Sunday, 28 December 2014

Swainsona formosa -- Sturt's Desert Pea

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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RONÀN AND BRADEN AT CHRISTMASTIME



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

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



Ronàn on Christmas morning




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




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




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




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SUKI AND SALLIE


"Suki" 
drawing by 
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer 
2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY




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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Amen.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Journey to Bethlehem

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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RONÀN AND BRADEN





What a beautiful boy you are, dear Ronàn!




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





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SUKI AND SALLIE




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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT



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

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


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

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

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

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

Amen.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Christmas Camellia

"Camellia sasanqua 'Crimson King' - Yultide", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Camellia sasanqua, Family Theaceae, is a species of Camellia native to China and Japan. There are a number of cultivars that have been developed from C. sasanqua.  This particular one is known as the Christmas or Yuletide camellia.  This large shrub has glossy, dark, evergreen foliage. The flowers range in colour from crimson-pink to white depending on the cultivar. 

These various cultivars of C. sasanqua were developed in Japan in the early 1700s.  The cultivar known as Christmas camellia did not arrive in the west until 1869 when Dutch traders imported some specimens into Europe. 

C. sasanqua has a long history of cultivation in Japan for practical rather than decorative reasons. The leaves are used to make tea while the seeds or nuts are used to make tea seed oil which, over the centuries, has been used for lighting, lubrication, cooking and cosmetic purposes.

Once again, the dark green leaves in my drawing are not glossy; however, I am continuing to experiment with my software in the hopes of eventually finding a way to create glossy, dark, green leaves.


Many of the above facts were taken from Wikipedia.
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NEW RONÀN AND BRADEN PHOTO




Ronàn and Braden just in from the cold.




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SUKI AND SALLIE

Looks as though Suki is ready for Christmas!
Another week, another trauma for poor Suki!  Let me tell you what happened.

There was a flood in the bathroom of the apartment two floors above me.  Loud dripping noises in the wall alerted both Suki and myself to the problem early Wednesday morning.

I was sitting in my little office space working away at the computer when I noticed that Suki had gotten up from her morning nap and was standing in the middle of the room with her ears in that erect position that let me know right away that she was hearing something she did not like.

I pushed the pause button on my iPad which had been playing Vivaldi`s Four Seasons and listened.  It was then that I, too, could hear the drip, drip, drip of water falling inside the wall between the bathroom and the bedroom.  Quickly, I telephoned our building emergency number to find out what was happening.  I was informed by the building super that there had been flooding on a certain floor above me and that the plumbers were rushing here even as we spoke.  

Within half an hour, I could hear pounding on the pipes above me so I knew that help had arrived.  Unfortunately, I also knew that because a little over half an hour had passed from the time I first heard the dripping sounds that there was going to be some water damage in my place as well.

During all of this, Suki was getting more and more agitated -- and what made it worse was that the back wall of the bedroom closet, which is Suki`s bolt hole, backs onto the bathroom.  The water sounds followed by the banging on pipes was most loud inside the closet so Suki had no place to hide.  I really felt sorry for her as I could see how much she desired to go into her safe place only her safe place wasn't  that safe anymore.

Then, to make matters worse, about half an hour after they arrived, the plumbers came banging loudly on my door.  At this point, poor Suki simply dived under the bed while I let the plumbers in so that they could see that all my bathroom drains were draining normally.

As the day progressed, the dripping stopped and, finally, the banging stopped as well.  Soon after that , Suki crawled out from under the bed and started asking to be fed.  Since it wasn't quite lunch time yet, I distracted her by showing her where the water was dripping from above the bedroom closet door and plopping noisily onto the folded towels spread across the floor.   Suki found this quite fascinating for a time as she tried to catch the drops of water before they hit the towels.  Eventually, of course, her thoughts turned back to lunch.

Now, of course, all that happened on Wednesday is forgotten by Suki and she is sleeping soundly as she takes her morning nap. What she doesn't know is that the plumbers will be back this week in order to repair the hole they made in the wall behind the kitchen when they were cleaning the drains last month.  Since they plan to install a small, metal door where the hole is, I am certain that they will be bringing their electric drill with them.  So, the monster will return... poor Suki... more trauma ahead.

