Sunday, 16 April 2017

Thorns and More Thorns

"Solanum pyracanthum -- Porcupine Tomato", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Today I am featuring two new drawings which focus on flowering, thorny plants.  Good Friday always makes me think of thorns and, thus, it seemed to be that this weekend might be the one for sharing these new artistic efforts.

The first plant featured is Solanum pyracanthum. This is the botanical name for the porcupine tomato or devil’s thorn. Solanum is the genus of the tomato, potato and deadly Nightshade family and this plant bears many discrete resemblances to these plants, particularly to tomatoes. Native to tropical Madagascar and the islands of the western Indian Ocean, it has been introduced into many countries over the years but, thankfully, has not shown itself to be invasive. This is because the plant is very slow to reproduce and birds avoid the berries, so the seeds don’t get distributed easily. 

While many people consider thorns to be a drawback in plants, the thorns on a porcupine tomato are quite striking and are, in fact, the first thing you notice about this plant. The gray-green leaves give way to red-orange thorns which grow straight up on the sides of the leaves. Along with the colorful thorns, there are also lavender/blue flowers. The flowers are shaped much like other members of the Solanum family and have yellow centers. The back of each petal has a white stripe that runs from the tip to the base. 

The leaves, flowers and fruit of the plant are poisonous. Like many members of the Solanum genus, particularly Deadly Nightshade, the porcupine tomato contains highly toxic tropane alkaloids. 

The genus name of Solanum is from the Latin and means “solace” or “quietude” (referring to the narcotic properties of some species). The specific name of pyracanthum comes from the Latin and means “fire thorn”.

"Euphorbia milii -- Crown of Thorns", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

I previously featured a drawing this particular plant (Euphorbia milii) back in 2009 [see drawing below right]. However, with all the Lenten reminders of the passion of Christ, I decided to do another drawing -- this time making the thorns more prominent.

"Euphorbia milii -- Crown of Thorns, 2009",
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer
Euphorbia milii, of the family Euphorbiaceae, is a woody, spiny, climbing succulent shrub with shoots reaching a height of six feet. While the plant appears to have sizable pink flowers, the “flowers” are actually pink leaves (bracts) while the flowers are the tiny bits growing in the centre. 

Euphorbia milii is also known as “Crown of Thorns” or the "Christ Plant" as tradition has it that this plant was used to make the crown of thorns with which the Roman soldiers are said to have crowned Christ. Although the plant originated in Madagascar, there is substantial evidence that the species had been brought to the Middle East before the time of Christ. The plants send out thorny stems which are very pliable and could easily have been intertwined into a circle. The sap of Euphorbia milii can cause severe dermatitis on the skin of those who are susceptible and it is poisonous when ingested. 

The genus name, Euphorbia, was first published by Carolus Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753. However, it can be traced back as far as 79 A.D. to the Roman officer, Pliny the Elder, as it is mentioned in his book, Natural History of Pliny. The genus, Euphorbia, honours an African physician named Euphorbus who lived during the lst century A.D. The species name, milii, commemorates Baron Milius, once governor of Reunion, who in 1821 introduced the species to France.

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


Here are the boys after their Easter Egg Hunt with their Easter greeting.  

"Happy Easter Everyone!"




Suki with her favourite toy in MY chair!
Poor Suki!  I have been treating her very kindly ever since Thursday evening.  Why?  Well, let me tell you the whole, sad story...

Suki had an appointment scheduled with the vet for this past Thursday morning at 10:30.  All that was supposed to occur during this visit was a bit of "bloodletting" so that the blood tests done six weeks ago could be repeated. We arrived at the clinic about 10:20 and were quickly taken into an exam room.

After the vet assistant had removed Suki from the case and weighed her (no significant weight loss yet I am sorry to say), she asked me if Suki was fasting.  Shocked, I replied, "No. I'm sorry, but no one told me that she should be fasting."

The young woman apologized and said that whoever had made the appointment should have informed me about the need for Suki to be fasting when her blood was drawn.  So, unsure what to do, off she went to check with the vet as to whether the blood work could be done if Suki had eaten breakfast.

She returned to inform me that they would not be able to get the correct results unless Suki was fasting.  Thankfully, she then informed me that the vet had suggested a possible solution.  If I was willing to leave Suki there until the afternoon, they would take her blood once 9-10 hours had elapsed (she had her breakfast at 5:30) and then either she or the vet would drop Suki off at my place on their way home (both live in my neighbourhood).

I immediately thought that this was a really nice thing for them to offer to do and, so, I quickly agreed to their plan.  After scratching Suki's head once more and telling her that I would see her later, I left for home. Of course, I was not really settled for the rest of the day as the vet's assistant had mentioned that if they finished early, Suki could be home by mid-afternoon.

As it turned out, Suki did not get back home until just after 6 p.m. The assistant telephoned me at 5:45 to tell me that the vet, herself, would be bringing Suki home. I quickly got myself organized and then went down to the lobby to watch for them. When I saw the vet's car pull up, I went out outside and the transfer was quickly made.  I thanked her profusely while she informed me that the results of Suki's blood work should be available by Monday or Tuesday and that she will phone to inform me of the findings.

