Monday, 28 March 2011

St. Teresa of Avila

This is a drawing I did of St. Teresa of Avila some time ago.  As my model, I was using the painting of St. Teresa that had been done of her in 1576 at the age of 61.  Even though the drawing is poorly done by a self-taught "artist", I tried to copy it as exactly as possible as I wanted to present the image more or less just as St. Teresa would have seen it.  I then debated for some months about whether to actually share it with you as I did manage to capture quite closely the look of the painting -- including all the bits that are poorly done!  I do have a gift for copying; not for original art work -- as you know.  Anyway, I finally decided that I would share it with you anyway as it gives me a chance to speak about St. Teresa -- a saint I am very fond of!

The story behind the painting goes this way.  Fr.  Jerome Gracian, her lifelong spiritual director to whom she had vowed obedience in everything, caused the painting to be made.  He felt that Teresa was often prideful and stubborn and so there was a need, as he saw it, to humble her.  Thus he commanded a Carmelite lay brother, Brother Juan de la Miseria, who was but a poor artist, to do the work.  After hours of excruciatingly painful posing for Brother Juan, Teresa was finally allowed to look at the result.  We are told that the Saint, upon seeing the finished result, laughed and told him, "God forgive you, Brother Juan; after making me go through no one knows what, you have turned me out ugly and bleary-eyed." 

By the way, the saying above her head was a statement St. Teresa often made to her sisters as she had come to find such joy in suffering with Christ in His Passion that she actually welcomed suffering as a gift from God.  Let those who can, hear what the Spirit is saying.

As many people reading my blog will know, St. Teresa of Avila, along with St. Catherine of Sienna, were the first two female saints to be declared "Doctors of the Church" by Pope Paul VI, meaning their writings and teachings are considered valid resources for the understanding of theology and Scripture.  St. Teresa has also been declared a "Doctor of Prayer."

St. Teresa not only had great insight into the spiritual life, she also had incredible energy in spite of almost constant illness during adulthood.  In spite of this, she led the reform of the Carmelite nuns, re-establishing the more austere traditions and customs of the founders of the Order.  During her lifetime she established 17 new convents and many men's cloisters as well as writing a number of books on prayer and the spiritual life which have long been considered classics within and without the Church.  She accomplished all this in a period of 20 years during the time of the Spanish Inquisition and often in the face of great hostility from her fellow religious and local priests and bishops.  Finally, she gained the support of King Phillip II of Spain and Pope Gregory XIII enabling her to continue her work until her death in 1582.

At the moment of death, it is reported that she said:  "My Lord, it is time to move on.  Well, then, may Your will be done.  O My Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come.  It is time for us to meet face to face."

Below is a well-known prayer by St. Teresa of Avila known as "St. Teresa's Bookmark".  It is actually a combination of St. Teresa's thoughts combined with bits from a song which was popular in Spain at the time she lived.


Next I want to show you 5 photos I received recently.  The email had a subject line of "Identity Theft" and so I supposed it to be about the serious business of having your identity stolen and how to try to prevent it from happening.

To my surprise and delight, I found the following photos instead of a serious treatise on the subject.  Many of you may have seen these already as they were being passed around the Internet; however, if you haven't here are a few I saved to share with you.  They need little comment as the photos are quite self-explanatory!  I, of course, could not help but ask "why" and give fanciful answers.

I have no idea as to what advantage there would be for a goose to pose as a penguin!  Maybe the farmer's wife had been searching for the goose with a large meat cleaver in her hand and the goose decided to hide out with the penguins until after another goose had been chosen for Christmas dinner!  By why penguins?  She would have had to go a long way to find any penguins!

I am not sure why a cat would want to steal the identity of a rabbit -- maybe the cat is thinking of having rabbit stew for supper!  It certainly wouldn't be because the cat has developed a taste for lettuce and carrots!

Is that a pelican on stilts?  Silly thing -- he isn't even pink!  And what do flamingos have that any self-respecting pelican would even want?

Now, I can understand why a cat might want to join up with the raccoons as they are excellent "fishermen" and can easily open clam shells, dig for and then break open crabs shells.  Most cats would think these skills to be admirable and the fact that the cat looks like a raccoon means the other raccoons would be willing to share!

