Thursday, 28 April 2011

Tornadoes, Tulipa and Trees

One of the ugliest sights in the world

I am praying for the people of the southern U.S., especially those in Alabama, my home state.  I was born in Alabama and lived there until I was 23.  I don't know yet if all my family and friends are OK.  I am still trying to find out.  Please pray for them with me.

Tulipa cretica

This may be the last "Tulipa" I will draw for a while.  I am sure you will all be glad to see some other kind of flowers for a change.  Of course, Tulips are the flowers of spring so I am hoping we will see them growing profusely in the gardens of Ontario before the month of May is over!

I was looking at this picture after hearing the news about how destructive those tornadoes were -- they even peeled the bark off of the trees!  I am amazed at such power, especially when I look at trees such as these.  Yet even the mightiest trees are no match for such powerful winds.

This is all I can manage to write tonight as I am very tired.  Suki is doing very well, as usual! 

Hopefully, I will write more next time.

May the peace of God be with us all.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Tulipa Salmon Impression

Tulipa Salmon Impression drawing by Sallie Thayer

This won't be a very long post as I am not feeling too great these days; however, I did want to show you one of my latest flower drawings.  This cultivar named Tulip Salmon Impression (Tulipa of the Family, Liliaceae) is one of the most beautiful tulips I have ever seen.  You may have seen a similar photograph of this flower on a large poster.  The photo cuts off the edges of the petals.  I wanted to do a drawing similar to the photo, but with the entire flower and some leaves as well.  This drawing causes me to feel a great deal of satisfaction when I look at it.

The Salmon Impression tulips are from a group called Darwin Hybrid Tulips.  These are a hybridization of Single Late Tulips and Fosteriana Tulips. (Otherwise, known as Emperor Tulips). Darwin Hybrid Tulips feature giant flowers on sturdy stems, and are the tallest class of tulips (22-24 inches tall).  It must be a breathtaking site to see a garden full of the tall tulips in this beautiful shade of "salmon".


Next, I want to show you 4 beautiful photographs which I captured from a pps I was sent this week.  For those of you not interested in things religious, feel free to skip to the end!

These photographs of the tomb of Our Lord Jesus Christ seem to me to be a very suitable for viewing on Easter Sunday.
I have been to the tomb of Our Lord in Jerusalem.  It is found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  It is clear from historical documents that this massive church does, indeed, cover the area of Golgotha (a hill where Jesus was crucified) as well as the tomb given to him by a wealthy follower.  Over the centuries, however, the church has been almost destroyed a number of times during the various periods where the Ottoman Turks and other Muslim groups were in power.  Of course, the "Christians" were doing similar things to Muslim shrines, so I guess it all equalled out in the end.  As well, wealthy Christians over the centuries, wanting to do something significant for God, have seen to it that almost every bit of original stone and earth has been covered over by gold and other valuable metals.  So, if you want to see how things might have looked at the time of Christ, you must go to the Protestant shrine a few blocks away; but if you want to touch the stones touched by Our Lord, you go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Entrance into the tomb of Jesus; photographer looking out into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Ancient icon of Our Lady; this image faces you as you enter the tomb

Ornate wall above the place where Jesus lay; behind all the gilding is real Jerusalem rock

The actual slab upon which the body of Our Lord lay in death, but now the tomb is empty, Alleluia!

The slabs of stone that were the resting place for His body are cut into sections.  The reason for this was so that if a Muslim raid was occurring, the Christians could grab individual stones and cart them away to be hidden until better times.  I think that these stones are the only reliable relics in the tomb (other than the stone wall of the original tomb which you can only touch by reaching your hand through a small opening in the sheets of "gold"). 

There are, however, many true relics throughout this almost unbelievably massive church.  I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go there and touch those holy stones.

Let me close tonight by giving you a treat.  Below are two photos of my friend, Eugene's, beautiful cat named Desi (short for Desiree).  I posted a couple of pictures back when he first brought her home, but here she is now -- very much in charge of things as she sits in her cat condo.  As usual with cats, she heads for the highest part of the condo where she can survey her kingdom!

Desi being pensive (or is she planning a surprise attack on Eugene?)

Desi surveys her kingdom from atop her excellent cat condo.
 Well, this posting turned out to be regular length after all.  If seems that once I get started I have a difficult time stopping no matter how I feel!