After saying goodbye, I rushed (as much as I am able to rush these days) upstairs and opened the cat carrier.  Out stalked a very indignant Miss Suki. She began to carefully inspect every inch of our living space, including the closets, meowing loudly the entire time.  Truly, I am grateful that I have never figured out how to speak or understand cat language as I fear that her comments during this inspection tour may have been the sort which would require me to put a lot of "bleeps" into this paragraph!

After eating a small amount of food, Suki then began to take short naps from which she would awaken meowing loudly.  Each time this happened, I would gently call her name a few times.  She would then stop her cries and settle down for another short nap. Eventually, she came and jumped up onto my lap and there she stayed until I got up to prepare our suppers.  By the time of her bedtime snack, she seemed to be pretty much back to normal; however, I do vaguely recall that she jumped into bed with me soon after I had fallen asleep.  She was still next to me when I awakened the next morning.

I will inform you of the results of her blood tests on April 30th which is when I plan to make my next blog posting. Hopefully, the news will all be good.

As for me, I continue to be and do the same.  I have had a couple of medical appointments over the past two weeks, but, as usual these days, they were just follow-up type appointments with nothing new to report.

Meanwhile, let me wish you all a very joyful Easter Season.

Καλο Πασχα
Срећан Ускрс
Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych
Happy Easter



Sunday, 2 April 2017

Tropaeolum tricolor

"Tropaeolum tricolour -- Chilean Nasturtium", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 

The Chilean Nasturtium - Tropaeolum tricolor - is a stunning, rare vine with psychedelic blooms! Its vivid scarlet, yellow, and violet flowers swim like schools of tropical fish throughout winter, when most plants are colorless. It is a species of perennial plant in the family, Tropaeolaceae. 

Tropaeolum tricolor is native to Chile and Bolivia where it is called either soldadito rojo or relicario. The vine tends to grow 4 to 6 feet tall, although it can potentially get to 9 feet. It has wiry stems and dainty leaves, both of which are surprisingly durable. The leaf stems are sensitive to touch and act like tendrils, wrapping themselves around branches as the plant climbs upward. Around late winter, once the plant has all its leaves, the flowers make their appearance. They tend to face the same general direction, giving the impression that they're swimming together! 

Sephanoides sephanoides
Three-coloured Chilean Nasturtium grows in the cloud forest on the coastal mountains of northern Chile at 300 to 900 metres (980 to 2,950 ft.). Further south it grows in inland temperate forests in the central regions. Here it grows on level ground or north facing slopes in full sun or dappled shade. It can endure periods of drought of up to 10 months. The tubers are well buried and are hardy down to a temperature of about −8 °C (18 °F) and can tolerate short periods of snow cover. The flowers are pollinated by the green-backed, fire-crown hummingbird (Sephanoides sephanoides). This is the same hummingbird that pollinates Philesia magellanica (the Chilean Bellflower) which I featured back on 2 October 2016. 

The genus name of Tropaeolum is taken from the Latin word “tropaeum” meaning “trophy” which refers to the shape of the flowers. Tricolour obviously means “three colours”. Tri is taken from either the Latin "tres" or Greek "treis", both of which mean "three".

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


Suki -- Simple house cat or
master manipulator?
I have the strangest feeling that I have been conned -- once again -- by this cat! And, yet, it truly doesn't seem possible. Let me explain...

Two weeks ago, I took Suki to the vet. After weighing her, the vet explained to me, in great detail, the need for me to try to bring down Suki's weight.  As we talked, Suki sat there between us very quietly -- looking at us as we spoke -- almost as though she was listening carefully to what was being said.

After the vet had finished explaining very carefully how Suki would have less pain if I got her weight down by even one pound, I promised I would do my best to strictly adhere to her instructions. I felt quite guilty for not doing better and promised myself that in the future I would not give in to Suki's pleas for extra food or treats.

After we returned home, I began Suki's new feeding regimen. Although Suki immediately began to complain about the smaller portions she was getting, I determinedly stuck to my resolutions.

However, on the third day of this new arrangement, Suki suddenly began to exhibit symptoms of illness.  It was like she had the symptoms of a mild flu bug as she was throwing up and having a bit of diarrhea.  For about a day, Suki was not interested in food at all, but by day 2 of her "illness", she was allowing me to feed her small amounts of her favourite foods plus a few treats.  Her symptoms of illness quickly disappeared and everything seemed to return to normal.

In the process, however, Suki somehow ended up back on her regular feeding schedule and off her new diet!  Now I am afraid to put her back on a diet for fear that she might become "ill" once again.  Meanwhile, I have a sneaking suspicion that this cat has, once again, manipulated me into giving her what she wants.

I have no idea how Suki might have accomplished this, but I must say that her "illness" was rather perfectly timed. Her symptoms begin about two days into a rather strict diet and then, mysteriously, her symptoms disappeared as soon as she started receiving her full rations once again!  I know I have a highly skeptical nature, but doesn't this all seem just a bit suspicious to you as well?

