsible. Geisha do sometimes marry their clients but they must then retire as there can never be a married Geisha. Geisha may gracefully flirt with their guests, but they will always remain in control of the hospitality. Over their years of apprenticeship they learn to adapt to different situations and personalities, mastering the art of the hostess.

I have always wanted to try to draw a Japanese Geisha wearing the traditional garb and makeup.  However, when it came time for me to colour her skin so that it had that white powder look, I found that I just couldn't do it.  The colour I created seemed all wrong and so I ended up using a normal skin colour instead.  She still looks like a Geisha to me -- especially with all the hair ornaments!

Of course, when I began to research the Geisha, I learned that not all wear the white make-up we in the West usually associate with Geisha.  A citation in Wikipedia says the following:  
A geisha's appearance changes throughout her career, from the girlish, heavily made-up maiko, to the more sombre appearance of an older established geisha. Different hairstyles and hairpins signify different stages of a girl's development and even a detail as minute as the length of one's eyebrows is significant. 

My research also revealed that the colours of the kimono and under-kimono have significance.  I fear that my drawing has aspects that are not true to the traditional clothes of the Geisha; however, I plead artistic licence once again!  I hope no one objects.



Suki says:  "I know I'm beautiful,
but doesn't she ever get tired of
taking my photo?"
Suki continues to be relatively well behaved and her arthritis seems to have settled down again.  So, her "good behaviour" doesn't seem to be related to joint pain.  Maybe she is just getting more sedate with age!  Do cats do that?  At any rate, I will definitely enjoy this period of calm for however long it may last!

Of course, as I think about things, I realize that some of what I am calling "good behaviour" may simply be lack of opportunity.  Let me explain...

Over time, I have ended up cat-proofing my apartment by tying down and covering up things.  Previously, I would do the cat-proofing only occasionally -- usually the night after Suki had been really bad -- in an effort to try to recover from lack of sleep.

Now, however, I simply leave everything in place unless I have company coming.  So, if you were to be able to sneak into my home without my being aware of it, you would find such things as:

  • the Venetian blinds tied together so that cat paws are unable to make them go clack-clack-clack in the night;
  • pillows placed strategically against the wall in order to cover electrical cords so that the cords cannot be banged against the wall by cat paws during the night;
  • wastebaskets with plastic linings placed on shelves high enough so that no cat paws can reach the plastic and make that rustling sound over and over again during the night;
  • all cat toys in a closed chest so that Suki must ask for a toy and when she finishes with it, the toy is returned to the chest -- so no toys hitting the wall over and over again during the night.
These, of course, are not all the measure I have taken in order to get a decent night's sleep on a regular basis; however, I think the above list gives you a good idea of the kinds of things I have done. 

Even so, Suki is still able to find ways to try to wake me up when she wants to be fed her favourite food at around 5 a.m. Her usual technique now is to attempt to give my face a good washing with her scratchy tongue.  My defense is to grab a pillow I keep close by and to put it over me.  It's amazing that I can go back to sleep with a pillow on my face, but I can.  Fortunately, I am one of those people who enjoys sleeping with the covers pulled completely over my head!

As you can see, life with Suki around is never without some surprises.  Otherwise, my life has few surprises at all...things continue as they have for some time now. I did have a few appointments this past week, however.

One appointment was very enjoyable as it was a visit from a dear friend I haven't seen for a number of months.  We had a good visit for an hour but then I had to end it as I was getting too tired and the pain was becoming too uncomfortable.

The other appointment was medical and included both a breathing test and a visit with the sleep clinic doctor.  Nothing of importance to report as my asthma seems to be only a little worse and the narcolepsy continues to be managed with the current medication. Neither of these problems concern me greatly so long as they remain more or less under control.

The week ahead should be a fairly quiet one as there are no appointments of any kind on the horizon.



"Icon, Our Lady of Japan", by the hand 
of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 (rev.)
Jesus said to his disciples: “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matt 18:15-17 (beginning of today's Gospel reading)

Here is another saying from the Gospel according to St. Matthew which causes me to stop and reflect:  "if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."  I read those words and immediately some darker part of me wants to sit in "righteous" judgement on all those I know who are not living their lives the way I think they should!

After all, anyone who has studied the Scriptures and the history of New Testament times knows what is meant by treating someone as a "Gentile or a tax collector" according to the Jewish leaders of the day.  Yet, we see in the teachings of Christ how He is so ready to forgive the repentant tax collectors and those who have been living like "Gentiles".  

On the other hand, how quickly I find within myself the desire to judge and condemn others -- especially those who have "fallen away" from beliefs I hold dear or who are living in ways that I consider to be wrong.  Yet, if I truly seek to follow the example of Christ, then I will never give up reaching out in love to those who have turned their backs on all I may hold as sacred -- those whose lives seem so far from the ideals of the Gospel and the Church.

So, here is my prayer... feel free to make it your prayer as well...

O God, let me not give in to that all-to-human desire to condemn, but let me seek each day to love others just as You do.

Our Lady, pray that I may be granted the grace to imitate your Son in His ability to always be ready to lovingly forgive others -- saying with Him:  "Father forgive them -- they know not what they do."  
Father forgive me ... I know not what I do.  

May peace be with us all.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hoya imperialis, Waxplant

"Hoya imperialis, Waxplant", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Hoya imperialis produces some of the largest individual flowers (3-4 inches) of the Hoya group – a species that produces some truly “imperialis” flowers. 

