Thursday, 30 December 2010

St. Thekla

Icon, St. Thekla, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

Here is an icon of a saint about whom most of you probably have never heard -- St. Thekla (sometimes spelled Thecla) and, yet, she was a friend and disciple of St. Paul!  I must admit that I am fascinated by the female saints of the early Church.  They each have such wonderful stories often filled with one miraculous event after another.  So, let me tell you about St. Thekla and all the miracles that are a part of her "history".

St. Thekla was born in the City of Iconium.  At age 18 she was betrothed to a man named Thamyris.  St. Paul had arrived in Iconium and was preaching next door to Thekla.  She sat at her bedroom window to hear his every word.  She sat for three days and nights and became interested in the new Faith.  Theokleia, her mother, and Thamyris complained to the governor about Paul and his preaching.  Paul was imprisoned.  Thekla went to his cell and knelt before him and remained listening to his message of Jesus Christ.  Theokleia and Thamyris learned of this and went to the governor who had Paul expelled from Iconium and admonished Thekla. 

When she said that she had vowed to remain a virgin for the sake of Christ, the governor ruled that she was to be burned at the stake.  When the fire came near her, a thunderstorm came and extinguished the flames.  Thekla was released and ordered to leave Iconium at once.  She rejoined Paul.  They departed from Iconium and travelled to Antioch in Syria.  A man named Alexander saw Thekla and tried to seduce her, but Thekla fought him off thus disgracing him.  The Governor of Antioch ruled that Thekla face the wild beasts in the arena.  In the arena, a lioness was set to attack her, but the lioness sat tamely at her feet instead.  A large lion was released, but the lioness came to Thekla's defense, killing the lion but losing her own life in the process.  Seeing that no harm could be done to Thekla, the authorities released her. 

She left Antioch and journeyed to Myra, rejoining Paul.  She informed him of all that had occurred and asked that she might be permitted to spend the remainder of her life as an ascetic.  Paul gave her his blessing and she departed again to Syria where she went up into the mountains to begin a solitary life of prayer and penance. 

Years later, a young pagan found her praying in an isolated canyon and resolved to spoil her virginity.  He blocked her only exit as she prayed to her bridegroom to protect her as He had previously.  The canyon wall miraculously split, allowing her to escape through a narrow crack in the rock. 

St. Thekla continued her life of asceticism and then peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 90.  A community of women went to live in her mountain cell, building a small chapel to enshrine her body.  The Convent of St. Thekla still exists today near the village of Ma'loula, Syria.  Because of her many sufferings for the Faith, the Church counts her as a Protomartyr (like St. Stephen) and she is also known as "Equal to the Apostles".

(Much of the "historical" information above came from an Orthodox web site although there are a few additions of my own.) 

Anyway, St. Thekla was one of those early followers of Christ who went out into the desert or barren lands in order to pray and do penance, first for their own sense of sinfulness and then for all the people in their world -- most of whom were "pagans".  These men and women who led an eremetic* life are believed by Catholic and Orthodox Christians to have played a major role in the formation of the early Church -- their prayers and penances were offered up daily to join the work of Christ in His redemption of souls. 
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*living as a hermit, a recluse

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Now for a couple of funny photos -- one of dogs and the other of a cat.


I really hope you take the time to zoom this photo so that you can see the expression (or lack thereof) on the faces of these beautiful dogs.  When you see the details of this photograph, you can't help but laugh.  It is really quite funny, especially the dogs who are playing the part of sheep!  I wish they had used a puppy of the same breed for the Baby Jesus, but it still comes across to me as quite funny.  I am sure God has even had a chuckle or two over it!


This photo is living proof that cats will try to sleep anywhere if it suits them.  It must have taken a lot of work and time to get himself positioned just so.  The poor man or woman to whom these pants belong -- I am sure they were mystified at first to discover all the folds of their pants covered with cat hair!  I can only shake my head in amazement over the antics of some cats.


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Finally, I want to present you with the New Year's Baby.  I can only hope that 2011 will not be as boring as the youngster above appears to think it will.  This is such a funny, little guy that I felt it was appropriate to use along with my New Year's greetings to all you folks who read my blog -- regularly or occasionally.  I hope to hear from more of you in the New Year and maybe even gets some ideas and suggestions about how to make my blog better and/or more interesting.
So, as we come to the end of 2010, here are my wishes for you all:
that the peace of the Lord will be with you every day of the year;
and that each and every one will have a healthy and happy New Year, 2011.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Reflections, 2010


The art work above is obviously not something of mine but work from a church in Italy -- possibly the work of Giotto.  It depicts St. Francis and the now-famous night when he set up the first living Christmas creche.  I have always loved the story reported by one of the saint's contemporaries.  It goes as follows:

"In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Grecio to celebrate Christmas. Grecio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar. However, this Midnight Mass would be very special, unlike any other Midnight Mass.

