Sunday, 30 January 2011

As Promised...More Nymphaea


As I promised in my previous posting, I want to spend some time in this post showing you more of the genus, Nymphaea (Water Lilies).

Nymphaea is a genus of aquatic plants in the family of Nymphaeaceae.  There are about 50 species in the genus which is found in many parts of the world.  The common name, shared with some other genera in the same family, is Water Lily.  The name Nymphaea comes from the Greek word for "nymph".  The nymphs in Greek mythology were supernatural feminine beings associated with springs so the application of the name makes sense.

Despite their name, water lilies are not related to the true lilies (family Liliaceae).  Nor are water lilies related to the Lotus (family Nelumbo) even though people often refer to the Lotus plants as water lilies.  Is that confusing enough?

The water lily shown above is actually Nymphaea pubescens and is commonly known as the Pink Water-Lily or the Hairy Water-Lily (kind of like a nymph who forgot to shave her legs! -- sorry, I say these things sometime without thinking).  Anyway, this plant is commonly found in shallow lakes and ponds throughout temperate and tropical Asia as well as Australia.  It has also been commercialized as an aquarium plant as the underwater leaves have a handsome appearance.  The flowers are quite large when fully open.  They tend to close during the daytime and open wide at night!

By the way, it is the leaves of this plant that have fuzzy or "hairy" undersides, hence the name pubescens (hairy).  This, however, is not a characteristic that is apparent when looking at the plant from above the water.

As is usual these days, I could not resist playing with the pixel software as it does such interesting things to my drawings of flowers.



This variation is called "Hue Correction".  I like the bright yellow combined with the dark blue-green of the leaves.



This variation is called "Colour Inversion" which changes the pink flower to the green of the leaves and the green leaves to a faint pink shade.  It is rather like looking at a colour negative of a pink flower!

Next I want to talk a bit about the flower that I used at the beginning of the previous posting.  You may recall that I said I did not like to start a post off with text and so I pasted a flower drawing in with the promise to speak further about the flower in the next posting.  This then is the keeping of that promise.



So, here, once again, you see the drawing of Nymphaea caerulea, commonly known as a Blue Lotus -- it is, of course, not a Lotus at all but another type of water lily!  This is why it is so fortunate that botanists have given all these plants a proper Latin/Greek name so that they, at least, know which plant is what.

Studies show that Nymphaea caerulea flower buds rise to the surface over a period of two to three days, and, when ready, open at approximately 9 a.m. and close about 3 p.m.  The flowers and buds do not rise above the water in the morning nor do they submerge at night.

Nymphaea caerulea or Sacred Blue Lotus should not be confused with the Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, as they can both be known by the same name.  Recent studies have shown Nymphaea caerulea to have psychoactive properties and may have been used in worship rituals in ancient Egypt and ancient South American cultures.  These narcotic properties are another trait which Nymphaea caerulea shares with Nelumbo nucifera.

By the way, "caerulea" is related to the English word "cerulean" -- meaning deep blue.  One of my favourite colours of oil paint is known as Cerulean Blue.  This colour, when mixed with other colours, can give you some of the most beautiful shades of blue imaginable.
And, as usual, I had to play around with the image using my "pixel" software.


This version is the "Hue Correction" choice that I used on the Pink Water-Lily.  So, while the pink flower turned to bright yellow, the blue flower turns to dark pink.


This choice is called "Solarization" which keeps the original colours but makes them look as if they have gotten too much sunshine!  I think this is the least interesting of all the variations.
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Now for something completely different!

Only a few of you know of my delight in the game of Venery!  For those of you familiar with this word, it is the naming part of this definition that I am referring to!

The reason I make a point of saying which part of the definition I am referring to is that "venery" means the act, art, practice of hunting combined with the naming of the animals hunted OR the pursuit of sexual pleasure or the indulgence of sexual desire!

The term "venery" was first used during the 14th Century and came, over time, to refer to the naming of groups of animals to be hunted.  Any well educated male was expected to be able to properly refer to any group of animals.  Thus the young gentlemen would know that it is correct to say a "covey of partridge" while a group of turkeys would be a "rafter of turkeys".  A gathering of crows would properly be called a "murder of crows".