May the peace of God be with us all.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

St. Alexandra

St. Alexandra, martyr (sometimes known as St. Priscilla)

Well, here I am with another saint who is better known in the Orthodox churches than in the Catholic Church although both have a feast day for her.  The Orthodox keep the feast of St. Alexandra on April 21st while the Catholics list the feast of St. Alexandra (sometimes called St. Priscilla) as April 23rd.  She seemed to me to be an appropriate saint to get to know as her feast day is almost here and as a martyr, Holy Week seemed a proper time for me to present her to you.

St. Alexandra was the wife of the Roman emperor, Diocletian (284 - 305).  This is the very Diocletian for whom the last great slaughter of Christians was named.  Before the killing was over, both his wife and his daughter [a secret Christian] were dead.  The daughter's name was Valeria and she is also a martyr-saint.  Diocletian was a Roman emperor in the grand tradition of Roman emperors:  he came from simple beginnings, worked his way up through the ranks of the military and finally reached his exalted position through hard work and a motto of "I shall win control no matter who I have to step on".  He was also a devout believer in the Roman gods and felt strongly about these Christians who wanted to replace them with the worship of the One God -- these followers of Christ Jesus.  He was quite willing to blame anything unpleasant that happened in the empire on the Christians and seemed to take real pleasure in trying to get rid of them!

His wife, Alexandra, on the other hand was a warm, kind-hearted woman whom the Roman people seem to have loved greatly.  She often travelled about the countryside visiting the people and talking with them.  This is how she happened to hear about St. George (yes, the one known as the dragon slayer).  He had been a Roman soldier who was now being punished by her husband for his faith in Jesus Christ and his refusal to worship the Roman gods.  Intrigued, she sought out St. George, finding him in the dungeons, beaten and bloody.  Even in this state, he spoke to Alexandra with calm assurance of the love of Christ.  So powerful was his witness that St. Alexandra renounced the pagan gods and joyfully accepted Christ as her Saviour.

We are told that St. Alexandra then went to her husband to tell him about Christ Jesus in hopes that he would be converted also.  She also begged him for the release of St. George.  He angrily dismissed her and all she had to say.  Alexandra, however, continued to plead for the release of St. George.  The story goes that she so aggravated the emperor with her witnessing and pleading that he had her imprisoned during his next persecution of Christians so that she along with her daughter, who had also become a Christian, and St. George could all be beheaded.  God mercifully took St. Alexandra to Himself as she slept, just hours before she was to be beheaded.  She was still given the title of martyr as only the gift of a peaceful death had prevented her from being cruelly executed.  All these persecutions finally came to an end soon after this as Constantine, one of the four rulers under Diocletian, was convinced of the rightness of the Christian religion.  He was able to take control of the empire and declare Christianity as the preferred religion of the state. 
St. Alexandra, pray for us.


Now after the lengthy history lesson above, I have some more light-hearted items to share with you.


Now for a few dog and cat photos.

Now, this is what I call teamwork!

Cat: "Last year I could only reach the black spot -- now look at me!"
Dog:  "Can we stop now?  This is really embarrassing."

"What happened?  I saw an open box and jumped in like I always do...
now I am covered with all these white things!  Help!"

Suki continues to do very well while I, on the other hand, continue to have a bit more difficulty with my joints and bones.  But, then, she is 2 years old while I am 68 plus 2!  All things considered, I guess I am doing pretty well.  One thing is for certain:  God is taking very good care of  me.
May His peace be with us all.

Friday, 15 April 2011

What can I say?

Tulipa Darwin hybrid a variety of T. gesneriana
Tonight's title has more to do with my condition than with the Tulip pictured above.  I have not been well this week and as a consequence, the posting that would normally have been done yesterday is being done today.  I think that while I may state that a posting will appear every four days, the reality is every five days -- and maybe that is the way it will have to be for a while until I recover.  Please stick with me.  Now for tonight's latest Tulip!

I have now shown you a number of members of the genus Tulipa.  In this posting, I want to speak a bit more about the history of the tulip.

A tulip is any plant of the large genus Tulipa, hardy, bulbous-rooted members of the family Liliaceae (lily family), indigenous to north temperate regions of the Old World from the Mediterranean to Japan and growing most abundantly on the steppes of Central Asia. Cultivated tulips, popular as garden and cut flowers and as potted plants, are chiefly varieties of T. gesneriana. They have deep, cup-shaped blossoms of various rich colors.

Tulip seeds are said to have been introduced into Europe in 1554 from Turkey, where they were possibly first cultivated. In the Netherlands in the 17th cent. the wild speculation on tulip bulbs became known as tulipomania: single bulbs sometimes brought several thousand dollars until the government was forced to interfere. The Netherlands is still the most important center of tulip culture.  [see Encyclopaedia Britannica]

In the drawing above we are looking down into the centre of a tulip, seeing the intricate beauty that is often missed by only noticing the outside of the flower.