St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) tells the story the best:

It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed.

The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King Jesus; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem."

I love the way that St. Francis gets so overwhelmed with love at the sight of the "living creche" -- almost like being there at the very first Christmas.



Here is an example of a lovely creche apparently sitting in a Christmas tree.  The work is quite artistic and the faces are lovely and detailed.  I would be delighted to have something as beautiful as this to put out at Christmas.

As a matter of fact, thanks to a dear friend, I now have something almost as lovely.  For a Christmas gift she presented me with a beautiful Italian "statue" of the Holy Family on that holy night.  I have posted a photo of it below.


Although my photo does not do it justice, I think you can see well enough that it is a beautiful piece of Christmas art.  You can also see, of course, my poor little nativity set with the empty crib waiting for the Baby Jesus to arrive on Christmas Eve at midnight.  This picture was taken a few days prior to the 24th.  The gold-coloured box in the back with the cutouts of the three wise men was given to me by a dear friend who is now deceased.  I treasure it, of course.
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Now for some cat pictures:


I came across this one while looking at pet photos on the Internet.  Somehow I think this kitty has lost the spirit of Christmas!  I don't think the kitty cat is a very happy cat.  In fact, I think that as soon as he got himself out of those silly clothes, he probably went and ripped mommy's favourite chair to shreds!  That is just my opinion -- maybe this is a new breed of cats that really likes being dressed up in Santa suits!  Who knows...


Here we have a photograph of a cat you know.  Yes, this is the famous Suki.  She was just starting to try to sample the leaves on my birthday roses when I saw her.  The camera was close at hand so I took this photo before I shouted at her to leave my flowers alone.  Doesn't seem quite fair, does it?  Eventually I simply moved the flowers to an inaccessible spot so the whole matter was peacefully resolved.


Later that same day, I was trying to take another picture of Miss Suki but could not find her in any of her regular sleeping places.  Finally, I gave up and begin to prepare to take a shower.  As I was doing so, I heard the faintest of noises coming from behind the shower curtains.  Suspecting I might have finally found the cat, I grabbed my camera and with it at the ready, I pulled back the shower curtains, aimed and clicked.  There she was, caught in the act, sitting on my bath mat on my shower stool!  You can see the look of surprise on her face that I had finally tracked her down.  What a kitty.


After all that excitement, she had to go and have a little "lie down" in her chair.  This used to be my favourite chair, but now I have to sit elsewhere.  If I am fortunate enough to grab the chair when she isn't looking, I then have to try to ignore Suki as she sits at my feet and stares at me piercingly!  You know, it is very difficult to ignore a cat who is staring at you.  Finally, I give in and move elsewhere while she, triumphantly, reclaims her property.  Ah, what a life.
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I have had a lovely Christmas day.  I went to early Mass and then met a good friend for coffee.  I came home and worked on my latest icon for a number of hours while getting the occasional phone call from friends and family.  Then, mid-afternoon, I began to prepare my special Christmas dinner which turned out to be delicious.  It included my yummy homemade cranberry sauce and homemade chocolate-chip cookies with frozen vanilla yogurt for desert.  It may be difficult to overeat when you are just cooking for one, but somehow I managed to do it.  Suki also had a special meal and is still sleeping it off!

Well, tomorrow is Sunday even though today felt like Sunday.  I can tell already that I am going to be very confused this coming week about what day it is.  Anyway, I need to get myself organized for another Wheeltrans ride early in the morning.  And so I say:

"A merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!"

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cultivars


This above drawing is the first of two "cultivars" I want to show you in this posting.  The full name for this plant is Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie'.  Quite a big name for such lovely, small flowers, isn't it?  The family name for this genus is Thymelaeaceae.

This plant is commonly known as Daphne and so this cultivar is referred to in the literature as 'Carol Mackie' Daphnes -- 'Carol Mackie' being the name of the cultivar.  [Just to remind you, cultivars are variations achieved by cross breeding.]  These 'Carol Mackie' Daphnes are the result of a cross between Daphne cneorum (indigenous to Europe) and Daphne caucasica (a Caucasus native).