What a ridiculous excuse for an elephant.  I guess the advantage would be that the adult females might be extra kind to this little "elephant" baby. As he appears to be so disabled, they would probably bring him all the leaves and grasses his little tummy might desire!  They are vegetarians, aren't they?

Now this is the most obvious one of all.  Why wouldn't a wolf want to be allowed to pasture with the sheep?!  This way he could take all the time in the world to encourage a little lamb away from its mother and into the ravine where he could then pounce.  Of course, looking at this silly wolf makes me wonder how successful he will be -- even with sheep!  If the sheep think he is a sheep then they will treat him as one of them which means head butting him severely if he tries to be obnoxious!


Well, that is enough silliness for one evening.

Suki is doing well although at the moment she is rather upset with me as she is convinced that it is time for her 'just before bed' feeding.  It is actually past that time, but so far I have been able to get her to believe that it is not quite time yet, but I don't think she is going to accept that for much longer.  This means that I will have to finish up with this post soon or else she is likely to come and try to sit on my keyboard.  Believe me, she has done this in the past!  It really messes up whatever I am writing plus she gets cat hairs all over the keys and the monitor screen!

So, I had better finish up here. 

I am doing reasonably well.  I am staying very busy these days with couples doing their marriage preparation course.  I am working with two couples at the moment and have another couple waiting until after Easter to start their program.  So, it is a busy time, but I truly do enjoy it.  In spite of all the aches and pains, life is good and I am grateful.

May the peace of God be with us all.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Tulipa stapfii

Tulipa stapfii [drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer]

"In the 17th century the tulip flower lead a popular craze, an epidemic devotion, escalating to a kind of "tulipomania", that started in Holland and swept most of Europe. One bulb of a certain variety of tulip would sell, in the 1630s, for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today the global tulip market has grew to match the national economy of an average size country.

As this plant is not found in Holland in the wild, could it be that the Dutch tulip tradition has some long-lost connection to the wild tulips of Jordan?

Historians in Europe trace this magical bulb to the Ottoman Empire, with great accounts and stories illustrating the importance of tulip in the Ottoman high civilization. When looking beyond Turkey, western historians sketch only a hazy image. Behind the Ottoman Empire; references usually locate the origin of the flower to remote places between Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. But why look for the origin of tulip that far, it would have been closer for the Ottomans to bring the first bulbs from Mount Lebanon, Palestine or Jordan." [from Flowers of Jordan]

Tulipa stylosa growing in the wild near Amman, Jordan

"One of the Middle-Eastern native tulips is Tulipa stylosa (see picture above). Tulipa stapfii is a beautiful dwarf tulip closely related to Tulipa stylosa. T. stylosa was described by Otto Stapf (notice the name which gives us "stapfii" meaning a person with the name of Stapf first described this plant for the literature) from Iranian material in 1885 and it is believed that Tulipa stapfii is an extreme form of this variable species differing in having more and also wider leaves, crowded near the base."

Which brings us to my drawing (at the top of this posting) of Tulipa stapfii.  When I first came across a photograph of T. stapfii, I was captivated by the beautiful colours -- you know how I am about colours -- and knew immediately that I had to do a drawing of this flower.  I am very satisfied with the resulting flowers; however, I am still not too happy with the circular design I ended up putting at the base of the plant.  I may well end up changing that.

As you can see below, I, as usual, had to play with the colours of the image just a bit.  The image below is the result of using the software option called "hue correction".  I thought the colours were kind of interesting although I prefer the natural ones!

Tulipa stapfii using software for "hue correction"

Now for some photos of animals doing rather interesting things.

Juvenile Starlings trying to take a nut away from some sort of ground squirrel or gopher
 I am really not sure what type of little mammal this is -- if you know, please send me a comment -- but to me it actually looks more like those prairie gophers you see out west.  Anyway, the battle these creatures are involved in is very certain and understandable.  One has the food and the others want it!

Giraffe and Ostrich sitting in peaceful companionship

Giraffe giving his friend a bath or a "kiss"

The two photos above show what can happen when animals are in captivity, sharing the same space.  In the wild, neither the giraffe or the ostrich would give each other the time of day -- so to speak.  They would be too busy with their own kind, finding their own food, to spend time socializing with one another.  However, in captivity everything changes.  They have become friends and share their safe, peaceful, dull lives with one another.  At least they have each other to share the long days with.

