Sunday, 26 April 2015

Bright Sunlight

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

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

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

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

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

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



Ronàn still working on those teeth!

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Add caption

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Vireya -- Rhododendron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Suki -- She Who Must Be Obeyed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Lord, open our eyes that we may see.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Will Winter Never End?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

This has become my plan as well.  

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


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Cherry Blossom Time

"Cherry Blossoms in Springtime", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015
(Japanese characters mean:  Cherry Blossoms in Spring")

When people speak of cherry trees, they may be speaking of any of several trees in the genus, Prunus (Family, Rosaceae), which includes a number of different species, including quite a few cultivars.

The best known of these is the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata. This is the one tourists visit Washington D.C. and Ottawa to enjoy in its glorious springtime flowering. 

However, in North America, we are very familiar with the related species Prunus avium ( the Sweet Cherry) and Prunus cerasus (the Sour Cherry) – both of which produce edible cherries. As well, there is Prunus cerasifera, known as the Plum Cherry tree, which also produces edible fruit. There are many varieties which have been cultivated simply for ornamental use and produce inedible fruit or no fruit at all. 

The Cherry tree is speculated to be native to the Himalayas. Currently it is widely distributed, especially in the temperate zones of Asia (Japan, South Korea, China, etc.) as well as in the Northern Hemisphere (Europe, the United States, Canada, etc.). 

The drawing I am featuring today shows a flowering branch of a cultivar of Prunus cerasifera

P. cerasifera is commonly known by the name of Cherry Plum Tree. The cherry plum is a popular ornamental tree for garden and landscaping use, grown for its very early flowering. 

Numerous cultivars have been developed from P. cerasifera, many of them selected for their purple foliage. These purple-foliage forms (often called purple-leaf plum trees), also have dark purple fruit, which make an attractive, intensely coloured jam. They can have white or pink flowers. 

Some kinds of purple-leaf plums are used for bonsai and other forms of living sculpture. As well, the cherry plum has been listed as one of the 38 plants that are used to prepare Bach flower remedies, a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health which, may, or may not, have any true healing qualities.

As you can see in my drawing above, I added some Japanese characters which are supposed to represent the words "spring", "in" and "cherry blossoms" which in English we would read as "cherry blossoms in springtime".  I was actually inspired by the striking Japanese pen and coloured-ink drawings of the beautiful cherry blossoms.

Some of the above information was taken from various Internet sources, particularly Wikipedia.



Ronàn Reads a Book

"What shall I do next?  I know, I will read a book."

"This looks like a good book.  I think I'll give it try."

"Yum!  I never knew literature could be so delicious (and feel so good on the gums!)."
"Maybe I really am a genius just like Mom says!"


Me be naughty?  Never!  Just look at this sweet face.



Suki half-asleep while lazing in the sunlight

Did you know that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear (and still they ignore you).  The only indication that they have heard you is that slight twitch of the ear using one or two of those 32 muscles.

Of course, when you want them to ignore you, too often they don't. This is certainly the case with Suki.

For example, I have spent years trying to train the people in my life to never call me around 11:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. -- unless they have make a previous arrangement with me or unless it is a real emergency.

You see, if I know that someone wants or needs to call me around 11:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m., I can make certain that I have my portable phone next to me.  This means I do not have to get up out of my chair to answer the phone, but can simply stay where I am and talk with them comfortably.

However, if the call is unexpected, my portable phone will likely be on its charging stand.  If so, I will get up and hurry to reach the closer of my two phones. If I am on the computer, the closer phone would be the wall phone in the kitchen.  Are any of you beginning to guess what my problem is here?

As you have read often, Suki's feeding times are 6 a.m., 12 noon, 6 p.m. and 11-11:30 p.m.  So, if I end up having to go into the kitchen to answer the phone at 11:30 a.m., let's say, then what do you suppose Suki does?  Does she just twitch one or two of those 32 ear muscles and go back to sleep?  Of course not.  She leaps out of her chair, follows me into the kitchen and begins a vigourous campaign to get me to move her feeding time ahead by 30 minutes.

How many of you have ever tried to have a conversation with someone while a 13 lb. cat is attempting to manipulate you into feeding them?  Well, let me tell you ... it isn't easy to concentrate at all. What makes it even worse in my case is that the phone is located next to a "breakfast counter" which means that Suki can leap up onto the counter top and then attempt to climb onto my shoulders so that she can lick my ear!