'Carol Mackie' Daphnes are rounded shrubs, 2 to 3 feet tall when mature.  They bear fragrant, white to light pink flowers in clusters.  The flowers are succeeded by small, red berries.  Perhaps the most outstanding feature is their variegated foliage.  I was first attracted to the idea of drawing this plant by its interesting leaf formation.  Both the berries and the leaves of the 'Carol Mackie' Daphne are poisonous.



This next drawing is also a cultivar.  Its proper name is Campanula medium 'Champion Blue'.  The family name is Campanulaceae.

'Champion Blue' was produced by the cross breeding of two species in the genus, Campanula -- I am uncertain which two as I was unable to find this information.  The genus includes over 500 species and several sub-species distributed across the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, with the highest diversity in the Mediterranean region east to the Caucasus.

The common name for most of these species is "Bellflower" as the flowers are bell shaped.  Campanula is Latin for "little bell".

With both of these cultivars, I had great difficulty finding the kind of detailed information that research should provide.  If any of you out there know anything more about these plants, please contact me.  Thanks.

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Next I want to show you some dogs and cats enduring situations from which it is difficult for them to escape.



Here we have a cat who is enduring being dressed up for Christmas.   I think the cat somehow knows how silly he looks and also knows that he is going to have to sit there and have his picture taken.  I am sure that it was soon after this photo was taken that he ditched the ridiculous attire and went and hid under the bed!



Next we have a photo of a Cocker Spaniel who, like the cat above, appears to be enduring the indignity of being dressed in a ridiculous get-up by the humans in her life.  Dogs are usually a bit more tolerant of this kind of foolishness; however, this particular dog appears to be ready to ditch the finery as soon as the humans' back is turned!


These next two photos show dogs being exceptionally kind in situations where no one would blame them if they acted much more brusquely, giving a warning woof or two!

In the picture above, this big dog appears to be quite tolerant of a young cat who seems to want to use the dog as a substitute mother while the dog appears to be dealing with it all very patiently.


Finally, we have a Springer Spaniel who appears to have been adopted by a baby owl!  This must be a true case of endurance.  I can only assume that the dog's behaviour stems from some inner sense that this creature with a beak is only a baby and so must be treated with patience no matter what. 

How amazing it is that so many creatures throughout the world behave with what we humans would call decency and devotion -- especially to the young of many species -- and, yet, we call them "dumb animals".

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As for me, I seem to have picked up something that includes a hoarse voice and a stuffy nose.  I am hoping that whatever it is, it will soon disappear and will not turn into anything like a cold.  Otherwise, I am doing well.

Suki is asleep at the moment in the chair close by.  When she awakens, she will undoubtedly want to be held for a while so I am trying to finish this before that occurs!  Thus, I will say a quick "goodnight".

May the peace of God be with you during these last few days before Christmas and may your Christmas Day be filled with joy and happiness.  

Friday, 17 December 2010

Narcissus

      Painting by Caravaggio

Narcissus in Greek mythology was a hunter who was renowned for his beauty. He was exceptionally proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. As divine punishment he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool, not realizing it was merely an image, and he wasted away to death, not being able to leave the beauty of his own reflection.

In yet another version, a young lad was so enamoured with himself that he stared at his reflection in a pool of water until he eventually turned into his namesake flower. And this is how Narcissus flowers came into being!


     Narcissus recurvus -- Pheasant's Eye Narcissus

I wanted to show you a new drawing I have done of Poet's or Pheasant's Eye Narcissus.  The one above is a much older drawing which I did back in 2007.  This version has remained one of my favourite flower drawings over the years.  It was my first attempt at drawing something without trying to make everything in it reasonable.  In other words, the flowers are just standing there in space without being in a pot or a vase or the ground.  This was the beginning for me of letting go of the traditional technique I had learned years earlier.

When I posted the above drawing back when I started this blog, I just showed it as one drawing among many others.  I did not take the time back then to talk about my flower drawings the way I do today.  So, now, let me tell you a little bit about this variety of Narcissus.

A spring-flowering bulb, Narcissus is the name of a genus which includes flower bulbs such as Daffodils, Jonquils, Paperwhites, etc.  The word, Narcissus, is derived from the Greek word narke, meaning numbness or stupor.  Some attribute this name to the narcotic fragrance of the flower while others debate that it has this name because of the poisonous nature of the Narcissus bulbs. 

