Sunday, 22 November 2015

Clumping Gazania (Gazania rigens)

"Clumping Gazania (Gazania rigens) -- Stylized?", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

To me, Clumping Gazanias look as though they were lovingly designed through the combined efforts of Euclid and Rene Descartes -- the masters of geometry. The designs are so carefully arranged that even when I draw an ordinary Gazania, it looks as though I have purposely made it look stylized!  

"Clumping Gazania (Gazania rigens) -- Spiral", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Then, when I take the image of this flower that looks stylized in spite of itself, both the blossom and its petals easily form other geometric-type shapes.  Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Gazania is a genus of flowering plants in the Asteraceae (Daisy) family. The genus is native to South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola. Additionally, species are naturalized in Australia, New Zealand, and the western USA. They are widely cultivated as ornamental garden plants as the gardeners among you are well aware. 

Gazanias are grown for the brilliant colour of their flowers which appear in the late spring and early summer. They prefer a sunny position and are tolerant of poor soils and little rainfall. Clumping Gazanias have a number of names including 'Aztec', 'Burgundy', 'Copper King', 'Fiesta Red', 'Goldrush' and 'Moonglow'. 

Gazanias were named for Theodorus of Gaza, a 15th-century Italian scholar and translator of the botanical treatises of Theophrastus. The species name of rigens comes from the Latin and means frozen, stiff or rigid.

I really enjoyed trying to draw this flower and still want to try to draw a few more variations including seeking to make other geometric or kaleidoscope-type patterns with the flowers and their petals.  I feel certain that you will be seeing more Gazanias in the near future!

Some of the above information was taken from Wikipedia


Suki in my chair -- unhappy at being awakened by me --
especially as she knows I am just about to move her,
once again, back to her own chair!
I must say that I had no idea that Suki could pursue something so aggressively...  I am talking about my recliner -- the one I told you about last week when I described how I was having to "fight" with Suki over whose chair it really is.

Well, I thought things were bad enough when I posted my blog this past Sunday; however, they have only gotten worse!

By Tuesday of this past week, things had reached the point where every time I got up from my recliner -- even for just a couple of minutes -- I was returning to find Suki curled up in the seat, pretending to be sound asleep.  So, in order to sit down in my recliner once again, I have had to pick up all 13 lbs. of Suki and transfer her from my chair to one of her chairs.  Recalling the state of the joints in my fingers, hands and arms, you will know that this would be a very painful task for me.

I am really not certain as to what I shall do in order to fix this problem.  I could simply push Suki off of my chair onto the floor each time I find her there, but then I know, from past experience, that she would just sit there, staring at me with those piercing cat eyes for the next 15 minutes or so -- making me feel very uncomfortable.  Or, I could get another recliner, but I really hate to have to spend $800 or so for a chair I don't really want just because my cat is fighting with me over who gets to sit in the recliner I already possess.

I have briefly considered various other options such as attaching a mild electrical charge to the seat of the recliner with an on/off switch.  This way I could turn on the current whenever I got out of my chair and then poor Suki would be unpleasantly surprised when she tried to take possession of the chair.  Of course, I immediately rejected the idea -- not only because it would be a cruel thing to do to poor Suki, but, knowing me, I would most likely forget I had turned the electricity on and, upon returning to the chair, would end up giving that rather unpleasant surprise to myself instead.

Briefly, I also considered putting a halter and leash on Suki so that I could take her with me whenever I got up from my recliner thus preventing her from taking possession of my chair. However, I recalled immediately how once, some years ago, I tried to see how Suki would respond to wearing a collar and leash.  The collar she appeared to be willing to tolerate, but the leash was another matter. As soon as it went on -- halter and all -- she simply plopped herself down on the floor and refused to budge.  The only way I could have moved her would have been to drag her along the floor -- another cruel thing which I would never do to poor Suki.

So, here I am, faced with another impasse without a sensible solution in hand.  What to do? What to do?  For the moment it seems the only thing I can do is move Suki back to her chair each time I return to my own chair.  If any of you faithful readers out there can think of any other solutions, please, please pass them along... my arthritis pain and I would be eternally grateful!

Otherwise, things remain much the same for me.  I do have a rather unpleasant medical test coming up this week -- it will be done in the out-patient, surgical unit at the hospital.  How I wish medicine had developed along the lines of that portrayed in the various Star Trek series. Those doctors just had to move a light bar of some kind over the body and all its secrets were revealed.  Oh, well, I guess I will just have to endure our currently more primitive methods for exploratory procedures.



"Icon -- Christ the King, Rev. 2015", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’  John 18:33-37

I have always been very impressed by one particular line in this passage: "...I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth..."

Could one of the greatest sins possibly be: "being a phony?" 

As I look back over my long lifetime, I can see now that I have spent most of it trying to hide from the truth of who and what I am. So much of the time I have tried to be what I believed I needed to be in order for others to love me, like me and include me in their "tribe". In other words, I was living a deception, a lie, not the truth.