This member of the family Apocynaceae is a spectacular vine with burgundy, pink and, occasionally, yellow flowers which have a creamy-white corona when mature. As well, it has thick, green stems, some many meters long. The large flowers which have a very pleasant scent, most noticeable in the evening, hang in stiff clusters like an open umbrella. 

The common names for Hoya imperialis include Wax Flower, Waxplant, Honey Plant and Porcelain Flower with Wax Flower or Waxplant being the most commonly used. 

Hoya imperialis blossoms can last for several weeks after coming to full bloom. They are impervious to any munching animals and have evolved to withstand the tropical rain storms experienced in their native Borneo and Malaysia. 

This genus was named by botanist Robert Brown (1773-1858), a Scottish botanist and palaeo-botanist who made important contributions to botany largely through his pioneering use of the microscope. Brown chose the name Hoya in order to honour his friend, botanist Thomas Hoy (1750-1822), gardener to the Duke of Northumberland at Syon House in Middlesex in the United Kingdom, a position he held for 40 years.

Photo of Hoya imperialis
I became very frustrated in my efforts to give these blossoms that shiny, waxy look that Nature has given them.  My software just isn't up to it, I discovered, after spending several hours trying to find some way to make the blossoms shine.  (See how they shine in the photo above!).  Ah, well... one of these days I'll find a way.  Meanwhile, please just imagine that the blossoms in my drawing are just as shiny as the ones in the photo.  Thanks.



Suki says:  "Who, me?"
"I never do anything naughty!"

Another week has passed -- a week during which Suki actually did not do anything really naughty.  She was occasionally rather obnoxious, but it was her normal obnoxiousness!

Perhaps her "I just woke up why aren't you where I can see you" cries were a bit louder and went on for a bit longer... I really can't say for sure... Otherwise, things were very routine. Even her attempts to get me up in the morning when she feels it's time for her breakfast were mild by comparison to those of the past.  

Most surprisingly, when we had another fly in the apartment this week, Suki simply sat and looked first at the fly and then at me -- seemingly saying that she expected me to take care of matter.  I, obligingly, grabbed an old dusting rag and finished that fly off quite expeditiously.  Suki sniffed the carcass carefully and then turned, jumped up in her chair, thoroughly washed her face and paws and then went back to sleep!

I must say, all this good behaviour is making me just a bit nervous. If she was about 10 years older, I could put it down to aging, but she is only 5 1/2 years old -- which is still quite young for a cat.

Maybe its the arthritis that is slowing her down.  She never complains about it (unlike the way I complain about my arthritis) so I really do not have any idea about the level of pain she may be experiencing.  I do notice her limping occasionally and I do catch her wincing sometimes when she jumps from the floor to the seat of her favourite chair.  

I guess I could go back to giving her pain medication, but I really hate to do that... it seems to make her so groggy and sleepy. Then, when she does wake up, she acts a bit confused.  As well, the medication seems to play havoc with her digestive tract.  How I wish, at times like this, that she could talk -- really talk, in words, I mean. Then she could tell me exactly what she would prefer.  

I know for myself that I choose to take less medication, even though that leaves me with more pain, so that I can still be alert enough to draw, write, listen to books and watch movies on Netflix. Maybe it's the same for her -- maybe she would rather have a bit more pain so that she can do her favourite things each day instead of sleeping 22 out of 24 hours a day and having a tummy ache!

I will try to watch her a bit more carefully this coming week and see what signs I notice, if any, of increased limping, hesitation before jumping or wincing when she does jump.  I will then make a decision about whether she needs to visit the vet or whether she just needs a bit more assistance with her daily activities.  I mean, maybe a small stool in front of her favourite chair would keep her from having to make painful jumps so often each day. This would decrease the amount of pain she is experiencing without drugs.  I will let you know what I have discovered in next Sunday's posting.

As for me, there is nothing new to report.  This past week has been one of the quietest I've experienced in a long time.  I do, however, have a visit from a friend and a rather long medical appointment coming up this week. A friend will visit for lunch on Tuesday and I will visit St. Michael's Hospital on Thursday.  The hospital visit includes a lengthy test to see if my asthma has gotten worse.  This will be followed by a visit to my doctor at the sleep clinic -- he is the one who manages my narcolepsy problems.

I really do not expect anything new to come out of the visit to St. Mike's.  There is a possibility that the asthma has gotten worse, but that can probably be fixed by changing my puffer or my regimen for using it. I will let you know if I find out anything of importance when I do next Sunday's posting. 



"Icon, Jesus Carrying the Cross", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”  Matt: 16:24-27 

This is one of those truly difficult sayings of Christ.  All of us have our own crosses to carry. For some of us our cross is composed of only two or three major things, but for most of us, our crosses seem to be composed of hundreds of little things -- daily responsibilities, difficult people, chronic problems that we know will most likely never get better and so on and so on.

Yet Christ says that if we wish to follow Him we must deny ourselves and willingly pick up that cross and carry it every day. This command is truly beyond our human abilities and yet most of us try, over and over again, to carry our cross by willing to do so, gritting our teeth and trying not to complain too much.  Of course, we fail, blame ourselves, get discouraged, pity ourselves because our cross looks so much worse than our neighbour's does.  In our hearts we mutter "it just isn't fair."

As I have to remind myself so often... it is the gift of His grace that enables me.  Apart from Him I can do nothing.

May grace and peace be with you all.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Woman with a Fan

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.  Matt 16:13-20

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

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Meriania nobilis

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

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

Meriania nobilis tree

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

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

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

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

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



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

Let me tell you what happened...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Our Lady, Hope of

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Peace be with you all.