The family name for this group of plants is Amaryllidaceae.  Poet's or Pheasant's Eye Narcissus (hybrid Narcissi Poeticus) is one of the oldest and most popular of garden flowers.  It is widely distributed in France and Germany and extends its range to the Pyrenees.  It grows wild there in the upland meadows and is very abundant in June and July.  Evidently, it can be quite a breathtaking sight to see these fields of white blossoms in the bright sunshine and to smell their heavy fragrance on the wind.  The plant has obviously been cultivated and naturalized and is now found in gardens all over the world.

The flowers are called Pheasant's Eye because of the centre of the bright, red-edged "eye".  Medicinally, the powerful anti-cancer properties of this plant were already know by the time of the Greek philosopher, Hippocrates.  He used Narcissus Oil for treating uterine tumours, a practice which was common later in the Middle Ages.  Remember that this is a plant bulb which is toxic enough to possibly kill a person who eats some of it.  Even if you don't die from such foolishness, you will find that it is a powerful emetic -- and you know what that means!  

On a lighter note(!), the so-called Poet's Daffodil (same plant as Narcissus) is cultivated in Holland and southern France for its essential oil as Narcissus Oil is one of the most popular fragrances used in perfumes.  The oil's fragrance resembles a combination of jasmine and hyacinth and is used in such quality perfumes as Fatale and Samsara.  The actual scent of these flowers is so strong, however, that if a person enters a closed room where a large quantity is located, they can develop severe headache and vomiting!

     Narcissus marvel -- Poet's Narcissus

This second drawing is a recent one.  I think this is a "sub-category" of Poet's or Pheasant's Eye Narcissus known as Narcissus marvel.  Once again I have drawn the flowers without locating them in anything.  You can see that the "eye" of this variety is quite different from the Pheasant's Eye drawing I showed to you just after the information about the Greek myth of Narcissus.

By the way, as most of you are aware, this Greek myth has given rise to the psychological description of a condition called Narcissism.  This is self-love carried to such an extreme that a person puts themselves first always and actually believes that their wants and needs come before anything else -- whether their wants and needs are moral or not.  This leads, of course, to extreme selfishness and an inability to love anyone but yourself.  We hear that this is the problem with a lot of people in the so-called "Me Generation"; although, at the same time there seems to be a lot of healthy "We Generation" stuff happening today with our young people.

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Now I want to show you something that happened this past week just in time for my birthday.  I had previously received a request to use my "icon" of St. Bakhita (which I have shown you) in connection with a prayer being published in the Sudan -- designating St. Bakhita as the patroness of abused children.  I am really very pleased by this as I was an abused child (as you know).  This material was published on the blog of the priest running the mission in the Sudan and I have pasted it in below.  See what you think.
[The link for the Sudan blog is at the bottom of the information and the blog is well worth taking a look at.]
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St. Bakhita, Patroness of Abused Children


Posted: 15 Dec 2010 07:00 PM PST




"O God, who looked on your servant Josephine Bakhita with pity and saved her body and soul from her abusers, grant that through her prayers abused children and vulnerable persons all over the world may be saved, and that those in danger of being abused may be miraculously protected and shielded. Amen."



I recently received an email from Sr. Gladys Chikere, OLA, of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles in Nigeria who works in the area of child abuse and protection. In reading the life of St. Bakhita of Sudan - who was kidnapped, enslaved and tortured as a child - Sr. Gladys felt inspired to promote her as a patroness and intercessor for abused children. She asked that the above prayer be circulated along with the image of St. Bakhita.

I'm grateful to Sallie Thayer of Toronto for permission to use her icon of St. Bakhita (above), and for her link to this blog. The icon and other examples of her work can be found at: http://salliesart.blogspot.com
http://cfrsudan.blogspot.com/

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Now, here are some photos about legs -- no, not human legs but dog and cat ones!  Enjoy these humourous pictures of legs.



Here is a photo of a dog doing something that I would expect from a cat or a monkey!  The legs are so arranged that at first glance it is difficult to tell exactly what is going on.  Even when you figure it out, it is still hard to believe. 


This breed is all legs to begin with, but I had never thought about what they do with those legs when they want to lie down on the sofa for a nap!  I guess he is comfortable even if he looks funny!