All I'm saying is:  if you really need or want to call me around 11:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m., please let me know beforehand. Otherwise, expect our conversation to be short and very confusing. Probably something like:  "Yes, (Suki stop that) I am feeling (Suki get away from my ear) about the (Suki stop licking my hand) same as I did (Suki stop that) last time we spoke (SUKI) ..."

People usually realize, after hearing a response like this, that they are either going to have to ask if they can call me back at a more convenient time, or graciously request that I phone them when it will be easier for me to talk or wait on the phone while I go ahead and feed the cat! 

I mention this because I have had several unexpected phone calls this past week between 11:15 and 11:45 a.m. and, as a consequence, Suki is beginning to think that her feeding time has been moved ahead to 11:30!  To paraphrase the song from The Sound of Music:  "what do you do with a problem like Suki..."

Otherwise, my life remains much the same.  I suddenly seem to have a number of medical appointments coming up, but they are all of a routine nature -- mostly annual checkups of one sort or another such as my yearly visit to the ophthalmologist. 

"This ain't the Easter Bunny!"
Photo by my dear friend, Grazyna W.,
copyright 2015, used with permission.
One thing new and interesting is my dear friend, Grazyna's, growing interest in using her iPad to develop her obvious photographic talents.  

Here is a recent example of one of her nature photos which, considering it was taken without a telephoto lens, is really quite good.  She posted it on Facebook so I used the title she gave it there.  I hope to be including more of her work in the future.



"Christ is Risen, Alleluia", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, revised 2015

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
John 20:1-9

Well, finally Lent is over and we are celebrating, once again, the victory of Love.  Evil has done its worst, but Christ has shown us that even though He did not raise a hand to ward off the blows of the fists or the hammer; even though he allowed Himself to be tortured and killed; Love still triumphed.  Love triumphed then; Love triumphs today; Love will continue to triumph eternally.

I, so often, have twisted the teachings of Christ into all sorts of life-denying shapes during my lifetime, and, yet, I know deep down that whenever I turn away from a loving response to any situation, I am turning away from God, the God who is Love.  

So, as we celebrate once again the victory of life-giving Love over death-loving Evil, I pray that we may all be open to receive the God-given grace we need to be Christ-like in our daily lives.  May we always find the strength to choose that which is most loving, most life affirming -- no matter what the cost may be.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

What is A Muse?

"A Muse ... but is she Amused", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015
[Please forgive my silliness with the title -- I just couldn't help myself.  
The actual title is "The Muse".]

The inspiration for today's drawing came from a painting by E. J. Poynter entitled, "Erato Muse".  Let me explain a bit about the muses and Erato in particular.

For any of you who may not know, the muses are found in Greek Mythology and are the personification of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music.  They are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne and are sometimes referred to as water nymphs. The Muses were both the embodiment and sponsors of performed metrical speech called "Mousike" (hence the English term "music") which was just "one of the 'arts' of the Muses". Others included science, geography, mathematics, philosophy, and especially art, drama, and inspiration. Some authors invoke Muses when writing poetry, hymns or epic history. The invocation typically occurs at or near the beginning, and calls for help or inspiration, or simply invites the Muse to sing through the author. 

The particular muse known as Erato is the Muse of lyric poetry, especially love and erotic poetry. In the Orphic hymn to the Muses, it is Erato who charms the sight. Since the Renaissance she is often shown with a wreath of myrtle and roses, holding a lyre, or a small kithara, a musical instrument that mythology tells us was invented either by Apollo or, Erato, herself. 

As for the artist whose work inspired me, Sir Edward John Poynter was an English painter in the Neo-classical tradition as well as a designer and draughtsman.  If you want more information about him, see my posting of October 19, 2014.  In that posting the drawing I presented was inspired by another painting of his ... a painting I was attracted to, in particular, by the way he placed the woman's hands.  In this most recent drawing, I was, once again, drawn to Poynter's placement of hands. As you can see above, the model is shown resting her head against one hand while the other hand rests, lightly, on the top of a lyre.