As for me, other than possibly being conned once again by my kitty-cat companion, I am doing as well as conditions allow.  I continue to be able to spend a few hours each day doing art work. This activity not only fully distracts my attention from awareness of the never-ending pain, but it also gives me a great deal of pleasure.  I hope that at least some of the results of this art work provide others, such as yourselves, with a bit of pleasure as well.

I, also, continue to be able to read by using my iPad to fix the size of the font and the grayness of the background. Thankfully, reading also continues to be another way to completely distract myself from the awareness of my poor, old body.  Thank goodness, ever since I learned to read at the age of 4 I have been able to "lose" myself in books.  

As a note of interest, my older sister, Janet, taught me to read. She had already decided, at age 11, that she was going to be a teacher and was busy trying to teach me and all the neighbourhood children how to read. As I recall, her methods were rather strict and a bit unorthodox; however, she managed to get the job done and for that I will always be grateful.

Speaking of reading, I have just finished the book: "Last Chance to See" by Douglas Adams (yes, "The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" guy, now deceased).  It was written well over 20 years ago and tells the story of Adams and a British zoologist visiting a number of endangered species throughout the world to see what efforts are being made to save them.  I wanted to read this book after coming watching a British TV mini-series following up on these same creatures 20 years later.  This time, since Adams is deceased, they asked Stephen Fry to accompany the BBC team along with the same zoologist.  The book and TV series were both delightful encounters, but left me feeling, oh, so sad as I consider what we have done and continue to do to this planet and all its myriads of plants and animals.  

Sadly, and without casting any blame since we are all guilty to some extent, it is currently estimated that dozens of species, above the natural “background” rate, are going extinct every day.  So many species which have been present for millions of years on this planet, many of which we haven't even identified yet, are now silently, hopelessly, simply disappearing from the earth. Fortunately, the DNA of many of these plants and animals has been taken and carefully stored.  So, perhaps, if there is ever a time in the future when people actually treat the planet with respect so that the earth begins to heal, many of these can live once again.

Anyway, thanks for listening!
I will be back in two weeks.  Until then, take care everyone.



Sunday, 19 March 2017

Trillium -- Ozark Wake Robin

"Trillium pusillum var. ozarkanum -- Ozark Wake Robin"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Trillium pusillum var. ozarkanum is commonly known as Ozark Wake Robin. It is a woodland Trillium which blooms from April to early May. Ozark Wake Robin inhabits cherty (rocky soils containing quartz and silica) soils in oak-pine and oak-hickory woodlands. This species of Trillium is found in Kentucky, Tennessee, the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas and southern Missouri. Ozark Wake Robin is threatened by the loss of habitat as a result of logging, land conversion and improper use of herbicides. 

Ozark Wake Robin differs from the other representatives of Trillium by its stalked flowers with white to pinkish-white petals that darken to rose-pink as they mature. Its flowers consist of three petals above three green sepals. The slender, solitary stems are dark green with a purplish tinge near the ground. Its three leaves grow around the stem in a circle. Leaves are dull or grass green. They are blunt or rounded at the tips. A single flower blooms at the end of a short stalk above the circle of leaves. 

 The genus name of Trillium comes from the Latin for “three” and “lily” in reference to the three leaves and three-petal flowers on each plant and the members of the genus being part of the Lily family (Liliaceae). The species name, pusillum, comes from the Latin and means little or small. While “ozarkanum” is the Latinized form of Ozark, of course.

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


"Is this a brotherly hug or the beginning of a wrestling match?"
(still taken from video, March, 2017)



Suki sitting and wondering when she is going to feel better
Well, Suki is unwell once more.  It all began a week ago, Saturday.  Actually, both of us were sick last Saturday; however, by Sunday, I had recovered sufficiently to begin to really worry about Suki.

By the beginning of the week, I was determined to take her to the vet and made an appointment.  Then, suddenly, she appeared to be feeling much better!  So, I cancelled the vet appointment expecting to see continuing improvement. Suki, however, has not really improved any more at all.  So, now, I am thinking about making another vet appointment in the morning. 

Meanwhile, I continue to worry and have been searching all over the Internet to see if I can find her exact symptoms listed.  So far all I have done is frighten myself by reading descriptions of terrible and fatal cat diseases!

As for me, Suki has been my biggest worry.  My own problem fade into insignificance when compared to the possibility that Suki might have some terrible disease.  She is probably going to be just fine, but until I know that for certain, I will continue to worry.

During the past two weeks, I have had a couple of visits from friends (which were very enjoyable) as well as some delightful telephone conversations. Tomorrow morning I have one of those lengthy eye exams at St. Michael's Hospital.  Thankfully, our extreme cold weather alert has now ended and I expect the temperature to be just above freezing -- a warm day for this time of year in Toronto!

Wishing you all a belated St. Patrick's Day although Toronto is holding its annual St. Patrick's Day Parade this afternoon.  Anyway, here is the St. Patrick's Day drawing of Suki that I posted a couple of years ago.  Enjoy once again!