Now here we have a cat who must have either been stretching or reaching for something when he fell asleep!  How on earth he has continued to sleep in this position is really beyond me.  However, knowing cats as I do, I am not totally surprised by this photo.  I have seen them fall asleep in some incredibly strange positions.

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Well, I had better get this posting finished and published.  I began working on it last night and here it is the next day at 6:30 p.m. and I am still not finished.  Somehow I have kept getting distracted.  So, I will tell you that Suki and I are both doing fine and are well-prepared for Christmas.  I will write more about what is going on with me when I doing my next posting -- probably the last one before Christmas.
Rejoice, the waiting of Advent is almost over!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Book Show


This is a revision of an icon of the Holy Family I originally drew back in 2008.  I thought you might enjoy seeing this new version.

What I am really posting about is the information I received today from Blurb.
Just in case you are interested, there is a sale going on at http://www.blurb.com/

Blurb will take $10 off your order of $29.95 or more.  That means you could order a complete set of the three paperbacks I have written and save $10.

The code you need to use, depending on the country you are in, are as follows:

USD     CHEER      ($10)
GBP     CHEER1     (6 pounds)
EUR     CHEER2     (8 Euros)
CAD     CHEER3     ($11)
AUD     CHEER4     ($12)

The code to be inserted is in the middle, highlighted column.

This offer is valid through December 31, 2010

I will be posting again on Wednesday or Thursday.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Deadly Nightshade


I don't often do drawings of nuisance plants, but today is an exception.  I have done two drawings of Solanum dulcamara or Bitter Nightshade.  These plants belong to the family, Solanaceae.  The various common names include:   deadly nightshade, blue bindweed, poisonberry, snakeberry and violet bloom.  I grew up calling the plant Deadly Nightshade which I feel is much more exciting sounding than something like blue bindweed!  However, there is another plant that is actually named Deadly Nightshade and is much more toxic so I guess I really should call it something like Bitter Nightshade to distinguish it from the other plant.

Solanum dulcamara is native to Europe and Asia, but some foolish person brought it to North America where it has become an invasive species in the Great Lakes region especially.  However it managed to get here, the first reports of it were given in 1843 -- so you can see that it is well-established.

Bitter Nightshade is actually a vine with flowers.  If it has something to attach itself to, it will climb, but it is usually found growing along the ground.  The fruit consists of berries which, when ripe, are red in colour and are much liked by birds.  This, of course, means that the seeds get widely distributed.

The generic name of Solanum is derived from Solor meaning "I ease" and testifies to the narcotic power of this group of plants.  The second name, dulcamara, used to be correctly written in the Middle Ages as Amaradulcis, signifying the common name of "bittersweet" in reference to the fact that the root and stem, if chewed, taste first bitter and then sweet.  What these people were doing chewing this plant in the first place is beyond me, but mankind will try almost anything if it has some sort of narcotic effect.

Solanum dulcamara is used in naturopathy and herbalism for conditions dealing with skin problems and problems of the mucous membranes as well as the membranes around the joints.  Some consider it a herbal remedy for treating herpes and allergies.  Personally, I don't trust this plant as it can make you very ill and there have been reports that it has even killed children.  The poison it contains is believed to be solanine.  You can see why I prefer the name Deadly Nightshade!



There is nothing really new in this second drawing, I just liked the idea of doing both a horizontal and a vertical version.  Plus, I really liked working with these colours!



Here is a small copy of an icon I posted some months ago now.  This is St. Juan Diego holding his tilma on which is miraculously imprinted the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The celebration of the occurrence of Blessed Mary's intervention in the lives of the Aztec peoples is December 12th.  This year, the 12th falls on a Sunday so the Church does not celebrate it as the 3rd Sunday of Advent takes precedence.  So, I am just remembering it in my own special way by sharing the image with you!  Happy Feast Day to you all.
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Next, I want to show you some cute images of puppy dogs.  There are four is all; however, the last one is not so much cute as it is sweet and a bit sad.



This first one comes with its own title.  I found it on a pps that was listing some things to do in your life and showing cute pictures with each one.  I really like the photo of the puppies so I grabbed it to show to you folks.  Puppies like kittens are so adorable that we get sucked in by their cuteness and take them home with us and the next thing you know, they are running our lives!  Oh, well, it could be worse, I guess.


Here is another one that I thought was really cute.  With their short legs and long ears, beagles always seemed kind of dopey to me; however, this one is smart enough to use a fan in hot weather.  I do like the windblown look it gives her!