A Human and an Owl -- both acting strangely
I have no idea what is really happening here.  Why this young man is holding an owl in his arms like a baby while both are staring into a camera, I do not know.  Perhaps the owl is injured and the young man has wrapped the owl in his jacket to keep it from fluttering about and causing itself more harm.  Other than this, I have no suggestions.  What do you think is going on?

Finally I want to show you a photo I came across recently that causes me to chuckle every time I look at it.  This looks like one tough cat.  Notice the size of the bell he is wearing!  He is probably still able to catch birds -- bad kitty.  Chewing on that piece of grass with one eye shut makes him look even tougher.  I bet the other cats steer clear of him when he is on the prowl!

Mr. Tough Guy

Suki is doing well!  She seems to get smarter every day about how to get me to wake up early and actually feed her in spite of all my grumbling and complaining about what a bad cat she is.  She just happily ignores all my comments and patiently waits for the sound of the food can being opened.  She knows I will do this because she has taught me that the only way I am going to get to go back to bed and sleep peacefully until the alarm rings is by giving her what she wants:  food.

Therefore, I am a little less sleep deprived than when I last posted to the blog.  In fact, I am doing reasonably well other than having to deal with my sadness over the major snow storm we had today -- just when we were hoping for an early spring!  Oh, well, this is Canada and it is only the end of March.  All in good time... 

May the peace of God be with us all.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Kiss

Why did it have to be a friend
Who chose to betray the Lord
Why did he use a kiss to show them
That's not what a kiss is for
Only a friend can betray a friend
A stranger has nothing to gain
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain

Lyrics by Michael Card
Song:  Why?

This song by Michael Card has always moved me deeply.  For some time now I have been contemplating how to express these words in an icon.  Then, several months ago, I came across an icon which showed Judas kissing Our Lord.  The moment I saw it, I knew that I, too, could draw something similar if I really worked at it.

The problem I foresaw was that the icon was really all about two faces meeting in some sort of kiss and that the whole power of the icon would rest on the expressions I could achieve on those two faces.  Normally, in icons, there are a number of small details which keep the entire focus from being on the way two faces (for example, the Blessed Mother and the Christ Child) are interacting.

Sadly, by the time I finished the above icon, I was totally convinced that I had completely failed to accomplish any of the goals I had established in beginning of the work.  Quite honestly, I was ready to put this icon in my garbage file.  However, I decided to first send it to someone whose opinion I respect and see what he had to say.  Well, the response I got went like this:  "My immediate impression on seeing your icon of Judas’ betrayal kiss was 'powerful'! And the more I look at it, the more I would go with that impression. The lips of Jesus contrast remarkably with those of Judas: the latter, greedy, malicious and “utterly false”; those of Jesus, downturned in sadness, approaching remorse. As well, the eyes of Judas, gazing into the face of Jesus, as if to ask the question: “Do you know what I am really doing?” They eyes of Jesus, by contrast, are penetrating – not so much in sadness, as in response to the implicit question of Judas: “Yes, I do know what you are doing – I predicted it at the Passover meal just a short while ago.” And of course, the money-bag around the wrist of Judas clinches the deal." [written by my friend, Eugene]

I was amazed.  My friend had described exactly what I had hoped to accomplish in this icon!  I, on the other hand, could see none of this -- I still can't -- but I trust his opinion.  This opinion gives me the courage to post the icon, hoping that you, too, will see what my friend has seen.  That you, too, might find it to be "powerful".


Now from the sublime to the fanciful:  playful Polar Bear cubs!

Mama tries to get a bit of rest from her playful cubs!

These beautiful Polar Bear cubs appear to be using their mother as a big toy while she is trying to get a restful snooze in the spring sunshine.  Poor Mama!

Mama sleepily tries to get away from her playful cubs

In this photo, it looks like Mama Polar Bear is actually trying to flee from these overly energetic youngsters.  Mama appears to have just awakened as she is rubbing her eyes as she runs!  Poor Mama!

Mama realizes that running from her playful cubs is futile
 Now Mama Polar Bear has stopped running.  It appears that she is perhaps preparing to allow the cubs to nurse which may be what they have been wanting all along.  Personally, I wouldn't imagine that those sharp little teeth they have developed by this age would be particularly comfortable!  Poor, poor Mama!

As for Suki and myself, we are both doing reasonably well.  Suki has not done anything outrageous since my last posting -- thanks be to God!  I have managed not to do anything outrageous as well! 