It has taken me 75 years to reach the point where I am willing to risk exposing the truth about who and what I am even if it means having people dislike me or walk away from me in anger.  Each human being, like every created thing in the universe, is absolutely unique. So, it seems reasonable to me to believe that we each have a unique aspect of the Truth of express in our lives and we can only do the job properly by seeking to bear witness to our truth. Otherwise, we waste our lives trying to live someone else's truth and, in doing so, lose our opportunity to live a meaningful life.

I pray that I will never forget again that I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth. May I always bear witness by being that loving, kind, generous person God created me to be -- and may you also do the same.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Pachystachys / Justicia coccinea

"Pachystachys / Justicia coccinea -- Cardinal's Guard"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Pachystachys or Justicia -- that is the question.  This plant, with its thick spikes of brightly-coloured, red flowers, is found under one genus name or the other or both!

The confusion started back in 1775 when Jean Baptiste Christian Rocket-Aublet described this plant in the "Histoire de plantes de la Guinée française" (Volume 1, page 10), assigning it the Latin name of Justicia coccinea. However, Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck then reclassified this plant under its present name of Pachystachys coccinea in 1847, as published in the "Naturalis Prodromus systematis Regni Vegetabilis" of Alphonse de Candolle (Volume 11, page 319).

Pachystachys, is derived from the Greek for "thick spike" in reference to the flowering spikes of this plant.  Justicia, on the other hand, is named for James Justice, 18th century Scottish botanist and horticulturist.  Which makes Pachystachys, in my opinion, the more sensible option -- but, then, genus names often seem to have little to do with common sense! The species name of coccinea has remained unchanged and is derived from the Latin for scarlet, referring, of course, to the colour of the flowers.

Pachystachys coccinea, commonly known as Cardinal's Guard, has rich green leaves and it develops naturally into a many stemmed shrub. The thick spike consists of a cone of green leaves from which emerge numerous brilliantly-coloured flowers. This perennial, evergreen shrub, which can grow to a height of six feet, is native to French Guinea, Brazil and Peru. Pachystachys belongs to the family Acanthaceae (from the Greek, Aγκανθα, meaning thorn, spine, or spike). 

Cardinal's Guard is actually a rather messy-looking plant, but the flowers, in various shades of red and scarlet, caught my attention and, eventually, led me to the desire to do a drawing of this plant.

You may have noticed that I haven't been including any drawings of people these past weeks.  My normal arrangement was to alternate between a flower drawing one week and a person drawing the following.  However, lately my hands have been too painful to attempt to draw the details required in the human face and in the fingers of the hands.  If my hands improve, I will certainly return to drawing people pictures again.  Meanwhile, you will have to make do with flowers week after week!

Much of the above was taken from various sources including Wikipedia and Dave's Garden.


French flag at half-mast after events of Friday the 13th of November, 2015



"Suki Asleep in MY Chair", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015
As most of you know, Suki has claimed almost all of the chairs in our home as her "favourites". This means that whatever chair she has chosen in which to nap is hers for as long as she wants it.  If she is not napping in a particular chair then it is fine for me or anyone else to sit in it.  

On occasion, I have had to dump Suki out of a particular chair or push her off the sofa so that guests may have something reasonably comfortable on which to sit. In retaliation, she will often sit at the feet of whoever has been seated on "her" chair, staring at them as only Suki can. This type of intimidation can sometimes prove to be too much for either those who are timid of spirit or those who are really uncomfortable around cats.  There have even been occasions when the guest has moved to an uncomfortable, straight-backed chair and allowed Suki to return to "her" chair -- much to my dismay and embarrassment, I might add.  

[Just in case you are wondering, Joycelyn carefully cleans the seating areas of my sofa and all the chairs at least twice weekly so my guests are sitting on cushions that are relatively clear of cat hair!]

Anyway, back to my story...  Until recently, Suki seemed satisfied to claim all the chairs in the apartment as her "favourites" while leaving my big recliner alone.  Even when I wasn't using the recliner, she stayed away from it. However, a couple of weeks ago, I started to notice a bit of cat hair on my seat cushion after I had been absent from the living room for a while and so I decided to do a bit of detective work. 

I begin leaving small pieces of paper on the seat of my chair whenever I went into the computer room or went out for an appointment. Then, upon returning to the living room, I carefully checked the small sheet of paper to see if it contained cat hair and to determine if it was creased and wrinkled in such a way as to indicate that a cat might have been resting on top of it. Once I had the evidence in hand, I chose my moment and, sneaking back into the living room as quietly as possible, caught Suki sound asleep in MY chair!

Even though I fussed at her and uttered all sorts of imprecations, it was too late... Suki had already decided that my chair was now one of her "favourites".  Her decision has led, I'm afraid, to some rather unpleasant scenes.  I shamefully admit that I have been guilty of not only pushing Suki out of my chair while she appeared to be sleeping soundly, but I have also uttered numerous swear words that an nice lady such as myself should really not be using!

In spite of all this, however, Suki continues to leave wherever she is napping in order to quickly fling herself into my chair just as soon as I vacate it for any reason.  Then, when I return, I am forced to drag her off my chair while she tries to hang onto it with those powerful toenails of hers.  She does know how to wear a person down.