Here we have a dog that may be unhappy or maybe he is just impatiently waiting for the fun part -- getting the soap washed off with the hose.  I am not sure since the dog was obviously posed for the photo so maybe it is used to sitting around in wash tubs covered in soap suds!  Anyway, I think it is another cute photo.



Finally, I want to show you the photo that is both sweet and sad. 

In some mid-western town in the U.S., the folks found that a stray dog had curled up and gone to sleep at the feet of the Baby Jesus in the creche they had set up for Christmas.  The people in the town decided to just leave the dog there and let him sleep as long as he wished as it was a cold, snowy night.  One point of interest is that the dog is a shepherd, sleeping at the feet of the Good Shepherd!  I do hope that when the dog awakened there was at least a big bowl of food waiting for him.  Even better would have been a family taking him home with them to keep.

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My poor, old joints have been aching a lot lately -- probably due to all this cold, damp weather we have been having.  No snow so far for Toronto just cold rain and cloudy skies.  Our spirits may be lifting later this week with the promise of cold and sunny weather.  The sun always makes me feel better.

However, neither cold nor damp nor sleet nor snow will keep me from celebrating my 70th birthday on Tuesday!  Nothing will stop me from giving thanks to God for all the years He has given me and for all the joys and sorrows I have experienced.  It is wonderful when you can look back over the years and see all the different events and people who have given a richness to the tapestry of your life -- realizing that without the difficulties and sufferings there would be nothing to combine with the joys and happy moments.  I am grateful for it all and so I find myself at peace.  What could be better? 

Suki also is doing well.  I can't help but wonder what she plans to give me for my birthday!!

May the peace of God be with you all.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Immaculata


First, let me point out the obvious -- I have a new look.  What do you think?

Now, down to business.  I don't normally show new icons two postings in a row, but this is a special situation.  Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary so I just had to do something special regarding Our Lady.  By the way, as I think I have mentioned before, the "Immaculate Conception" does not have anything "directly" to do with the conception of Christ Jesus.  Rather, it refers to Our Lady being conceived in the womb of her mother, Anne, as though she was already baptized -- as though her son had already experienced His saving death and resurrection.  That gets into the theology of it all; however, for me it is just one of my favourite Marian feast days.  So, I am celebrating by showing you a strange set of icons.

Yes, I said "set" for if you look further down the column, you will see the companion piece of Our Lord.  Normally, a matched set of icons are used as wedding or anniversary gifts in the eastern churches.  I am sure you will agree that both icons have a very strange look about them.  I got the idea from some modern icons I saw recently online.  The colours are totally unknown for traditional iconography, but create very interesting images.  Personally, I think the one of Our Lord is much more successful than the one of Our Lady and the Holy Child (looking like an adult). 

Take a look...




I find them quite interesting and am glad I tried the experiment.  Speaking of experiments, I could not resist trying my funny software on the drawing of Our Lord.  The results were too strange and eerie looking for me to post them here -- the function I tried gave Our Lord yellow eyes -- yikes!

So, I would really like to know what you, the followers of my blog (both official and unofficial), think of these unusual icons.  Although the colours are outside of tradition, there still remains the value of the images themselves.  If you have an opinion, please let me know.  Thanks.

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Next I want to show you some cute animal photos from my ever-growing collection.  These pictures show ducks in various situations -- or as a young friend of mine used to call them "quackers".



First, we see two little "quackers" getting acquainted with a kitten.  I doubt if either the kitten or the ducks have any idea that if the kitten was an adult, he might well be trying to feast on at least one of these duckling snacks!



Here we see that indefatigable spirit of the earth's creatures.  Evidently, the lead duckling has not been told that his species is not know for their climbing abilities.  Although, I must say he is doing a remarkable job there.  However, I fear that the photo following this one would have shown the lead duckling flat on his little back.



Finally, I want to show you this photo that was taken 4 or 5 years ago.  This scene occurred on our roof garden during the early summer.  The mother duck had set up her nest there and by the time we discovered it, all the eggs were laid and she was already nesting.  The animal control people said it was best to just leave her there -- which we did -- and then to arrange to have them pick her up once the eggs had been hatched and the ducklings were old enough to travel.  This is what we did and as the days passed and the eggs hatched, it was fascinating to watch how the mother found a way to teach her little ones to swim.  I actually would have voted to let her stay indefinitely, but I was greatly outnumbered!