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph and I had hoped to get to noon Mass, but I had a visitor who arrived mid-morning and by the time she left, it would have been too difficult for me to get ready and drive myself up to the Cathedral in my wheelchair.  So, instead, I got a nice flower blossom and put it at the foot of the statue I have of St. Joseph and the child, Jesus. 

I have been working on another drawing of a Japanese flower.  This helps me to stay aware of the Japanese people and their needs, the nuclear situation and the souls of all those who died during the tsunami.  Let us all continue to keep Japan in our prayers.
May the peace of God be with us all.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Lilium rubellum

Lilium rubellum or Pink Asian Lily
Lilium is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants growing from bulbs. Most species are native to the temperate northern hemisphere. They comprise a genus of about 110 species in the lily family (Liliaceae).  They are important as large showy flowering garden plants. Additionally, they are important culturally and in literature in much of the world. Some species are sometimes grown or harvested for the edible bulbs.  The species in this genus are the true lilies. Many other plants exist with "lily" in the common English name, some of which are quite unrelated to the true lilies.

Lilium rubellum (Pink Asian Lily) is, indeed, a true lily of the family, Liliaceae.  It is native to the Island of Honshu in Japan. It grows at 9,000 feet, attains height of 18 inches but may reach 30 inches in cultivation.  Its name in Japanese is Himesa-yuri or Otome-yuri and means "Maiden lily".  It is native to high mountain meadows on N Honshu, the main island. Though it is most plentiful where winter snow is long and deep, it tolerates other temperate climates. The blossoms are described as “deliciously fragrant trumpets, wild-rose pink and slightly re-curved."

I had actually not planned to show this drawing in today's posting, but as I thought about it, I realized that this is a Japanese lily, native to Japan.  Of course, like most people, Japan, and the Japanese people are very much on my mind and in my prayers these days.  So, this seemed, after reflection, to be the perfect time to share my drawing of this lovely, gentle lily with  you.  I pray that it may make us all even more aware of our need to find ways to help the country of Japan to recover from this terrible natural disaster.  The places where this lily grows are far from the tragic effects of the tsunami, but I am sure that the upland heights where these lilies grow, like all of Japan, have felt the aftershocks of this powerful earthquake.

Lilium rubellum using hue correction software
As usual, I had to experiment with the different ways of using my special software to change the appearance of the drawing.  I like the result I got with using the "hue correction" feature.  Personally, I am not really sure why any hue needing correcting; however, I will let the people who made the software answer as to why they named each component as they did!

Next comes my photo exhibit for today!

As you may have guessed by now, I really enjoy selecting photos and using them to tell a story -- usually a silly story, but one that amuses me.  I do hope that the following episode causes you to smile at least a little!  So, now let us turn to the story of Max the Tour Guide.

Max, our tour guide, giving his opening speech
We are introduced to Max, our tour guide at the front door of his home.  After negotiating a fee of 12 Temptations cat treats, Max agrees to take our group on a tour of his garden.  Before leading us outside, Max gives us a quick overview of what we will be seeing.

Max leads our group through the garden while giving us a fascinating commentary
As we follow Max along a well-worn path to the garden, he gives us a fascinating commentary on the various things we can see to our right and to our left.  At least, we assume that is what he was doing since Max only speaks Cat-o-nese and we only speak English!

At our request, Max pauses the tour to pose for a photo
As we reach the patio, Max jumps up on a table with great agility.  Seeing him sitting there in the sunshine and looking so handsome, we all ask if he will allow us to take his photograph.  He agrees but drives a difficult bargain for an additional 5 Temptations cat treats.

As Max describes the beautiful sculptures, he suddenly feels the need to rest while he talks
The highlight of the tour, it seems, are these lovely cat sculptures which Max begin to describe in glowing terms.  However, about halfway through his presentation, he appeared to feel the need to rest as he finished his talk.  This was fine with us as his talk was making us feel the need to rest as well!  We all found a spot to sit quickly as Max resumed his discourse.

As we reach the artistically placed wheelbarrow, Max feels the need of a tummy rub
Once the description of the sculptures was completed, Max slowly led us toward an artistically-placed wheelbarrow.  Evidently it was placed this way, according to Max, so that he could crawl under it when the sun was too hot.  To us it appeared to be the result of someone throwing down the wheelbarrow after finishing a hard day of gardening; however, we did not want to disagree with our tour guide -- the price for this tour was already high enough!