Next I want to show you a funny photo I came across of identity theft.  Remember we had a discussion about identity theft a few postings ago, illustrated with delightful photos.  Now here is another one -- also a "chuckler".  It even made me laugh out loud!

Identity Theft, Big Time!

Suki has been taking good care of me while I have been unwell.  I am sure she will continue to do so.  It really does make me feel better to go to sleep listening to a softly purring cat nearby.

May the peace of God be with us all.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Lilium dauricum

Lilium dauricum -- Inversion
Here is another Lilium -- and a very strange one it is. This time instead of showing you the original drawing first, I am showing you the result of the software technique called "inversion".  I think it makes a stunningly beautiful design -- much more effective in my view than the original drawing which you can see below.

As you know from past postings, this plant is called Lilium -- this particular one is Lilium dauricum of the family, Liliaceae.  Normally, this plant looks like a normal lily with the six petals curving upward forming more of a cup shape.  (see the example)

Lilium dauricum in full bloom

I decided that I wanted to draw the plant when it was almost ready to drop its petals.  Also, I wanted to make it less like a flower than I normally do.  I actually started drawing the flower on the right, but then came across a photo similar to the one I ended up drawing.  I found the centre so fascinating in its different patterns that I wanted it to be the main focus of the picture.  Now, I am not sure how I feel about the resulting drawing -- all I know is that I like the manipulated image more than I like my original drawing.  What does that say about me?

Lilium dauricum -- original drawing
Now after spending some time working with this drawing, I have decided that I need to go back and remove the lines around each one of the little "spots" on the petals.  The border makes the spot stand out too much and I feel that detracts from the pattern in the centre of the flower.  So, I will do some revision on my original drawing; meanwhile, I will enjoy looking at the "inversion"!  I hope you enjoy it as well.


Now, on to a bit of foolishness.  Like most people who don't have to live with them, I am extremely fond of Polar Bears.  The people who have to share space with them in the far north feel a bit differently, I understand.  I might too if they were always getting into the local garbage dump and strewing garbage all over town!  

Anyway, I do find their antics laughable and so I collect photos of them doing silly things.  I have selected the following to show you in this posting.

My All-Time Favourite Funny Polar Bear Photo!
I have shown you this photo previously, but it is my favourite -- so you are getting to see it again!  I never look at this photo without chuckling and thinking to myself "you silly Polar bear".  Of course, considering the position he is in, he might be saying something a bit more colourful back to me!

Now that is one tired bear
This is such an amazing photo.  I mean how tired do you have to be before you use a pile of ice for a pillow and go to sleep with your back side pointing upward while you feet are not even relaxed?  The photo makes me think of people who have had too much to drink and pass out anywhere while keeping one foot firmly on the floor so that the bed won't keep moving!  Not that I would know about such things personally! 8-)

I'm having my nails done next
I think Polar bears remind me of cats in that whatever they are doing, they are totally involved and enjoying every moment like this hefty lady here.  OK, I am not really sure it is a lady, but the image works better that way somehow!

Well, my money is on Pittsburgh

This group really does remind me of a bunch of guys sitting around watching the Super Bowl.  I would not be surprised to find a remote under that outstretched paw!  All they need now are a couple of pizzas and a case of beer and the photo would be complete.

You keep playing; I think I will just lie down for a while

First of all it is amazing to me to see a Polar bear and a sled dog playing together, but I guess it happens more than we southern Canadians realize.  But then to see a photo of that big bear which would make half a dozen plus sled dogs just lying there resting with its belly side up...  If only humans who view the world from different perspectives could get along so well!

But what if you get stuck, Mama
Here is another one I have shown you recently, but I just enjoy it so much that I wanted to share it again.  That big lady looks like she really thinks she could fit through that hole somehow, getting inside where that food smell is coming from.  I wonder how it feels to be inside and suddenly realize your only escape route is blocked by a huge Polar bear who is snuffling excitedly just outside your door?


Speaking of cats reminds me that I plan to include some exciting new photos of Desi -- this is the kitten I have shown you previously that was recently adopted by my friend Eugene -- and I must say that the photos are really quite excellent.  Stayed tuned for this as well.

Finally tonight I want to show you a new photo I recently acquired.  After Polar bears, my next favourite animal for providing me with laughs is the delightful Panda. 

Ain't I just the cutest thing ever?

Well, that's enough foolishness for tonight.  I need to go and rest myself ... it will soon be time for another 4 hour feeding!