Some days I feel like giving in -- letting her stay in my chair while I try to get comfortably seated on the sofa or in one of the chairs she is, presently, not using.  If it weren't for my painful neck, I might let her win, but pushing back in that recliner provides me with the only seating position in which my neck feels just a bit of relief.  Maybe I should just buy a second recliner since Suki could only sleep in one at a time!  I am such a wuss.    

Otherwise, my life continues as usual.  Joycelyn came at her regular times and I had a nice visit with my friend, Sharon, on Friday morning.  A couple of friends telephoned as well -- including one who called, unfortunately, while I was in the middle of trying to deal with my bank's credit card department so I was unable to talk with her.  Hopefully, she will call again soon.

As for my bank's credit card people, I received a letter in the mail this past week addressed to an unknown name using my address. The letter was asking for additional confirmation the bank needed before issuing this person a credit card!  Worrying about the possibility of getting caught in the middle of a credit card scam, I telephoned the bank's fraud people and reported the situation.  They took down the particulars and then urged me to contact the credit monitoring companies they use.  I did so, finding one of the two most helpful while the other wanted to charge me a fee in order to put a warning in my record! 

I have an appointment this coming week with my family doctor for routine matters including prescription renewals and a flu shot. Speaking of flu shots, did you hear on the news about how the flu shot may help with the prevention of dementia and Type 2 diabetes in people over 50 years of age? Glad I have been getting it now for all these years.



"Icon -- The End of Days", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Jesus said, ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven. ‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’
Mk. 13:24-32

I have always been sadly amused at the predictions people have made in recent times about the "end of the world".  Here, in St. Mark's Gospel, we find Christ saying plainly and clearly "But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father."  

Sorrowfully, it seems so easy for us humans to believe that the whispered, secret knowledge we seem to "hear" during our "quiet time" comes from God and not from our own sinful desires. How do we come to believe so easily that we, alone, are to be given knowledge unknown to anyone except the Father from the beginning of time? No wonder con men are so very successful...

Sadly, not one of us is totally immune from the temptation to arrogance, pride, vanity and even hubris -- that sin which, we are told, is always punished so severely.

So I pray that I may always rejoice in my littleness and lack of importance except to Him who created me.  He, alone, gives me any value I may have. Without Him I am nothing. Oh, Lord, keep me always truly humble.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Lady's Slipper Orchid

"Cypripedium calceolus -- Lady's Slipper Orchid", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Cypripedium calceolus, commonly known as Lady's Slipper Orchid, is a member of the Family, Orchidaceae. Common names include lady's slipper, slipper orchid, Venus' shoes and whippoorwill shoe. 

At one time it had a widespread distribution in England and almost every country in Europe as well as Russia (including Siberia), China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. 

Typically found in open woodlands, its population declined over much of the European part of its range due to the shrinking of its habitat caused particularly by human clearance of the woodlands followed by the introduction of sheep. At present, it is a protected species in a number of countries. 

For example, in Great Britain, it was formerly widespread across northern England; however, by the late 20th century it had declined to just a single plant. A reintroduction program for the Lady’s-Slipper Orchid was introduced and led to a population of hundreds of plants by early 2003. 

Cypripedium calceolus in the strict sense does not occur in North America. The closely related Cypripedium parviflorum and C. pubescens are often referred to as subspecies or varieties of C. calceolus. 

Cypripedium is from the Greek for Kypris (Venus) and podilon (sandal, slipper). The species name calceolus derives from the Latin for 'shoe' and, like the English name of this orchid, refers to the slipper-like appearance of the pouch.

I also did a new drawing of a Calla Lily.  As any of my regular readers know, I have a passion for Calla Lilies and keep drawing them in the hopes that one of these days I will actually draw a satisfying image of this beautiful flower.

"Zantedeschia -- Calla Lily", 
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

You would think that it would be easy to draw as it appears to be such a simple flower; however, its very simplicity makes it almost impossible for me to draw properly. Like the human hand, I always end up over-drawing this flower so that I fail to capture its elegance. Rather, I end up with a very ordinary looking, completely "soul-less" flower.  

I refuse to give up, however.  One of these days I am going to get it just right -- you'll see!

Most of the information about Cypripedium calceolus was taken from various Internet sources.


Recently, Braden and Rònàn attended the Baptism of a family member. Their mother kindly sent me a number of photos taken of "my boys" at the event.  All of them showed Braden and Rònàn with various family members; however, since I wanted to show you how much they have grown but did not want to include the other people, I carefully cropped the boys out of a couple of the photos. Two of the better "croppings" are below:

Braden sitting happily on the altar steps, wondering "what's next?".

A happy-looking Rònàn with a 
stained-glass window in the background



Suki worrying about me

Suki has been left pretty much on her own this past week because I have been too busy trying to do pain management to pay her very much attention.  Like many cats and dogs with whom we share our lives, she seems to somehow be aware of how difficult things are for me right now.  

As a result, she has been less demanding about meal times.  Even when I have put off getting up to feed her -- although it is past time for me to do so -- she has been fairly patient with me.  She seems to understand how much I dread moving from a reclining position to a standing one and she can certainly hear all of my groans and moans when I do finally force myself to move!