Suddenly, Max threw himself down on the ground, making it quite clear that the price for this tour had just gone up a notch.  He seemed to indicate that unless someone volunteered to give him a quick tummy rub, he would simply leave us out here in the garden to find our own way back.  Fortunately, one of the younger members of our group was willing to oblige.

As the tour ends, Max mumbles something about "too much work" and collapses
With great relief, we all made it back to the house.  Max, who seemed quite lethargic after the tummy rub, mumbled something about "too much work" and promptly collapsed on the floor. 

At this point, we thought that perhaps we were going to get to have our tour without having to pay for it.  Alas, as we tried to open the door, we found it locked and for the first time we saw a big sign which read:  "Place the exact amount of Temptations treats agreed upon into the container below.  If the amount is correct, the door will unlock -- if the amount is not correct, well, you can guess the rest"

We did as we were instructed and as the last of the agreed upon 17 treats hit the bottom of the container, we heard a loud click and the door swung open to release us into freedom.  Hurriedly we left before Max had a change of heart.  I was the last one out and as I quickly glanced back, I saw a sleepy-eyed Max, his head raised and smiling!  I swear, I know it is difficult to believe, but that cat was actually smiling.

The End

Now you are in for a special treat -- another Suki story.  If you have had enough about crazy cats, then you may want to skip this part and go directly to the end!

Well, let me tell you what Suki did....
On the weekend, I was sleeping soundly when around 3:30 a.m. I was suddenly awakened by the banging of a hammer.  It took me a moment or two to put things together as it was still the middle of the night and I had just been awakened from a deep sleep; however, as I listened, I was convinced that someone -- probably that crazy guy in the apartment above me -- was hammering.  I looked at the clock a second time just to make sure that I had read it correctly -- sometimes I do get a bit confused you know.  But there it was as clear as could be: 3:30 a.m.  Meanwhile the hammering continued at irregular intervals.  As I listened, thinking to myself that other people must be disturbed by this loud banging, I began to notice that the hammering seemed to be actually coming from nearby -- not overhead.  As I puzzled over how this could be, I suddenly realized in horror what must be happening.  Leaping out of bed as quickly as a somewhat crippled old lady can leap, I shouted "Suki, what are you doing"?  The moment I shouted, the hammering stopped.  Hurrying into the bathroom, I was greeted by the incriminating evidence of what had been happening.  I could see Suki's paws just behind the shower curtain and the cane I use to help me in and out of the shower still swaying as it hung from the towel rack.  [I leave the cane on the towel rack next to the shower curtain as it makes it easy for me to reach it at bath time.]  Evidently, Suki had created a new game wherein she would hide behind the shower curtain and attack the cane, causing it to bang wildly again the bathroom wall.  I was truly mortified and listened carefully to see if I could hear the sound of a lynch mob gathering outside my front door.  Fortunately, there was just the blessed sound of silence until Suki had the audacity to start meowing to be fed.  What a cat!  Now I keep my cane hidden elsewhere until I am ready to use it for my shower -- after which I put it away again... much to Suki's disgust.

As for me, other than being somewhat sleep deprived, I am doing fine!

May the peace of God be with us all.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Our Lady of Kibeho

My Drawing of Our Lady of Kibeho, Rwanda

After hearing the well-known survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, Immaculee Ilibagiza, mention Our Lady of Kibeho on several occasions, I was determined to find out more.  There was some information on the Internet, but I was finally able to purchase a copy of Ilibagiza's own book, entitled simply "Our Lady of Kibeho".  If you want to find out more about these amazing appearances of Our Lady in recent times, I would definitely recommend that you read this book.

Now let me give you a quick overview of what happened in a little place in Rwanda called Kibeho starting back in the early 1980's (much of the following is taken from Wikipedia with some editing.

"Our Lady of Kibeho is a title of Marian apparitions which appeared to several young people, in the 1980s in Kibeho, in south-western Rwanda. The apparitions communicated various messages to the schoolchildren, including an apocalyptic vision of Rwanda descending into violence and hatred, foretelling the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.  In 2001, the Catholic Church officially recognized the visions of three schoolchildren as authentic.