Over time, many of these terms came to be a normal part of the language such as a "school of fish" while others have faded from use.  In more recent times, however, the practice has become something of a game with those who are interested coming up with names for groups of modern things, not just animals.  For example, you have a "sleaze of tabloids", a "feeding frenzy of paparazzi" and a "hype of press agents" -- to name a few from the world of journalism.  Then you have such whimsical items as a "promise of tomorrows". 

I first became interested in all of this upon reading the original version of James Lipton's well-known book "An Exaltation of Larks".  Since then, although I am not very good at it, I have enjoyed trying to come up with a few expressions of my own.  Today, however, I just want to show you a few photos using the names provided by the "game" of Venery.


Here we have a "clowder of cats" -- the proper term for a group of adult cats.



Here then is a "kindle of kittens" -- an a very cute "kindle" I must say!



A group of adult dogs is properly known as a "kennel of dogs" -- although there may be a different term for describing a kennel of dogs in the water bringing home the ball which has been thrown for them!


And, finally, we have a "litter of puppies" -- the correct name for a group of puppies but not for a group of kittens which, as you now know, are properly called a "kindle"!
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Although this post is dated Sunday, the 30th, it is really being completed early on Monday morning.  I ended up making such a long-winded posting that I ran out of time last night.  I do hope there will be some things in all this wordiness that you will find of interest.

I am doing as well as usual as is Suki (she is presently asleep in her "hidden" bed in the bedroom closet.  She has fixed for herself a very comfy nest on top of a box of my old stuffed animals (including my teddy bear which is now 66 years old!).  I placed an old, thick sweater on top of these and she finds it quite comfortable.  She may really appreciate her "nest" should we get the snow storm that is predicted for Wednesday -- heavy snow, blowing winds and extremely cold temperatures.  Yikes!  I definitely plan to stay at home on Wednesday.  All those who must get out and try to get to work have my sympathies.
Peace be with you all and may God protect you from deep snow and blowing winds!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Our Lady of Sudan

                       Water Lily -- Nymphaea caerulean -- Sacred Blue


Tonight's posting is a bit different.  The subject of the post is an icon I have already shown you -- but now it is slightly revised.  I downloaded the flower drawing above as I like to always start each posting with a drawing and not text.  I will have more to say about Nymphaea caerulean in the near future.

What follows are portions of two email messages -- one from Fr. Herald of the Sudan mission and my response to him.  You will read his suggestion for changing the icon and you will see what I changed in the icon in response to his suggestions.  As well, you will read what I said to him about the changes when I sent him a copy of the revised icon.  I hope you find this of interest. 

This email relationship I have with Fr. Herald has been a blessing for me.  As you may recall, he was the one who used my icon of St. Josephine Bakhita when posting a prayer for abused women and children written by an African sister.

Now, here is our most recent correspondence along with the revised versions of the icon of Our Lady of Sudan.

"Hi Sallie,

Thank you for your email. Yes, it's sad and hard for us to leave Sudan, and we've tried to do as much as we can to ensure that what the Lord began there during our stay will continue. We've been much encouraged, though, by the amazing way the referendum has unfolded, surely God's answer to many prayers. We're praying now that as the near-unanimous results are announced, they will be quickly recognized by Khartoum and the rest of the world.

I really like the "iconized" version of Our Lady of Sudan with the African background and elements of traditional iconography (the lettering, the stars/triangles indicating Mary's virginity, the stylizing of the faces). One suggestion I would make is to either elongate the entire image or cut the torso of Our Lady to allow the title ("Our Lady of Sudan") to be placed completely above the image of Mary. It feels a little "crowded" and is a little hard to read the way it is currently placed.

By the way, the image comes from a collection of African Catholic/Biblical images that can be found at:

http://www.jesusmafa.com/anglais/accueil.htm

They are really beautiful, and we've used them a lot. I just put the title of "Our Lady of Sudan" on the large one we reproduced. But thanks to you it looks like there will really be an original and proper image with that title now."

(revised image no 1 with text at bottom)

Here is my response to Fr. Herald:

"Dear Fr. Herald:

Thank you so much for your message. I know you must be very busy at this time so it means a lot to me that you put responding to me on your agenda.

Thank you so much for your comments about the “icon” of Our Lady of Sudan. Once you pointed out the crowded area at the top of the drawing, I could see right away that it needed changing. I am attaching the revision [see above] which includes a change in placement and background colour of the title. This leaves more space at the top. The Greek abbreviations for the names of Theotokos and Christ do not show up too much, but I really prefer it that way as often these elements, I think, detract from the drawing if they are too prominent. The name "Our Lady of Sudan" shows up much more clearly now that it is located at the bottom of the icon, I think. 