Occasionally, Suki will still jump up onto my lap and settle down for a nap. However, she can tell quickly enough when I start getting uncomfortable and then she kindly moves on to one of her favourite chairs where, for a while, she sits and stares at me with a worried look on her face before settling down once again.  

I did manage to visit with a friend on Tuesday and with another friend on Friday; however, the visits only lasted about an hour each and even that was almost more than I could handle.  Joycelyn says that I should just start saying no to all requests from friends who want to stop by, but I really don't want to let myself become even more isolated than I already am.  My friends are all very special to me and I don't want to risk letting any of them drift out of my life. As we get older and more and more infirm, this can happen far too easily. 

I'm not sure why the aches and pains have gotten so much worse this past week -- maybe it had something to do with the unseasonably warm weather we had Monday through Friday.  Now that the temperature is back down where it should be at this time of year, perhaps my pain level will decrease just a bit.  Hope springs eternal...

Otherwise, things have been quiet and I expect this coming week to be a quiet one as well.  The following weeks, however, will see me having to attend all sorts of medical appointments once again. Hopefully, by then, I will be feeling a bit better.



"... many of the rich put in a great deal of money"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’ He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’   Mk. 12:38-44

The comments Christ made about the poor widow have got to be some of the most frightening words ever spoken.  Why?  Because they imply that our goal is a radical trust in, and abandonment to, the Providence of God!

Some of the greatest saints in all religious traditions have been able to achieve such radical trust -- I think immediately of St. Francis of Assisi, for example -- but many of us, myself included, have always kept at least a little something back -- just in case.

Grant me, I pray, the desire to try to be more like the widow -- to be willing to let go of my sense of having control over my life and truly abandon myself to Divine Providence.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Collarette Dahlia "Pooh"

"Collarette Dahlia 'Pooh' ", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Dahlias are a group of flowering, tuberous-rooted plants that belong to the Asteraceae (aster/daisy) family. There are at least 36 species of Dahlia. As well, Dahlias have been hybridized extensively, and there are now more than 20,000 cultivars. 

Dahlias are native to Mexico, Central America and Columbia. The Aztecs cultivated Dahlias for both food and ceremonial purposes. As well, they used the long, woody stems of one variety for making small pipes. 

Flowers range in size from as small as 2 inches wide to as large as 10 inches wide. Some species (see Dahlia imperialis) can grow up to 10 m. in height. Colours come in various shades, hues and combinations of pink, white, red, orange and purple. 

The genus name of Dahlia is also the common name. The name, Dahlia, comes from the surname of Dr. Andreas (Anders) Dahl. He was an 18th century Swedish botanist and student of Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist who laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature. 

Today’s drawing features one of the over 20,000 cultivars and is named Collarette Dahlia “Pooh”. Collarette Dahlias have large, flat florets forming a single outer ring around a central disc which may overlap a smaller circle of florets closer to the centre and which gives the appearance of a collar. The hybrid “Pooh” was hybridized by Swan Island and introduced in 1998. Due to its large flower and bright colours, it has become extremely popular very quickly.

As you can see above, "Pooh" contains some of my favourite colours which was what attracted me to the flowers in the first place.  This attraction made it an easy decision to try my hand at drawing them.  

By the way, if you search my blog under the word "Dahlia", you will find a number of other cultivars I have drawn of this genus over the years.

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


Suki staring at me -- watching my every move.
Is she part of a secret cabal?
 This past week I came across a video showing a black cat and a ginger cat who live together. The man taking the video, their "keeper", after observing them for some time, has come to the conclusion that his cats, along with the rest of the world's cats, are planning on taking over the planet.  In other words, they are planning world domination!

One of the clues to this, according to the videographer, was the fact that he so frequently caught his cats staring intently at him.  As I have mentioned here previously, I, too, have noticed how often Suki will just sit and stare at me.  I have always assumed that she was staring at me in an effort to will me into getting up and feeding her -- I mean, this staring business usually seems to occur just prior to meal time.  After seeing the video, however, I am now wondering if there is more to it than it.  Could she be, in fact, taking note of my behaviour patterns in an effort to note when I am at my weakest and most vulnerable?

The videographer then continues by showing other examples of his cats' behaviour that indicate, to him, the seriousness of the situation.  These include things such as the way his cats seem to be talking to one another until he comes into the room at which time they suddenly begin to play and run about.  He feels that whenever he almost catches the cats talking, they are in their planning mode; however, in order to confuse him, they appear to be simply playing. 

As well, he has noticed that when he pours a handful of catnip on the floor, much to his cats delight, he later finds strange patterns in the catnip.  He feels that what he is seeing was originally planning instructions which, after reviewing, his cats then messed up sufficiently so that he would not be able to read what they had written there.

