Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Scarlet Pimpernel

"Anagallis arvensis -- Scarlet Pimpernel", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Detail from "Anagallis
arvensis -- Scarlet
Pimpernel", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 

Anagallis arvensis (also known as Scarlet pimpernel, poor man's barometer, poor man's or shepherd’s weather-glass and shepherd's clock) is a low-growing annual. It has traditionally been included in the family Primulaceae. 

The native range of A. arvensis is Europe, Western Asia and North Africa; however, the species has been distributed widely across the planet over the centuries either deliberately as an ornamental flower or accidentally. It is now naturalized almost worldwide. This common European plant is generally considered a weed and is an indicator of light soils. 

The name, Anagallis, is from the Greek, ana, 'again', and agallein, 'to delight in' and refers to the opening and closing of the flowers in response to the sunlight. Arvensis is a Latin adjective meaning “in (or of) the fields”. The origin of the well-known pimpernel name comes from pympernele (late Middle English) which was derived from Middle French, Old French and Vulgar Latin meaning "piper pepper" or "like peppercorns", perhaps referring to the seeds.  

A. arvensis or scarlet pimpernel has weak sprawling stems growing to about 20 in. long which bear bright green leaves in opposite pairs. The small salmon-pink, orange-red or blue flowers are produced from spring to autumn. These flowers are open only when the sun shines. The alternative names of shepherd’s sundial and shepherd’s weather-glass suggest that scarlet pimpernel is well-known for its ability to indicate both the weather and the time of day. The small, bright flowers open at around 8 a.m. each day, and close around 3 p.m. They also close during humid or damp weather. 

If consumed, A. arvensis can be toxic to livestock and humans. Toxicity level ranges from virtually non-toxic to fatally toxic and appears to correlate with summer rainfall levels. Although leaves contain various potentially toxic compounds, it is uncertain as to which substance is responsible for livestock poisonings that occur occasionally. If more palatable forage is available, livestock will always avoid eating this bitter-leaved plant. 

A. arvensis is found growing near crop fields, vineyards, orchards, pastures, landscaped areas, roadsides, streams, marshes, ocean beaches and other disturbed sites. It does bear fruit -- tiny, round capsules about 1/10 to 1/6 of an inch in diameter which are suspended from downward curved stalks. A lid at the top of each capsule opens and releases several seeds by which the plant reproduces.  These seeds -- which I mentioned above -- look similar to small peppercorns.

Some years ago, I did another drawing of A. arvensis, but I cannot find where it appeared in my postings -- if it appeared at all.  At any rate, the file of the original drawing somehow became corrupted over the years and can no longer be accessed so this new drawing is now my official drawing of Anagallis arvensis.

Book cover of the well-known
story of The Scarlet Pimpernel
A. arvensis is, perhaps, best known as being the emblem of the fictional hero, Sir Percy Blakeney, in the story of the Scarlet Pimpernel (see book cover at left). 

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) was written as a play and adventure novel by Baroness Emma Orczy. It was set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution. The title character, Sir Percy Blakeney, is a wealthy Englishman who appears to be overly concerned only with fashion and luxuries.  However, he can quickly transform himself into a formidable swordsman and a quick-thinking escape artist, assisting those fleeing the Reign of Terror to escape to safety in England.  He represents the original "hero with a secret identity" that was a precursor to subsequent literary creations such as Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro) and Bruce Wayne (Batman).

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



Interesting what it feels like when you have a cat snuggling
onto your pillow while you are trying to sleep!
A dear friend has been looking for a new type of pillow that would make it easier for her to get a decent night's rest.  I happened to find one on that I thought might be suitable and so I ordered it for her.  

Unfortunately, it turned out not to be satisfactory and so she returned the pillow to me in order that I might return it to Amazon. When I got the pillow back, however, I chose to take a closer look at it.  Upon doing so, I decided that it would make a good pillow for me and it is now resting upon my bed.  Sadly, though, I have thus far not been able to use it in peace!

What I did not take into account was the possibility that Suki might really like this new pillow as well.  In fact, the only way I have been able to use it thus far is by sharing it with her.  At about the same time all of this pillow commotion started, I came across the poster above that I had made some time ago.  It really gave me a laugh as it describes exactly the kind of pillow experience I have when I try to sleep on my new pillow:  "heat, vibrating massage and, occasionally, acupuncture"!  

I'm not sure what it is about this new pillow that appeals to Miss Suki so very much.  I wish I knew so that I could either change the pillow somehow or entice her with some other cushion or pillow with similar qualities.  Whatever it is, its appeal doesn't seem to be lessening in any way.  I mean, even now -- mid-morning on a Sunday -- Suki is curled up on my new pillow sleeping away.  

Oh well, I guess I will either have to learn to share it with her or give up the hope of using it at all.  I mean, really, I wouldn't mind sharing so much except she inevitably awakens periodically and decides to give herself a quick bath which always includes my face and hair!  As you have read in my blog on many an occasion, I find this experience so unpleasant that it not only wakes me up rather quickly but causes my temper to flare as well.  Suki ignores my shouting and usually proceeds to settle down and go right back to sleep while I am left wide awake, feeling frustrated and angry!

