Sunday, 23 February 2014

Hollyhocks - Alcea

"Hollyhocks - Alcea", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Alcea, commonly known as hollyhocks, is a genus of about 60 species of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. They are native to Asia and Europe. Hollyhocks are popular garden ornamental plants. They are easily grown from seed. Those with red/pink flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Cultivars range in colour from raspberry to maroon (which looks black). The stems of hollyhocks can be used as firewood, and the roots have been used medicinally.  I thoroughly enjoyed doing this drawing as these lovely blossoms always remind me of one of the few really happy creative memories of my childhood.

I remember being taught to make my first hollyhock doll when I was about 5 years old.  The place was a small town in Tennessee where our neighbours happened to have a number of hollyhock bushes in their back yard.  One of the older girls in the group of neighbourhood children with whom I spent my days playing at that time not only had the skills to make hollyhock dolls but the ability to teach others as well -- and so she taught me.  

Looking back now, I am not really sure that we had permission to use the hollyhock blossoms from the neighbour's yard; however, we were not too concerned about such matters at the time.  The thrill of having made my own beautiful hollyhock lady was so exciting that all matters of right and wrong were forgotten.  I do recall keeping my hollyhock doll hidden in my bedroom until the petals were so dry they crumbled at the slightest touch.

Hollyhock Dolls -- photo from Internet
Making hollyhock dolls is an old-fashioned craft that's been enjoyed by children for generations. In fact, the dolls have been popular for centuries. References to hollyhock dolls have been found in many cultures. Single hollyhocks are the flower of choice for flower doll materials because they grow everywhere -- earning them the nickname of alley orchids. So, in case you ever feel inclined to make your own doll or teach a child how to make one, here is all the information that you will need.

1. Select a fully opened hollyhock blossoms and turn it upside down to form the skirt. 
2. Pinch out the pistil and stamens as needed. 
3. Thread a toothpick through the flower with the blunt edge at the bottom. Thread on as many blossoms as you wish. 
4. Choose another blossoms or flower bud for the doll's body. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top of the toothpick to secure the doll's head. 
5. Once you've chosen a bud or seedpod to use for the doll's head, experiment with different coloured flowers to create a fashionable hat.
Information on making a hollyhock doll taken from http://www.bhg.com/gardening/design/projects/make-a-hollyhock-doll/


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ETC.

Desireé 

My friend, Eugene, sent me a photo recently of his furry companion, Desi, having a chat with an acquaintance by the name of Shrek.  I haven't seen Desi, in "person", for several years now and didn't really recognize her at first as she has matured quite a bit since that time.  She remains a beautiful cat, however, and I thought you might enjoy seeing her photo as well.

Evidently, this photo was taken on one of those very cold days we have had over these past weeks.  I can imagine that Desi might have been telling Shrek just how grateful he should be that they were both on the inside of the window and not outside!


Desi with her friend, Shrek!  Desi is the furry companion of my friend, Eugene.  
Desi and Suki are about the same age.



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Abandoned 

Recently, an Internet buddy sent me a collection of photos of abandoned buildings, train stations, churches and so forth.  The photographs came from locations across the globe.  What most amazed me about the images was the beauty that had been captured in these scenes of derelict and decaying buildings as well as how quickly nature had re-claimed anything outdoors.  The following photo is a clear example of the beauty that I am talking about.  If you are interested in seeing more examples, go to:  https://www.google.ca/search?q=photos+of+abandoned+places&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=uO0JU-_9F8qirgHN6YCwDw&sqi=2&ved=0CCkQsAQ&biw=1600&bih=715


Abandoned Church, Detroit, Michigan, USA
What beautiful stained glass art!





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SUKI AND SALLIE


My Valentine`s Day card from Suki!
Some sneaky friend of mine helped Suki make a Valentine for me!  Of course, I didn't receive it until well after the 14th; however, as they say, it is the thought that counts.  I have my suspicions about who assisted Suki in this activity, but until I have actual proof, I will be keeping my suspicions to myself. I did question Suki about this matter; however, she did not give up her accomplice.  To every question I asked, she simply replied "meow".  She would make a good spy!

