Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Capparis erythrocarpus

Capparis erythrocarpus, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
 Capparis erythrocarpus of the family, Capparaceae, is a tropical or subtropical evergreen shrub or small tree which produces peculiar looking “flowers”, but also red fruit.

The most usable parts of the plant are the roots and a few other bits of the plant. These have two rather different uses. First the dried root bark and a few other ingredients from this plant can be used to prepare a decoction which is helpful in treating arthritis. The second use is very different, but the people of Ghana in West Africa, which is where the plant originated, swear by it as an aphrodisiac!

The local names for this plant I find fascinating. Here are some of them: apana, pitipiti and patahofuo.

Capparis erythrocarpus, drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012 -- hue enhancement

Of course, I couldn't help playing around with such an unusual plant.

This first version was created by using the software that calls itself
"hue correction".  I am not sure exactly what is being corrected, but I do like the colours that resulted.

Capparis erythrocarpus, drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012 -- Solarization
Here is my old favourite software:  solarization.  I am not sure exactly what is meant by that, but it always does interesting things to the colours I use.

I was thinking of lightening the results here, but decided against it after seeing how washed out everything became.  Better just left as it is.



The Ojibwa named the Lake "Gichigami" meaning "big water".  Even the Native People recognized creation as the gift of God.  How much more should we who know the Creator, personally, be aware of this.  St. John says "All things came into being through Him and without Him not one thing came into being."

Lake Superior is one of the most beautiful of the Great Lakes.  After receiving a pps this week about the Lake, I just couldn't resist sharing these photos with you along with some of the information.  Enjoy.

4.4 Celsius is the annual average temperature of the water.
The clear visibility ranges from 27 to 100 feet making it one of
the clearest and cleanest of the Great Lakes. 

Lake Superior is one of the earth's youngest major features -- estimated at 10,000 years. The next youngest is a lake in Russia age 25 million years.

The lake contains 10% of all the earth's fresh surface water.Lake Superior contains over 3 quadrillion gallons of water, enough to flood all of North and South America with
at least one foot of water!

"Lake Superior", Lawren Harris sketch
  Here is a sketch by Group of Seven artist, Lawren Harris of Lake Superior.  He did a number of sketches there and a few finished paintings as well.  He was able to capture the special beauty found there.

Below is a photo of the ancient rock which surrounds the Lake.



I am very conservative.  I never think outside the box!

Suki and I seem to be managing all right these days.  More and more I am seeing the benefits of learning to sleep like a cat.  Since at my age I no longer sleep properly in the first place it does seem pretty foolish to attempt to get all my required sleep during the hours between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.  Far too often I spend most of the night trying to find some way to force my legs to stop being so restless -- as has been the case lately.  So, if I was depending on that time period to supply me with the rest I need, then I would be very disappointed and probably very likely to fall asleep standing up, ending up with another black and blue face or another cracked rib.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with what has been known, up until recently as Restless Leg Syndrome (the condition is now known as Willis-Ekborn Disease).  As I have gotten older, the disease symptoms have gotten worse -- sometimes almost unbearably so.  Considering all the things I have working against me when it comes to just getting a decent night's sleep, it is really no wonder that I sometimes "pass out" when I get up in the middle of the night!

But, as most of you are aware, I am not complaining about this suffering.  For me it is just one more thing which I can unite to the perfect sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion and Death.  How grateful I have been over the years of my life for the Catholic "theology" of suffering.  To know that nothing is wasted in God's economy is a cause for great rejoicing.

I am not certain I will ever understand why other groups seem to see suffering as God's punishment or even a sign of sin in a person's life.  Did not our Lord say that we are to pick up our cross daily and follow Him?  I mean, what is a cross used for and if we are following Him carrying a cross where do we think we are going?  Are we not on our way to be crucified with Him?

Meanwhile, I just got a look from Suki which seemed to be saying:  "why aren't you taking a nap instead of making all that noise on the computer keyboard?"  So, I guess I had better get to it!

May our dear Lord bless us all and may our Blessed Mother intercede for us.