Other than this dilemma, I continue to feel pretty much as I usually do these days.  The only new problem to develop is increasing pain in my feet.  This condition creates a really rather peculiar sensation. I mean, my feet now have almost no normal feeling and, yet, I have pain in them.  I suppose this is nerve pain caused by the pressure on the nerves next to my spinal cord in the lumbar region. Whatever is going on, it provides me daily with new and interesting encounters with pain!

I have no appointments scheduled for this week (the last week of January already -- can you believe it!) so things should be fairly quiet for me with only Joycelyn coming to help me on her regular days.  I am always grateful now when I know my time can be spent quietly, enabling me to use my usual pain distraction techniques to their full advantage. 



"Fisherman casting his net into the Water", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 rev.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.   Mark 1:14-20

Isn't this the most amazing story.  These four, hard-working fishermen -- apparently doing well in the family business -- suddenly left everything:  work, family, friends and income.  They simply dropped the nets they were mending and, without even telling their families farewell or packing any clothes, they simply followed the man that John the Baptizer had called "the Lamb of God" -- the man Peter's brother, Andrew, had proclaimed to be the Messiah.

This is one of those God-man encounters that simply leaves me speechless and wondering what on earth I am supposed to do with such a story.  I have heard the stories of people who did something similar when they were confronted by some well-known priest, religious or lay person of their day and time -- but they went on to become saints themselves!  What about us ordinary folk who have lives full of responsibilities from which we simply cannot walk away or who, like myself, are no longer able to walk much at all?

I have heard homilies preached on this Gospel which were all about how we are all called to total commitment no matter what our vocation or state in life. 

So I pray that we may all trust that we will be given the strength to accept, as these four fishermen did, whatever it may be that we are called to do with our lives -- and know that in such acceptance we will finally find true peace.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

At Twilight

"At Twilight", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

This drawing was inspired by a William Clark Wontner painting entitled "Esme".  I am unable to find any information about who, exactly, "Esme" was, but I found the face so striking that I wanted to try drawing it.

Wontner (1857-1930) was a neo-classical painter during the neo-classical movement of England. Wontner added Orientalist elements into his paintings because he loved to paint beautiful women often against white marble walls in classical oriental settings.

William Clarke Wontner was a friend of the Godward family and when their son, John William Godward (see posting of August 10, 2014, for details on the life of Godward), exhibited early drawing skills, the Godward family, opposed to the idea of their son becoming an artist, did agree to allow him to study architectural rendering classes from Wontner’s father on a recreational basis in the evenings. However, young Godward had other plans! He enlisted Wontner, who was a few years older and already advancing in his artistic studies, to be his mentor and even convinced Wontner to help him, secretly, attend a few night classes at local art schools. Later, Godward would reciprocate by being a major influence on Wontner's art as well as becoming his lifelong friend.

Although William Clarke Wontner never became more than a minor player in the art world, it never stopped him from painting the things he loved most -- beautiful women. He continued to paint until his death in 1930.

As usual, I wish I could do so much more with this drawing -- and, knowing me, I will probably try to create more satisfying details as I continue to discover new ways to use my drawing software.  Of course, what I really want to do is duplicate the subtle variations available with oil paints -- if only I could still hold those small brushes without immediately experiencing such painful cramps in my hands.  Ah well, instead of complaining, I will just be grateful that there still remain techniques that enable me to be a bit creative. So, thank goodness for the computer mouse!

Most of the historical details in this section were taken from various Internet sources.


Some new photos of the boys.  

I understand poor, little Ronàn has been suffering through his first cold/flu experience.  Unfortunately, we all have to go through the process of building up our defenses against those sneaky viruses! Thankfully, he seems to be on the mend although I think it may take a bit longer for his mother (and his father) to recover from the experience! 

Ronàn in his new "suit"!  What a little man he looks like with his bow tie.

Braden with a new puzzle -- what fun!

It's also fun for Braden to be outdoors on a cold January day!

Ronàn holding on to someone while he sleeps peacefully.



Suki curled up in her favourite chair
With all the cold weather we have had recently, Suki has continued to spend an inordinate amount of time in my lap -- or on various parts of my anatomy.  

Of course, I really can't blame her as I am usually sitting in my recliner with the foot rest fully extended and a warm blanket over my legs and feet.  This must be terribly inviting to a cat who, like almost all cats, loves to be really, really warm.

Sometimes Suki is quite happy just sitting on my lap. Every so often, however, I am distracted from whatever I may be doing on my iPad by the sensation of Suki carefully making her way under the blanket where she begins the process of getting me to move my legs -- pushing and pulling until she has managed to make a space between my legs.  When this is accomplished, she curls up into a round ball and immediately proceeds to go back to sleep.

Meanwhile, I have to try to make myself as comfortable as possible without disturbing Her Highness too much.  Thankfully, I can usually find a position that seems to leave Suki satisfied while, at the same time, leaving me not too uncomfortable.  Occasionally, however, it is a particularly bad pain day and so I will end up having to force Suki to move elsewhere after a short time.  As you can imagine, she is not pleased about this at all.