If you have further comments, please pass them along if you have time."
Sallie

After writing the above, I had an email from a friend and regular reader who suggested that the intensity of the background detracted from the image of Our Lady and the Child Jesus.  So, I decided to try to do something different with the background.  You see the results below.

(revised image no 2 with faded background)

After making these changes, I wrote to Fr. Herald again (poor man -- I am sure he wonders what he has gotten himself into!).  Here is what I said to him:

"Dear Fr. Herald: I have been getting suggestions from different people about Our Lady of Sudan. One comment was that the background pattern was too intense and took attention away from Our Lady. I have tried adjusting the background but I did not want to definitely choose this version until you had seen it and approved of it. You have the previous version I sent in my recent email and now here is the updated version. Which one do you think would be more satisfactory to the people of Sudan?  Thank you so much, Sallie"

So, at this point I am waiting to hear back from Fr. Herald who, hopefully, will tell me which version he feels is more appropriate.

Meanwhile, I would love to have some feedback from you, my readers.  Which version do you prefer -- or do you think it still needs further revision?

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Now for some new Polar Bear photos!  As you know, I do enjoy bear photographs.



Here is an adorable youngster.  It is no wonder people get in trouble by trying to approach these baby bears as they do look very cuddly and sweet.  However, the mother is somewhere close by, watching, and does not appreciate such familiarity!



This next photo, and the one following, were taken by crew members on a submarine as it surfaced somewhere in Arctic waters.  This one was obviously taken through the periscope as you can see the cross hairs.  The bear appears to be trying to figure out what sort of big fish this is and is showing absolutely no fear.



In this photo, the sub has surfaced sufficiently for someone to stick their head out and take a regular photo in colour.  The bears are still showing no fear and their curiosity reminds me of that of a cat.  I am sure they are trying to see if this "thing" is bringing up any food with it!



Finally, here is a photo of a bear who may be in a bit of trouble.  I have no idea how he ended up in this predicament, but there he is -- perched on top of what appears to have been a chunk of ice possibly originally attached to a larger piece.  Maybe he had fallen asleep only to awaken and realize that he was now facing a serious problem.  His expression seems to suggest he was fully aware of his dilemma.  I wish there was a follow-up photo so we could know what finally ended up happening to the poor bear!

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Not much to report otherwise.  Suki is doing fine and to the best of my knowledge, I am doing fine also.  I am grateful that we are having more seasonal temperatures again here in Toronto.  It was actually a pleasure to be outside today while running my errands.  I hope everything is going well with all of you.  Remember, comments, suggestions, recommendations, etc. are all very much welcomed.  So, stay in touch!

May peace of God be with you all.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Water Lily Plus



Tonight's offering is another Water Lily.  I came across the photo, which I used as my model for this drawing, while browsing through online sites about medicinal uses for various plants.  Unfortunately, the photo did not include any information about which particular type of water lily was portrayed.  As you know, I have drawn a number of different types of water lilies and lotus blossoms but this one does not look like any of those. 

What attracted me to it in the first place was the intricate design in the centre of the plant.  If anyone out there has any idea which type of water lily I have drawn or where I might look to possibly find a labelled example of it, please send me your information.  Remember, my email is sallie@ican.net or you can leave me a message in the comments section of this blog.

The sky with clouds was not easy for me to achieve on the computer so you can see what I ended up with.  I think it gives an interesting impression of sky and clouds.  Any comments?

Of course, I could not resist playing with the image.  Below you see what happened when I applied the "solarization" software to my drawing.  I think those black petals are rather attractive.  The image, however, looks a bit like something from an alternate universe!


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Now for another creative effort on my part.

You may recall me showing a photo or two of my friends' (Hylott and Patsy) dog, Sir Yerby.  He is still just a youngster and so very handsome already.  Well, recently they sent me a bunch of photos under the heading of "Yerby vs. "Big Foot" . . . . . Mortal Combat Between The Two!!!"

I enjoyed looking at the photos and as I was looking, the idea for a "story board" took shape in my brain.  Immediately, I set about creating it and sent it off to Hylott and Patsy.  I have included it for you to peruse.  To really enjoy it, you will need to click on it so that it becomes large enough for you to read the "clever" comments I placed under each photo. 