As I have mentioned previously, hands continue to challenge and intrigue me.  They are, perhaps, for me, the most difficult of all visible body parts to draw convincingly.  Whenever I return to a drawing in order to re-work parts of it, I always end up re-drawing the hands in an effort to make them appear more like the real thing.

Today's drawing is one of three that I did of this same subject.  In one I have the Muse with wings like a water nymph.  In the other, I have placed a wreath of roses on her head.  Poynter's painting, which was my model for this drawing, shows the Muse with wings as well as with a wreath of myrtle leaves on her head.  Neither of these variations satisfied me which is why I ended up posting the final drawing of the Muse as a woman with a lyre and with a rather interesting hair-do!


Portions of the above text was taken from various Internet sources.



Suki is such a party animal!

The drawing of Suki to your left was the one I did when I was describing her bell-ringing trick.  In the original, posted a few weeks ago, Suki is shown ringing a large cow-bell.  

Since my drawings are done on the computer, I have the option of doing a "save as" and ending up with a second "original" which I can then change as I wish.  This is very good not only because I don't have to spend time doing the entire drawing again, but it is especially good because I don't have to try to get Suki to stand on her back feet again while trying to take a photo of her with my iPad. I mean, I do need a model to work from and Suki refuses to pose.  Play, yes; pose, no.

But what was the reason for my wanting to re-work this drawing? Well, my friend, Eugene, who has been mentioned more than a few times in my postings over the years, had a birthday this past week and so I decided to re-work the drawing of Suki in order to use it on his birthday card.  Eugene also has a delightful cat named Desi (about whom he could tell many stories) and, as well, Eugene is one of Suki's friends. So, it seemed appropriate to let Suki help him celebrate his birthday.

Suki, by the way is doing much the same as always. She has been reasonably well behaved this past week -- for which I am grateful.

As for me, there is nothing new to report.  I will be seeing the doctor this week, but it is just for my monthly check-up and more blood work.  I don't expect to find out anything of interest.



"Icon -- The Agony", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, Revised 2015

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Portion of Palm Sunday Gospel, Mark 14:1--15:47

Today's Gospel of the Passion always makes me think of that powerful scene from the stage play/movie "Jesus Christ Superstar" where the actor portraying Jesus sings "Gethsemane (I only want to say)".  The first time I watched that scene, listening to the words of this song, I sat there in the darkness of the theatre with tears streaming down my face -- and I'm a person who normally never cries over anything. Even now, whenever I listen to this song or watch it on You Tube, I have the same reaction. Why? Because I seem to be able to identify so deeply with the struggle implied in the lyrics. Let me share portions of that song with you:  

I only want to say, if there is a way, 
Take this cup away from me 
For I don't want to taste its poison 
Feel it burn me ... 
I'm not as sure as when we started 
Then I was inspired, now I'm sad and tired 
After all I've tried for three years 
Seems like thirty; no, more like ninety 
Why then am I scared to finish what we started? 
If I see the saga through and do the things you ask of me 
Let them hate me, hit me, hurt me, nail me to their tree 
Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain? 
Oh, why should I die? 
God, Thy will is hard, but You hold every card 
I will drink Your cup of poison... 
Nail me to Your cross and break me 
Bleed me, beat me, kill me, take me, now 

Before I change my mind. #ixzz3VabphGdz

I doubt that most of these particular sentiments were part of what Christ prayed during that night of agonizing prayer, but they are words that I can identify with.  By thus identifying, I am able to enter into His Passion just a bit.  I think back to the years when faith came easily, but now I am sad, tired and ill and nothing is easy anymore.  I am an old woman but instead of becoming easier, the struggle just becomes more and more difficult.  So I say:  "God, Your will is hard, but it must be done so that Your Kingdom may come in my life".

It is only in the acceptance of the present moment and all that it contains -- good or ill -- that I will find the peace I am seeking. So, may I have the courage to say "Thy Will be done; Thy Kingdom come" ,,, in my life and in the lives of all those I love; all those for whom I care; all those for whom I pray.

Peace be with you.  


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Couroupita guianensis - Cannonball Tree

"Couroupita guianensis - Cannonball Tree", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Back on February 8, 2010, I did a posting about the Cannonball Tree. It contained a drawing of the flower and buds of this Tree -- a drawing which was done well before I had learned a number of the techniques I now use in my art work. If you wish, you can take a look at the drawing and see just how amateurish it is – especially when compared with the drawing in today’s posting.