As for me, I continue to deal with all my usual pains and
Me at 3 years of age
difficulties in my usual way.  There have been more visits and phone calls these past few days, however, as today is my birthday. Truly, I never thought I would get this old, but here I am.


Thanks to all of you who have contacted me one way or another: cards, phone calls, emails and Facebook.  I feel very well remembered.






My grand-nephew or great-nephew --
whichever you prefer -- studying the
birthday card I made for him.



I share my birthday with my great-nephew, Daniel.  As usual, I sent him a card that I had made.  Since he, like all my family, lives in the USA, I always worry that the birthday cards I send won't arrive in time.  Thankfully, in this case, he received my card a few days before the 14th.







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THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT




This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.     John 1:19-28


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



"Among you stands ... the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal."

The entire introductory section of St. John's Gospel is full of so many amazing things.  In this passage, for example, we are told that the God of all, in order to show us He is Love, Itself, came and walked among us.  Not only that, but we are told that He wore the footwear of poor people -- rough sandals -- and got his feet dirty -- like all the other poor folks -- as he walked along the dusty roads of ancient Palestine.

I have heard these words so many times, however, that I have to stop and say something to myself along the lines of "what if this is really true?"  When I ask that question then I am shocked once again at the possibility that there is a Creator who loves us so much that He lived among us and, like us, got His feet dirty.  Not only that, in order to show us how much we are loved, he suffered to be born as a baby with feet that could not walk at first. He lived a life of hard work and suffered from cold feet and feet that ached at the end of a long day. Eventually, He was condemned, falsely, as a criminal and had nails driven through those same feet just like all the poor criminals of His time and place.  Is this not amazing?

May we rejoice on this "Gaudete (rejoicing) Sunday" as we contemplate the coming of the Christ Child with his tiny, precious feet that speak to us so loudly about the God who is Love.

Amen.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Shepherd Girl

"A Shepherd Girl", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

For this week's drawing, I used another work of the French academic painter and traditionalist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau. (see my posting of November 2, 2014 for details on the life and work of Bouguereau) as my inspiration. He did a painting entitled, "The Shepherdess" and I felt the pose he used for the young girl was just perfect for my model, especially since I had a dual purpose in wanting to draw a shepherdess.  Let me explain.

Recently, for some reason, I have been thinking quite a bit about Lucia dos Santos of Fatima -- thinking about both the story of her life and the story of Fatima, itself.  I felt as though I wanted to do a drawing that expressed her life at the beginning of the whole amazing story. However, I also wanted to just try to draw a young girl tending sheep -- the lot of so many poor children in the past as well as the present.

"Lucia of Fatima", drawing by the hand
of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014
 So I ended up with two versions of the same drawing:  one shows a young girl tending her sheep and lambs while the other shows young Lucia de Jesus dos Santos of Fatima, Portugal, as I think she might have appeared.

I have no idea why the Fatima story had been on my mind so much lately -- this story, itself, hasn't been of overwhelming importance in my life; however, now that this drawing (both versions) is finished, I feel a kind of peace as though I have accomplished something I needed to do.

As usual, there are a number of little things I am still not satisfied with in both versions of this drawing, but, for the time being, I don't think I will be doing any revisions.

Of course, one extraordinary aspect of these two drawings should occur to those of you reading this since you are computer-savvy enough to be on the Internet! As I am sure you realize, I really did only one drawing and then, since I draw on the computer, I was able to make a copy the original and then make any changes to it that I felt were appropriate. I didn't have to draw it twice as Bouguereau would have had to do. Since I can transfer the entire file by using "save as", I can then work on the copy in the same way as I worked on the original -- making changes, additions, etc. as I see fit. This is an area of modern art work that has only become possible in the past 15 - 20 years and it really is quite amazing when you think about it. I wonder what of art and design work will be possible in another 15 - 20 years?



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NEW PHOTOS OF RONÀN 


Can you believe that this little guy is already slightly over 1 month old? His photos appear to show that he is busily developing into his own, unique person -- and in just two more weeks, I am going to get to finally meet him face to face!  I am so excited.




Hey, what's going on here?  Whose big hands are these?




Speaking of hands, take a look at these!  
This guy is either going to be a symphony conductor, a football referee or...