"Suki Celebrates St. Patrick's Day", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015


Sunday, 5 March 2017

Aquilegia caerulea - Columbine

"Aquilegia caerulea -- Columbine", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Aquilegia saximontana *
Aquilegia caerulea is a species of flower native to the Rocky Mountains from Montana south to New Mexico and west to Idaho and Arizona. Its common name is Colorado Blue Columbine. Frequently, it is called "Rocky Mountain Columbine", although, technically, this name properly refers to Aquilegia saximontana (see photo above, right, in which you can see the differences between Rocky Mountain Columbine and Aquilegia caerulea -- notice particularly the difference between the calyx of the A. saximontana and those of A. caerulea in my drawing).

Aquilegia caerulea is an herbaceous perennial plant growing to 20–60 cm tall. The flowers are very variable in color, from pale blue to white, pale yellow and pinkish. Very commonly the flowers are bicolored, with the sepals a different shade to the petals. The five points that stick out further than the petals are all part of the calyx of all the Genus Aquilegia blossoms. Compound, medium green leaves with lobed and deeply-cleft leaflets somewhat suggestive of meadow rue. 

The genus name, Aquilegia, comes from the Latin, aquila, which means "eagle" and refers to the spurred petals that are suggestive of an eagle’s talons. The specific epithet, caerulea, comes from the Latin and means "dark blue". The name "columbine", by which most members of the genus are commonly known, is derived from the Latin "columba," meaning "dove," since the upside-down blooms were thought to look like a circle of doves around a fountain.

*By Ghislain118 (AD) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
**Much of the above text was taken from various Internet sources.



Found this on Facebook and thought immediately of Suki!
(I added my own cat picture).

A big event coming up this week: Suki's appointment with the vet! Since March 8th is her birthday, I decided that would be a good date for such an appointment.  Actually, the last time the vet prescribed Suki's pain medication, she told me that she wanted to see Suki again before prescribing any more of the stuff.  So... I finally made an appointment... mainly since I am just about to run out of Suki's medicine!  I will let you know how it goes.

As for me, I continue to manage to find ways of keeping the pain from becoming too overwhelming. Thus, one day follows another filled with my distraction techniques, medication and Suki.

I will return with another drawing in a fortnight.  Here's hoping the next couple of weeks will be filled with good things for us all. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Almond Tree - Prunus dulcis

"Prunus dulcis -- Almond Tree in Bloom", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Almond Seeds showing both outer hull and
the hard shell covering the almond "nut"
The almond (Prunus dulcis) is a species of tree native to the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and North Africa. "Almond" is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated "nut" of this tree.  I placed the word "nut" in quote marks because the fruit of the almond is not a true nut but is, instead, a seed. This type of seed, which is known as a drupe, consists of an outer hull and a hard shell holding the seed within. (see photo above.)

The almond tree is a deciduous tree, growing 4–10 m (13–33 ft.) in height, with a trunk of up to 30 cm (12 in.) in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long, with a serrated margin. The flowers are white to pale pink, 3–5 cm (1–2 in.) in diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs. 

There are still wild almond trees to be found growing in their native region. The fruit of the wild forms of the almond tree contains glycoside amygdalin, "which becomes transformed into deadly prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) after crushing, chewing, or any other injury to the seed." So, while wild almond species are toxic, domesticated almonds are not. 

Almond trees were domesticated well over 3500 years ago. In fact, domesticated almonds appeared in the Early Bronze Age (3000–2000 BC). A well-known archaeological example of the almond is the fruit found in Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC), probably imported from domesticated trees in the eastern Mediterranean region. 

The word "almond" comes from Old French almande or allemande which came from the Late Latin amandula, which was derived from the Greek word amygdala (ἀμυγδαλή), meaning almonds. As for the botanical name for this tree, Prunis dulcis, the genus name, Prunus, comes from the Latin, Prunun, meaning Plum Tree and is used to refer to all members of the Plum family which includes the almond tree. The species name, dulcis, comes from the Latin and means “sweet” or “tender”. 

The almond is highly revered in some cultures. The tree originated in the Middle East and is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, for example, the almond was a symbol of watchfulness and promise due to its early flowering. 

The most notable mention of the almond is found in Numbers 17 where Levi is chosen from the other tribes of Israel by Aaron's rod, which brought forth almond flowers. According to tradition, the rod of Aaron bore sweet almonds on one side and bitter on the other; if the Israelites followed the Lord, the sweet almonds would be ripe and edible, but if they were to forsake the path of the Lord, the bitter almonds would predominate. 

Almond Blossom Menorah
The almond blossom supplied a model for the menorah which stood in the Holy Temple, "Three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on one branch, with a knob and a flower; and three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on the other...on the candlestick itself were four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with its knobs and flowers" (Exodus 25:33–34; 37:19–20). 

Holy card showing
Jesus and Mary with
almond blossoms.