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Now I want to show you some funny bear photos I came across recently.  Polar Bears are actually my favourites of the Bruin clan, but I do enjoy other bear photos as well especially when they show the bears being lazy!  This is probably what attracted me to the first of these bear photos.



This big fella looks as though he spent the past couple of hours salmon fishing and is now exhausted from catching and eating all those fish.  If you have ever seen those nature shows which photograph bears fishing during the salmon run, you know what great fishermen (should that be fisherbears?) they are.  They are also very good at stuffing their faces!



Next we have a photo of what appears to be two males fighting over a female.  One male is larger and older, even sporting an big scar from an old wound on his right thigh.  The younger male is not nearly as heavy as the older bear and probably has no chance of winning the fight unless the older guy does something foolish or gets tired.  The female, meanwhile, sits passively waiting for the outcome.  She almost looks bored by it all.  I wonder if she has a preference?


I really like this photo.  Hopefully I haven't shown it to you already.  If so, you will just get to enjoy it again!

The mother is looking with great interest into the opening of an igloo and she must know that there is no chance she could ever make it through that small opening!  The babies, meanwhile, look as though they would just like to move on to someplace else.  No doubt the smell of humans is making them very nervous. 

What delights me most about the photo, I think, is the way the mother has her bum stuck way up in the air in an effort to get her face as low to the ground as possible.  This aspect of the photo makes me laugh every time I look at it.

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Nothing new to report from the home front.  I continue to do my usual activities and Suki continues to wake me up far too often in an effort to get me to feed her in the middle of the night!  Speaking of feeding Suki, I do make an effort to keep her feeling reasonably full during the time I wish to sleep; however, if I put her food down just before I go to bed, she eats her fill then but seems to forget she has leftover food in her dish!  Often, when she manages to awaken me enough to get me out of bed, I will go into the kitchen only to find she has plenty of food left in her dish.  When I show her this food, she eats it very happily and I am allowed to return to bed. 

I really wonder about this cat of mine -- why can't she remember that she has food in her bowl?  Sometimes she even loses me!  I will be working at my desk and she will be sleeping in the other room.  Suddenly, she wakes up and begins to cry pitiably until she finds me.  Upon finding me, she must be held and cuddled until she is ready to get down and go on her way.  I wonder if she was dropped on her head when she was a baby kitten -- maybe her mother was a first-time mom and didn't know how to carry her babies properly!  Ah, well, this too shall pass.

And so I ask, may that peace which passes all understanding be with us now and always.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Sudan


Normally I do not publish an icon, or any drawing for that matter, until I feel that it is finished.  However, I decided to go ahead and post this latest icon because of what is happening at the moment in Sudan. 

South Sudan's referendum, voting in which has been going on this week, finished today with preliminary results being posted tomorrow.  It appears obvious already that the vote for secession from the northern part of the state has the majority vote. Sudan's ruling party in the north said Friday it was ready to accept southern independence. Border demarcation, oil rights and the status of the contested region of Abyei still have to be negotiated, however.  This is where Our Lady of Sudan comes in.

We need to pray for the people of southern Sudan now more than ever.  While it does appear that the north will not contest the referendum results, no one knows what the north will do about the region of Abyei (nine people died in riots there this week) or, more significantly, what the north will do about dividing the country's abundant oil resources -- most of which are presently located in southern Sudan.  So exactly where will the border be -- that is the big question?  Over 2 million people have died during the past 25 years -- the cost of reaching this point where separation of the north and south has become a real possibility.  Let us pray that no more will have to die.

I actually posted a drawing of Our Lady of Sudan (done by a Sudanese artist, I believe) a few weeks ago when I was talking about the Catholic mission in Torit.  I first saw that picture last year on the blog written by one of the priests in Torit.  Ever since I first saw the drawing, I have been wanting to try to create an icon-like drawing of this image. 

I have been working on this icon for quite some time now but do not feel that I have quite accomplished what I set out to do.  Maybe some of you will have some suggestions for me.  I really value opinions from my "followers" and I accept criticism quite willingly, so please let me know what you think I need to do to make this drawing more like a real icon.  For example, do I need to change the background from a Sudanese traditional pattern to something more normal for icon backgrounds?

