Friday, 29 October 2010

The Sacred Lotus


Nelumbo nucifera, known by a number of names including "Indian Lotus", "Sacred Lotus", "Bean of India" or simply "Lotus", is a plant in the Nelumbonaceae family.  This plant is an aquatic perennial.  Under favourable circumstances, its seeds may remain viable for many years.  The oldest recorded lotus germination was from that of seeds 1,300 years old recovered from a dry lake bed in northeastern China.  [see Wikipedia]

This is not a water lily.  It is an entirely different plant.  It is easy to tell the difference if you look at the centre of the flower as the Sacred Lotus has a distinctive circular seed pod while water lilies usually have a pointed cone in the centre.

This plant is native to "greater India" and Bangladesh.  It is commonly cultivated in water gardens.   It is the national flower of India and Vietnam.

The Lotus has the remarkable ability to regulate the temperature of its flowers to within a narrow range just as humans and other warmblooded animals do.  Scientists suspect the flowers may be doing this to attract coldblooded insect pollinators.

Almost every part of the Lotus plant can be and is used in various oriental dishes and even eaten raw although there is a danger of parasite transmission.  The plant parts are also used extensively in Asian herbal medicine.

Most Buddhist, Chinese, Hindu, Japanese and other Asian deities are depicted as seated on a Lotus blossom.  In Buddhist symbolism, the Lotus represents purity of the body, speech and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire.  In the classical written and oral literature of many Asian cultures, the Lotus is present in figurative form, representing elegance, beauty, perfection, purity and grace.  In this same way, it is often used in poems and songs as an allegory for the ideal feminine attributes.  [see Wikipedia]

"One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action as the Lotus is untouched by water."  --  Bhagavad Gita

"I love the Lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained." -- Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi.

Personally, I can say that I love the look of this flower because it really seems to have an inner light coming from that circular seed pod.  Speaking of the Lotus and light, take a look at the following solarization of my original drawing.



I find it really amazing that simply increasing the colour saturation gives you, the viewer, a real sense of light and energy.  It really looks as though there are candles burning at the centre of each flower.

I really would be interested in your comments about the original drawing as well as this second version with its software adjustment.

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Next I want to show you some photographs wherein Nature seems to be making statements all her own.



Legend has it that this "face" of the Devil was formed naturally; however, I would really have to wonder about the truth in that statement.  No matter how this "face" occurred, it presents an amazing likeness to mankind's common understanding of the face of evil.  The Devil (or diablo in Spanish) always expresses all that we think of as wickedness or evil.  Another name for the Devil is Satan.  Do you believe in Satan?




This photograph of trees grown together over a path through the woods is beautiful in the daylight, but just think how sinister and frightening it might seem as daylight fades.  In daylight, I can imagine Hobbits and fairies all over the place, but come darkness, I would have to have a big fire to sit next to -- and believe you me, I would be very close to that fire at all times!




Finally, I want to finish with a photograph of perfect tranquility.  While the previous two photos might be helpful to get you in the mood for Hallowe'en, this one should make you want to sit under one of those trees and watch the life around you.  If you sit still long enough, the life of the forest begins to reveal itself ... the deer come out from hiding, the little field mice return to searching for food, the frogs come out from under the Lotus leaves...

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I hope everyone who reads this is blessed by it and that you will feel refreshed after looking at such interesting and lovely images.

May peace be with you.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Holy Moses!


Here is my latest icon:  Saint Moses.  Actually, the Greek letters above "St. Moses" translate as "Holy Moses"!

Holy or Blessed Moses is well known to Christians, Jews and Muslims.  He was the one who gave us the Ten Commandments which have been a part of cultures and legal systems over many parts of the world for centuries.

As you can see, the icon contains the two major events in the life of St. Moses:  the meeting with God in the "bush that was burning but was not consumed" where God told Moses His name was I AM and the tablet on which God had written the Ten Commandments as Moses met with Him on Mount Sinai.  Moses, more than any other person we meet in Holy Scripture outside of Our Lord, spoke with God "face to face as with another man".