In actuality, that drawing no longer exists as it has disappeared from my art files, both back-up and current. I assume it was lost in the computer crash I experienced in 2011. So, since I could not even try to revise it, I decided to do a new drawing of the flowering part of this strange tree.  As well, I am repeating a bit of the information contained that that 2010 blog posting that might be of interest. 

The tree gets its name from the large, spherical fruit it produces. These fruit fall from the tree and crack open when they hit the ground, often causing a sound like a small explosion. So, "like coconut palms, the trees should not be planted near paths or near traffic-filled areas, as the heavy fruit is known to fall without notice." The fruit emits an unpleasant aroma when exposed to the air. 
Section of Couroupita guianensis tree.
Just look at the size of those "cannonballs"
You certainly wouldn't want one of
them falling on your head!  Ouch!

The strange looking flowers are found on thick, tangled extrusions that grow on the trunk of the tree, just below the foliage branches. These extrusions can range from two to six feet in length. The flowers are attached to an upwardly bent, white, fleshy disk. The flowers have a number of petals which are large, orange-red and strongly perfumed. I suppose this helps to cover up the bad smell of the ripe fruit! 

The Cannonball Tree, proper name, Couroupita guianensis (Family, Lecythidaceae), is commonly found in the area of the Amazon Basin. It is native to Guiana in South America. It is also found in India where it is grown extensively in Shiva temples. 

The various parts of this tree possesses antibiotic, anti-fungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities. Local medicines are made from the tree for the treatment of colds and stomach aches. The juice from the leaves is used to cure skin diseases. The inside of the stinky fruit can disinfect wounds and young leaves ease toothache. Personally, I would rather have some non-stinky pills from my local pharmacist!

Some of the above information was taken from Wikipedia.  _____________________________________________________ 





Suki sitting and staring at me!
Do you know what it is like to be stared at by a cat -- I mean really stared at?

Suki is wickedly great at staring. I mean, she can keep it up for longer than you can imagine -- sometimes until it becomes unbearable. Why does she stare at me? Normally, her staring has to do with her desire to be fed!

Suki knows that I will give her a small portion of her favourite food four times a day. These times, as I have mentioned previously, are 6 a.m., 12 noon, 6 p.m. and somewhere between 11 - 12 p.m. And, even though she knows that I am very strict about keeping to that schedule, she still starts her "feed me now" campaign 30 to 40 minutes before the designated time.  This is how she proceeds....

At first, she finds me (if she is not already sitting in my lap) and tries purring and rubbing her face against my leg or arm or whatever body part is most available.  When my only response to this is a definite "no", she moves on to meowing. These meows sound so pitiful that if someone from the Humane Society was listening, they would probably charge me with animal abuse. 
When my only response to the "meows" is a louder and even more definite "no", Suki moves on to staring.

By this time, it is still 20 to 30 minutes before feeding time, and Suki manages to find some place to sit where she can easily see me and I can easily see her and the staring begins.  From this point on, Suki seldom blinks and her gaze is intense and unwavering. Minute by minute she sits and stares while I try to continue with whatever it is I am doing. As the time slowly passes, however, it becomes more and more difficult for me refrain from looking up and staring back.

Just think about this for a minute...  before the 6 a.m. feeding, I may be awakened by Suki's noise-making efforts, but after yelling at her, I am usually able to go right back to sleep.  Then she may awaken me again by sitting by the side of the bed and plaintively meowing, but once again, after an even louder yell, I usually return to sleep quickly.  However, when I am finally awakened by pressure on my chest and open my eyes to see Suki sitting on my chest and staring at me, I usually find it impossible not to stay awake and stare back. 

So often, morning, noon and night, I find myself giving in -- the staring become unbearable -- and I end up feeding Suki 10 minutes early. When I give in, you can see how proud she looks as she walks slowly, tail fully erect, into the kitchen. Sometimes, however, I am able to hold out and make her wait until the exact moment designated as her feeding time. When this happens, I feel very proud of myself  -- as though I have won some kind of battle.

You might ask why I put myself through such discomfort in order to keep to this rigid schedule.  I do it because I really care about Suki. I know how easy it would be to fall into the practice of feeding her whenever she feels hungry; however, I also know how fat she would get and how unhealthy that would make her.  Not only would that extra weight make her arthritis worse, but it might also damage her heart and kidneys.