Similarly, Christian symbolism has used almond blossoms as a symbol of the Virgin Birth of Jesus and many paintings often include almond blossoms encircling the baby Jesus.

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


Suki observing the world from her chair!
(photo by A.P., 2017)
Well, here we are once again -- Suki taking her after-breakfast nap and me trying to finalize another blog posting.

Suki seems as healthy as usual while I have, sadly, been struck down by another flu-type virus which has left me almost voiceless!

Feeling as I do at the moment, this is probably not a good time to make any long-term decisions regarding my blog.  However, I had been giving it much thought prior to getting ill again and so my mind was pretty well made up before I started getting sick on Thursday.

I have decided, at least for the foreseeable future, that I will only post when I have a new drawing which I want to share. I will, as usual, also share with you the results of my research on the item I have chosen to exhibit -- research which is part of my own particular creative process. The posting may or may not include any comments or stories about Suki or myself -- it will simply depend on how I am feeling at the time I get ready to publish the post.  

Meanwhile, I wish you all the very best -- and I will be in touch again before too long.


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Hedychium coronarium Butterfly Ginger

"Hedychium coronarium -- Butterfly Ginger", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Hedychium coronarium, commonly called white ginger lily or white garland flower, is a perennial flowering plant and a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to China, Laos, Myanmar and to the Himalayas region of Nepal and India. Over time, Hedychium coronarium was introduced to other locations such as Brazil and Hawaii. Unfortunately, as is so often the result of mankind's meddling with Nature, in these locations it is now listed as an invasive species. 

The white ginger lily produces pure white, showy flowers which emerge from one large bud sometime in late spring or early summer at the tip of each unbranched stem. Each flower lasts about one day. Several hundred flowers can appear from each bud during a typical 6-week blooming period. Each stem grows to about five feet tall.

These herbaceous perennials spread by underground rhizomes, often forming dense clumps of multiple stems. Large, simple leaves are borne on either side of the thick green stems. The flowers eventually give way to showy seed pods full of bright red seeds. 

The genus name, Hedychium, comes from the Greek words “hedys” meaning sweet and “chion” meaning snow. The species name, coronarium, is from the Latin and means crown, wreath or garland. The white ginger lily has been used in wreaths, garlands and leis for centuries. 

Another way in which these flowers have been used over the centuries is as a fragrance for perfumes, pomades and soaps using a process known as enfleurage. [Enfleurage is a process that uses odorless fats that are solid at room temperature to capture the fragrant compounds exuded by plants.

I was attracted to the idea of drawing this particular plant because of the butterfly shape of the flower petals.  It is interesting how quickly our brains try to find patterns or similarities to familiar objects whenever we see something new.  Of course, as we are all aware, many plants, insects, reptiles and animals have evolved in such a way as to appear to be some other thing or creature at first glance.  It is certainly a good way to hide in plain sight or to appear to be something unpalatable or inedible.  However, this flower just happens to remind us of the shape of butterflies and that is a shape that most of us find both easily recognizable as well as pleasing.

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


Suki settling down in her "after-lunch,
favourite chair"!
Suki had a difficult week.  

For some reason, she ended up getting sick to her stomach early in the week (after gobbling down her lunch) and, as a consequence, she has been allowed only a very small serving of her turkey with gravy a couple of times a day since. Otherwise, she has been on a steady diet of dry food and water!  

Every day, I have had to listen to Suki complain about the situation. I am sure that if I could understand "cat-speak", I would hear Suki saying something like: "Honest, I am feeling fine again so there is no reason not to give me a big dish of the good stuff..."

Thus far, on her restricted diet, she hasn't gotten sick again. Slowly, now, I intend to begin increasing the amount of wet food I give her daily while decreasing the amount of dry food until we are back to her regular feeding schedule.  Whatever happens, I do not want Miss Suki gaining back the weight which she has, with my patient assistance, lost during these past months -- especially because I know that I have to take her for an appointment with the vet before too much longer!

As for me, I continue to try and regain the strength and energy I lost while recently sick with the "flu".  Actually, because of the way I am feeling these days, I am considering ending the regular posting of my blog, salliesART. While I continue to do my art work whenever I feel well enough, I, too often these days, don't feel well enough to even write my name!  So, as you can imagine, the pressure to have a new drawing ready each week is putting me under more stress these days than I need or like.  As well, I often feel forced to push myself to keep working on a drawing even when I don't really have the energy to do so.

I could, perhaps, try posting every two weeks or even once a month and it is possible that I may choose one of these two options. I haven't come to a final decision yet and I would certainly welcome your comments or suggestions about the matter.

It has been almost ten years now since I started this blog and so maybe it is time I closed it down -- or at least took a bit of a break from regular postings.  

So, I may be posting something next Sunday or I may wait until Sunday, the 19th, before posting again.  At this point, it all depends on how I am feeling in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, I wish all of you much happiness and peaceful joy in the days ahead.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Lotus corniculatus -- Bird's-Foot Trefoil

Add caption

Lotus corniculatus is a common flowering plant in the pea family (Fabaceae), native to grassland in temperate Eurasia and North Africa. The common name for this plant is bird's-foot trefoil although this name is often also applied to other members of the genus as well. 