... maybe a baseball umpire.  He has definitely already got the moves!




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SUKI AND SALLIE




As a youngster, I well remember how easily my mother could get me to behave as Christmas approached.  All she had to do was say the magic words:  "Naughty children only receive coal and "switches" under the tree -- nothing else!"  

Coal and switches were two things with which I was very familiar. We had a coal bin in the basement right next to the furnace filled, during the winter, with hard, black rocks that my father would regularly shovel into the brightly burning mouth of the furnace. As for switches, there was a large shrub just outside the back door which seemed to have a limitless supply of thin, pliable branches about 16 - 24 inches in length.  When stripped of their small flowers, they made the perfect implement for my mother to use across the back of my bare legs when, on occasion, I was particularly naughty and unmanageable.

Thus, the closer we got to Christmas, the more determined I became to behave myself.  I mean, after all, what child would prefer dirty lumps of coal to a new dolly or toy car?!  Suki, on the other hand, seems to behave in the opposite manner and the threat of coal and switches doesn't work for, to her, they sound like interesting new toys.  By the time Christmas arrives, I am at my wit's end!

Suki, of course, blames me.  As she points out, I am the one, after all, who brings all those bright, shiny objects out of the storage closet each year, placing them on the Christmas tree, on the coffee table and on various shelves of the bookcases.  Surely, she says, those nice round balls must be cat toys and as every cat knows, instinctively, trees have only purpose:  to provide places for cats to climb.  So how can I possibly be upset when I awaken once again to find another broken Christmas decoration on the floor? 

Sometime I catch her in the act and with a shout and a loud clap of my hands I can usually get her to stop fairly quickly.  With the shout and the clapping, Suki usually heads for the bedroom, quickly scooting under the bed.  When I point out to her that her reaction would indicate that she knows she is doing something wrong, she retorts with:  "That's not true -- you know how loud noises frighten me.  You know how high-strung I am.  It's cruel to be stressing me out so."  Suki, as I am sure you have noticed by now, is very good at passing the blame.  

Sometimes I actually end up feeling guilty for stressing out the poor cat.  But then I usually remember fairly quickly that it was Suki who was caught in the act of trying to remove another decoration from the tree -- a decoration that even now would probably be lying, broken, on the floor if I hadn't yelled at her.  So I yell at her again for trying to be such a manipulator and back under the bed she goes.  Her quick movements remind me a bit of Santa in the classic, T'was the Night Before Christmas where we read: 
"[Santa] turned with a jerk and laying his finger aside of his nose gave a nod and up the chimney he rose...shouting...as he drove out of sight: 'Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night'."   
A Happy Christmas, indeed!

As for the rest of my life, everything remains much the same -- the same pain along with the same daily regimen of pain medication and distraction attempts.

I did have a visit this week from one of the priests at St. Michael's Cathedral.  He is young, very nice and polite.  I was finally able to receive some of the Sacraments that have not been available to me for a number of months.  He agreed to come and visit me again at the beginning of Lent.  



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SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT


"Icon -- St. John the Baptist in the Desert", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 revised


As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  Mark 1:1-8

A lot of folks thought St. John the Baptist was a crazy man. Imagine, going out to the Judean desert -- a proper no-man's land -- and living there, eating "locusts and wild honey", until you felt prompted by God to start shouting things at people -- things about the coming of the Messiah and judgement for your sins.  

Sounds sort of like one of those "end of the world" characters we see wandering our city streets on occasion, shouting at us as we try to go about our mundane tasks.  I usually try to get past them as quickly as possible without looking at them directly so that there is no chance of making eye contact with what is obviously, or so it seems, a crazy person.

Yet, when it came to St. John the Baptist, for some reason, a lot of the poor people of his day listened to him, allowing him to pour water over them as they stood in the Jordan River having come to believe that he spoke the truth.  They were seeking forgiveness and healing by receiving a "baptism of repentance".  They wanted to be ready when the Messiah appeared.  Remember which groups of people did not listen to him -- the religious and political leaders of the day.  Interesting, isn't it? 

May I know the freedom and peace that comes from acting in accord with my beliefs even if there are people in my life who think I'm crazy for doing so!

St. John the Baptist, God's glorious fool, pray for us.

Amen.