So, let the staring contests continue.  I am more determined than ever to discipline myself to out-stare Suki.  I will be victorious (at least some of the time)!

Otherwise, I continue with the same problems as usual.  Some symptoms seem to be getting a bit worse, but that is to be expected. I would ask you to continue to send healing thoughts and prayers out on behalf of the person I referred to in last Sunday's posting. Thanks.



"Icon -- When I am Lifted Up...", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, rev. 2015

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.  JN 12:27-33

"When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to Myself".  What a powerful statement made just a moment after saying: "I am troubled ... Should I say 'Father, save me from this hour'?.. But it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour." I read this and try to imagine how I would feel, what I would say, if I knew that within a few days or weeks I would be dead.  How "troubled" would I be?

I like to think that I would be able to face the prospect of my death with calm faith; however, what I imagine I would do and what I end up actually doing have often proven to be quite different.  I tell myself that I do not fear dying and I really believe that to be true.  I do acknowledge that I would be quite anxious about such news as is natural to our human nature when facing the unknown, but I think that anxiety is somehow different from fear. Only time will tell, as I come face to face with the reality of my own death, what I actually believe and how well that belief translates into behaviour.

As we get ever nearer to the memorial of that terribly bad day we call good -- Good Friday -- let us ask for the hope and faith we need so that we may continue to hope that: 
whether we are raised to the heights or thrown down to the depths, whether our lives are filled with sorrow or joy, 
whether we live or 
whether we die -- 
Love will prevail.


Sunday, 15 March 2015


"Reading Gives Life to the Imagination", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Today's rather fanciful drawing was inspired by a painting entitled, "The Fairy Tale", by Walter (or Walther) Firle.  His painting shows three young girls sitting on a sofa in what appears to be a living room while reading a book of fairy tales. Since Firle's painting is a serious work, there are no fairies to be found!  

Firle, born in 1859, was the son of a well-to-do German merchant in Wrocław (Breslau, Germany) Poland -- a city located in the Silesian Lowlands of Central Europe. Although he received painting lessons as a child, his father expected him to eventually work with him in his company. As a young man, Walther did briefly work for his father; however, in 1879, against the will of his parents, he became a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. As an artist, Firle became known for portraits and genre works. His portraits of various rulers were used on Bavarian stamps. Firle died in 1929 at the age of 70.

As I worked on this drawing, I kept thinking about the comments I made in my posting for Sunday, March 1, 2015, entitled "Young Girl Reading.  There I spoke, briefly, about the joy of escaping into the world described in the books I read while growing up.  These books gave me real relief from the very difficult and dangerous reality of my home life. Using my imagination, for a few hours I could be somewhere else -- be someone else -- and the world I inhabited in those books, while sometimes filled with fanciful creatures such as fairies or elves, was always a world where people were safe, protected and loved.  I truly do not think I would have made it through the first 18 years of my life, or retained even a semblance of sanity after living through those years, without books which inspired my imagination.

Of course, knowing how this helped me makes me all the more concerned about the many young people I now know who almost never read a book.  It's true that they watch movies, TV shows and play video games, but it seems to me that these require very little imagination in comparison to books.  With pictures, words and actions all supplied for you, you don't need to develop the gift of imagination -- yet, it is imagination that enabled me to have a safe place to which I could run whenever reality became unbearable.  I wonder where these young people run to in their heads when they are confronted by suffering. Is their imagination sufficiently developed so that they can escape for a while but still find their way back to reality when they need to?  

Ah, well... these are just the ramblings of an old lady. Knowing how inventive our minds can be, I am sure that people will find their own way to bear the unbearable.  However, I still can't help but feel a bit saddened each time I meet someone who doesn't seem to have a well-developed imagination.  

Most of the information on Walter Firle was taken from Wikipedia


"Oh, there you are...

...I'm so glad to see you...

...I feel so much better when I see your face...

   4. fact, you make me very, very happy!"


Don't be fooled by my angelic, good looks!



Suki watching a crazy lady (me) 
taking her photo!
Suki has developed a new game.  I am uncertain whether she created this game because she enjoys it or because she knows it annoys me.