Blessed Moses even put in an appearance in the New Testament during the life of our Lord Jesus Christ as shown in the depiction of the Transfiguration above (Moses is the one with the brown hair!)

In this event, Jesus, in His transfigured state, is speaking with Moses and Elijah.  His disciples, Peter, James and John, have fallen back in fear and amazement.




I also want to show you a recent drawing I did of a succulent plant whose proper name is Dudleya lanceolata of the Family, Crassulaceae.  Its more common name is "lanceleaf liveforever"  It is native to the mountains of southern California and Baja California where it is found in rocky areas and slopes. 

The name Dudleya comes from the name of the Stanford University botany professor who classified it.  William Russel Dudley lived from 1849 to 1911.  The "lanceolata" part of the name comes from the Latin and refers to the lance-like shape of the leaves.

I think it is a lovely plant.  Sadly it is little known outside of it native territory.





Here is my funny software at work again!  I felt this would make a lovely ceramic bowl.

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Here is a delightful photo of a friend of mine singing with the family dog.  That's the nice thing about photographs -- at this point in time rarely do they come with sound!  I can only imagine what this duet would sound like.





Here are two photos from my collection of dog and cat pictures. 

In this first one (above), we see the family pet welcoming the new baby.  I am not too certain that the baby is all that happy about being licked by a big, wet tongue!





Here we see what could be the same dog and child.  Now they have learned to commune much more gently.  No licking, just head to head with eyes closed -- happy to be together.  I really like this photograph.

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Well, I may be in for a very exciting week.  There is a strong possibility that my sister and brother-in-law will arrive Wednesday morning for a visit.  The reason it remains uncertain is that they are flying standby as their daughter works for a major airline and if they travel standby, they travel for free!  So, I won't know for sure until some time Wednesday morning, but I feel very hopeful.  As my friend, Karen, often says: "I feel it in my bones"!  Of course, that just may be my arthritis acting up!  I will let you know what happened in my next posting.

May the peace of God be with you all.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Orange Clockvine


Thunbergia gregorii, also known as Orange Clockvine, is a member of Family, Acanthaceae.   It is native to central Africa (i.e. Kenya) and some parts of Asia.  It got the name "clockvine" because the blossoms on this evergreen vine constantly turn towards the sun.  The flowers are mostly an intense orange colour.  They pop out of large, hairy buds with a showy brownish-maroon striping.  It is a continuous grower and will creep and crawl over everything  in sight!  It will survive temperatures slightly below freezing; however, if it gets too cold, the vine will appear to die.  I say "appear" because while the leaves and flowers will turn brown and wilt, the vine should gradually recover.  This is a hardy plant.


As usual, I could not resist playing with my drawing, using the software I have told you about before. 

The image above was made using a function called "colour balance".  I really like the results.  In fact, I almost like this version better than the drawing I did using a photograph of the actual plant.  I think I like this version so much because the colours of the flowers are so intense and the leaves have that deep purple-black colour. 


As I continued playing with this software, I also tried "solarization" again.  Above is the result.  I like it very much but still prefer the "colour balance" version.  What do you think?
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Next I want to display some photographs from my collection.  These are of animals and their relationship with water.  Water is basic to all our lives but every creature deals with it differently!

First is a photo of a field mouse getting his daily fill of water by drinking the drops of dew off leaves of grass.  He is so small that he can easily satisfy his thirst by drinking dew!


Next is an animal who is quite at home in water.  This fellow seems to be encouraging everyone to wear their life jacket whenever they are out on the water -- just in case they end up in the water instead of on it!



Here we see viewers checking on fish who need water most of all since they must be in water in order to breathe.  On the right we see a young girl who is seriously interested in watching the fish swimming in their aquarium.  On the left, we see a cat who, no doubt, is more interested in figuring out how he can get one of those wiggly things into his mouth than he is in observing how they swim!