I really should make a video of what occurs when this happens -- when I have to make Suki move either back onto my lap or onto the floor.  She resists my efforts at first and, if I persist, she starts with those plaintive meows at which she is so good!  It is really quite a performance and if it were not for the fact that I simply cannot put up with the extra pain she is causing, I would be so overcome by guilt that I would definitely allow her to stay and just endure the discomfort.  

I often think, at times such as this, of the name that John Mortimer's "Rumpole of the Bailey" gave to his wife:  "she who must be obeyed".  This would be a perfect name for Suki -- especially as far as she is concerned!

Other than these occasional problems with Suki and her sleeping arrangements, I am gradually getting back to normal -- or whatever you call my usual unhappy state.  In other words, I am slowly recovering from the flu although I continue to be a bit weaker than before and find that I have to be more careful when moving about as my gait seems to be less steady.  Hopefully, these symptoms will also improve over time.

At any rate, I am certainly in better shape than I was two weeks ago or even a few days ago.  I am particularly happy that those terrible coughing spells have ceased.  Hopefully, I will not have to have any more battles with those nasty flu viruses this winter.  I feel I have certainly done my bit in the fight against viral invaders!  



"Icon -- Behold the Lamb of God", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010 rev.

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” which means Rock.
John 1:35-42 

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world 
have mercy on us...
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world 
have mercy on us...
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world 
grant us peace...

And so goes the Agnus Dei which we say or sing at each Mass at the Fraction of the Host (when the priest breaks the Bread and puts a small piece of the Host into the chalice to signify the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation). 

So let us pray:  Lamb of God, grant us peace.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Clinanthus incarnatus ("Andean Amaryllis")

"Clinanthus incarnatus", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Clinanthus incarnatus (formerly Stenomesson incarnatum), of the Family Amaryllidaceae, is native to the Andes from Ecuador to Peru where it inhabits grasslands between 7,500 to 12,000 ft. It has long, strap-like leaves that can grow to 2 feet in length. At some point between late spring and early autumn, the plant sends up a large, 2-foot flower spikes and 4 to 8 trumpet-shaped blooms, almost 4 inches long, which spill out one at a time. The flower color can appear more like salmon or coral, depending on the lighting and temperature, and each petal has a grey stripe at its tip. I am sure that there must be several local names for this beautiful plant; however, thus far, I have been unable to discover any of them. So, for the moment, among friends, I am going to simply call it the Andean Amaryllis! 

Of interest to some of you will be the still somewhat unsettled nature of the proper name of this stunning plant. For rather technical reasons, Stenomesson incarnatum was transferred to Clinanthus incarnatus in the year 2000. C. incarnatus was first described in 1931 by the legendary Harvard field botanist J. Francis Macbride in his Flora of Peru Series. It was he who placed this plant in the species Stenomesson (from the Greek 'stenos' meaning "narrow" and 'messos' meaning "middle", referring to the shape of the flowers). In the year 2000, Alan Meerow, et. al., after looking at “DNA sequences”, moved certain plants previously located in the Stenomesseae Tribe into a separate group with the name of Clianthus (from Latin 'klitus' meaning "a mountainous declivity" and 'anthos' meaning "a flower" in reference to the downward inclination of the flowers). At this point there are still those who make such comments as “we await wider usage of this name before changing our listing.”!

I realize that this is a lot of technical information, but I must admit that I do find it fascinating.  Perhaps it comes from the pleasure I derived during those years that I was a library cataloguer and was able to determine the correct "home" on the shelves for each and every book, audio-visual, computer disc, etc. that came into our library.

As for the art work, I must admit that I did enjoy drawing these striking flowers.  They are such a lovely coral-orange with that unexpected grey stripe on each petal.  All of you regulars know how much I enjoy working with flowers that range in colour from red -- red-orange -- orange.  This particular shade of red-orange is so beautiful that I have already started looking for another flower (other than a rose) somewhere in the world that has a similar colour.  Should I find something, I am sure you will be seeing it in a posting sometime in the months ahead.    



Suki waiting beside
my sick bed!

This, I fear, will be a somewhat different section today! No, Suki hasn't had to make a return trip to the vet leaving me tired, poorly organized and unable to gather my thoughts into coherent prose ... rather, I managed to somehow, somewhere come into contact with one of these awful flu viruses -- possibly when I went out for a visit last Saturday.  

The flu symptoms themselves exploded into my quiet life this past Monday evening and the reverberations continue until this very morning with the coughing and the increased joint pain probably being the worst of the lot.  And, no, it wasn't Suki's fault in any way!

In fact, if there is one thing I can say about Suki, it is that she has turned out to be a terrific nurse maid!  Not only has she obviously been worried about me, she has insisted in spending hours with me -- whether I have been resting in my bed or in my big recliner.  Even when I have asked her politely to go somewhere else to sleep as my legs are falling asleep from the weight of her, she, loyally and with extreme kitty-cat dedication, has refused to leave her post! Of course, every so often my severe coughing spasms start up again and these seem to work wonderfully well in convincing Suki that it is time for her to move to another place in order to continue her sleeping.

Speaking of sleeping, Suki, out of deep concern for my well-being I'm sure, has allowed me to sleep, undisturbed, until 6 a.m. each morning this past week!  Considering that this is 45 mins. to an hour later than her usual wake-up time for me, I am sure that you can recognized, just as I do, what a terrific nurse maid Suki has been!  