Speaking of common names, Lotus corniculatus has had many common English names over the centuries, most of which are now largely out of use. These names were usually connected with the yellow and orange colour of the flowers, e.g. 'butter and eggs' or ‘bacon and eggs’. I’ve known this plant since I was young and to this day, I still call it by the name I learned as a youngster: “butter and eggs”.

These days, it is also a common plant in so many European and North American pastures. It is often used as forage and is widely used as food for livestock due to its non-bloating properties. In North America, the commercial form of this plant used in pasture seed is known as bird's-foot deer vetch.  In my mind, I actually see it as two plants: one found in commercial mixes for seeding pasture land and another one that is found growing wild.

The genus name, Lotus, is from the Greek and includes, in its many designations, any shrubby plant of the legume family, having red, pink, yellow or white flowers. The species name, corniculatus, comes from the Latin and means “small horns”.

Seed pod arrangement which
gave rise to the name of
Lotus corniculatus is a perennial, herbaceous plant, similar in appearance to some clovers (note the leaves in my drawing above). The flowers, mostly pollinated by bumblebees, develop into small pea-like pods or legumes. The name 'bird's foot' refers to the appearance of the seed pods on their stalk (see photo at right). Five leaflets are present, but with the central three held conspicuously above the others, hence the use of the name 'trefoil' (an ornamental design of three rounded lobes like a clover leaf, used typically in architectural tracery). 

The height of the plant is variable, from 5–20 cm, occasionally more where supported by other plants; the stems can reach up to 50 cm long. It is typically sprawling at the height of the surrounding grassland. It can survive fairly close grazing, trampling, and mowing. It is most often found in sandy soils. It flowers from June to September. 

I became very aware of this plant recently when I watched a series of shows about Shetland* and saw bird's-foot trefoil and Thrift growing right up to the edges of those steep cliffs above the ever-churning sea. Although this land has been grazed by sheep and other ruminants for untold centuries, bird’s-foot trefoil has survived and prospered in spite of constant grazing and the wild, winter storms of the North Atlantic. *[Shetland, also called the Shetland Islands, is a subarctic archipelago that lies northeast of the island of Great Britain and forms part of Scotland, United Kingdom (see map below).]

Map showing Shetland Islands in relation to the rest of Great Britain and Scotland

The more I thought about, the more impressed I became with this little plant – a plant so familiar to me. So, I decided to try drawing it. While the results are not spectacular, I had a wonderful time doing the drawing as my thoughts were filled almost constantly with the stark and beautiful images of the Shetland Islands.

Shetland Island -- Eshaness Cliffs

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


Suki drinking from water dish
This past Friday, a most disturbing event occurred -- an event that left me doubting my own sanity!

It was noontime and I was preparing lunch for myself after having given Suki her medication followed by her usual serving of turkey and gravy.  I wasn't paying too much attention to her as I was busy fixing myself a sandwich. Suddenly I heard the unmistakable sound of a cat lapping water. Doubting the possibility of what my ears were hearing, I quickly turned and saw that Suki was busily drinking from her water dish. Truly, I could not believe what my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing!

I mean, you all know -- those of you who regularly read my stories about Suki -- that Suki never drinks water.  The cat is 8 years old and in all that time I have never once seen her drinking water from a water dish -- or any other receptacle for that matter.  True, I have always kept a water dish available for her simply because it seemed somehow unnatural not to at least make water easily available just in case.  However, in all these years, I have, daily, simply emptied a completely full water dish, washed it and returned it to her feeding station with no expectation that she would be drinking any of it.

This is why I doubted the evidence of my own senses this past Friday. Thus, with my credulity strained to the breaking point, I watched as Suki spent the next few minutes carefully lapping up mouthful after mouthful of water. Once she had had her fill, she sat upright and gave me that look which says, "O.K., now where are my crunchies?"

After eating a few of bites of this dry food, Suki stretched, wandered slowly over to her chair, jumped up, settled down, gave herself a quick bath and then went soundly to sleep.  I stood there watching her carefully, half expecting to wake up suddenly and find that this had all been a dream.  I even wondered, briefly, whether all this was simply a morphine hallucination instead of reality; however, I knew that I had not taken any extra medication by mistake.  

Finally, I decided that the evidence before me was indeed real and had to be accepted as reality.  I did remain somewhat skeptical, however, and I was determined to observe Suki's behaviour very carefully for the remainder of the day.  Of course, she slept for most of the next six hours so there really wasn't much to observe.  

So, when I sat before Suki her evening meal of turkey and gravy, I found a chair and watched her rather than preparing my own supper. Amazingly, she behaved exactly as she had at noontime -- she finished her wet food and then moved over to her water dish where she began to lap up the water. Once again, after drinking a good quantity of H2O, she asked for a bit of her dry food and then headed for the bedroom to have another nap.  She behaved the same way once again when I gave her the usual bedtime snack.