Finally, we have a photo of a cat who must not have ever heard that cats do not like water anywhere except in their water dishes!  Also, this cat appears to be quite stoned as she slurps the water while lying on her back and showing off all her private parts!  My diagnosis is too much catnip.  She should be cut off of the weed immediately.  No more catnip for this little kitty.

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I have had a very busy day, but a very enjoyable one.  I had the pleasure of visiting with one friend at noon and another at 4 p.m. -- both of whom I have not seen for some time.  I did have to attend our AGM tonight in the co-op, but it was not too bad as meetings go plus I did get to say hello to neighbours I had not seen for some time. 

May peace fill your heart and may it flow from your heart to all those around you.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Brother Andre


Well, today is the day -- Brother Andre of Montreal was canonized by our Holy Father Benedict XVI at St. Peter's.  May God be praised!

I actually finished this icon a few weeks ago but waited until today to show it to you as I knew that the canonization would take place on Sunday, October 17.  Brother Andre (now St. Andre) is the first Canadian-born, male saint and Canadians, Catholic and otherwise, seem to be very proud.  I know I am!

For those of you who don't know the story, Brother Andre was born Albert Bessette on August 9, 1845 in Mont-Saint-Gregoire, Quebec (about 40 kilometers south-east of Montreal.  He was so frail when he was born that the priest baptized him immediately.  Almost miraculously, Albert survived.

In Wikipedia we read, "His was a working class family; his father, Isaac Bessette, was a carpenter and lumberman and his mother, Clothilde Foisy Bessette, saw to the education of her ten children (two others died in infancy). In 1849, with employment scarce and his family living in poverty, Alfred's father decided to move to Farnham (in Quebec) where he hoped to earn a living as a lumberman. Tragically, he lost his life in an accident, crushed by a falling tree, when Alfred was only nine years old. His mother found herself widowed at the age of forty with ten children in her care. She died of tuberculosis within three years, and Alfred found himself orphaned at the age of twelve."  He was sent to live with his mother's sister, Rosalie Nadeau, and her husband Timothée, who attempted to establish Alfred in various trades, but the boy's fragile health (which would afflict him throughout his life) made sustained manual labor difficult.
"The Pastor of his parish, Fr. André Provençal, noticed the devotion and generosity of the young man. He decided to present Alfred to the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal, writing a note to the superior, "I'm sending you a saint."  Although he was initially rejected by the order because of frail health, Archbishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal intervened on his behalf, and in 1872, Alfred was accepted, and entered the novitiate of the congregation, receiving the religious name of Brother André, by which he was known for the rest of his life. He made his final vows on February 2, 1874, at the age of 28.  André was given the task of porter (doorman) at Notre Dame College in Côte-des-Neiges, Quebec. He fulfilled this function for some forty years while at the same time doing innumerable odd jobs for the community.
"His great confidence in Saint Joseph inspired him to recommend this saint's devotion to all those who were afflicted in various ways. On his many visits to the sick in their homes, he would recommend them in prayer to St. Joseph, and would anoint them lightly with oil from the lamp in the college chapel which always burned before the St. Joseph altar.  Brother Andre's reputation grew, and soon he was known as the miracle worker of Mount-Royal. He had to face the attacks and the criticism of numerous adversaries. He had the strong support, however, of the diocesan church and thousands of cures without apparent medical explanation made him the object of popular acclaim. In 1924 construction of a basilica named Saint Joseph's Oratory began on the side of the mountain near Brother Andre's small chapel. Brother Andre died in 1937 at the age of 91. A million people filed past his coffin."



Here is the same icon which is at the beginning of this posting only now it has been reduced to something called "drawing image".  This option is found in the interesting software I often experiment with.  I like the look of the image reduced to lines and faint colouring.  It now almost looks like a picture in a colouring book!  Maybe I should create a colouring book of saints... I wonder...



Remember the mention made of "St. Joseph's Oratory" in the final section I pasted in from Wikipedia?  Well, here is a photo of the finished basilica.  It has been enlarged since this photo was taken.  Truly, this shrine to St. Joseph, is a fitting tribute to both St. Joseph and St. Brother Andre.
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Now, just because it is a beautiful fall day outside, I want to show you some lovely fall photographs.