Otherwise, Suki has been leading a very quiet life -- except for this past Thursday night...

Thursday, as you may recall, was the day I was scheduled to have the upper endoscopy at the hospital so that the doctor could try to see what has been going on with my stomach these past months. Well, the procedure took place as planned (more about that later) and I returned home none the worse for wear except that I was very, very sleepy.

I was sedated during the procedure, of course, and even though I slept for about an hour in recovery, I was still quite sleepy when my friend, Sharon, got me back home about 3 p.m.  Even though I tried to stay awake during the remainder of the day, I kept falling asleep. Finally, I reached a point where I decided it was foolish to keep fighting sleep while waiting for bedtime and, so, even though it was still fairly early in the evening, I just went to bed.

Up to this point, Suki really had not been affected by all of this.  I had fed her when I first arrived back home and fed her again when I fixed my own supper around 7 p.m.  However, when I went to bed a couple of hours later, I forgot to put out any food for Suki to munch on during those nighttime hours.  

Usually, this wouldn't be a problem as Suki would have reminded me by awakening me from sleep long enough for me to get up and put some food down for her. That evening was different in that I was sleeping so deeply that even Suki, with all her clever tricks, couldn't get me to wake up long enough to get out of bed.

Even worse, I have a number of vague recollections of Suki trying to awaken me which caused me, in turn, to groggily pick Suki up off the bed and drop her very roughly onto the floor.  I think I even remember Suki growling at me at one point when I grabbed her while her claws were still embedded in the mattress -- and Suki never growls at me -- just at pigeons, other cats and some humans! Not only could she not awaken me, she also could not prevent me from sleeping rather late into the next morning.  

By the time I finally "came to", I was confronted by a very upset and very hungry cat!  As I fed her, I did apologize and try to explain why I had behaved in such an unkind way, but I am not sure Suki really believed me!  At that point, it is a good bet that she would have taken her Valentine back if she could have gotten her little paws on it! 


As for me and my ongoing health issues, I did find out why my stomach has been giving me such problems these past months -- evidently, I have five gastric ulcers needing treatment!  The doctor told me about the ulcers and said that he had also done a biopsy to make certain that there was nothing else going on.  I should have the biopsy results by about the 6th of March.

I understand that the two usual causes of these types of ulcers are (1) the use of large amounts of aspirin-type drugs, including NSAIDs, which are prescribed for severe and chronic arthritic pain; (2) the Helicobactor pylori bacteria which can be ingested by consuming water and/or food in which the bacterium is present.  

Ulcers are not caused by stress, as was the general belief for so many years, although anything that causes a higher acid concentration in the stomach, which may include stress, could contribute to the formation of ulcers, I guess. I do know that smoking and too much alcohol can quickly make ulcers worse. Fortunately, I quit smoking many years ago and due to all the medications I take, I am, sadly, no longer able to have a glass of wine occasionally. 

So, although I have some answers now that help to explain why I have been feeling so unwell these past 4 months, I still do not have all the answers -- especially regarding the fatigue and weakness preventing me from being able to return to the gym.  The good news is that if the ulcers turn out to be the major problem, they are relatively easy to treat.  

If it turns out that the ulcers are caused by the arthritis medication I take, then the new problem may be how to treat all the arthritis pain without aspirin-type drugs (I have a bad reaction to Tylenol -- especially when I take it more than once a week).  The one time, a few years ago, when I tried to decrease the aspirin-type medication I use for arthritis pain, I ended up barely being able to get up from or sit down in a chair; to stand once I was out of the chair; or, walk from the chair to another location!  It was all just too painful.

Anyway, enough of such stuff.  Things could be a lot worse and there do remain any number of good things in my life such as family and friends, Suki, my ability to continue doing art work, my blog, the wonderful people who help to take care of me -- especially Joycelyn and the list goes on and on.  