Suki just about to fall asleep again
after opening her eyes briefly 

After taking a good look at all of his evidence, I have to admit that he does have some good arguments for the possibility that cats, world wide, are planning world domination. However, just when I think that there might be something to all of this, I take a look at Suki and find she is sound asleep somewhere in the house and that she has obviously been sound asleep for the past three hours since finishing her last meal -- and that she will stay asleep for the next 2 1/2 hours until she begins her campaign to get me to feed her. 

This consistent behaviour on her part (and on the part of all cats I have known during my lifetime) causes me to seriously doubt that the world's cats are planning to take over.  I mean, any species that requires at least 16 hours of sleep a day simply doesn't have the time for world domination.  And, anyway, don't most cats already "dominate" the people with whom they live?  This is certainly true of Suki!  I may be a fool, but, for the moment at any rate, I am not going to worry about feline world domination!

So, other than deciding not to worry about Suki being part of a secret cabal planning to enslave us humans, I have nothing new to report.

I continue to have the same problems as usual and although I have several medical appointments and tests scheduled for the month of November, I do not have anything medical scheduled for this coming week. Joycelyn will be here on her usual days, a dear friend will be visiting on Tuesday and I will visit with my friend from the sixth floor on Friday.  It should be a quiet week.

By the way, since some of you have asked, the new medication regimen that I mentioned in a previous posting seems to be helping although it will take a few more weeks to see if it will really give me any long term relief from the pain.



"Icon -- Our Lady, Softener of Evil Hearts", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 (text in Russian and English)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Mt. 5:1-12a

For the first time in a long time, I have completed an icon. Actually, I have worked to the limits of my limited abilities for the past 6 days on the icon posted above.  On Monday of this past week, I received an email from a dear friend with a link to this particular icon.  I was so taken by the image and the title that I felt compelled to immediately begin work on making my own drawing of the beautiful image of Our Lady.  My representation is a poor copy by comparison to the original, but it was created with much joy.

Although I did not realize it at the time, this icon is a perfect representation for the Gospel reading for this Solemnity of All Saints. The Beatitudes are all about changing (softening) our evil hearts so that our hearts can become like the Heart of God.  And who better to help us through this process than Our Lady -- the softener of evil hearts.

Creator of All, grant that we may accept the help we are offered daily which will allow Love, Itself, to change our hearts into hearts like unto Yours.


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Sandersonia aurantiaca -- Chinese Lantern Lily

"Sandersonia aurantiaca -- Chinese Lantern Lily", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Sandersonia aurantiaca is a member of the Colchicaceae family, Order Liliales. It is native to South Africa (the Cape Provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Provinces) where it is now listed as a protected species due to the over-picking of these brightly coloured wildflowers. Interestingly, it is the sole species in its genus which means it must have some very unique features. This rhizomatous (from Ancient Greek: rhízōma meaning a "mass of roots") plant can grow up to 20-35 inches in height. 

S. aurantiaca is commonly referred to as the Chinese Lantern Lily although it is neither Chinese nor a true lily.  It is also known as Christmas Bells since it blooms in December (summer in the southern hemisphere) close to Christmastime.

"Sandersonia aurantiaca -- Mature Chinese Lantern Lily"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 rev.

The genus name of Sandersonia comes from the surname of John Sanderson, a Scottish journalist, trader and amateur botanist who emigrated to South Africa in the 19th century. The species name of aurantiaca is from the Latin word aurantiacis and means "orange coloured". 

S. aurantiaca has become popular with those in the cut flower business and many plants are now grown commercially in New Zealand.

I originally did a drawing of the "mature" form of this plant back in 2009 which I posted at that time.  After completing today's featured drawing, I revised my 2009 drawing (see above "Sandersonia aurantiaca -- Mature Chinese Lantern Lily", 2015 revised).

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


Suki peering out of the bedroom closet to
see if it's safe to come out!

Just as I predicted last Sunday, Suki spent most of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week hiding in the bedroom closet!

As you may recall, in last week's posting I wrote about my fears that the planned, yearly inspection of each apartment along with the testing of all the smoke alarms and fire alarms would cause Suki to retire for the duration to her "hidey-hole" in the bedroom closet.

Actually, as it turned out, Suki did not appear to be overly disturbed by the apartment inspection or the brief testing of our smoke alarms; however, it was an entirely different matter when it came to the fire alarm testing!

As I am sure I have mentioned previously, we have the world's noisiest fire alarm in my building.  I may be exaggerating slightly, but only slightly!  Not only is the alarm extremely loud, it seems to have a pulsating feature which soon begins to feel as though it has gotten inside your brain.  When this alarm is sounding, the only place barely tolerable is in my bedroom. The noise is probably a smidgen more tolerable in the back of the bedroom closet with your head under a blanket -- which is where Suki goes in a flash the moment that alarm begins to sound.

Tragically, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, every single fire alarm on every floor and in every common area of this building had to be tested.  This meant that over and over again during that time period on those three days, this unbelievably loud alarm was being turned on and left on for 5 to 10 minutes before mercifully being turned off.  

These tests seemed to occur irregularly so that I really couldn't prepare myself.  Rather, each time the alarm sounded, it came as a shock and I, who have suffered all my life from 'exaggerated startle response' as the result of severe childhood abuse, had to "peel myself off the ceiling" and then try to distract myself from the noise as much as possible until silence returned.  Suki, wisely, just spent the entire three days, between 9 and 4, hiding out in the bedroom closet.