Friday, 27 January 2012

St. Sava

St. Sava of Serbia, icon by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
(Feast Day January 27th in the Orthodox churches)  
Saint Sava (Serbian: Свети Сава, Sveti Sava; 1174 – 14 January 1236) was a Serbian Prince and Orthodox monk, the first Archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Church, the founder of Serbian law and literature, and a diplomat. Sava was born Rastko Nemanjić (Растко Немањић). He became a monk in his youth, receiving the monastic name Sava (Sabbas), subsequently founding the monasteries of Hilandar on Mount Athos (Greece), and Žiča (Serbia). In 1219 he was recognized as the first Archbishop of Serbs, by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and in the same year he authored the oldest known constitution of Serbia, "Zakonopravilo", thus securing full independence; both religious and political.

St. Sava is widely considered as one of the most important figures of Serbian history, and is canonized and venerated by the Serbian Orthodox Church, as its founder. His feast is celebrated on January 27 (14th by the Julian calendar). 

The story of a vocation: St. Sava’s spiritual vocation is highlighted by the story that he left his father’s house at the age of seventeen years against his father’s strong wishes, who knowing that his son had gone to Athos, mobilized his retainers and wrote the governor of the district that if his son was not returned to him, he would go to war against the Greeks! Despite this, St. Sava received monastic tonsure (in 1186) and sent to his parents his worldly clothes, hair and a letter, attempting to persuade his powerful parents to accept monasticism. His father sends messengers to Athos for the return of Sava to Serbia, but in vain. Sava replies to his father: "You have accomplished all that a Christian sovereign should do; come now and join me in the true Christian life".  (Ultimately, the father, Stefan Nemanja, followed his son and entered a monastery himself, and his mother as well joined a religious order of nuns.) 
The Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade was built in his name, on the scene where the Ottoman Turks burnt his remains in the 16th century, and is currently the largest church building in the Balkans. The legacy of St. Sava lives on in the Orthodox Church traditions. He introduced the Jerusalem Typikon as the basis for Slavic Monastic Rules. The Serbian Hilandar monastery on Mt. Athos follows the Typikon of St. Sava to this day. http://orthodoxwiki.org/Typikon

As a saint, Sava was respected even among the Roman Catholics. Tomko Mrnjevic, a Bosnian bishop in the early 17th century, wrote, with great respect, the first biography of Saint Sava.

[This information was gathered and organized by my friend, Amra, a member of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  She writes:  "I know that I can always depend on St. Sava to intercede for me that I may persevere in my Faith."]



From my collection of photos...
Along with terms of venery (you know how I delight in these)...

A Grand Democracy of Trees

A Leap of Leopards

A Murder of Crows (Looks more like a Suicide of Crows to me!)

A Shimmer of Hummingbirds

These terms of venery are all taken from the book "An Exaltation of Larks" by James Lipton.



Well, Suki is trying her best to teach me how to take "cat naps" on a regular basis, but I still have a difficult time stopping whatever I am doing just to take a nap -- even if I am feeling sleepy.  I hope to get the hang of this sooner or later.  Meanwhile, Suki is very patient.  For example, if I won't stop what I am doing and settle in for a snooze, she just goes right ahead and takes a nap herself! 

She doesn't fret about me at all.  I think that is the best way to handle things since if she kept nagging, I would probably just get my back up and refuse to sleep at all!

Seriously, if I can just teach myself to take more naps, I really think it might make a big difference in the number of times I fall or almost fall. 

You may or may not have noticed that I am posting a day early.  I have been posting every four days for a number of months and I find that it works well, giving me just enough time between posts to prepare without feeling rushed.  Today, however, I wanted to post on the feast day of St. Sava, the 27th, even though it is only three days from the previous posting. 

St. Sava, pray for us.

May the peace of God be with us all.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Gong Xi Fa Ca!

Gong Xi Fa Ca! drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer (colour saturation)

Gong Xi Fa Ca! That’s the traditional Chinese New Year greeting that means “wishing you prosperity” in Mandarin. The first day of the Chinese New Year – which begins at midnight on January 23, 2012 – is the most important of Chinese holidays, celebrated by over 1.3 billion people in China and by millions of ethnic Chinese around the world. It’s a celebration that lasts for 15 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival. Each year is associated with one of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. For 2012, it’s the Year of the Dragon.