Speaking of art work, I was playfully attempting to draw some Brazilian cherries which caused me to discover that I needed to develop some sort of new technique for giving the impression of roundness with highlights when using a really dark colour such as a dark, cherry red.  I am posting the results of this drawing thus far so that you can get a better idea of what I am talking about. How I wish I had followed the advice of so many of you who were reading this blog years ago.  You told me that I should definitely take the time to learn one of the more sophisticated art software programs which would enable me to do special effects without having to re-invent the wheel, so to speak!  Ah, well... here is the drawing.  Take a look and let me know what your suggestions are.  Thanks.


"Brazilian Cherries -- Fruit and Flower", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014
   
May the peace of God be with us all.  Amen

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Mother and Son Picking Olives

"Mother and Son Picking Olives", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Here is another attempt on my part to correctly draw the relationship of adult to child -- heads, hands and body mass.  Even though I am not yet satisfied with this drawing, I am going to go ahead and post it.  

Of course, you may, indeed, see this drawing again in the future as I continue to feel inclined to rework everything in it.  Why? Basically, because I am still not satisfied with the drawing, especially with the boy's body -- arm length, leg length, hand size, etc.  Fortunately, since I am drawing on a computer screen, I can rework things over and over again without the lines becoming messy and the colours becoming muddy!

The idea for this drawing came from a painting showing a mother holding her toddler-sized son.  As I began to work on the drawing, however, I asked myself, "why would a mother be standing there, holding her child -- a child obviously old enough to stand on his own two feet?" 

As you probably suspect, whenever I am working on a drawing of a mother with her son, I am always very mindful of Our Blessed Mother and her Son, Our Lord Jesus.  So when I was trying to decide what I might have this mother and son doing, I couldn't help but ask myself:  "what are some tasks that Our Lady and her young Son might have done together?" 

So, I decided that they might very well have gone olive picking together.  Thus, I gave the drawing an olive tree filled with olives ready for the picking.  The story in my head continued by seeing them under the olive trees where, since there was no ladder present, the mother held her son up in her arms so that he could reach the ripe olives on the higher branches and together they could place them in a basket.  

At first, my plan was to show the mother's full body, including her sandalled feet.  However, as I tried placing her on the canvas (my computer screen), I realized that everything was going to end up being much smaller than I would normally prefer for this type of drawing.  So, I "cut" the mother's body off just above the knees in order to give me the right-size images for the scene I had in mind.

At any rate, here is the result of what is basically the first draft. Any comments or suggestions on the drawing would be very much appreciated -- especially any remarks that might help me when I start working on the next draft.

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SOME CALLA LILIES AND A RATHER UNUSUAL TREE!


I came across a photo of some calla lilies growing in the shade of a very interesting tree.  As I have mentioned previously, many times, I am very fond of calla lilies and also very fond of trees -- especially unusual-looking ones.  So, when I saw the photo, I knew I wanted to try to do my own drawing of the scene, combining these two types of living things and see what I could create.

Here is the result below.  I am not really sure yet what I think about the finished drawing.  I have tried using the drawing on a couple of greeting cards I needed to send and it does seem to make an interesting card cover.  See what you think...

"Calla Lilies and Morning Sunshine", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

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SUKI AND SALLIE

I watched a video this past week of a sleek-looking, young black cat -- he looked like Suki did when I first brought her home. Evidently, this cat had been raised in a home with a owl and the two seemed to enjoy spending the day together.  

At any rate, the cat certainly enjoyed himself as he seemed to consider the owl to be a rather large cat toy with claws and a sharp, sharp beak!  The owl certainly tolerated the cat's behaviour and even teased the cat a bit occasionally; however, more often than not, the owl seemed to get tired of the young cat's antics.  When that happened, the owl would just up and fly away, circling overhead -- of course, this tormented the cat even more and there were some wonderful scenes showing the cat leaping high into the air in a futile effort to grab the owl in mid-flight!  