Of course, once she has me awakened, she does still expect me to prepare her food first thing and she tends to get her nose out of joint just a bit when I choose to do other things such as tending to my own coughing, sneezing and sinus issues before feeding her. In fact, now that I think about it, Suki does seem to rather still insist that she be fed at her regular times no matter whether I have just drifted off for a nap or whatever!  

Seriously, what can I say, Suki is a cat after all and, for a cat, she has truly done remarkably well at setting aside her own desires in certain small ways so that I might have things just a tiny bit easier. I consider such behaviour by what is basically a "wild" animal (whose only real concerns are meant to be food, water, sufficient rest and reproduction) to be serious signs of bonding with another creature.

As for me, I am gradually beginning to mend and certain symptoms have begun to subside.  I continue to have unpleasant coughing spells, weakness, difficulty sleeping and lack of appetite due, in part, to my inability to taste whatever I am eating; however, I trust that in due course these symptoms will also subside.  

I have heard a number of people say over the past few months that this year's flu shot seems to be less effective than usual and now I know, firsthand, that this must be true.  I have been flu-free for a number of years now (thanks to the flu shot, I believe) and I must say that it has truly been a shock to be reminded of just how unpleasant, persistent and debilitating a flu virus can be.  

Of course, I really don't blame those who prepare the flu shot each year as we all know what devious, little critters viruses really are -- always seeking new mutations in order to find a way around, under or over our defenses so that they can grab a new host organism in which to reproduce.  And since, if they overwhelm the defenses of the host organism, they will probably kill it, these viruses, and their offspring, also need to find an effective way to "move on"  to another "host organism".  This is what happened to me, no doubt, when I went out for my visit Saturday a week ago -- someone was there allowing these little nasty "bugs" to move onto me!  Rotten little squatters!    



"Icon -- The Baptism of Christ", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 Rev.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”  
            Matt. 3:13-17

The Scripture takes us back to the Baptism of Christ and so I am using one of the same icons I used during Advent. In that posting, I was writing about St. John's comment regarding his not being worthy to untie the thongs of the sandals of Christ.  In today's posting, however, I want to focus on those wonderful words that were heard when Christ, after being baptized by St. John, came up from the watery "tomb" of the Jordan River.

"This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

On occasion I have sat and tried to imagine the effect that hearing these words would have had on the people around Christ -- what would they have thought?  How might these words have affected their own lives?  What might have happened to them as a result of hearing these words?  It makes for an interesting meditation as I consider the reactions of people like St. John the Baptist, himself, with all his own questions; the Mother of Christ (she, too, could have been there with her Son); the serving woman or man who had come to listen, to repent or, perhaps, to scoff; the spies that had been sent by the religious leaders and so on.

Today, however, I was more affected by the thought of what it would mean to any one of us to hear one or both of our parents actually say those words to us.  What a gift that would be for any child, at any point in their lives, to hear one or both parents say for no other reason than simply out of love: "You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased".  Can we imagine the deep healing that would no doubt occur in the heart, mind and soul of such a fortunate child at hearing their parent(s) say something that, in effect says: "I totally accept you just as you are and love you unconditionally no matter what you have done or haven't done. You, in and of yourself, are totally sufficient.  I love you without reservation and I rejoice in you."

Isn't this what we are hoping to hear the Father say to us one day?  I know I am.  I hope for this even though after living all these years, I am more aware than ever that I cannot please Him by doing things, by accomplishing stuff.  The only hope I have, it seems to me, is to try my best to love as He does -- even though I fail over and over again.  Perhaps, if I just keep trying, I, too, will one day hear these marvelous words as I come up from my own tomb:

"You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased."

May we all desire to love as we are loved by the God who is Love so that at the end there will be nothing left but Love.


Sunday, 4 January 2015


"My Mother -- Mamiska, 1973", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Recently, I have ended up doing drawings of mothers, including mine.  I'm not sure why my art work has taken this particular turn, but whatever the reason, I want to share the results with you today.

The first featured drawing is one of my mother.  For my model, I used a photograph I took of her in 1973 when she would have been 70-71 years old.  If you look at the title of the drawing you will see that it includes the word "Mamiska".  This is not a misspelling of the Russian word "mamochka" but is, in fact, my own nickname for my mother.  I do not recall exactly when or why I started using this term of endearment.  I think it was sometime in my late teens and I just remember liking the sound of it.

As many of you know, my mother wasn't what you could call a good mother, but I have come to feel that she did the best she could given her own woundedness.

"Mercedes Mother", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014
This next drawing is of the mother of a friend of mine who originally came to Canada from one of the South American countries.  Her mother is also now deceased and the photo I worked from was taken when she was a young woman.

When I first saw the photo, I was immediately taken with the look on the face as well as its loveliness.  I am continuing to work on this one as I am not yet satisfied with the results -- I am still trying to capture a certain look.

"Hylott's Mother", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
This next drawing was inspired by a photo of an Alabama friend's mother taken when she was high school age.  She is deceased as well.

When my friend first shared the photo with me, I was immediately struck by the strength in this young woman's face and that is what I attempted to capture in my drawing.