As this new week begins, I think that both of us have finally started to recover from the past week's torture sessions.  Suki is once again sleeping peacefully in her favourite chairs and the flashbacks, disturbed sleep, nightmares and other PTSD symptoms from which I still suffer have begun to subside, returning to their normal level.

So, as you can imagine, I am really looking forward to a quiet week with no medical appointments and, hopefully, no fire alarms.  The only things I am anticipating are a visit with a dear friend on Friday and Joycelyn's regular care-giving visits on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. 



"Icon -- Christ Heals the Blind Man", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 rev.
Υιός του Δαβίδ, ελέησόν με -- Son of David, have mercy on me

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bar Timaeus (son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.  Mk. 10:46-52

I have always been intrigued by this story.  Bar Timaeus was a man of brave boldness.  He was tenacious in his desire to find someone to help him.  He had heard about Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle worker, and if the man could give him what he wanted above all else, Bar Timaeus was not going to allow fear of ridicule and the disapproval of his neighbours prevent him from getting it.  And, so he cried out unceasingly, "Son of David, have mercy on me."

Finally, his persistence paid off and Christ called to him, telling him to come close.  Then He asked Bar Timaeus that all-important question:  "what do you want Me to do for you?"

If a miracle worker asked you or me that question, what would our reply be?  I wonder...

May we be granted the grace to know that the one thing we need above all else is love -- unconditional and perfect love which will only be found in the Heart of God who is Love, Itself.  May we truly comprehend that our hearts will always be restless until they rest eternally in that Most Sacred, Most Loving Heart.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora -- 'Lucifer'

"Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora -- 'Lucifer' ", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Crocosmia is a small genus of flowering plants in the family, Iridaceae. It is native to the grasslands of southern and eastern Africa, ranging from South Africa to the Sudan. Crocosmias are related to gladiolas, crocuses and irises. 

Crocosmia x crocosmiflora is a garden hybrid of C. aurea and C. pottsii, first bred by Victor Lemoine in 1880. It is one of many Crocosmia plants commonly known as Montbretia. [The name “Montbretia” is derived from the French botanist and plant collector Antoine François Ernest Coquebert de Montbret (1781-1801). He evidently travelled with Napoleon to Egypt where he died from the plague. Even after a great deal of research, I am still unable to determine how Crocosmia hybrids ended up being called Montbretia]. 

One of the most spectacular cultivars is Crocosmia 'Lucifer', which was selected from hybrids created by crossing C. x crocosmiiflora 'Jackanapes', with C. paniculata and C. masonorum. This is a larger, more robust plant growing up to 4 ft (1.2 m) tall with large, fire engine red flowers that face upward on branched spikes. The plant has sword-like foliage pointing in every direction. 

The genus name, Crocosmia, is derived from two Greek words – krokos (saffron) and osme (smell), referring to the fact that when dried and rubbed, Crocosmia leaves have a fragrance similar to saffron.  X crocosmiiflora simply means “a hybrid having flowers like Crocosmia”. The cultivar name of “Lucifer” could refer to either the true meaning of Lucifer which is “light bearer” or to the bright, red colour of the flowers. 

Crocosmias are grown worldwide and more than 400 cultivars have been produced. Some hybrids have become invasive species especially C. x crocosmiiflora hybrids which are invasive in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the American Pacific north west.

I have done previous drawings of other Crocosmia cultivars.  If you are interested in viewing them, just put the term "Crocosmia" in the search box found at the top of this page to your left.

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


Here are a few new photos of "my boys" taken Thanksgiving weekend:

Braden and Rònàn next to a scary tree!  Halloween is coming...

Rònàn practicing walking with his Dad -- and doing very well, I might add.

Braden contemplating the great Canadian outdoors (or else daydreaming 
about which treat he will ask for when he gets back home!).



The art work of my friend, Rose Marie Nicolucci, has been juried into two different shows that are presently ongoing: 

1) One of her watercolours, “Killarney Mist”, was selected for Toronto Watercolour Society Aquavision Show at The Paper Mill Gallery, Todmorden Mills on Pottery Rd., Toronto. 

2) Two of her acrylic paintings submitted were juried into the Crossection Show, on until October 29th at Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall (at Burnhamthorpe Rd.), Etobicoke. 

"Star of the Sea", acrylic, original painting by
R. M. Nicolucci

One painting, “Star of the Sea”, was selected for a Juror's Choice Award which will be presented today, Sunday, October 18th at 2 p.m. 

I hope some of you will be able to get out to see one, or both, of these shows.  If you are able to do so, please send your comments either to the blog or to me so that those of us who are unable to attend, will be able to share in your experience. 