Anyway, the video made me think of how active and slim Suki was when she first came to my home and so my guilt, brought on by knowing that I overfeed her and don't play with her very often, drove me to find her favourite toy mouse on a stick and shake it at her playfully.  Suki was delighted by this and began running and jumping just like a young kitten.  I, on the other hand, had completely forgotten how tiring such activities could be for me -- especially for my arthritic hands and wrists!

Soon the pain set in and after a few more minutes, I had to stop. Suki was not pleased and even though I tried to explain to her about arthritis and pain and such things, she did not really seem to comprehend what I was saying.  Instead, she walked slowly away, crawled into the back of the bedroom closet and went to sleep. Fortunately, cat's do not seem to remember such small events for very long and so by the time she finally reappeared several hours later, begging for food, there was no more sulking.

At the moment, she is having her third Sunday morning nap.  The first two naps were taken in the living room as that is where I was sitting and listening to things on my iPad after Suki had her breakfast.  While listening to the iPad, I felt thirsty and got up to go into the kitchen and get some water which meant that nap #1 was interrupted as Suki came running into the kitchen just in case I had plans to feed her!  When I sat back down again with my water, Suki settled down for nap #2.  Later, when I came into my little office area in the other room, Suki had to follow, of course, and is now sleeping soundly in a chair nearby -- thus nap #3.

As for me, I am pretty much the same as I have been these past several months.  Although I did have two doctors' appointments this past week, both were follow-up type appointments with nothing new to report -- just finding out how certain new medications were working or not.  There was the consult with the gastroenterologist this past Tuesday which I mentioned in last Sunday's posting, but that was an appointment to prepare me for the upcoming test.  I did have lots of blood work done, but I have no results from them as yet.

The important appointment is the coming Thursday when I have the upper G.I. procedure at St. Mike's Hospital.  A dear friend from my building is going with me as I may be a bit out of it by the time I start home (they use mild sedation for these procedures).  Then it will be a matter of waiting for a report on the findings.  I am really hoping that something will be found that can help explain these new symptoms I have had since the end of last October.  

Otherwise, things continue as usual.  I seldom get out now except for medical appointments.  This is due both to the extremely cold weather we have been having as well as the increasing pain I now have in my neck/spine and legs.  There is also the unusual weakness and fatigue that I am continuing to experience.  So, I am truly living pretty much like a hermit these days and while I may grumble about the situation occasionally, Suki is delighted that she has almost constant companionship!

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It is almost time for the good people from St. Michael's Cathedral to arrive with the Blessed Sacrament.  I will be praying for you all as the Lord comes to meet me in Holy Communion.  May the days ahead be filled with peace, joy and abundant blessings for each and every one of us.  

Finally, I pray that all my readers who live in my area of the world, 
will have a wonderful Family Day holiday tomorrow.  Everything will be pretty much shut down as it is on Christmas and New Year's and, hopefully, this will give families the opportunity to spend some quality time together.   Amen.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Feijoa -- Acca sellowiana

"Feijoa -- Acca sellowiana flowers", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


Acca sellowiana also known as Feijoa sellowiana is a species of flowering plant in the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) is native to the highlands of southern Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. Common names include feijoa, pineapple guava and guavasteen. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 1–7 metres (3.3–23 ft) in height, widely cultivated as a garden plant and fruiting tree. The German botanist Otto Karl Berg named feijoa after João da Silva Feijó, a Portuguese botanist born in the colony of Brazil.

The showy Acca sellowiana flowers, borne singly or in a cluster, have long, red stamens topped with large grains of yellow pollen. Flowers appear late, from May through June as the plant prefers cool to moderate temperatures. Each flower contains four to six fleshy flower petals that are white tinged with purple on the inside. These petals are mildly sweet and edible and can make a refreshing addition to spring salads. Birds eating the petals pollinate the flower. It has been said that feijoa pollen is transferred by birds that are attracted to and eat the flowers, but, in fact, bees are the chief pollinators. 