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Things are going reasonably well at my place.  I continue to have my usual mobility problems, but that is nothing new.  The work on my icon colouring book has slowed down considerably as I finally discovered that in order to get each original drawing to an attractive line drawing suitable for colouring, much more work is involved than I had originally thought. 

Suki continues to be a distraction par excellence.  I will often begin a task which should only take me a few minutes, but when Suki gets involved it takes a much longer time.  For example, using the Swiffer on the floor of the whole apartment should only take about 15 minutes.  But at the first sound of my using the mop, here comes Suki!  I am then supposed to chase her with the Swiffer mop or push it under the edge of the living room rug so that she can attack it!  I can't resist playing with her so the entire job will often take twice as long as it should have!  What a delightful character she is -- most of the time! 

Speaking of Suki, here she comes begging me to hold her for a few moments so this posting must come to an end.

Happy Feast Day!  May the peace of God be with you all.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Prophet and Forerunner


I started thinking about drawing another image of St. John the Baptist several months ago.  I was already thinking about Advent and the coming of Christmas and how St. John the Baptist is such an integral part of God's plan for the birth of the Messiah. 

You may recall the icon I drew of the Baptism of Jesus with St. John the Baptist -- the one I used for the first Luminous Mystery of the Rosary.  Well, this time I decided to do a drawing of St. John's head.  I have seen many older icons of St. John the Baptist which seem stark and yet appealing.  That was what I attempted to accomplish here.  You will have to be the judge!

The Pharisees 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, but 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."



Now I want to show you a recent drawing of Calochortus uniflorus of the family of Liliaceae.  There are a number of species under the genus Calochortus and some argue that it should have its own family which would be named Calochortaceae.  However, this has not happened thus far and so the genus with all its species remains under the "Lily Family" -- Liliaceae

This lovely flower is more commonly known as Star Tulip, Pink Star Tulip or Mariposa Lily.  It is native to California and Oregon.  Interestingly, the name Calochortus is composed of two Greek words:  "kalo" which means beautiful and "chortos" which means grass.  The species name uniflorus means, obviously, "single-flowered".



As usual, I could not resist playing with the image on my special software!  This view occurs when I choose the option called "colour inversion".  I actually like it almost as much as the original.  What do you think?

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Let me show you, now, a couple of interesting animal photos.  They appear to have been taken in a petting zoo.  I really don't like the whole idea of zoos; however, I see the need for them in this modern world when almost every creature seems in danger of extinction! 



Here we see a rabbit either kissing a fawn or maybe whispering in the fawn's ear.  I do not know exactly what is going on other than the two animals seem to be very comfortable with each other and that the bunny seems very fond of the fawn!



Here are the same two animals in what I would say is an even friendlier pose.  I still can't help but feel that the rabbit is whispering information into the fawn's ear.  Perhaps, since the fawn seems to be separated from its mother, the bunny, being older and wiser, is trying to teach the fawn about how life works in a petting zoo.



Interestingly, I drew a picture three years ago of a rabbit and a deer for my Christmas card.  As I recall, I got the idea from some photos that were circulating at the time showing a friendship between a deer and a rabbit -- both of whom appeared to be living freely rather than being caged.

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I think I told you that I am working on a new book -- a colouring book!  Actually this is a colouring book for older children as well as adults.  I have taken a number of fairly simple icons and removed the colour so that only the impression of the drawing is left.  Then on the page opposite, I have a small image of the actual icon so that the person who wishes to colour the icon can see what the colours and designs actually look like.  As well, the page contains information about the history of the saint.  There will also be a section in the beginning of the book on the meaning of certain items that appear in icons as well as a colour chart which will explain what each of the colours mean when used in an icon.  I hope to get it finished in the next few weeks as I can then take advantage of a free printing offer from Blurb.  We'll see.

Suki continues to do ridiculously funny things that keep me laughing.  For example, I was given a lovely new pillow on Friday (an early birthday gift).  This pillow is the softest thing I think I have ever felt with a furry texture to the cover.  Well, when I came home after meeting my friend, I put the pillow on my recliner and went in the kitchen to fix me a bit of lunch.  I suddenly noticed that Suki was no where to be seen and things were suspiciously quiet.  I quickly went into the bedroom and there she was... earnestly grooming my new pillow!  I can only hope she did not remove too much of the furry fabric with her rough tongue.  Now I have to remember to put the pillow in places she can't reach and then remember to take it out when I want to have a nap as it is quite a heavenly softness on which to rest your head.

May the peace of God be with you all.