The game is very simple and requires only a boot tray and a strip of paper toweling.  [For those of you who do not live in a place where it snows in the winter, let me explain that a "boot tray" is a large, plastic tray where people put there wet boots, shoes, umbrellas, etc. when they come into your home. In this part of the world it is considered a basic courtesy to remove your footwear, even if it hasn't been snowing or raining, when you come into anyone's home and you would especially want to remove your footwear if it was muddy or
Photo of a boot tray taken
from the Internet.

Source unknown.

covered in melting snow and slush.] I have a boot tray near the front door in the wintertime and I like to keep a clean strip of paper toweling on the tray to help soak up the melting snow from visitors' boots.  After the visitors have left, I remove the wet paper toweling and put down a new strip so that the tray is ready for the next set of visitors.

This winter, for some unknown reason, Suki has decided to make a game out of removing the clean strip of paper toweling from the boot tray and moving it elsewhere! She does this in such a way that I have to assume she is playing some sort of game.  I mean, she doesn't just come over and push the toweling off the tray, she attacks it, pushing it first one way and then another with her paws. Next, she pounces and pushes until she has removed the toweling from the tray.  Then she continues this pouncing and pushing until the strip of toweling is on the other side of my apartment's foyer.  

The most interesting part of all of this is the fact that she never destroys the strip of paper toweling!  It may end up folded over on itself several times and even have a few claw marks in it, but she leaves it basically intact. This means that each time I notice what she has done, I am able to place the same strip back onto the boot tray.  There it stays until the next time Suki feels the urge to "play the game".  

Of course, each time I have to pick up the strip and place it on the tray, I yell loudly. At which point, Suki looks at me with that cat look which says: "Are you speaking to me?  I have no idea what you are talking about. Please go yell somewhere else -- I am try to sleep after all!" Sometimes, I even catch her in the act and yell at her while shooing her away from the boot tray, but sooner or later, she sneaks back and plays the game all over again.

So, you can see my dilemma: is this really a game or is it something Suki does because she knows it annoys me?  It is probably a bit of both. It may have started as simply a new way to entertain herself -- I mean, cats do love to pounce on things and push this around -- but then she discovered how aggravating I find the whole business. I think this second aspect inspired Suki to continue her "game" long after she might have become bored with it as she often seems to "play" it soon after she has begged me to feed her and I have sternly replied: "No! No! No!  Now, go on and do something else -- it's still an hour before meal time." Really makes you wonder, doesn't it?  I mean, if cats didn't require 16 hours of sleep a day, they actually might rule the world!

As for me, I continue to manage reasonably well with the help of Joycelyn.  The only appointment I have anytime soon is at the hospital on Sunday, the 22nd, so I will have to make certain that I get my new addition to the blog posted well before time for me to leave.

I will say that I have had some very distressing news this past week about someone very close to me and I find it difficult to focus as I prepare today's posting.  Since it is not my place to identify this person or their problems, I would just ask the following: if you believe in the possible efficacy of prayer, please pray for "someone close to Sallie who has received some very bad news" -- asking that they may "have the strength and courage to change what can be changed and accept what cannot".  Thank you.



"Icon -- Crucifixion -- God So Loved", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009, rev.2015

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who 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 might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
Jn 3:14-21

This passage contains one of the best known, but, in my opinion, least understood passages in the New Testament: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life." Why do I say "least understood"?  Because I am not sure that the majority of us have ever really comprehended the meaning of the word "believes".

We should really have another English word for the absolute-faith-unto-the-shedding-of-blood-and-even-unto-death kind of believing that I think Christ is talking about in this verse. The promise of eternal life, I think, is made by Him for those with that kind of belief/faith. I don't think this was meant to be a statement to make us feel all warm and fuzzy. 

Remember, Christ was speaking to a man who came to Him in secret because he was afraid for his reputation, afraid of what others would think.  Nicodemus must have been terrified when he learned that to follow the promptings of his heart, he was going to have to give up his reputation, his standing in the community, perhaps his family and friends and, possibly, his very life.

May we accept the grace we need in order to believe with the absolute-faith-unto-the-shedding-of-blood-and-even-unto-death kind of belief.  The kind of belief that will probably lead us to the cross, but will, God willing, eventually lead us to the gift of eternal life -- an eternal life in the embrace of Him who loved us so much that He gave us His only Son.