May the peace of God be with us all.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

St. Basil the Great

St. Basil the Great

Tonight I want to show you my most recent icon -- St. Basil the Great.  He was called "the Great" because of his learning, his eloquence and his charity.  Today, however, it is useful to use the descriptor "great" in order to distinguish him from a couple of other St. Basil's who lived in later centuries.  He definitely should not be confused with Saint Basil the Blessed, Fool-for-Christ, a Russian saint, after whom St. Basil's Cathedral, on Red Square in Moscow, is named.  (Speaking of Basil the Blessed, a Fool for Christ, I am thinking about trying to do an icon of him now that my research on St. Basil the Great "uncovered" him!).  As you study the icon, you will see that I placed a large monastery behind the image of St. Basil.  You will understand why I did this after you read the following paragraphs.

Anyway, the following information was taken from the Franciscan's "Saint of the Day" page.  "St Basil the Great was born at Caesarea of Cappadocia in 330. He was one of ten children of St. Basil the Elder and St. Emelia.  Several of his brothers and sisters are honored among the saints.  He attended school in Caesarea, as well as Constantinople and Athens.  A little later, he opened a school of oratory in Caesarea and practiced law.  Eventually he decided to become a monk and found a monastery in Pontus which he directed for five years.  He wrote a famous monastic rule which has proved the most lasting of those in the East.  After founding several other monasteries, he was ordained and, in 370, made bishop of Caesarea.  In this post until his death in 379, he continued to be a man of vast learning and constant activity, genuine eloquence and immense charity.  This earned for him the title of "Great" during his life and Doctor of the Church after his death. Basil was one of the giants of the early Church. He was responsible for the victory of Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism in the Byzantine East, and the denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381-82 was in large measure due to his efforts. Basil fought simony, aided the victims of drought and famine, strove for a better clergy, insisted on a rigid clerical discipline, fearlessly denounced evil wherever he detected it, and excommunicated those involved in the widespread prostitution traffic in Cappadocia. He was learned, accomplished in statesmanship, a man of great personal holiness, and one of the great orators of Christianity. His feast day in the Catholic Church is January 2nd."  In the Orthodox churches, his feast day is January 1st which date for Catholics is the solemn feast of Mary, Mother of God.

Here are some quotes from the writings of St. Basil the Great:

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost;
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil the Great (329 - 379)

Troubles are usually the brooms and shovels
that smooth the road to a good man's fortune;
and many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head,
and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away hunger.

Saint Basil the Great (329 - 379)

Here is something of interest that developed over the centuries in regard to St. Basil -- Vasilopita (Greek: Βασιλόπιτα, Vasilópita, lit. 'king-pie' or '(St.) Basil-pie', see below) is a New Year's Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe and the Balkans which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is made of a variety of dough, depending on regional and family tradition.


The tradition of Vasilopita is associated with a legend from the life of Saint Basil. According to the legend, St. Basil called on the citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewellery. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. St. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family. So he baked all of the jewellery into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received back their exact share.

On each New Year's Day since, families cut the Vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the New Year. This is usually done at midnight of New Year's Eve.  A coin is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. Slices are also cut for various people, depending on local and family tradition, such as the Lord, St. Basil and other saints or the poor. In the past, the coin was often a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. These days, however, it is usually a pre-arranged gift or money that is given to the coin recipient.


Next I want to show you some new animal photos -- well, they are new to me anyway!  They depict three different animals (actually four animals in three photos) engaged in some behaviour that they find particularly pleasurable.

This first photo shows a squirrel stretched out on limb, taking a nap in the warmth of a summer afternoon.  This fellow looks as though he is really enjoying his sleep.  I do hope that a big hawk doesn't come along and spot him sleeping there so soundly....

In this photo, we see a British Hedgehog taking a rest by rolling herself up in a ball.  To me this looks terribly uncomfortable; however, I understand that the hedgehog seems to find this quite pleasurable.  Sadly, I understand that they, attracted to the warmth of asphalt, tend to roll up this way on the motorways!  I think that this is probably a pretty big mistake.

Here we have a kitten almost in ecstasy as his little paws are rubbed.  Next it will be his belly at which point his purring will become so loud that the neighbours might start complaining!  Cats can truly teach us a lot about how to grab every moment of pleasure that comes along, making the absolute most of it!

Finally, we have two puppies sound asleep.  I have called this photo "Puppy Brothers in Arms".  They are both deeply asleep and quite adorable -- especially with the front leg of one thrown over the shoulder of the other.  I can just picture what will happen if "Mom" suddenly appears -- they will jump up, slightly disoriented, falling all over themselves and each other while yelping wildly.  Wish I could be there!