Below is a press release on the Juror`s Choice Award that is being presented for Rose Marie`s painting "Star of the Sea": 

Etobicoke Civic Centre Gallery is featuring Crossection the Central Ontario Art Association’s annual members’ juried art exhibit. Local Etobicoke artist Rose Marie Nicolucci had both her art submissions selected for the show. One of these, her acrylic/mixed-media painting “Star of the Sea” was selected for a Juror’s Choice Award. The presentation of awards will take place at the Reception Sunday Oct. 18 from 2 to 4 pm. Artist relates her motivation on creating this dramatic piece of art:-
When I began this art piece I had a great concern for the pollution of our precious natural ocean resources and how marine life was being damaged and exploited by human rapaciousness. The art piece contains plasticized netting representing the waste from the huge international trawlers’ nets that have ensnared and killed mammals and marine life that were caught in them. (Other flotsam is broken down naturally, but not the man-made products of plastic and coated nylon fibres.) The red, orange and yellow colours contrasting with the cool water hues represent the roiling of the waters by drilling, dumping, chemical and human wastes polluting our previously pristine oceans. The active brush strokes and patterning indicate the disturbance of the water’s currents and flows. There are actual shells which adhere to the surface of the painting -- symbols of the devastation of the affected sea life forms. The small starfish, referred to in the painting’s title, is a symbol of hope that the beauty of our wonderful oceans may still, with care and effort, recover to survive and thrive. 
The Crossection Art Exhibit is on display at Etobicoke Civic Centre Art Gallery, 399 The West Mall (SE corner at Burnhamthorpe Rd.), Etobicoke until October 29, 2015. Public are welcome to attend the reception and to view the exhibit during Gallery hours.



Suki awake, alert and concerned about a noise!

Suki doesn't know it yet, but she has a difficult week ahead of her.  Actually three days: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

This past Thursday, I received a notice about the annual inspection of apartments that will begin on Monday.  Along with a quick look around each apartment, management will be checking the smoke alarms in individual units as well as the alarms and sprinklers throughout the building.  This happens every year, of course, but, somehow, Suki seems to forget and so every fall she gets traumatized once again!

Although "the monsters" will only be in my apartment for 10 to 15 minutes, the sounds of smoke alarms and fire alarms will be going on and off throughout the building all day long on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  With Suki's excellent hearing, she will be unable to sleep soundly between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for three days. Each year, by the end of all this activity, Suki is a real mess. Come Wednesday night, she will probably sleep non-stop for the next 24 hours.  I have even known her to miss a meal or two after such a marathon event.

I try each year to warn her about what is coming, but she never listens.  She simply looks at me, yawns, licks her paws a few times and goes right back to sleep.  Well, I tried ... what else can I do. Poor kitty.

As for me, I, too, will be bothered by the upcoming activities as my hearing is also excellent (for a human, that is); however, at least I know what is going on and why -- so although I may find it annoying, I should be able, for the most part, to ignore it.

Otherwise, I expect a quiet week when, as usual, I will be doing whatever I can to distract myself from the constant nagging of joint and nerve pain throughout my poor, old body.  



"Icon -- Can you drink from My cup?", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 rev.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man has come not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Mk. 10:35-45

Each time I read about St. James and his brother, St. John, requesting places of power in the "kingdom" of their Lord, I am amazed at their arrogance.  They had spent all that time listening to and watching Jesus and still seemed to have no idea what He was actually saying!  Here, when he asks them if they can drink from the same "cup" from which He must drink and be baptized with the same "baptism" through which He must go, they don't hesitate -- they say "yes" immediately.  They did not seem to think, for even a moment, that Christ was referring to a total commitment leading through suffering unto death.  

Of course, I have to ask, how many of us -- even knowing that real Christian life leads always to the cross -- still think about gaining earthly power, wealth and recognition along the way -- secretly longing to gain power and prestige even while spouting "whoever wishes to be great must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first must be the slave of all"?  Even those who seek to be "servant" and "slave" can be secretly dreaming of the day when they, too, will be canonized saints whose names will be found on the lips of millions. Do we all really have a price for which we can be bought?

Grant us the wisdom to recognize those who are truly in need, the grace to forget ourselves as we seek to serve them and the humility to allow Love to guide us, enabling us to drink 
deeply from the Cup of Christ.


Sunday, 11 October 2015

Oriental Symbols

"Traditional Dress and Chinese Symbols", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

For years now I have been fascinated by the way Oriental languages are written -- especially Chinese characters or logograms.

Chinese characters are actually called logograms (each symbol represents a concept rather than a sound). These are used in the writing of Chinese and some other Asian languages. In Standard Chinese they are called Hanzi. They have been adapted to write a number of other languages including: Japanese, where they are known as kanji, Korean, where they are known as hanja, and Vietnamese in a system known as chữ Nôm. In English, they are sometimes called Han characters. Chinese characters constitute the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world. 

Chinese logograms for the four seasons
In my drawing above, I used three of the four logograms representing the seasons of the year. Since the particular decoration pictured normally has only three sections, I chose to use Autumn, Winter and Summer -- leaving Spring for some future drawing. 