I never met this woman even though we lived not that many miles apart, but I like to think she was a mother I could have really talked with.

"Icon -- Our Holy Mother", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 revision

Finally, I  had to include a recent revision of an icon of the ultimate mother, Our Lady Mary.

I suppose I was thinking about mothers particularly as January 1st was the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  Thinking of her and her role as the Mother of the Redeemer led me to think about mothers in general  which led me to think about the various drawings of mothers I have worked on over the past few months. Which is, I guess, the reason why I ended up featuring these particular drawings today.



A couple of new photos:

Ronàn sleeping quietly

Braden making a silly face -- something 2 1/2 year old boys are always willing to do!



You may recall that I mentioned that Suki seemed a bit more "clingy" since her surgery and overnight-er at the veterinary clinic.  I assumed that it was just a phase she was going through after such a traumatic event. However, now I am beginning to think that I am going to have to re-evaluate those previous assumptions! The truth is that even over a month later Suki continues to behave in a way that was unknown prior to the vet clinic experience.  Let me explain....

Prior to these events, Suki rarely ever wanted to climb up onto my lap and sleep.  She would occasionally climb on top of my chest while I was sleeping, but that was in order to provide herself with a good perch from which to attempt to awaken me by licking my face. This sort of behaviour usually occurred about 5 a.m. when Suki must have been feeling the hunger-rumbles in her stomach. But, even this behaviour only occurred occasionally as Suki had learned years ago how dangerous it could be to put herself so close to my hands when trying to awaken me as the hands of a half-awake Sallie could be used very roughly indeed. As you know, she usually favours clacking the Venetian blinds or rattling plastic bags as methods to awaken me as these noises can be made a safe distance from those hands of mine!

The point I am trying to make is that Suki does not have a history of lap-sitting.  However, since the events at the vet clinic, all that has changed.  These days, starting in the afternoon and continuing throughout the evening hours, I can be assured that Suki is going to end up in my lap every time she awakens from one of her naps -- and she is very insistent about this whether I want her in my lap or not!

Let's say Suki is sleeping in her favourite chair in the bedroom after finishing her noon meal while I am trying to stay as comfortable as possible in my big recliner in the living room.  After about an hour of silence -- except for whatever noise I might be creating with talking books or the TV -- the silence will be broken by the first plaintive meow.  These meows will continue, over and over, as Suki slowly, slowly makes her way from the bedroom to the living room until she finally reaches the side of my chair where she sits for a moment before leaping onto my chair and plopping herself into my lap. It makes no difference to her how uncomfortable this may be for me -- she is determined to sit in my lap.  

I am such an old softy that I let her stay unless I am in just too much pain at the moment to tolerate her 13.5 lbs.  Even then, I will make a valiant effort to try to accommodate Suki's desire to be in my lap.  Usually, however, I end up letting her stay.  Once she realizes that I am not going to push her onto the floor, she quickly curls herself into that ball-shape we associate with sleeping cats and goes soundly to sleep.  She will stay in that same position, not moving, until I finally reach the point where my discomfort outweighs my tolerance and she suddenly finds herself being gently pushed off my lap and onto the floor.

At this point, Suki will head for another one of her favourite sleeping places -- the coat closet by the front door perhaps -- and settle down for another nap.  She will then sleep for about an hour or two until something causes her to awaken. Then I will hear the first of the plaintive meows which means she is on her way back to the living room and my lap!

All I can do is hope that, eventually, this lap-sitting business will turn out to have been just a phase Suki had to pass through in order to recover from trauma.  I dare not allow myself to consider the possibility that this might be a permanent change in her personality. Ouch and double-ouch!

Speaking of "Ouch-es", my general pain level has been pretty stable over the holidays.  In other words, it hasn't been any better, but, at least for the time being, it hasn't been any worse.  Of course, I made the decision several months ago that I wouldn't try to do any Christmas shopping and only send cards to my family and close friends.  Joycelyn, my friend and helper, took care of the mailing of all the calendars I had prepared with drawings of mine from the past year.  So, I was able to rest, enjoy a few short visits from friends and spend a lot of time utilizing my pain management techniques.  Thankfully, I had no medical appointments scheduled after the 18th of December and none are scheduled now until February.

I hope that you all had a good beginning to the year 2015 and that every day of this new year will be filled with blessings for you and all those who are dear to you.



"Icon -- Adoration of the Wise Men", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 Rev.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw the rising of his star in the east and have come to honor him." ... The star that they had seen in the East went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. The wise men were overjoyed on seeing the star again. They went into the house and when they saw the child with Mary his mother, they knelt and worshiped him. They opened their bags and offered him their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. Matt. 2:1-2; 9(b)-12

The story of the Wise Men has always struck me as absolutely amazing.  I mean, here we have three men, obviously learned and wealthy, who travel all the way from the area of what was then Persia to the backwater province of Palestine.  Once there, they go first to the local ruler thinking, I guess, that any "king" would be found there.  However, when they hear the prophecy from the Book of Micah, they set off for dusty, little Bethlehem.  I mean, I have been to Bethlehem and even today it isn't anything special.  Back then it must have truly been little more than a village.