Gong Xi Fa Ca! drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012 

The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, such as Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and also in Chinatowns elsewhere (such as Toronto).

Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors. These include Korean, Bhutanese and Vietnamese cultures. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decorations, material, food, and clothing -- even going into debt.

Gong Xi Fa Ca! drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer (colour inversion)

It is also the tradition that every family thoroughly cleans their house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for incoming good luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red coloured paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of "good fortune" or "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity". On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes.

Gong Xi Fa Ca! drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer ("posterization")

The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone. Although the Chinese calendar traditionally does not use continuously numbered years, outside China its years are often numbered from the reign of the Yellow Emperor. But at least three different years numbered 1 are now used by various scholars, making the year beginning in AD 2012 the "Chinese Year" 4710, 4709, or 4649.

Living in Toronto with its huge Asian population, means that I have often been caught up in the celebrations of Chinese New Year during my residence here.  I have even tried the traditional Chinese treats served during the 12 or so days that the New Year is celebrated (I never knew that bean curd could be made into a delicious sweet!).

This Year of the Dragon is especially poignant for me as I was born in the Year of the Dragon all those many, many years ago.  This is the 6th Year of the Dragon of my lifetime.  The next one will be in 2024.  Will I still be here then?  All I know is that when the good God is ready, He will call me Home.  Meanwhile, I will enjoy reminding everyone that the Year of the Dragon is my year!


Keeping to the theme of the Chinese New Year, let me show you some interesting drawings I came across recently on the Internet.  You may have already seen them, of course, but just in case you haven't...
Some artist has taken the continents and islands and used them to create the animals of the Chinese Zodiac.  While I certainly put no faith in zodiacs of any kind, I am impressed with the work it took to create these designs.  Although in retrospect, I wonder if the artist is trying to tell the rest of the world that all the property on the earth will eventually be owned by China!




Boar (Pig)



Suki and Sallie Update:

I have revised my earlier decision!

I have decided that if this lady, to whom I have offered Suki (and who really seems like a great candidate), turns down my offer, I am going to give keeping Suki another try. I realized yesterday how I have allowed my fears to suddenly drive me into retreat without even making an effort to fight. This is so unlike me and I do not enjoy the way it feels. While I do realize that there are problems with keeping Suki, these are problems that quite possibly can be dealt with creatively.

I have discovered over the past few days, for example, that if I establish sleep patterns that are more like a cat’s, I seem to be able to get enough sleep to feel rested and also avoid the problem of having Suki awaken me during the night when I am trying to get my full quota of sleep -- which is when I so often fall.  Trying to get to sleep and stay asleep for at least six hours straight is being a bit unrealistic at my age, cat or no cat.  It seems to me to be much wiser to sleep when I feel sleepy, sleeping until I feel really rested, and then getting up and being active again. 
As for the litter box, I am experimenting with using various chairs and stools to help me overcome the strain of bending over and straightening up. I haven’t found the perfect fit yet, but I am working on it.

I feel as though I must make the effort. I have been a fighter and survivor all my life and this just feels too much like giving up.

Of course, should I have another bad fall in the near future, I will quite possibly go back to plan A!  As you can imagine, however, I really want to find a way to keep Suki in my life -- and if I could ask her, I think she would probably say that she really wants to continue to share my life!

May the peace of God be with us all.

Friday, 20 January 2012

St. Agnes of Rome

Icon, St. Agnes of Rome, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
Feast day (memorial) January 21st

Christ made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve. - Saint Agnes

Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of thirteen. There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord int he midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs. In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck. You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned. His right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and religion; Agnes preserved her virginity and gained a martyr’s crown. - from an essay On Virgins by Saint Ambrose of Milan

Saint Agnes had made a promise to God never to stain her purity. Her love for the Lord was very great and she hated sin even more than death! Since she was very beautiful, many young men wished to marry Agnes, but she would always say, "Jesus Christ is my only Spouse."

Procop, the Governor's son, became very angry when she refused him. He had tried to win her for his wife with rich gifts and promises, but the beautiful young girl kept saying, "I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!" In great anger, Procop accused her of being a Christian and brought her to his father, the Governor.