I would like to end this segment of tonight's post with a prayer.  Even though it is definitely a Christian prayer and you may not be able to pray such a prayer honestly, at least take the word "peace" from it and just ask God to give them peace.  Now, here is the prayer:
Prayer for Peace in Sudan
Lord Jesus, you said to us;
“I leave you peace. My peace I give you.”
Look upon your sisters and brothers in southern Sudan
as they face the end of the voting in the referendum.
Send your Spirit to guide them.
Give them the wisdom they need to choose a future where they will know Your true peace.
You have called them out of slavery, oppression, and persecution
So that they may have life in abundance.
Grant them peace with one another. Give peace among ethnic groups.
Help them to work together for the good of all.
We ask this in Your name, Jesus our Lord. Amen
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

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Next I want to show you a collection of dog photos -- well one does have a bird in it).  They are new additions to my ever-growing collection of dog and cat photos.  I hope at least one of them gives you a chuckle or two!


                                      "My bad, my bad"

This first photo shows us a puppy dog that would appear to have done something very bad and is now hearing his human family say "bad dog, bad dog".  Only a dog, I think, has that ability to look so abject when it hears the words "bad dog".  Of course, all it takes is for the human family to say "OK, puppy, we love you anyway" and suddenly all is forgiven and the dog is jumping and leaping with happiness with the tail wagging like crazy.


Here is a funny photo of a "dog run"!  This passel of dogs reminds me of a dear man named Frank Ellis.  He is dead now, but while he lived -- at least during the time I knew him -- he always kept hunting dogs.  They lived out back of his house in a large enclosure.  Whenever it was time to go hunting whatever was then in season, he would open the gate to the dog yard and whistle.  Here would come the dogs -- looking much like these in the photo.  They would practically be climbing all over him (and anyone who happened to be with him).  He would allow them to run and jump and talk and carry on until finally he would say "enough" and they would begin to settle down.  He spent time with the dogs every day so it wasn't that they were excited just to see him, but they knew they were going out on a hunting adventure -- even if nothing was caught!



To me, these little puppies are funny enough to make me chuckle even when they are just lying around like this guy.  On this striped bedspread/blanket, however, that sad little face and all that wrinkled skin seem even funnier.  The photographer has a really good sense of colour -- of what colours work with which colours.



And finally, we have a pup who is having to learn the hard way that birds may not take kindly to inquisitive puppies.  I mean, even a big person like myself wouldn't want to tangle with a bird with that look on its face.  I mean birds --even the smallest of them -- can be really fierce, especially if they think you are coming too close to their nest. 

I remember once years ago when I was still at the University of Toronto being attacked by a blackbird.  I was walking along minding my own business when I passed under some low-hanging branches.  Suddenly I was under attack by a bird dive bomber.  Thankfully, I wasn't injured but I was surely frightened half to death!

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Things continue to be OK with Suki and Sallie (or Sarah as I am known to some of you).  I have been spending much more time indoors due to all the snowy and extremely cold weather we have been having.  Both snow and icy slush are very difficult to navigate in a wheel chair.  As I keep telling the people who sell me my tires:  "why not make snow tires for wheelchairs?"

My friend, Karen, with whom I normally have coffee each morning at the Market or at Tim Horton's, is presently in Hawaii.  I hear they have been having a lot of rain down there.  I hope it isn't interfering with her holiday.  Oh, well, at least it would be warm rain!

I hope everyone reading this has not been too adversely affected by all the bad weather we have been having.  Stay warm.
May the peace of God be with you all.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Blue Lotus


This lovely water lily carries the Latin name of Nymphaea caerulea of the family, Nymphaeaceae.  It is commonly known as Blue Lotus, Blue Lily and Sacred Narcotic Lily of the Nile!  I will be using the name Blue Lotus even though the plant is a water lily not the famous lotus plant of which I showed a drawing several postings back.  It is thought that this plant originated along the Nile and in other locations in East Africa, but even in ancient times, it had already spread to other locations such as the Indian subcontinent and Thailand.

The Blue Lotus has an interesting cycle in that the flower buds rise to the surface over a period of two to three days and, when ready, open at approximately 9:30 a.m. and close about 3 p.m.  Sort of like what we used to call "bankers' hours" back in the days when banks did not have to compete for business!  The flowers were extremely significant in Egyptian mythology as it was thought that they rose and fell with the sun.  Consequently, due to its colourings, it was identified as having been the original egg-like container of Atum and Ra, both solar deities.