Feijoa -- Acca sellowiana fruit
Photo from Wikipedia

The fruit of Acca sellowiana is the important part of this flowering shrub. The fruit, maturing in autumn, is green, about the size of a chicken's egg. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor and the flesh is juicy. The fruit drops when ripe and at its fullest flavor, but may be picked from the tree prior to the drop to prevent bruising. The fruit pulp resembles the closely related guava, having a gritty texture. As well, the feijoa pulp is used in some natural cosmetic products as an exfoliant. Feijoa fruit has a distinctive, potent smell.  

Large quantities of the fruit are now grown in New Zealand as it has one of the best growing seasons for Feijoa. The feijoa fruit may be used as an interesting addition to a fruit smoothie and may be used to make wine, cider and feijoa-infused vodka. The flavour is aromatic, very strong and complex, inviting comparison with guava, strawberry, pineapple, and often containing a faint wintergreen-like aftertaste. In New Zealand and a few other places in the world, it is possible to buy feijoa yogurt, fruit drinks, jam and ice cream; as well as vodka. It also may be cooked and used in dishes where one would use stewed fruit. It is also a popular ingredient in chutney.

As for my drawing, the most arduous task was, obviously, the long, red stamens with the large grains of yellow gold pollen on top of each one!  Yet, as much extra work as such elements make in a drawing, for some reason, as you may have noticed, I have a fondness for flowers with an excessive number of stamens!  I have no idea why the is true, but you can see for yourselves by taking a look at just a few examples of such flowers posted during the past year: the Matchstick Plant drawing (December 29, 2013), the Caper Bush flower drawing (November 3, 2013) and the Red Spider Lily drawing (January 8, 2013).  Interesting...

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EXTRA STUFF   

A friend sent me a photo taken by his friend on one of the more extremely cold days we had a week or so ago.  The photo was taken while the photographer was standing on Ward's Island, looking over the Lake at the City of Toronto skyline.  

It truly gives a strong sense of just how cold it was (and how cold it may be again before this Arctic Vortex is fully gone!  Take a look and see if you don't suddenly feel the need to turn up the thermostat just a notch!

I think this was taken on the day when the wind chill hit -40!  What a cold day in January that was!  I hope we can avoid having any more days like that for the remainder of the winter.


Another item of possible interest was a request from my friend, Eugene, to use one of my drawings of a saint to make a greeting card for a very special pro-life lady of his acquaintance.  The drawing he requested to use was one I did a year or so ago of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.  This modern-day saint, as you may recall, was the wife-mother-doctor in Italy who put her life at risk by choosing to keep her baby.  She had developed a medical problem that would normally have been treated by having a hysterectomy, but, at the time the problem was discovered, St. Gianna was already well along in her pregnancy.

When I went to look at the file of the drawing, I realized that it was really only a sketch and had never been completed properly.  So, I set about to finish it off as quickly as possible.  Eugene ended up using the revised version and I ended up getting a thank you note from the lady who had received the card (my name was on the back of the card as the artist)!  Below you can see how the outside (front and back) of the card appeared.

The front and back of the greeting card created by my friend, Eugene.  He has a real talent
for making professional-looking cards -- holy cards, greeting cards, etc.


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SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki always manages to look displeased
whenever her naps are disturbed!
There is not a great deal to say about Suki this week.  

It isn't that she has been particularly well behaved -- because she hasn't -- however, she has continued to spend a lot more time napping than previously. Ever since the weather turned so cold (even though it it not quite so very cold these days), Suki has been behaving more like a black bear than a black cat!  The back of the bedroom closet seems to have become her "cave" where she spends much of her time in hibernation mode.  I have spoken to her about the fact that cats do not hibernate, but, as usual, she ignores me! So, I just let her sleep.  

Every so often, I hear her begin to yowl (meow) in the manner I described for you in a recent posting.  As you now know, this sound continues until she finds me.  Once she has found me, she either sits by my feet, watching my every movement until I become so irritated that I get up and feed her, or -- and this is the more usual behaviour -- she jumps into my lap and begins to "pester" me until I finally give in an feed her!  Either way, she knows how to get that food dish filled.  Once she has eaten all she wants, she settles down for a quick but thorough wash before returning to her "cave".  