Once in Bethlehem, these "wise" men finally locate the newborn child lying in a manger (a feeding trough) in a stable (a cave probably) with his teenage mother and a man they assume to be the father of the child. These two people and their baby have nothing but a donkey and a few belongings -- yet these men give them gifts worthy of a king's palace.  What did these men actually see?  Why were they willing to lay such priceless gifts at the "crib" of this poor baby?  Did they leave there believing that they had truly found someone worthy of their gifts and their worship?  Did they ever try to find out what had happened to this child?  Such a strange story with so many questions without answers.  What do you believe when you reflect on this passage from Matthew's Gospel?

May we all be counted as wise when it comes to understanding what is really important in life. May we all have generous hearts when confronted by the poor and needy.  May we cease from self-righteous judgement of those less fortunate than ourselves and say, instead, "there, but for the grace of God, go I..."


Sunday, 28 December 2014

Swainsona formosa -- Sturt's Desert Pea

"Swainsona formosa -- Sturt's Desert Pea", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Swainsona formosa (commonly known as Sturt's Desert Pea) is an Australian plant famous for its distinctive blood-red flowers, each with a bulbous purplish-black centre, or "boss" as it’s called. It is one of Australia's best known wildflowers. It is native to the arid regions of central and north-western Australia, and its range extends into all of the mainland Australian states with the exception of Victoria. A member of the family Fabaceae (legumes), it is most closely related to the New Zealand genera Clianthus (Kakabeak).

Speaking of this New Zealand plant, some months ago I did a drawing of "Kakabeak" (see drawing at right) and it was this
"Clianthus puniceus -- Kakabeak", drawing
by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014
drawing that I used on my Christmas cards this year. In fact, one of the people to whom I sent a card came to Canada from Australia. She wrote back to tell me that when she first looked at the card, she thought I had used a drawing of Sturt's Desert Pea, but, upon closer examination, she realized that my drawing was of Sturt's cousin, Kakabeak. She enclosed a photo of Sturt's Desert Pea so that I could see the similarities for myself. Immediately, upon seeing this photo, I knew that I wanted to do a drawing of Kakabeak's Australian cousin -- and, so, here it is. 

Of course, they really are two very different plants although they both belong to the same family -- Fabaceae or Leguminosae, commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family. Swainsona formosa (once known as Clianthus formosus) grows close to the ground on "runners" in arid soil. Most forms of the plant are low-growing; however, in certain regions of north-western Australia varieties growing as tall as 2 metres have been observed. Clianthus puniceus on the other hand, grows into a large shrub and is found growing near the edge of forest lands or on the banks of lakes and rivers. 

Specimens of Sturt's desert pea were first collected by William Dampier who recorded his first sighting in 1699. The taxonomy of Sturt's Desert Pea has been changed on a number of occasions. It was initially placed, in the 18th century, in the genus Clianthus and became widely known as Clianthus formosus (formosus is Latin for "beautiful"). However it was later reclassified under the genus Swainsona (named after English botanist Isaac Swainson) as Swainsona formosa, the name by which it is officially known today. The common name honours Charles Sturt, who recorded seeing large quantities of the flowers while exploring central Australia in 1844. 

Sturt's Desert Pea is not endangered, but it is illegal to collect specimens of the plant from Crown land without a permit. The plants must not be collected from private land without the written consent of the land owner. The iconic status of Sturt's Desert Pea in Australia, and particularly in South Australia, has ensured its use as a popular subject in artwork and photography, as well as a decorative motif and in a range of commercial uses. Sturt's Desert Pea has also made many appearances in prose and verse as well as featuring in some aboriginal legends. 

Here is a typical example of an aboriginal legend about the origin of this striking plant:

An Australian aboriginal tribal group was camped in the outback. A young woman in the tribe watched as her man walked away into the distance – he was going hunting. Time passed but her man did not return. The tribal group finally decided that their present location was no longer suitable and so they decided to move on. The young woman, however, refused to leave and insisted on staying behind to wait for her man to return. Pleading with her to no avail, the rest of the group finally made the decision to move on without her. As they left, they glanced back frequently and could see the woman sitting there in her red blanket. As the distance between them increased, all they could see was the red of the blanket and the black of her hair until finally they could no longer see her at all. Time passed but the woman and her man never caught up with their tribal family. A long time later, the group returned to this campsite. There was no sign of the woman or of her man. Instead they found a beautiful red flower with a black spot and it was growing in the exact spot where they had last seen the woman sitting. This was the origin, so we are told, of the flower that would come to be known as Strut’s Desert Pea.

I enjoyed drawing this unusual plant with its stunning flowers. I did take certain liberties with my drawing, however. As you will notice, not only do I show the plant in its normal bud and flower stage, but I also included the "pea pods" it produces at the end of the flowering season. As I have said before, artists and poets do tend to take liberties with the facts!

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



Braden is just old enough now to begin to grasp something of the concept of Santa Claus (St. Nicholas). Ronàn, on the other hand, hasn't a clue -- after all he is not quite two months old yet! 

At any rate, it is obvious that they both enjoyed themselves (see photos 1 and 4 below). I also included two more photos of Ronàn sleeping, including one showing his expressive hands. Soon I think I shall do a photo essay on the "Hands of Ronàn"!