On August 19, 1982, an exceptionally long vision lasting eight hours was the most dramatic. The teenagers, six girls and one boy, who saw the visions reported gruesome sights such as rivers of blood and people killing each other. The visions were accompanied by intense reactions: crying, tremors, and comas. The teenagers stated that the Virgin Mary asked everyone to pray to prevent a terrible war.

The apparitions began in November 1981, in Kibeho College, but only the visions of the first three (Alphonsine, Nathalie, and Marie Claire aged 17, 20 and 21) received local Bishop Augustin Misago's solemn approval. The Virgin Mary appeared to the girls with the name 'Nyina wa Jambo' (Mother of the Word) synonymous with 'Umubyeyi W'Imana' (Mother of God).

The longest series of visions were attributed to Alphonsine Mumureke who received the first vision on November 28, 1981 and the last on November 28, 1989. Nathalie Mukamazimpaka's visions began in January 1982 and ended on Dec. 3, 1983. Marie Claire Mukangango had visions for six months, lasting from March 2, 1982 until September 15, 1982. She was later killed in the massacre at the same location in 1995.

Many today regard the visions as an ominous foreshadowing of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, and particularly in that specific location in 1995, where some of those who had seen the vision died.  The school where the visions occurred became a place of slaughter during the genocide as dozens of children were hacked to death by Hutu militia fighters. Some of the visionaries among the victims.

The Marian sanctuary at Kibeho was named "Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows" in 1992, an anticipatory name in the light of the genocide that followed two years later in 1994. The first stone was laid on 28 November 1992."

Below there is a poorly photographed copy of a poster illustrating the appearances at Kibeho where a shrine church now exists.  Kibeho is now a place of pilgrimage -- not only for Africans, but for Catholics and others --both Christians and non-Christians -- from all over the world.  There is now a large retreat centre in Kibeho as well.

Mother of the Word (Our Lady of Kibeho, Rwanda)

You can see in the above poster the typical image of Our Lady of Kibeho.  This image was drawn by an African artist after hearing the young visionaries describe how Our Lady appeared.  As with all such appearances, the girls said that the drawing did not even begin to capture the loveliness of the lady in their visions.  My drawing, on the other hand, is the result of looking at the approved image and combining it with my own idea of how Our Lady looked after reading the descriptions that the young woman have given.  My image, therefore, is truly my own inspiration. 

As well, I added a few elements that are in keeping with a traditional icon even though there was no mention of such things in the visionaries' descriptions.  An example of what I am talking about would be the three stars -- one on Our Lady's head and one on each shoulder.  These traditionally are used in icons to indicate the perpetual virginity of Our Lady.

One of the Messages given to the young visionaries, Rwanda
Above is a photo of a plaque showing one of the many statements made by Our Lady of Kibeho to the young women.  I find this statement particularly appealing. 

Now, transitioning from the sublime to the simply delightful, here are my "cutesy" photos for this posting!  Today's offerings are all about proper introductions!

"I mean, we haven't even been properly introduced!"
I smile every time I look at this photo.  The cat is being an ordinary cat while the dog appears to be completely uncomfortable with all the rubbing, combined with purring noises, he is getting from this creature.  I am sure the dog would be much more comfortable with the situation had there been proper introductions at the beginning -- along with a bit of time to get acquainted -- before all this rubbing and cuddling started!

"Maybe if I offer to shake paws, we can become friends very quickly!"

This poor, little mouse, I felt, might be hoping that proper introductions would change the situation from one of apparently grave danger to one of polite friendship.  I doubt very much that this will be the outcome unless what we are actually looking at is a photo of two animals who are, in fact, already friends.  I do sincerely hope this is the case.  I hate to think of the outcome otherwise!

"Have we met before?"
Sniffing of noses would indicate to me that these two are already acquainted.  Otherwise, I would expect to see the cat running under the house or the Moose jumping back in alarm.  However, I like to imagine that they are already buddies who often meet outside during the wintertime.  As we all know, different species often become best friends -- to our amazement.

"I guess introductions aren't necessary!"
Finally, there is this capture I made off a You Tube video.  I was delighted by the expression on the baby's face.  Such a happy look of pleasure at this wonderful experience of soft fur rubbing against a soft baby cheek.  I am sure the baby was delighted by the purring sounds that accompanied the rubbing.  Such a lovely expression of the delight of discovery and the innocence of childhood.