I hear that the temperature is supposed to finally get above freezing again by Thursday and I am wondering what will happen to Suki's "hibernation mode" when this occurs?!  If her behaviour changes, I will give you a report in next Sunday's blog posting.

As well, I have little to report about my activities -- mainly because I continue to remain very inactive.  I can tell you that I have a consultation coming up in a few days with a specialist as St. Mike's. This is the "consult" prior to the procedure scheduled for the following week which will take a good look at my upper G.I. tract. So, there may be some health news to pass along by next Sunday. It would be wonderful to finally have some encouraging news about my health -- but, based on my past experience, I am not counting on it!

Otherwise, I have been a bit distracted this past week by two news events.
  

SOCHI

One event is, obviously, the news coming out of Sochi, including the funny stories, cartoons and photographs regarding the facilities the athletes, officials and guests are having to deal with.  One of my favourite photos thus far has been the bathroom which appears to have only one toilet in it (a rarity in Sochi it seems) but just across from the toilet are three, straight-backed chairs facing the toilet.  It made me wonder just how closely the security people were planning on keeping an eye on folks when they are using the toilet!

U.N. Report on the Catholic Church

The second news item is neither funny or clever!  I am referring to the "report" by the U.N. on the Catholic Church!  With all the really awful human rights violations going on in the world at the present moment (particularly those children being kidnapped worldwide for use in the pornography industry and as sex slaves), why on earth does the U.N. feel the need to produce this biased report on the Church?!  Of course, the U.N. certainly has its own agenda, especially regarding the Church, and I assume this is just the next step in their plan to attempt to discredit and marginalize the Church.

The report's focus on sexual abuse by priests and religious is so obviously biased since the U.N. seems to treat these events in isolation from similar events occurring in every religion, organization and culture throughout the world.  Not that such behaviour can ever be justified, but the total number of abusers in the Church continues to remain lower than most other organizations, including many other Christian churches.  Of course, when you include the number of sexual abuse cases that continue to occur in families -- even in countries such as ours -- along with all the other sources of such abuse, then the focus on the statistics regarding the Catholic Church can be seen for what they really 
are -- as I said before -- an agenda to discredit and marginalize.

It seems to me quite possible that these negative feelings on the part of the U.N. stem from the refusal on the part of the Catholic Church to change or dilute the teachings that the Church has taught for over 2,000 years now -- teachings that Catholics believe were given to us by God -- through His prophets, apostles, disciples and, especially, through the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.  As you are probably aware, the U.N. wants the Church to change its "attitudes" towards abortion, contraception and homosexuality.  For Catholics, these teachings are not man-made, but God-made, God-given and, thus, mankind does not have the right to change them -- no matter what the cultural and politically-correct attitudes may be at a particular time in history. 

The most important aspect for Catholic to remember about these teachings, however (and for non-Catholics to be aware), is our belief in an all-loving, merciful God. As our Lord Jesus said to those ready to stone the woman taken in adultery, "Let the person who is without sin among you cast the first stone." We are told that each member of that crowd who had gathered to stone the woman quietly dropped the stones they were holding and walked away. Of course they did for there is not one of us who can claim to be free of sin.

This is why the Church has always taught that it is not an individual's task to judge and condemn their neighbour -- heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, someone who has had an abortion, a couple using contraception or whatever -- judgement belongs, in the final analysis, to God.  He alone can read the heart and mind of each individual.  We are reminded of the danger of judging others each day when we pray the Our Father -- the prayer taught to us by our Lord Jesus -- when we say: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Do we really realize what we are saying? We are telling God to judge us in exactly the same way we judge others! 