Ronàn on Christmas morning

In the days prior to Christmas, while Ronàn was napping, big brother, Braden, decided that Ronàn needed company during his nap-time -- this is the reason for a large 
portion of Braden's dinosaur collection, as well as his stuffed monkey, 
 being placed next to the sleeping Ronàn!

Ronàn sleeping peacefully. Once again, note those expressive hands.

Christmas morning finds Braden stopping for a candy cane snack after opening his many gifts from Santa (note heavily laden table in background!).



drawing by 
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer 

Well, I think Suki had a very nice Christmas. She got lots of attention from various visitors (she particularly likes guests who scratch her under the chin), I gave her extras of her favourite food and she had lots of ribbons and tissue paper to play with. 

Fortunately, no one wasted their money buying her any new toys at the pet shop. She already has a huge basket full of toys and much prefers ribbons and tissue paper anyway. She did receive several bags of cat treats which I am saving for the first week of January when, I have been told, it will once again be safe for her to crunch down on her back teeth. 

As well, several of my family and friends who telephoned over Christmas asked after Suki and, on one occasion, I was even able to get her to give a meow in response! I did not tell the caller that she was actually meowing because it was her lunch time -- rather I let them believe that Suki really did know how to talk on the phone.

You may be wondering why I am talking about this so openly on my blog posting since now the person will know that Suki was only hungry. No fear, the person I am referring to is a family member and most of them never get around to reading my blog postings anyway! Funny thing about family: no matter how clever other folks think I am, to most of my immediate family I will always be silly Sallie who likes to doodle. 

Anyway, Suki and I had a very pleasant Christmas Day together -- she even allowed me to sleep in until almost 6 a.m. I'm not sure why this happened -- must have been an oversight on her part -- however, it did make me feel as though I had received a special Christmas gift from Suki. Maybe she really does understand more than I normally give her credit for! 

As for myself, I continue to spend my time trying to manage the pain. It was a bit more difficult to do so this past week, of course, with the various visits I had scheduled -- however, it was worth it to see folks who are so dear to me. It was particularly wonderful to finally get to meet Ronàn -- he is such a beautiful boy -- and to see how much Braden has grown since I last saw him during the summer. 

I had a good visit with the boys' parents as well -- although with a baby and toddler both present, it was sometimes rather difficult to keep track of the conversation. However, it was all worth the effort (in spite of the additional medication required on my part) to see the boys and their parents as well as the other visitors I had over the holidays. Thankfully, I have had these last few days to quietly recover.



"Holy Family -- Sweet Tenderness", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 Revision

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”    
Luke 2:25-35

Every night, all over the world, priests, men and women religious and devout laypeople repeat the above words (Luke 2:29-32) in their own language as they pray the Office known as Night Prayer or Compline. This passage of Scripture, known for centuries as the Nunc dimittis (also known as the Canticle of Simeon), is taken from the first words of these verses in Latin – the language in which this Canticle was prayed from the early days of the Latin Church until the changes following Vatican II -- over 1,900 years. 

The words of this passage, like any words, can be read quickly without really grasping what is being said. They only became meaningful to me when some years ago, I meditated at length on the situation in which these words were spoken: Simeon, we are told, was a devout Jewish man who had been promised (by and angel?) that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah -- the promised one of Israel. 

Even though the years passed, one after another after another, Simeon still waited, believing what he had been told was really going to happen. Then, finally, when he was an old man, Mary, Joseph and their baby came into the Temple. Faithful Simeon recognized the child as the Messiah and declared it out loud for all to hear. Most of those around him, other than the prophetess, Anna, must have thought him a crazy, old fool. Yet, he rejoiced even though he knew from whatever he had been told that now, having seen the Messiah, he would die. 

All he asked, after being granted the gift of seeing the Promised One, was that he might now die in peace. If I had been in his place, would seeing this baby have been enough for me? Knowing myself as I do, I doubt it. I would have wanted proof and I would not have been happy about having to die before I knew what was going to happen next. Why the difference between myself and Simeon ... 

Simeon had such a deep and trusting faith that he was at peace in believing that he had seen and held the child who who was the Promised One. He did not need to understand or stay around to see what happened next. 

May we all know the peace that can only come from a trusting faith -- that peace which brings with it a joyful acceptance of whatever life gives us -- no matter how difficult it may seem at the time. 

"Now, Lord, let your servant go in peace...." 


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Journey to Bethlehem

"Journey to Bethlehem", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

This is a sketch that I started last Advent but never got around to finishing.  I just happened to come across it this past week and figured that this was as good a time as any to finally complete it.

When I first begin the drawing, I named it "The Tabernacle" as I was thinking of Mary as the original tabernacle ("house") of God. The Church teaches us that when God came to dwell among us as a man, His first home was the womb of the Virgin.

However, when I made the decision to try and finish the drawing, I found myself thinking more of the long, dangerous journey that Mary and Joseph were required, by law, to take when she was almost ready to give birth to her precious Child.  

Try to imagine how we would feel if we were told in the middle of winter that we had to leave our family, friends, support group and the comforts of our home and travel approximately 100 miles on a donkey with only one other person for support! Most of us cannot even begin to imagine such a thing. Now add to the mix the fact of being nine months pregnant.  Only those who have been pregnant might have some idea of how terrifying the prospect of such a journey would be. Let us, therefore, stand silent in awe and admiration at the faith and courage shown by our Lady Mary and St. Joseph as they set off on this dangerous journey.