At this point, I had to assume that a miracle had occurred and that Suki, after eight years, had become a "new" cat!  I fell asleep that night thinking about this strange occurrence and found that it was still very much in my thoughts when I awakened the next morning. As a consequence, I made certain that Suki had a clean dish with fresh water as soon as I went into the kitchen on Saturday morning.

But, guess what? Since then, Suki has once again ignored the water dish completely.  It is as though Friday never even happened.  This, of course, has made me doubt my senses all the more.  I realize now that I should have taken a video of this amazing event, but at the time I was too stunned to even think of such a thing.  

I am still trying to figure out just what happened and why, suddenly, after eight years, Suki spent one day behaving like a "normal" cat and then returned to her normal-abnormal behaviour of completely abstaining from water.  What on earth could have caused her to behave in such an unusual way just for one day? I thought it might be the food, but then it was exactly the same food she gets every day -- nothing was different.

If any of you "cat people" out there have any ideas, please pass them along. This is a mystery that I will continue to puzzle over for some time to come, I'm sure.

Other than having unusual experiences with my cat, I have continued to recover from this flu bug.  It has left me with a lack of energy which is making it difficult for me to catch up with all the email I received during the 10 days when I was so very sick.  There are some of you who, I know, are awaiting replies to your emails so I ask you to be patient -- I will answer each and every one of them in time.

As for my usual complaints, they continue unabated.  I actually have an appointment tomorrow afternoon with the director of the pain clinic at the nearby teaching hospital.  He will assess my present treatment program and provide whatever prescriptions I need.  I will let you know next Sunday if we agree to make any serious changes to my treatment regimen. 

I wish you all a week filled with happiness and delightful coincidences! 


Sunday, 22 January 2017

Flu Season!

"Suki with Overheated Thermometer", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Apologies to one and all.  

I was "struck down" by some sort of sneaky, virulent flu-type virus this past Sunday evening.  Yesterday, almost seven days later, I was able to sit up for a while without getting dizzy.  So, I apologize for being unable to share a new weekly column with you, but, hopefully, by next Sunday things will be back to normal.

Stay well and take care.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Gloriosa superba -- Flame Lily

"Gloriosa superba -- Flame Lily", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016

Gloriosa superba is a species of flowering plant in the family Colchicaceae. English language common names include flame lily, tiger claw and fire lily. It is native to much of Africa and Asia, but it is known worldwide, variously, as an ornamental plant, a medicine, a poison and a noxious weed. 

Gloriosa superba is a perennial sprouting from a continuously growing horizontal underground stem that puts out lateral shoots and roots at intervals (or rhizome). It is a climber and it does so by using its tendrils. The leaves are somewhat lance-shaped and light green in colour. The showy flower has six tepals each approximately 6 centimeters long. They are generally bright red to orange at maturity with yellowish bases. The six stamens also are long, up to 4 centimeters, and each bears a large anther at the tip that drops large amounts of yellow pollen. 

Since Gloriosa superba is a popular garden plant, a number of cultivars have been developed. It grows easily in many types of habitat, including everything from tropical jungles to sand dunes. Not only can it can grow in nutrient-poor soils, it has also been found growing up to 2500 metres above sea level. 

This plant is poisonous, toxic enough to cause human and animal fatalities if ingested. It has been used to commit murder, to accomplish suicide and to kill animals. Every part of the plant is poisonous, especially the underground stems. As with other members of the Colchicaceae Family, this plant contains high levels of colchicine, a toxic alkaloid. It also contains the alkaloid gloriocine. Accidental poisonings in humans have occurred when the tubers are mistaken for sweet potatoes or yams. 

On the other hand, this alkaloid-rich plant has long been used as a traditional medicine in many cultures in the treatment of such things as gout, infertility, arthritis, colic, kidney problems, hemorrhoids, impotence, STDs and many types of internal parasites. Since one of the possible side effects of non-lethal poisoning is excessive vaginal bleeding, it is used in some cultures by pregnant woman who seek an abortion. In parts of India, extracts of the rhizome are applied topically during childbirth to reduce labor pain. Among the other uses for this plant is arrow poison used in Nigeria for hunting. Some cultures consider the flame lily to be magical.

Although this plant has been common in the wild, it is in great demand for medicinal use. While it is cultivated on farms in India, most plant material sold into the pharmaceutical trade (it is used in the treatment of some cancers) still comes from wild populations. This is one reason for its decline in parts of its native range. On the other hand, it has been introduced outside its native range and has become a weed which may be invasive. For example, it now is cited as an invasive species in Australia, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Singapore. 

The genus name of Gloriosa is Latin meaning “glorious”. The species name of superba is Latin for “swelling with pride”. Gloriosa superba, with its spectacular red and yellow flowers is definitely gloriously superb.

"Mandala Gloriosa superba", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, revised 2016

Actually, some of you may recall my posting a drawing of Gloriosa superba (2009) as well as a mandala-type design using stylized features of Gloriosa superba (2010) similar to the one above.  