Concluding comments:

I had no intention of going on at such length about the report from the U.N.  However, I feel much better now that I have had my say. I hope you find my comments of interest and I will be delighted to post any legitimate comments you may have regarding this report, the news coverage of it and my comments given above.
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So, I leave you as I usually do on Sunday with a final prayer...
May each and every one of us realize how precious we are to God who created us.  Even though at times it seems as if the things that God allows to happen to us, and to those we love, could not possibly be the permissive will of a loving Father, I pray we will never forget that God has loved each one of us into being and will continue to love us into being for all eternity -- for God is love. Loving Father, keep us from fear -- let not our hearts be troubled -- and, may that peace which You alone can give fill our hearts in the days ahead.  Amen

Sunday, 2 February 2014

New Style St. Michael

"St. Michael the Archangel, New Style", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Although this latest drawing of St. Michael has many traditional elements, it is not a true icon.  The idea for this drawing actually came from a St. Michael depiction drawn in a style similar to that of Art Nouveau.

As most of you know, I remain intrigued by the various elements found in that style from last century known as Art Nouveau with all its stylized patterns and flowers as well as young women and children in loose clothes and flowing, diaphanous gowns who appear to be freely casual rather than formally posed.  

While the drawing of St. Michael that inspired me was not truly in the style known as Art Nouveau, it did contain certain aspects that were found in the art of that period of the last years of the 1800s and early years of the 1900s. The style was a reaction to the more rigid academic art of the 19th century and was characterized by organic -- especially floral and other plant-inspired -- motifs, as well as very stylized, flowing, curving forms.

An example of drawing style and font (typeface)
during the "Art Nouveau" period (1890-1905)
"Art Nouveau is a philosophy of design according to which artists should work on everything from architecture to furniture, making art part of ordinary life."


 Artists working in this style used it for everything -- especially advertising -- as the new field of marketing began to develop and grow with the explosion of industrial competition during the 1890s.



Returning to the subject of today's drawing, St. Michael, I continue to learn new things about this most famous of the Archangels. Recently, I had an encounter with a Jehovah's Witness who lives in my building.  She was not trying to "convert" me as I had long ago made it clear to her that I was not at all interested in her views in the area of religion. What did surprise me, however, was her request to purchase a print of one of my earlier drawings of St. Michael.  I had assumed that her belief system would not allow her to be interested in an icon of an archangel.

Considering her request, I decided to do a bit of research in an effort to understand what might be going on.  After "Googling" my query, I found what I was looking for in the website "Catholic Answers" 
http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions.  Here is what they had to say on the subject:

Q: Is it true Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Michael the archangel and Jesus are the same person?

A: In a word, yes. The Jehovah's Witnesses maintain that Jesus was Michael the archangel prior to his coming to earth. They assert: "Scriptural evidence indicates that the name Michael applied to God's Son before he left heaven to become Jesus Christ and also after his return". They arrive at this erroneous belief primarily through a misinterpretation of (1) Daniel 10:13, 21, where reference is made to a "great prince," Michael; and (2) First Thessalonians 4:16, where the Lord Jesus is described as descending from heaven at the sound of the archangel's voice. The JWs' own New World Translation of the Bible reads, " . . . the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel's voice." Since the Lord Jesus descends from heaven "with an archangel's voice," the JWs understand this passage as "suggesting that he is, in fact, himself the archangel". While there are several problems with this line of reasoning, two points in particular easily reveal its fallacy. First, the fact that the Lord Jesus descends "with an archangel's voice" does not automatically mean that it is his own voice spoken of. This passage simply says that an archangel's voice will accompany the Lord's descent from heaven, in the same manner that the bailiff's voice ("All rise!") accompanies the judge's entrance into the courtroom. Second, Hebrews 1:5 says, "For example, to which of the angels did he [God] ever say: 'You are my son; I, today, I have become your father'?" (New World Translation). The answer to the question is, of course, "none."

I am not including this information in my posting because I have a desire to deride the J.W.'s and their beliefs, but simply to show what unusual things I am continuing to learn about "our" St. Michael -- the patron of the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto and the first among the archangels and angels during the thousands of years of the teachings of Judaism and Catholicism/Orthodoxy.