The Governor promised Saint Agnes wonderful gifts if she would only deny God, but she refused. He tried to change her mind by putting her in chains, but her lovely face shown with joy. Next he sent her to a place of sin [a brothel], but an angel protected her. At last, she was condemned to death.

Even the pagans cried to see such a young and beautiful girl going to death. Yet, Saint Agnes was as happy as a bride on her wedding day. She did not pay attention to those who begged her to save herself. "I would offend my Spouse," she said, "if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!" Then she prayed and bowed her head for the death-stroke of the sword.



Following are some fun facts about Penguins taken from http://www.about.com/
PENGUINS are some of the most recognizable and beloved birds in the world, and they are also some of the most unique. 
1. There are 18 species of penguin in the world. While some species are thriving, 13 of them have declining populations.
2. Penguins are found only in the Southern Hemisphere. While most people associate penguins with Antarctica, they are much more widespread and penguin populations can also be found in South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
3. The northernmost penguin species is the Galapagos penguin, which lives year-round near the equator.
4. Penguins lost the ability to fly millions of years ago, but their powerful flipper-like wings and streamlined bodies make them very accomplished swimmers. They are the fastest swimming and deepest diving species of any birds.
5. While swimming, penguins will leap above the surface of the water, a practice called porpoising. This coats their plumage with tiny bubbles that reduce friction, allowing them to swim as fast as 20 miles per hour (32 kph). 6. The light front and dark back of classic penguin plumage is called countershading and it provides superb camouflage from above and below to protect penguins in the water.
7. Penguins are carnivores that catch all their food live in the sea. Depending on the species they can eat a variety of different marine animals, including fish, squid, shrimp, krill and other crustaceans.
8. Penguins’ eyes work better underwater than they do in the air, giving them superior eyesight to spot prey while hunting, even in cloudy or murky water. 9. The emperor penguin is the largest of the penguin species and can weigh up to 90 pounds. The fairy penguin is the smallest and weighs only 2 pounds. 10. The yellow-eyed penguin is believed to be the rarest penguin species, with only approximately 5,000 birds. They can only be found along the southeastern coast of New Zealand and nearby islands.
11. Penguins are social birds that form breeding colonies numbering in the tens of thousands. They may use the same nesting grounds for thousands of years, and colonies can number in the millions. They mate for life.
12. Emperor penguins and king penguins do not make nests. Instead, a single egg for each mated pair is incubated on a parent’s feet and kept warm by a flap of skin called a brood pouch. 

13. Emperor penguin males will incubate their eggs for two months in the winter without eating while the females are at sea. During that time, they live off their fat reserves and may lose half their body weight. When the females return shortly after the chicks hatch, they switch parental duties and the females fast.
14. Depending on the species, a wild penguin can live 15-20 years. During that time, they spend up to 75 percent of their lives at sea.
15. Penguins have many natural predators depending on their habitat, including leopard seals, sea lions, orcas, snakes, sharks and foxes. Artificial threats are also a problem for penguins, including oil spills and other pollution, global warming that changes the distribution of food sources and illegal poaching and egg harvesting. By Melissa Mayntz, About.com Guide

So much in love...

First there were two; then there were three

Characters from the movie, "March of the Penguins"

Penguin day-care!



Well, this is a paragraph I hoped I would never have to write; however, the time has come for me to face an issue that I can no longer deny.  I am simply unable, physically, to take proper care of Suki.  So, I am now searching for a new home for her.  Until I can find some place for her that is exactly right, I will not give her up even if I have to take extra pain medication just to do the tasks necessary for her upkeep. 

I know that there are a number of my readers who have grown very fond of Suki so I wanted you to know what is happening and why I haven't been commenting about her lately.  She continues to do cute and funny things, but it hurts me too much to have to focus on them and write them down as it makes me just too aware of how short the time is before I have to give her up.

As I am writing this, she has gone back to her favourite "perch" after spending some time earlier today lying in the sunshine and giving herself a good bath.

I will keep you informed as things develop.