When I look at this type of writing, the artist in me often tries to figure out the "picture" they represent as I know that some of the most commonly used characters were originally pictograms (these depict the objects denoted) or simple ideograms (these express their meaning iconically). Although I know that it is not really that simple, I still find myself looking for a "picture". For example, when I look at the "picture" for Winter (see above), it looks to me as though the symbol depicts the blowing winds of wintertime while the one for Autumn (see above) seems, to me, to show leaves falling from a tree.

In the past, I have tried on occasion to teach myself the art of Chinese calligraphy so that I could actually draw these characters; however, I always realized after a short while that this is a skill that can only be properly learned with time and a proper teacher. Some years ago, I was able to teach myself ordinary calligraphy and managed to achieve a certain proficiency.  Of course, now, with my hands full of arthritis, calligraphy of any type is no longer an option. So, instead, I just enjoy looking at the work of others.

One last comment about this week's drawing -- it really wasn't the Chinese symbols that first attracted me to the photo I ended up using as a model -- no, it was the challenging position of the woman's right hand which made me choose the particular picture I used as a guide for my own drawing.

The information on Chinese logograms was taken from various Internet sources.


Suki in sepia -- starring intently at me!
The past week has been a difficult one for poor Suki. She has spent a inordinate amount of time growling menacingly and hiding in the bedroom closet -- all because I decided that I wanted to order a few items online.

For example, Joycelyn needed a new shopping buggy as the wheels on the old one had gotten all wobbly and seemed to be close to falling off.  I ordered a very elegant buggy -- gray with white polka dots!  As well, Suki's old scratching boxes (you know the cardboard kind that are scented with catnip) had reached the point where Joycelyn was finding little bits of cardboard all over the floor each Monday when she did the vacuuming.  I ordered two of these -- one for the hallway and one for the bedroom.
Suki on her scratching box
 Then there was the new tower fan that I had been wanting to order from the "points" catalogue for some some time and I discovered that I had accumulated just enough points to get it.  

Of course, each of these three items could not be delivered on the same day -- that would have made things too easy.  Instead, even though they were all ordered at the same time the previous week, they arrived separately causing the mail person to knock loudly (why do they always have to knock so loudly?) on my door on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, each time they knocked, Suki, like Superwoman, instantly leapt from a sleeping position into the very image of an angry cat: fur bristling, throat growling, not sure whether to stay and fight or run for cover!

I tried to tell her that it was not the monster come back to get her, but only a delivery person.  She, however, would hear none of it and, after a moment or two of hesitation, made a mad dash for the bedroom closet where she stayed for the next hour or so until she felt it was safe to emerge.  

After her emergence from the closet, she had to spend a good bit of time sniffing the new arrival.  I placed each parcel in the entry hallway so that Joycelyn could open them for me on her next visit as the opening of well-sealed parcels is just too painful for my hands.  

There was one parcel in particular that Suki spent a great deal of time investigating -- you guessed it, the package containing her new scratching boxes.  Even though the things were heat-sealed in clear plastic, wrapped in bubble-wrap and covered on the outside with white plastic sheeting, she was still able to smell the catnip through it all.  I tried sniffing the package and all I could smell was plastic.  Cats, like dogs, truly have an extraordinary sense of smell.

Anyway, since the third package arrived on Thursday and no others are expected, Suki should have a quiet long weekend.  Yes, it is a long weekend here in Canada as Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October.  So, "Happy Thanksgiving" to all my Canadian readers! 

Otherwise, things remain much the same at the Thayer residence.  I did have an appointment with a specialist this past week; however, he wants to send me for a particular procedure before he makes his diagnosis -- so I will not know if there is anything new happening with my poor, old body until after the procedure which won't be happening until late November.  Meanwhile, I continue to deal, as best as possible, with all the things that have already been diagnosed.



"Icon -- Christ the Teacher (All Things Are Possible)", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 revision

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.  Mk. 10:[17] 23-30

Recently, I have been watching a series of shows detailing the history of the drug cartels in various countries.  These criminal groups bring in obscene amounts of money daily which gives them an incredible amount of power over other human beings.  And, as we all know, their use of that power has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people -- men, women and children who simply got in the way or were "collateral damage." As has been said in various ways by different people over the centuries, "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

I mention this because of Christ's statement about it being "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."  I, of course, cannot say with any certainty exactly what was meant by this comment; however, I, personally, have always thought it meant that without the littleness of humility, one could not enter into a place where Love reigns supreme. Remember, "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth." (I Cor. 13:4-6)  Those whom power (wealth) has left totally corrupted are anything but lovingly humble!

Is it humanly possible to have absolute power and not be corrupted by it?  I would have to say that while I think it is possible, it seems to me to be highly improbable unless the person remained, at all times, aware of their littleness in the face of universal Truth and Love.  Even those of us who think of ourselves as powerless, need to be aware, I think, that we, especially here in the West, have so much more power than many throughout the world.  For example, I need to ask myself if I am allowing whatever power I have to corrupt me as I daily make choices about what to buy, about where to make these purchases, about what to do with my garbage, about how to care for the earth and about whom to vote for as another election approaches!

May we walk gently through this fragile world never forgetting that power without humility may forever prevent us from entering into the Kingdom of God -- that Kingdom of Unconditional Love so deeply desired by every human heart.