The Blue Lotus has been used in the production of perfumes since ancient times as well as in aromatherapy.  It is also the source of mild psycho-active properties.  Just like Nelumbo nucifera, the real Lotus flower I posted previously, Nymphaea caerulea acts as a mild sedative.  When used in aromatherapy, the Blue Lotus is said to have a "divine" essence, bringing heightened awareness and tranquility.

At this point, no one is exactly certain what it is that gives the Blue Lotus its narcotic effect.  What is known, however, is that 2 to 4 flowers soaked in wine for 24 hours will give a "noticeable and very pleasant synergy" with the wine.  Remember, I am not giving you a recipe here, just reporting what I have read and heard!

Of course, I could not resist playing with this drawing -- as I do with most flower drawings these days.  So, let me show you the results.



This first experiment is what happened when I selected "colour reversal".  The flower petals are now green, the lily "pads" are purple-pink while the centre of the water lily is a beautiful blue.  I don't think this version is nearly as pretty as the real colours of this flower, but I do find the colours interesting.



Here is another experiment with what the software calls "polarization".  I find this version quite appealing and I do think it would make a lovely glass bowl with this image trapped between the layers of glass -- or however they get those images in clear glass bowls.

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Now for tonight's comic relief.  I have chosen to show you three images of squirrels -- each of which I find amusing.



This first photo shows a squirrel who appears to have captured two nuts with the stem still attached.  The stem is what is enabling this fleet-footed fellow to carry such a big load at one time.

Look at those little hands and feet.  It is no wonder that squirrels, like raccoons who have similar hands and feet, can manage to get into so much trouble!



Here we have a bright-eyed and busy-tailed fellow who has figured out how to carry a lot home at one time!  I hope he doesn't need to scratch his nose before he gets to wherever he is going with that heavy load.

Like most people, I sometimes sit in the park and watch squirrels busy about their work.  I have often seen them taking nuts and burying them and scurrying away to collect more.  I have often wondered if they have any idea, later on, where their nuts are buried?!  Maybe they all just dig in the general area of their "home" and hope to find something edible.



And finally we see a photo of what happens to a squirrel after all that hard work.  This fellow looks like he is waiting for a masseuse to come along and give him a good massage!  Probably, however, after a bit of a rest, he will be up and back at the nut collection again.

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Well, we are awaiting a winter storm that is supposed to arrive in the GTA sometime tonight.  In spite of the predictions, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the snow missed us completely although we did finally get some snow this past weekend -- not nearly as much as they have gotten in the southeastern U.S. however!  Such strange weather keeps happening all over the planet.  We just don't know what to expect anymore.

I received my first ever royalty cheque today!  I only make $2 on each book that is sold through http://www.blurb.com/ and they hold whatever I make until it amounts to over $25.  So the books that were purchased on Blurb combined with those I sold out of my home means that the NOVENA ICONS book is my bestseller to date.  I figure that I have sold, thus far, a total of 24 copies of this latest book.  Hmmm.  Somehow I don't think I should quit my day job just yet!

Suki and I are doing well.  I am not sure she would agree with that statement since she still cannot get me to feed her her favourite canned food more than twice a day (she has some "crunchies" in between). 

I am continuing to go to the gym for an hour or so 5 days a week and even though I can no longer use some of the machines I used originally, I still manage to get in a good workout.  Speaking of the gym, it is always interesting to see how crowded the place is each January and into February.  Then by the end of February, things tend to settle back down again with mostly just the regulars.  I guess people really try hard to keep their New Year's resolution, but life does get in the way and something has to go.

Keep warm and may the peace of God be with you all.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Saint of the Desert


Tonight I want to show you my recent icon of St. Mary of Egypt.  She was one of those wonderful women (and men) of the early centuries of the Church, who -- after having a profound experience of the Divine -- went out into the desert to face their demons and find God.

St. Mary was born in an Egyptian village back in the 6th Century.  Remember, this was before the invasion of the Turks which meant that the country was largely Christian -- the people we refer to as Copts today, evangelized by St. Mark.  Her upbringing was Christian, but Mary fell away from the Faith during her teenage years.  Normally she would have married, but ruined her chances to do so by getting intimate with a village boy.  After this she left her village and went to the port City of Alexandria where she supported herself by spinning thread.  Her wild life style continued, however, with a seemingly endless series of sexual exploits.