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GROUNDHOG DAY, 2014


Sorry to bring you the bad news; however, Ontario's Wiarton Willie emerged from his cozy den this morning and immediately spotted his shadow, which according to groundhog folklore means Canadians can expect six more weeks of what has already been a long, cold, snowy winter. 

As for America's rodent royalty, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil — the most famous groundhog of them all — did see his shadow this morning as well, heralding another month and a half of Old Man winter. 
"Marmot (Groundhog) Vancouver Island",
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2008

Regardless of what the groundhogs may be trying to tell us, Environment Canada is predicting the frigid temperatures that have gripped much of the country for the past two months will likely persist right through February.  So don't put your big boots away just yet!








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SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki has found the weather inside to be a bit chilly -- in
spite of her thick fur coat -- and so she can frequently be
found wrapped up in one of my old sweaters!
Suki is not a true Canadian!  If I could locate her birth certificate, I have a suspicion that I would discover that she, like me, was actually born in some place like the southern U.S. -- in fact, I would suspect that she may even have come from someplace warmer and further south -- maybe even Trinidad or Nevis!!

I have come to this conclusion after observing her during this Arctic Vortex that has been visiting us for most of January and is threatening to stay with us for the remaining six more weeks of winter (according to Wiarton Willie)!  

While I have become acclimatized to the very cold weather after all these years of living in Canada, poor Suki seems barely able to cope with the cold weather even though she never even goes outdoors!

She seems to be sleeping more than ever and when she sleeps, I find her curled up under the blankets on the bed, wrapped in one of my old sweaters or, most annoyingly, trying to crawl under my legs as I recline on the sofa while watching TV in the evening!  This is the case even though I will often, out of pity for Suki, turn up the thermostat to 23 C -- which leaves me feeling much too warm but which seems to suit Suki just fine.

I do realize that she has to stay very close to the floor whenever she wants to eat, play or use the sandbox -- I also realize that the floor, these days, is much colder than either of us would prefer (the floor is hardwood with only a few area rugs ).  However, as I keep reminding Suki, it is winter after all and we do live in Canada.  

Of course, I do try to remember that this is the coldest winter that Suki has ever experienced while I have been through much worse in the 40 plus years I have been living in this country!  Thus, being the old soft-hearted soul that I am, I pick up this silly cat every so often and let her spend 20 minutes or so snuggled up next to my neck, resting her body on my shoulder.  This is her favourite place to be and I can even feel her getting warmer and more relaxed as each minute passes.

Sooner or later, I have to put her back down as my arms get tired and my shoulder starts to ache.  And even though I put her down gently in a spot that I know is bound to be warm, Suki still looks at me with those big eyes as though she is saying:  "how can you treat me so badly?"  Sometimes she makes me feel so guilty that I end up putting her back on my shoulder again!  I really do spoil this cat, don't I?  

As for me, things are OK -- certainly much better than this time last weekend!  At the moment, I am sitting her working away on this posting while keeping one ear open for the sound of my buzzer. The folks from St. Michael's Cathedral should be arriving any time now to bring me Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist -- the high point of my week.

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple -- forty days after his birth.  This feast day has also been known as Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin and the Meeting of the Lord.  Candlemas refers to the ancient practice of blessing candles on this feast day and having a candlelight procession prior to the beginning of the Mass.  

Candles, of course, are a source of light and the Scripture passage for this Sunday includes the words of St. Simeon found in Luke 2:29-32.  As you will recall, Simeon had been promised by the Lord that he would not see death until his eyes had seen the Messiah. So, when Mary and Joseph brought the child, Jesus, into the Temple as required by the Law, Simeon recognized Him and taking Him in his arms, said:  "Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled:  my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel."

So, let me wish you all a holy and blessed feast day.  

I pray that Our Lord will truly be the "light of your life" and that filled with His light, we may show forth that light to one another so that we will all find the joy and peace which passes human understanding. Amen. 

St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.  Amen.