St. Agnes pray for us, asking that the peace of God may be with us all.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Anthurium andraeanum

Anthurium andraeanum drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
For previous posts related to Anthurium, see Nov. 01, 2009;
Jan. 03, 2011; May 13, 2011

The proper name of this striking plant is Anthurium andraeanum (Family, Araceae – Arum family). The common names include: Anthurium, Flamingo-lily, Flamingo Flower, Oilcloth-flower and Tail Flower.

This popular ornamental garden plant is native to Colombia and Ecuador. The colours range from yellow to red and even multicoloured. In the wild, they flower all year round and can grow up to 3 feet tall.

Now for your botany lesson for today!  The flowers (see gold coloured area above) are actually the tiny blossoms on the slender, finger-like or tail-like spadix [a fleshy club like spike bearing minute flowers, usually enclosed within a sheath like spathe, characteristic of such plants as anthuriums] above a very shiny, waxy, colourful, crinkled, heart-shaped spathe [a leaf like bract that encloses a flower cluster or spadix, as in the jack-in-the-pulpit and the calla lily]. The flowers are sometimes followed by small, fleshy berries (none of these are shown in my drawing). The leaves are large, glossy dark green or even black in some varieties, leathery, alternate, and oblong-heart-shaped to arrow-shaped. The plants are epiphytes [a plant, such as a tropical orchid or a staghorn fern, that grows on another plant upon which it depends for mechanical support but not for nutrients. Also called aerophyte or air plant] but can be grown in loose rock, bark, and fibre soil mixtures as well.

While the plants can appear quite striking in an outdoor garden, gardeners should be aware that Anthurium andraeanum are poisonous and contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause severe mouth irritation and swelling if ingested.  Should you have one of these plants in your home, please make certain to keep it where your pets or young children can't reach it!

Now for one more drawing of my favourite flower.  This one also contains both spadix and spathe (see definitions above).  Yes, it is another effort on my part to capture the curving beauty of Calla Lilies.  I don't think I will ever get tired of drawing them!  If you are tired of looking at my efforts, feel free to skip to the next section.

"Calla Lily Still-Life", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012


Now for something truly beautiful...

On the weekend I made a marvellous discovery. I was introduced (online) to an iconographer who writes some of the most beautiful icons I have ever seen. His name is Marek Czarnecki http://www.seraphicrestorations.com/
I wrote to him right away and, delightfully, heard back from him right away! I asked if I might share a few of his icons with my viewers and he very kindly said "yes". So, following are four of the many wonderful works he has been inspired to write. See if you don't agree with me as you view the delicate details found throughout.

Sadly, it does not appear that individuals can purchase a copy of his work since each work is uniquely commissioned by a church, organization, person, etc. Thankfully, he does maintain a gallery online which means that we are able to go and look at the icons and even find out where they are located in case we are going to be travelling to that area. Anyway, for the moment, just enjoy!

The traditional Sacred Heart image has been written as a true icon.
The border legend reads: "Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart."

St. John the Baptist portrayed with an inner beauty, visible even
with his external "wildness" shown with detail. Note the wonderful beard.

This is the iconographer's icon. Here St. Luke, considered to be the first
to write icons, is being shown how to draw Our Lady and the Child.
There are several icons which vie for the spot of being one of St. Luke's
icons, for example, Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

This is such a beautiful expression of that incredible moment when
St. Juan Diego opened his tilma filled with roses in front of the Bishop
and his companions. Can you imagine what it was like to suddenly see,
on this peasant's "cloak", an image of Our Lady in glowing colours
of turquoise and gold?

Please go and take a look at the rest of Marek's work.  It is well worth the effort.  I know I will be going back for frequent visits!


Something even more beautiful than an icon... 

My friend's little boy at the age of 21 months (taken Nov. 4, 2011)
While religious icons are "windows looking into Heaven", the eyes
of our children, in their innocence and clarity, can give us an even
deeper view into our eternal Homeland -- if we just have the eyes to see.


As for Suki and myself, both of us are doing reasonably well at the moment -- kind of in a holding pattern, you might say!  Suki's orbit is the circumference of her padded, "crow's-nest" bed while mine is the area between the computer, my reclining "bed" and the two Catholic TV channels!  Fortunately our orbits intersect very nicely and so peace reigns.