Eventually, she became bored with life in Alexandria and, seeking further adventures, she hitched a ride on a ship headed for what is now Israel with the intention of eventually ending up in Jerusalem.  She paid for her fare with her body. 

Once in Jerusalem, she decided, for some reason, that she wanted to see the cross of the crucifixion of Christ when it was exhibited on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  So, Mary joined the crowd heading into the church, but when she got to the door, she was stopped by some sort of invisible force.  People around her continued to enter the church, but she was unable to do so.  Stepping out of the way of the others, badly shaken by this event, she had to admit to herself that she was being prevented from entering the church due to her many serious sins.  She later recounted: "My sins were keeping me out."

In the courtyard of the church was an icon of the Blessed Mother and Child.  Mary addressed the image as though it was an actual person and said:  "Your Son came into the world to save sinners.  Dear Mother receive my confession and help me enter the Church.  Don't deprive me of the sight of the true cross.  I promise you, dear Mother, that I will turn from lust and go wherever you direct me."

Now when she tried to enter the church, there was no longer any resistance.  Thus, she went in and venerated the cross of Christ.  Years later she said: "I realized how God receives those who repent.  I threw myself on the floor and kissed the sacred dust."  Leaving the church, Mary returned to the icon and said to Our Lady: "I have come to keep my promise."  In reply, a voice told her: "If you cross the Jordan, you will find rest."

Stopping only to purchase some bread, Mary walked a day's journey from Jerusalem to the Jordan River.  Monks lived near the river at the place where Jesus had been baptized and after spending a few days with them, Mary crossed the Jordan and entered the hot, arid wilderness on the eastern side.  There she lived alone for many decades, sustaining herself just as St. John the Baptist did on locusts and wild honey.  We only know about her at all because she was accidentally discovered years later by a monk named Zossima who happened across her accidentally as he was spending time praying in the desert.  Mary told him her story as well as some of the mystical events that had occurred during her many years of solitude.  As she revealed her story, it became obvious that Mary had changed from a woman of no faith and loose morals into a saint.

In drawing the image of St. Mary, I decided to put an icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in her hands.  This icon is supposedly one of the earliest types of icons and so it seemed fitting for me to use that image as representative of the icon that spoke to Mary in the courtyard of the church.  I coloured St. Mary's skin a leathery brown because the monk, Zossima, had described the Mary that he met in the desert as being "old, sun-darkened and shriveled".  The Greek reads: "Holy (or Blessed) Maria [of] Egypt".  The stark mountain behind her represents the arid and inhospitable desert that helped to form Mary of Egypt into a saint.

Much of the above comes from a well-researched article by Kevin Perrotta that I came across in a magazine entitled The Word Among Us [daily reflections on the readings of the Mass].  Accompanying his article is a drawing of St. Mary which I have scanned into my computer.  You can see it just below this text.

                    St. Mary of Egypt



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Now for some interesting bird photos sent to me by a friend.


Here you see, what is to me, a fascinating photo of a mother with her young.  I had no idea that a Swan could arrange her body in such a way as to build a covered platform for her little ones.  I find this photo not only fascinating but quite beautiful.



In this photo are two owls -- I am not sure which type they are.  Although they look like young birds because of their size, they could, in fact, be adults of a species that never gets very big. 

Anyway, when I saw this photo originally, my first thought was that the bigger of two was a male who was saying something along the lines of "What's with all this snuggling business?  I thought we were out here to hunt for mice!"


And, finally, there is this photo of a really overcrowded nest.  Either the parents did not plan for so many babies, did not build a large enough nest or, and more likely, the youngsters are big enough to leave home, but just don't want to!  Kind of reminds me of many of the young people I hear about today. :)

I suspect that sooner or later the discomfort of having to sleep on top on one another will grow old.  Which reminds me, where do the parents sleep now?  I guess they have had to move out and roost on a nearby tree branch at night!
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Well, Suki and I are continuing to have a happy new year.  Suki's only problem seems to be figuring out new and diabolical ways to get me out of bed in the morning so that she can have her breakfast!  Of course, this is also my problem, but I am learning ways to resist her entreaties.  Friends have suggested closing her up in another room overnight.  I tried this once for about 15 minutes.  As soon as Suki realized that she was shut in, she began this loud, mournful cry which sounded over and over and over and over again.  After 15 minutes of this torture, I gave in and let her back into the bedroom with me!