I just call this one "Mill Wheel".  I think it is quite beautiful.  I know the work of the miller that went on inside such places was hot and very dusty.  However, the outside of these work places is always cool and lovely looking.


This next one I simply call "Island of Colour".  What a lovely little island in the middle of a big lake somewhere.  It could easily have been photographed here in Ontario as I have seen such places on trips up north.  At any rate, it obviously lets you know that it is fall.



This final one, probably my favourite, I call "An Infinity of Trees".  You know how I feel about trees so if you combine trees with all that beautiful colour, I am hooked!

Well, that is about it for today.  May our new Canadian saint give you his blessing and may the peace of God be with you all.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Purple Grapes


For some reason, I have always liked photographs of grapes.  Consequently, I also enjoy doing drawings of grapes.  There is just something very appealing about their round, richly-coloured skins which thinly cover the juicy sweetness and/or tartness of the insides. 

Of course, what neither the photo nor the drawing can convey is the smell of ripe grapes.  One of my most vivid memories of the late Alabama summer was the smell of the Muscadine grapes as we picked them in the relative coolness of a late afternoon.  Then there was the special taste of a sun-warmed grape which just happened to find its way into my mouth instead of into my bucket! 


Of course, I could not resist playing with my drawing of grapes and what you see above is the result!  It is supposed to be some sort of colour inversion.  I like the result -- it gives me green leaves and even deeper purple grapes.  Now I am unsure which I like better -- the actual drawing or the manipulated one!


Now I want to show you the remaining drawing I had done of pomegranate blossoms.  You may recall the drawing I showed you back on July 5th, 2010 of pomegranate blossoms.  I did the above sketch at the same time but did not have space in that posting to include it.  So here it is now. 




Once again, I could not resist playing with this image as well.  I don't know what it is about this "twisting" software that appeals to me so much -- maybe it is because it makes the colours look like they are dancing!  Dancing colours -- what a lovely concept.

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Finally, I want to show you three photos of bridges.  While my love for photos of trees would have to come first on my lists of favourites, photos of old-fashioned bridges would probably be second.



This one is a real favourite of mine.  I love the look of mossy coolness and all the trees and shrubs around.  The circular hole at the base of the bridge brings out the whimsy in me -- I imagine that you can pass from one reality to another simply by going through the hole in the right way.  Or maybe, it is where the troll lives that collects the tolls from anyone trying to cross the bridge!



Here is a natural rock bridge caused by thousands of years of erosion.  I think that the photo was taken in the Appalachian mountains where you find a number of these natural rock bridges.



Here is a lovely little bridge photographed through the branches of a fallen tree.  To me, the fallen tree is also beautiful.  The large amount of gray and black in a misty setting makes the brightness of the leaves stand out all the more.  I would love to be the kind of artist that could see a scene like this and paint it in such a way that it would become even more powerful and dynamic than it is in a photograph.  Ah, well....

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I, like many other people around the world, have been watching with great thankfulness the amazing rescue of the miners from Chile.  It is almost like having 33 men brought back from the dead.  I can only wonder, of course, what the lives of these men will be like from this point on.  Certainly they have been changed.

May the peace of God be with you all.


Saturday, 9 October 2010

Christmas Already!



You will have to excuse me for posting a new Christmas icon in early October, but I just found myself feeling "Christmasy" last month and looked around for something new to draw regarding that marvelous event.

This is just a very simple icon with only the basic elements present.  In the actual icon, the sheep on your right side is not cut in two.  What happened is that I decided to post the icon in a larger format so that you could see the details more easily.  Of course, you can always make the images as large as you want, but I think it is always nice to see the image properly the first time you look at it.  So, if you want to see the whole picture, click on the image.


This next drawing is Kalanchoe manginii.  This plant is a close relative of the Kalanchoe blossfeldiana featured in my previous posting.  If you want the details about the genus, Kalanchoe, then take a look at my posting of October 5th, 2010.