After finishing the featured drawing at the beginning of this posting, I decided to go back and took a look at my previous drawings of Gloriosa superba.  The mandala-type drawing I had done as part of an "inversion-technique" art project was especially intriguing. So I decided to take certain elements from that original drawing and include them in this latest effort you see directly above.  I am not really that pleased with it yet, but I thought I would show you what I have done thus far.

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


Thanks to their mom, I recently received some new photos of "my boys" playing together and looking adorable.  Like any proud honourary "baka", I want to show the photos to everyone I meet -- this includes all of you, of course!  


Playing peacefully

Older brother quietly showing younger brother how this game works


The wrestling match begins

Foul.  Foul.

And the winner is....

Time for a bit of quiet once again.



"Suki Asleep", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Recently I had a discussion with a dear friend about possible reasons why some people dislike cats so very much.  We mentioned the usual reasons: getting scratched by a cat when you were too little to understand what can happen when you pull on a cat's tail; being traumatized when you are very young by having a cat suddenly jump in front of you or on you; or seeing a cat catch and kill a bird at a very young age and not understanding that cats are natural hunters.  

My friend then mentioned a reason some people may dislike cats that I had not previously considered: cats will sit in front of you and stare at you for long periods of time.  Evidently this is something which can possibly be disturbing for some people no matter what their age!  My friend actually knows of someone who had said that they disliked cats for this very reason.

I am not sure I really understand why a cat's staring ability would be so disconcerting to someone, but then I have never been bothered by this feline peculiarity.  Perhaps the person is very self-conscious or insecure for some reason in that particular moment and they feel that the cat is seeing whatever it is that they wish to hide.  Fortunately, I am not bothered such feelings when I am in the presence of a cat since Suki is a staring cat par excellence.  Let me just give you one example.

As I have mentioned on more than one occasion, Suki, who has already claimed all the comfortable chairs in our home as her property, envies me my recliner.  I know this because every single morning Suki tries to use her incredible staring abilities to get me out of my recliner and into some other chair as quickly as possible so that she can curl up on the seat of my recliner and sleep the morning away.

Thankfully, as I have already mentioned, I have never been bothered by a cat's stare.  Even when Suki stares at me almost non-stop from the time I sit down in my recliner each morning with my coffee, my iPad and my Kindle, I barely even notice that her eyes are on me.  I know this is frustrating for Suki as every so often she will utter a plaintive meow which causes me to look up and see that she is still staring at me.  In response to her meow, I tell her to be patient -- I will get up when I am good and ready!

Often I will sit in my recliner for a couple of hours before I finally get up and head for my computer desk chair.  Then poor, exhausted Suki, who has spent most of the past two hours staring at me, quickly moves from the wing-back chair to my recliner, plops herself down contentedly and proceeds to give herself a good bath before finally settling down to sleep until lunch time.  For all the good her staring did her, she might as well have been sleeping for the previous two hours!  

As for me, things continue pretty much as usual.

Mostly, the past week was very quiet although I will admit that I almost overdid things this past Friday without ever leaving the building...

As you may recall, Friday morning is when I go for a nice long visit each week with my dear friend, Sharon, on the 6th floor.  Well, while I was visiting this past Friday, Sharon brought out a large bottle of Sorrel -- a Christmas gift from a Jamaican friend -- and made the mistake of asking me if I would like some.  I love Sorrel and even though it was only 9:45 a.m., we decided we should each have a small glass of this delicious home brew.

"Hibiscus sabdariffa" also known as
the Sorrel plant.
[Just in case you are not familiar with Sorrel, it refers to a delicious drink made by families in various Caribbean nations as part of their Christmas celebration.  It is, of course, primarily made to share with family members, but it is also given as a gift.  It is made from the liquid produced when the "flowers" of Hibiscus sabdariffa are heated in water. This "pot liquor" is then combined with cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, ginger and sugar -- and in the grown-up version, rum is added. It was the grown-up version that Sharon offered to share with me. Yum. Yum. Yum.]

By 11 a.m. I was back home and on the computer (Sharon and I each had only a small glass of Sorrel so, not to worry, I was not Computing While Intoxicated!).  Then my telephone began to ring. First there was a call from a good buddy in Alabama. This was followed by a call from my dear friend, Grazyna. Finally, there was a call from Joycelyn during which we had to go over the grocery list for her next visit.  In between all these phone calls, I had to feed Suki her lunch and give her the daily dose of pain medication plus going down for the mail.

So, by 3 p.m., when things finally settled down again, I was exhausted and in pain. I knew it was time for me to take my own medication and try to get a bit of rest.  It is difficult for me to believe that there was a time in my life when I would put in an 8 hour work day, go home, freshen up, meet friends for dinner somewhere, go from dinner to someone's party, leave, go home, get about five hours sleep and be back in my office at 8:30 the next morning feeling fine!  Is that young me I see in my memories really me and or is it just some movie I once saw?

Anyway, I have since recovered from Friday's activities and expect the coming week to be a quiet one...hopefully.  

I hope it will be a good week for each one of you as well.