I continue to do reasonably well as does Suki.

I went to get my hair done today and I thought you might enjoy seeing a photo of the elegant new hair style I came home with!

How do you like it?  I know -- I am being silly again, but it is a funny photo.  Seriously, I did get my hair fixed today, but it is just short and simple as usual.
At the moment, I am quite displeased with the Air Miles people as they were one of the companies whose email list was compromised by this recent break-in at the Texas based "holding" company.  I received an apology from Air Miles but that still doesn't stop the flood of new spam that I am now receiving just in the past two days.  Fortunately, I have good spam control software, but all that stuff comes into Quarantine and just sits there until I delete it.  I, like millions of people affected, am hoping that all these people do with my email is use it for spam!  The Internet is great fun, but at times it is also very dangerous.  If you have a connection of any of the companies affected and have ever given them your email address, be very careful about what you open in the next little while.

St. Basil the Great pray for us.
May the peace of God be with us all.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Lilium nanum v flavidum

Lilium nanum v flavidum
Happy April Fool's Day!  I did not play any tricks on anyone today -- probably the first time ever -- and more amazingly, no one played any tricks on me!  Maybe when you get old, people don't want to risk giving you a heart attack.  The reason I didn't do anything is that I completely forgot it was April 1st until I was already home for the evening.  I guess I could have tried playing a trick on Suki, but I really don't think cats celebrate April Fool's Day!

Anyway, on to the drawing shown above.  As you can see from the name, this is another Lilium.  I think I only have one more of these I want to draw.  These plants have been an amazing discovery for me as I never realized the variety in which they grow all over the planet.  In fact, the one I am currently working on is the most intricate of any of the members of this genus I have seen thus far.

This plant is called Lilium nanum v flavidum of the family, Liliaceae.  As you can see from the name, it is a variation of Lilium nanum.  Lilium nanum is an alpine species native to the Himalayas and is a short plant, measuring between 7 to 15 inches (16 to 34 cm).  Lilium nanum v flavidum is similar in size but face outward and downward and never open very widely.  It is considered an early bloomer in the Himalayas, flowering in late June to early July. The colour varies from a pale cream (as in my drawing) to a pale yellow.

And for once, I did not make any unusual copies of this drawing using my infamous software.  Instead I decided just to stick with my basic drawing.  This plant, in my opinion, is certainly not very striking; however, I was originally attracted to this plant by the feelings of simplicity and peacefulness it gives with its soft colour and humbly downward-dropping flowers.  I hope I have been able to convey some sense of those feelings in my drawing.


Now, moving on to my photos for this posting.  The pictures are of bears, the grizzly kind.  There are lots of youngsters and a few somewhat befuddled adults!  Let me show you what I mean...

Here we see a mother bear with quadruplets!  Remember the Polar bears I showed you recently where a mother had three instead of the usual one or two.  Well, this big lady has four!  To me it looks as though she is just totally confused about how this happened as her babies play happily around her.  I find her feet amusing as they seem to be sticking out between her youngsters in a rather haphazardly fashion!

Here is another (or the same) mother with her quads.  They appear to all be quiet for the moment as they gaze at something in the distance.  Even now, though, they still make me laugh as I can see one of the quads very nonchalantly resting his hand on the head of his sibling.  What clowns they appear to be and how difficult that must be for a single mother!

Here is a photo of bears of the same age playing at climbing trees.  These two could easily be two of the four!

This could easily be the mother who finally got a few free moments with at least two of the quads off tree climbing -- and then what happens?!  A bee parks on her nose and when she tries to swat it away, it stings her!  Isn't that the way it often goes?  Oh, well, I guess even bears should try to give thanks in all things!  I do get a bit fanciful at times, don't I?

Finally, I am including a photo I came across recently.  I really like imagining that all those towels have just come in from hanging in the warm sunshine.  Once folded they make a perfect bed for a sleepy kitten.  You know how cats love to be really warm.  All I have to do is look at this picture and I feel like taking a snooze!

I can't believe how long it has taken me to finish this posting.  I started it last night on April Fool's Day and here I am finally finishing it on Saturday afternoon.  I just got too tired to finish last night and then today I had marriage preparation class -- I spent the morning getting ready and the afternoon teaching and now I finally have time to finish this post!

BTW, today is the anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II.  In just 4 more weeks, he will be declared Blessed.  I wish I could be in Rome when it happens.  Ah, well ... thank goodness for electronic media.
May the peace of God be with us all.