I think this is a lovely flower and, as always, I love those succulent-type leaves.  This relative of the Jade plant would no doubt require as much dusting as the Jade plant does -- all those fat, little leaves are true dust-collectors -- which is why I would rather see it in a picture than have the actual plant in my home!

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These next three photos are amusing but rather frightening at the same time.  The second one, with the gull's eyes showing red, reminds me of Hitchcock's film, "The Birds"!  I know that most birds will attack if you get too close to their nests during egg-laying and chick-growing times; however, I think these particular ones just got tired of the invasion of people, especially photographers!



I would definitely not want to be attacked by an eagle.  Just look at those claws and that beak.  Yikes!



This is the one that looks like a scene from "The Birds".  I hope those poor climbers made it home OK!



Here we see a hawk attacking a professional nature photographer.  It is obviously wintertime so I wouldn't think that the hawk is protecting a nest -- but then I don't know the exact timestables for hawks and nesting.  Once again, I hope the guy made it home OK!

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I am really sleepy this Saturday morning for some reason.  It could be because this crazy cat of mine knocked my digital converter off the small table it sits on.  She did this at about 3:30 a.m.!  I have no idea how she accomplished this or why.  The object in question is heavier than she is and was sitting securely on the table.  This remains a mystery to me.  Fortunately, the converter was not damaged as it was prevented from hitting the floor by the various cords running between it and the TV.  Still, the shock of this noise roused me quickly from sleep and left me unable to return to sleep for some time!

I think it may be time for a quick nap before I head for the gym this afternoon.

May peace be with you all.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Kalanchoe -- Variations


This drawing and the next three are of a well-known potted plant by the name of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana of the family, Crassulaceae.  The plants in the Genus Kalanchoe are succulents of the same family as the Jade plant.

These plants are native to Madagascar and were introduced to the west in 1932 by Robert Blossfeld.  They produce clusters of small flowers above dark green, waxy leaves.  These four-petalled flowers range from red, white, orange, yellow and pink -- and shades in between.

These first three drawings are slight variations due to the use of different software.  The first one has a grainy look, a "snowy" look about it.  The second one, below, has a look of clarity about it. 



The third one (just below) has a different looking background, a harsher backgroud with more definition to the petals and leaves.



Finally, there is a small drawing of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana as it appears in its flowering form as a potted plant.  Another name for this plant is Christmas Kalanchoe as it is often purchased at Christmastime for its bright blossoms.


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Next, are four photos of cats. 

The first two show that famous cat look that we all know so well.  The look of total concentration of whatever has caught its attention.  If the cat's interest continues to grow, the cat will quietly position itself properly.  Next there will be a slight wiggle of its back end as it readies itself to pounce.  Then... watch out!




The next two kitty photos show just the opposite.

Here we see two cats sleeping in the way that only cats can sleep.  The first one shows a kitty who got tired of playing with his ball of yarn and decided it would make a good pillow.  (Just a warning here:  never allow your cat to play with yarn without being constantly supervised. If they get the yarn too far into their mouths, they are unable to spit it out and will end up swallowing it.  You should never try to pull it out, but should take the cat immediately to the closest vet.)


I really like this next one as it shows a cat sleeping on top of a mouse!  Personally, I would think it would be an uncomfortable pillow, but then, as we all know, cats can sleep anywhere!


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As for me, I am doing reasonably well for an old lady. 

Suki is doing extremely well.  I am still trying to break her of the habit of licking my hair when she wants me to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and feed her.  We have all heard of "cow licks", but now I not only have my usual "cow lick", but also "cat licks".  My hair looks really wierd now when I get up in the morning!

I hope that all of my Canadian readers have happy plans for Thanksgiving weekend this coming weekend.  I am not certain what I will be eating on Thanksgiving Day, but it will definitely not be Tofurkey!  Once was enough.  I will, instead, find some other vegetarian option that tastes good.