Finally, with the journey to Bethlehem in mind, let me wish all of you a holiday season filled with the joys and comforts of home, family and friends. 

Yet, let us not forgot all those who are without the comforts of home, family and friends during this special time of year.  May we try to find some way, according to our means, to share our many blessings with them.

"Oh, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie..."



What a beautiful boy you are, dear Ronàn!

A new baby in the house takes a bit of adjustment as these two photos demonstrate.  
In the photograph on the left we see Ronàn sitting in his baby chair.  However,
in the photo on the right, we see his 2 1/2 year old brother trying to squeeze into 
his brother's baby chair!  Sorry, Braden, you're not the baby of the house anymore!



This past week contained events that Suki will not soon forget!

Last weekend, I found a piece of a broken tooth lying next to one of Suki`s favourite sleeping places. Concerned, I phoned the vet and made an appointment for this past Tuesday. When Suki and I arrived for her appointment, the vet discovered that not only had one of her back teeth broken off, the same tooth on the opposite side of her mouth was loose and when the vet touched the tooth, it was obvious that it was causing her a good bit of pain.

I was then informed that surgery was required to remove what appeared to be an infected tooth and to clean up the site of the broken tooth.  Since Suki had already eaten breakfast, the vet said they would have to wait a certain number of hours before they could give her anesthesia.  It was suggested that I leave, without Suki, and plan to pick her up the next afternoon.  This was quite distressing; however, I scratched Suki's head, telling her to be brave and then I, bravely, set off for home.  I must admit to feeling quite bereft, however.  

The next 24 hours were very strange without Suki here and even though there was no "kitty-cat-alarm-clock", I still woke up just before 6 a.m.  Finally, at 3 p.m. the following afternoon, I was allowed to come and collect Miss Suki.  Even though she was a bit groggy because of the pain medication and the remains of the anesthesia, she made it quite clear that she was very glad to see me. When we finally got back home and I opened the door to her carrying case, Suki staggered out, flopped on the floor and began to purr loudly.  It was obvious that she was very glad to be back in her own place.

In the days that have followed, Suki has been quite a bit more "clingy" than previously.  Too often now she wants to sleep in my lap instead of in one of her usual places.  I try to be as accommodating as possible because I understand that she has been through a rather traumatic event.  The problem is, of course, that I have a lot of pain in my legs due to the pressure on the nerves in my back and having a 13 lb. cat on my lap only adds to the discomfort.  I tolerate her being there as long as I can, but, eventually, I have to encourage her to move on -- which she finally does, albeit very reluctantly! 

So, as you can see, the past week has been rather trying for both Suki and myself.  In fact, the trips to and from the vet along with a visit to the doctor on Thursday combined with visits from several dear friends have all left me feeling a bit the worse for wear.

As you may recall, I was supposed to be going to the grandparent's home today to meet Ronàn and see Braden and the parents again. However, I just learned this morning that grandmother is not feeling well and so the visit there is cancelled.  All the news is not bad though for now the plan is that Ronàn, Braden and the parents are coming to visit me later this morning.  I'm sorry that they will have to drive into the big city, but it will be wonderful to finally meet Ronàn and see the rest of the family again.  Their visit is certainly the best Christmas gift I could be given.



"Icon -- The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth"
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2008

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”   Luke 1:39-45

Years ago, I was staying overnight at a friend's place during Advent, trying to sleep in a strange bed and failing miserably. Finally, in desperation, I took my Rosary out of my handbag and begin to pray the Joyful Mysteries.  I reached the 2nd Mystery, the Visitation of Lady Mary to St. Elizabeth, and began it the way I begin all the Mysteries -- by repeating the Scripture passage that defines that Mystery.  In this case, the same Scripture passage posted above.

Just as I was saying the words (my version) "who am I that the Mother of my Lord has come to me?", I fell asleep and dreamed. In the dream I seemed to be on a long journey by foot.  Even though it was night-time in the dream, the moon and stars made everything very visible including rocks and small trees which cast strange, somewhat frightening, shadows.  I was alone but I kept hearing someone saying the words "who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me" over and over again.  Finally I realized that it was my own voice I was hearing.  The journey seemed endless but I kept putting one foot in front of the other while I continued repeating this phrase, waiting for someone to answer the question for me. Finally, the dream faded and I must have slept quietly after that as I awoke in the morning feeling rested.  

Whatever such a dream does or does not mean, it left me, to this very day, with a strong attachment to those words so that when I repeat them, I find myself picturing that dream, once again walking along that night-time road waiting for an answer to come.  I have this feeling that there is an answer, other than the obvious one of being poor and lowly in the presence of Our Lady carrying the Christ Child. I believe that someday, somewhere, I will hear Someone speak the answer for which I have been waiting all these years.

May we all keep walking along the road Life has given us until we finally reach our destination.  And, while walking, may we know peace and joy no matter what difficulties we face or how fearful things may seem. Remembering always that our task is simply to, trustingly, place one foot in front of the other.