Otherwise, my life continues with all its small daily delights and difficulties.  I am finally enjoying this journey I am on -- content in the present moment, yet aware of the adventures ahead -- both in this life and the next.

May the Peace of God be with you all.

Monday, 3 January 2011

First Post, 2011

Leftovers


As indicated by the subheading, there are three drawings of flowers "left over" from 2010.  They never got posted either because I could not find out enough information about the plant to satisfy myself or because each drawing was not pleasing enough to me to stand alone for the main focus of the post.  So, now I want to publish them before I forget them!

The drawing above is called "Kaffir Lilies".  The unpleasant word "Kaffir" tells me that the plant probably grows in South Africa.  There are two other plants which are sometimes called Kaffir Lilies and I have shown them to you in the past.  They are Clivia and Schizostylis.  As I stated when showing you Schizostylis, I did not even want to use the word "Kaffir" as it is repugnant to me -- it was the derogatory word used for black people in South Africa by the whites prior to the end of Apartheid.

Anyway, there is really no information about a Morning Glory-type flower, probably a vine, that is called Kaffir Lily.  I found the photograph that I worked from in an online group of photos from amateurs and this was the only name given.  I really like the look of the blossoms and leaves, but I do not know enough about botany to be able to identify a possible Family or Genus from these as real botanists can do.  So, you will just have to accept them as they are without knowing anything about their history.  Try to just enjoy the drawing as a pleasant expression of flowers!  That is the best that I can do at this point.



This next drawing is one that I was able to identify and then find usable information on.  The name of this plant is Anthurium scherzerianum of the Family Araceae.
Anthurium scherzerianum is one of over one thousand species in the genus Anthurium.  The common names for the plant are Flamingo Flower and Noodle Snacks (I prefer Noodle Snacks myself!).  The plant is one of only two scarlet/orange red in the genus, Anthurium.  This species is native, only, to Costa Rica at elevations of 1,300 to 2,100 m.  The plant may either grow on trees or on the ground.


Finally, there is Lilium auratum.  It is one of the true lilies.  This one is native to Japan and is sometimes called the Golden-Rayed Lily of Japan or the Goldband Lily.  These golden rays appear more greenish-gold in my drawing, but that is how the colour appeared to me in the photos that I worked from.  I actually think that this may be a variation of L. auratum which is called Lilium auratum var. virginale.  If so, this would account for the difference in the colour of the "rays".
Now that I have dealt with the "left overs" from 2010, I will move on to animal friendships.

Unusual Friends


First, there is a most unusual friendship expressed here between a cat and a parrot.  The parrot is all snuggled up to the sleeping cat without any apparent fear or concern.  It is really a very sweet picture.



Next, we have a photo of a dog with a new-found friend -- it looks a bit like a baby Robin to me.  At any rate, the bird appears to have bonded with the dog as it is showing no fear.  I wonder if this developed into a long-term relationship or if it was just a summer romance!  8-)




Here we have a photo of a dog with a young owl.  The owl seems to have adopted the dog and has it mouth open in the posture young birds assume when expecting their parents to feed them.  I am not sure how this dog handled this desire by the youngster to eat.  Maybe he was willing to share his dog food.  The dog appears to be enduring a relationship that he cannot escape!



Here is a young goat who appears to have adopted a nice, big dog for its protector.  Once again, I am not too sure that the dog is pleased by this arrangement but appears to be tolerating it for now.  After all, most creatures will put up with a great deal from the young of almost any species -- until they get older and better able to take care of themselves.



Here we have a dog and a donkey who have apparently adopted each other.  They can both benefit from this relationship, especially the dog, as she seems to really be enjoying getting "groomed" by the donkey!



And speaking of grooming, we have this final photo of a dog who appears to have adopted a fawn and now is busy caring for her.  The first step, of course, is to give the fawn a good wash.  I am not sure what comes next -- perhaps they will both have a nap!

The Last Word


For the final word in this photo essay, I have posted a picture of a puppy sound asleep firmly inside someones sandal.  He reminds me of how I often found myself on a number of New Year's mornings many years ago.  I would awaken in the strangest positions having crashed into bed around 2 a.m. after a night of New Year's Eve revelry!  Can any of you relate?  From this perspective, those were definitely not the "good ol' days"!!

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So as we begin this New Year of 2011, I pray that all of us will be blessed in the days ahead and that we will all experience frequently that peace which passes understanding.
Peace be with you.