May God's peace be with you all.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Our Lady of Consolation

   Virgin [Vatopedi] Comfort-Consolation

I did not know anything about the origins of this icon when I first came across a picture of it.  After some searching, I discovered the following information in an Orthodox book of saints.

"The Vatopedi "Comfort" or "Consolation" Icon of the Mother of God is in the old Vatopedi monastery on Athos, in the church of the Annunciation. It was called "Vatopedi" because near this monastery Arcadius, the young son of Empreor Theodosius the Great, fell off a ship into the sea, and by the miraculous intercession of the Mother of God he was carried to shore safe and unharmed. He was found sleeping by a bush, not far from the monastery. From this event the name "Vatopedi" ("batos paidion," the bush of the child") is derived. The holy Emperor Theodosius the Great, in gratitude for the miraculous deliverance of his son, embellished and generously endowed the Vatopedi monastery.


On the Vatopedi Icon, the Mother of God is depicted with Her face turned towards Her right shoulder. This is because on January 21, 807 She turned Her face towards the igumen (igumen or hegumen is the title for the head of a monastery, similar to abbot) of the monastery, who was standing near the holy icon, about to hand the keys of the monastery to the porter. A voice came from the icon and warned him not to open the monastery gates, because pirates intended to pillage the monastery. Then the Holy Child placed His hand over His Mother's lips, saying, "Do not watch over this sinful flock, Mother, but let them fall under the sword of the pirates." The Holy Virgin took the hand of Her Son and said again, "Do not open the gates today, but go to the walls and drive off the pirates." The igumen took precautionary measures, and the monastery was saved.

In memory of this miraculous event a perpetual lamp burns in front of the wonderworking icon. Every day a Canon of Supplication is chanted in honor of the icon, and on Fridays the Divine Liturgy is celebrated. On Mt. Athos this icon is called "Paramythia," "Consolation" ("Otrada"), or "Comfort" ("Uteshenie")."



This next icon is another representation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  It is one of several icons I worked on in an effort to create one that pleased me enough to be included in my latest book NOVENA ICONS.  This was not the one I finally chose to use; however, if you want to see which one I did use, then you will need to purchase a copy of my book through www.blurb.com/bookstore
Of course, you can also take a look at the preview of the book and you will see the one I chose there!
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Recently a high school friend emailed me some photos she had either scanned from the yearbook or had scanned from actual photographs.  The first one below is scanned from the yearbook which accounts for its poor reproduction.  While the second one was scanned from a photograph.


Here I am with my classmate, Doug, as we pose outside the high school.  We had been voted by our classmates as "most likely to succeed". 

Seeing this caused me to contemplate on the obvious question: "do I feel like my life has been a success?"  My answer would have to be "yes" because of all the wonderful things God has shown me over these past 70 years.  I cannot give you Doug's answer as he passed away a few years ago -- I suspect he, too, would have said that his life was successful.  As many of us get older, our whole idea of what constitutes success changes radically.  It has nothing to do with wealth or possessions, but everything to do with how much wisdom we have gained.  As the same time, we realize that we have only begun to learn, to understand, to comprehend -- this is one reason why eternity makes so much sense to me!



This second photo is surprisingly racy for the time in which it was published -- I mean, all that skin showing and the sexy poses -- I am surprised it passed the inspection of the teachers vetting the yearbook process.  Anyway, I am not going to tell you which one of these lovelies is Sallie Cosby -- I will let you find me yourself!



Finally tonight I want to show you this funny series of photos showing how cats just move in and take over -- getting what they want.  In the first section, the cat spies a spot that looks interesting; in section no. 2, the cat moves in without any resistance; in the third segment, we see the cat has simply positioned himself in such a way that he is comfortable and the poor dog is totally unable to return to her nap.  She will either have to sit in this position while the cat takes a nap or else risk listening to the cat complaining mightly should she try to reposition herself before the cat is ready to move on!

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I continue to struggle with my various physical ailments, but, thankfully, I am able to get to the gym most days and to daily Mass fairly frequently.  As you can see, I continue to do my art work.  God is so good to me.

May peace be with you all.