This next photo is one I added just because I find it to be an excellently executed photo showing all the delightful pleasure of being a kitten.  At least, that is how I experience this photo.  I wish I knew who the photographer was so that I could see what his or her other work looks like.

"I am so adorable, don't you agree?"

After all these photos of cats, I will only briefly mention that Suki is doing fine. 

I, on the other hand, am not doing as well as usual.  I seem to have picked up some sort of little bug that has me sniffing and coughing a bit.  Hopefully, this little bug will decide to move on very quickly since I am using all my usual remedies which have always worked in the past.  But for now, sadly, I keep going sniff, sniff, cough, sniff, sniff...

May the peace of God be with us all.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Gazania rigens

Gazania rigens or Clumping Gazania

Gazania is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, native to Southern Africa. It is often planted as drought-tolerant ground cover.
The genus occurs in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola. Additionally, species are naturalized in Australia, New Zealand, and California. They are widely cultivated as ornamental garden plants.
Gazanias are grown for the brilliant colour of their flowers which appear in the late spring and early summer. They prefer a sunny position and are tolerant of dryness and poor soils.

A popular cultivated variety is the Clumping Gazania (Gazania rigens) which has a number of names including 'Aztec', 'Burgundy', 'Copper King', 'Fiesta Red', 'Goldrush' and 'Moonglow'.  Gazania rigens is native to South Africa, where it is called Rankbotterblom by Afrikaners and Ububendle by the Zulu.

Clumping Gazania has a number of cultivars.  One example is Gazania rigens var. rigens found in Tasmania, Australia (see illustration below).

Gazania rigens var. rigens

Of course, my drawing had to get a bit of treatment from my special software and the result can be seen below.

Gazania rigens -- Solarization
 I really like the electric blue that resulted from this "solarization" process.  I will have to try to add it to my palette of colours.


Now, in these days of freezing cold weather in the north east, I thought it would be appropriate to show the following series of photos.  You may have seen them previously since they are available in different places on the Internet; however, I feel they are worth looking at a number of times.  They show us how two apparent strangers showed kindness to one another for their mutual benefit.  The photos also show that the older showed compassion for the younger by letting the young one have the warmer spot.  Take a look.

Cold Kitty

Cold Cat sees Cold Puppy  -- Cold Puppy sees Cold Cat

Cold Cat and Cold Puppy kindly assist one another

Cold Cat and Cold Puppy are not quite so cold anymore!
 You will notice that the adult cat takes the outside spot thereby allowing the puppy to have additional warmth by being next to the wall and being able to put his nose behind the cat's back.  Who says cat's are always thinking only of themselves?!
Finally, I want to show you a very funny photo I came across recently.  The moment I saw it, the words that came to mind were from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes -- the words which appear in the caption below the photograph.  The other words that came to mind were "Is this all there is?" or "Life is hard and then...."

I hope the picture, at least, gives you a smile.

"Vanity, vanity, all is vanity" (from Ecclesiastes)
Meanwhile, I am continuing to do well.  I am sure I would be doing better if this crazy cat I live with did not insist on getting me up at 4:30 each morning, hoping that she will get fed!  Each night before going to bed, I have a little talk with Suki about this matter and she appears to understand; however, come 4:30, there she is, moving things around, making noise, etc.  I do resolve each night that I simply will not feed her if she awakens me at 4:30, but come that early hour, I find myself once again stumbling about the kitchen while thinking to myself "if I just give her food, she will let me go back to sleep"!  She is a very smart cat!

I am presenting the marriage preparation course to "a couple of couples" which gives me great pleasure.  I so much enjoy working with these young people who are convinced that God is calling them to the vocation of marriage in the Catholic Church.  I had a phone call today from another couple interested in doing their marriage preparation course with me.  I am so grateful that God has seen fit to involve me in this ministry as I am so blessed by it.
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, my favourite liturgical season.  It is also Suki's birthday!  She will be 2 years old.

May the peace of God be with  you all.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Blessed Father Emilian Kowcz

Blessed Father Emilian Kowcz
Here is an icon I have been revising for some weeks now and I finally feel I am ready to show it to you.  So, let me begin by telling you all about Blessed Fr. Emilian Kowcz -- a priest of the Ukraine who gave himself up to torture and death out of love for his people.  The following brief account of his life is taken from a related web site with some re-writing and re-wording by me.

Priest and martyr Father Emilian Kowcz was born on 20 August 1884, in Kosmach near Kosiv. After graduating from the College of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1911 as a Ukrainian Catholic priest. He married the year prior to his ordination as Ukrainian Catholic priests are allowed to do.

In 1919 he became field chaplain for the Ukrainian Galician Army. After the war and until his imprisonment he conducted his priestly ministry in Przemysl, at the same time tending to his parishioners’ social and cultural life. He helped the poor and orphans, though he had six children of his own. During World War II he bravely carried out his priestly duties, preaching love to people of all nationalities and rescuing Jews from destruction. He was arrested by the Gestapo on 30 December 1942. He displayed heroic bravery in the concentration camp, protecting the prisoners sentenced to death from falling into despair.

He was burned to death in the ovens of the Majdanek Nazi death camp on 25 March 1944. He was recognized as a "Righteous Ukrainian" by the Jewish Council of Ukraine on 9 September 1999.  He was pronounced blessed by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Lviv in 2001.

"I understand that you are trying to free me. But I am asking you not to do anything. Yesterday they killed 50 persons here. If I I were not here, who would help them to endure these sufferings? I thank God for His kindness to me. Except heaven this is the only place I would like to be. Here we are all equal: Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Latvians and Estonians. I am the only priest here. I couldn’t even imagine what would happen here without me. Here I see God, Who is the same for everybody, regardless of religious distinctions which exist among us. Maybe our Churches are different, but they are all ruled by the same all-powerful God. When I am celebrating the Holy Mass, everyone prays . . .. Don’t worry and don’t despair about my fate. Instead of this, rejoice with me. Pray for those who created this concentration camp and this system. They are the only ones who need prayers... May God have mercy on them..." — From Fr. Emilian Kowcz’s letters written in the concentration camp to relatives.

He was obviously a very loving man who not only was able to bring his own six children to happy adulthood but opened his home constantly to those children in his parish who needed a family.  During World War II, he baptized thousands of Jewish people at their request in an effort to keep as many of them as possible from the ovens.  It was this activity that eventually caused him to be sent to Majdanek.  His life was truly one of sacrificial love -- just like the Lord he sought to imitate.
Below is the icon that was placed in the Church during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2001.  It is a marvelous icon and as my friend, Eugene, said, "the 'official' icon of Kowcz is very simple and basic – but the eyes (slightly drawn to one side) speak to me both of suffering and perseverance, even when encompassed by the barbed wire from which there is obviously no escape, (i.e. it literally stretches from one side of the icon to the other, with no border allowance)."   As well, we see the red robe of a martyr over his prison uniform. 

Blessed Father Emilian Kowcz -- Ukrainian Icon
Although the Ukrainian icon does not show it, I have read that Blessed Father Emilian had very blue eyes -- "strikingly blue" as one author put it.  That was the one facial feature that I really worked at capturing in my icon.  


Now for some more parents and babies from the animal kingdom.

This first one is actually a photo of the King of Beasts as the male lion is sometimes known.

Lion Parent and Child
 From what little I know, I understand that it is unusual for a male lion to be friendly with a cub.  In fact, I have heard that if Papa Lion takes a fancy to the cub, he may just have the cub for a bedtime snack!  So, either this cub is old enough so that Papa is no longer interested or else Papa just happens to be of a rather docile nature.  Anyway, it makes a lovely photo, I think.

Sea Lion Parent and Child
It is always difficult for me to tell the difference between Sea Lions and Seals, but in this case I feel confident I have chosen the right one.  The reason being is that I found the photo under a group of photos labelled Sea Lions!  See how clever I am!!

Wolf "Parent" and Child
The reason I put the word parent in quote marks in the above title is because wolf uncles and aunts also parent the child.  Since wolves live in a community created by extended family, the parenting duties are passed around a bit and poor old mom (or dad, in some cases) doesn't have to do it all.  Wolves are such wonderful creatures.  I do hope that human beings never manage to get rid of them.


Finally tonight, I want to show you a picture of my oldest sister and her husband.  They are both deceased now and I miss them very much.
B. K. and Betty
The reason for putting their photo in my blog is because this coming Sunday is the anniversary of my sister, Betty's, death.  I have been thinking about her a lot these past days -- as well as B. K., her husband.  They were so good to me and I have so many wonderful memories of our times together.  And, I miss them both very much.  May they both rest in peace.

May the peace of God be with you all.