More details on our lives when I post again at the end of the week. 

For now, I need to return to my place of rest as the rib injured in my last fall is beginning to complain!

Oh, before I forget, I managed to get the statue of St. Joseph repaired.  It will never be the same, but somehow, I like it even more now than before it was broken!  My dear friend, Amra, wrote to me after hearing that the statue was broken and said:  "I hope your dear statue will be fixed soon and that you will embrace that "small imperfection" of St. Joseph."  Yes, Amra, I will.

May the peace of God be with us all.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

St. Catherine the Great, Alexandria

Icon, St. Catherine the Great, Martyr, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
 I am well aware that most scholars consider the story of St. Catherine of Alexandria to be nothing but a pious legend.  I disagree.  She was always there to intercede for me during my years of preparing for and working in the library world, and while there may be just a touch of exaggeration in the account of her martyrdom, she was, indeed, a convert in the early Church, she was martyred and she is now in Heaven with her Divine Spouse forever.  You can take my word for it!  She is the saint of attorneys, educators, librarians, mechanics, philosophers, preachers and libraries.

Since not all of your may know the wonderful story of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Egypt), let me tell you a few of the highlights. Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine was born c. 282 and died c. 305.

According to the traditional narrative, Catherine was the beautiful daughter of the pagan King Costus and Queen Sabinella, who governed Alexandria. Though raised a pagan, she became an ardent Christian in her teenage years, having received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, in which the Blessed Virgin gave Catherine to Jesus in mystical marriage.

As a young adult, she visited her contemporary, the Roman Emperor Maxentius, and attempted to convince him of the moral error in persecuting Christians for not worshipping idols. The emperor arranged for a plethora of the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with her, hoping that they would refute her pro-Christian arguments, but Catherine won the debate and succeeded in converting all of them to Christianity, for which the philosophers and orators were executed by an enraged Maxentius.

Catherine was then scourged and put in prison, during which time over two hundred people came to see her, including Maxentius' wife the empress, all of whom converted to Christianity and were therefore martyred.

Wheel for torture which came
to be known as Catherine's Wheel
 Upon the failure of Maxentius to make Catherine yield by way of torture, he tried to win the beautiful and wise princess over by proposing marriage to her, at which point in time the Saint declared that her spouse was Jesus Christ, to whom she had consecrated her virginity. The furious emperor condemned Catherine to death on the spiked breaking wheel, an instrument of torture. The wheel was miraculously destroyed, however, in answer to St. Catherine's prayer, and so Maxentius had to settle for beheading her.

According to a Christian tradition dating to about 800, angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where, in the 6th century, the Eastern Emperor Justinian had established what is now known as Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai.

Over 1,100 years following her martyrdom, St. Joan of Arc identified Catherine as one of the Saints who appeared to her and counseled her. The Orthodox Church venerates her as a Great Martyr, and celebrates her feast day on 25 November.  In the Catholic Church, after some years of being ignored, St. Catherine is now listed as an optional memorial for the 25th of November.


The Deep of Winter

I understand from our ever-dependable weather forecaster that we are supposed to be getting our first real snowstorm of 2012 soon.  Thus, I felt it appropriate to share with you some of my collection of winter photos.  These are not my photos, but ones I have collected over time because they appealed to me for one reason or another.  I hope they have some appeal for you as well. 

Just the faintest bit of sunlight

Some strange light source shows at the top of the photo

Light from a full moon
sallie and suki

Both Suki and I are doing reasonably well.  At the moment, she is sleeping (surprise) while I work away on this posting.  I am thinking seriously about stopping this soon and going for my morning coffee at which time I would expect Suki to suddenly arise from sleep, give a big yawn accompanied by a great stretch leading to a rather plaintive "meow" (translation:  "is it time to eat?")

My brother-in-law holding the
Christmas gift I prepared for
him, Christmas 2011

Here is a photo of my brother-in-law, Tom, taken sometime after the opening of Christmas gifts, 2011.  Tom is holding the icon of St. Michael I made for him, using a similar icon from an online company.  Tom is the one, you may recall, who has been a volunteer firefighter since he was in high school.  Wherever he and my sister have lived, Tom has always been helping out the local fire station in one capacity or another.  And, as you also may recall, St. Michael is the patron saint of firemen, police, etc.

Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700)
foundress of the Sisters of the
Congregation of Notre-Dame


Sometimes Scripture truly strikes you with such an impact that it almost leaves you breathless.  This is what happened to me this morning when I was reading the "alternate Sanctoral Readings".  These are the special readings that the Church provides for solemnities, feasts, or memorials and particularly when there are proper texts for such celebrations.  The Memorial of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys is celebrated on this date in Canada and so there are alternate readings provided for those parishes wishing to use them.  One of these alternate readings is from the Book of Sirach where the inspired author says:  "Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient.  For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in Him and He will help you; make your ways straight and hope in Him." (Sirach 2:2ff).  This passage was the means by which God spoke to me powerfully today and I am so grateful.


Meanwhile, I just want you to know that I misjudged Suki.  I did, indeed, get up to make myself a cup of coffee.  Suki did, indeed, stretch, yawn and meow; however, her meow said "I am going back to sleep" instead of the usual "feed me".  At this point she has gone back to sleep in her "crow's nest" and seems to be sleeping soundly.  We should never think that we have cats figured out -- they will always prove us wrong!
Now, may the peace of God be with us all and may St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys pray for us in the days ahead.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Two Different Orchids

Orchid "Oncidium", drawing by Sarah-Sallie Thayer, 2011
I really don't know why I am trying to draw Orchids again.  I have never been very successful as Orchids really need to be painted and not drawn in order to show something of their intricate beauty.  The way I have to draw and colour on the computer is just too heavy handed, I find, to create the complex loveliness of Orchids.  Yet, for some reason, I keep trying.  Oh, well, it is a challenge and it is difficult for me to resist a challenge!
Orchid "Oncidium", drawing by Sarah-Sallie
Thayer, 2011, special effects created by using
colour inversion software

This is the result of my playing with the colour inversion software.  Here the image looks more like a woodcut than ever which I find very interesting.  In fact, now I am thinking about going back and trying the software selection for "sepia" to see if it really does look like a real woodcut.  That might be more attractive than the original drawing.  In fact, if I have time, I may do that before I publish this posting just in case the results are interesting enough to show you.

 Here is some sort of Orchid.  I couldn't find the proper name.  I came across a photograph of this Orchid in a pps someone sent me.  All it had underneath the photo was "Orchid -- Orange/Red".  So that is my working title.  If you have any idea what type of Orchid this is, please do let me know so I can go back and add it to this posting.  Thanks. 

Strange type of Orchid, proper name unknown, drawing by
Sarah-Sallie Thayer, 2012


You may have seen these already on the Internet, but just in case you missed them, here are four for your fancy!

You really have to wonder sometimes about the quality of our educational system!

It really makes a person feel good that the State of Colorado is being
run by people with such a profound understanding of statistical analysis

I am really not sure that a public apology would be sufficient
in such a case.  My question is:  How could "failure to stop
at a railroad crossing" be confused with "prostitution"?

I know I really shouldn't make fun of Wal-Mart,
but they did come into Ontario and cause some of
my favourite "cheap" stores to have to close!


Well, the story I have to relate today makes Suki look good and me not so
Suki behind statue of
St. Joseph and the child, Jesus

It has to do with my prized statue of St. Joseph and the Child, Jesus.  This statue was given to me as a birthday gift back in 1998 by a group of friends here in my co-op building.  The friend chiefly responsible was named Jackie.  Sadly, Jackie dies a few years later from lung cancer which had metastasized before she or anyone else even knew she was sick. 

As a consequence, I have always valued the statue plus the fact that I am very fond of St. Joseph and ask for his prayers on my behalf and the behalf of other very frequently.  And, of course, the Boy, Jesus, is the Lord of my life!
I never worried about the statue with my previous cats as they were never much interested in it.  However, from the time Suki moved into my life and heart, she has loved to spend time looking out the window in the "shade" of the statue.  As a consequence, I have fretted and moaned to her about being careful; threatening all manner of horrible things should she knock the statue over and break it.

Well, the statue is now broken.  Poor St. Joseph had his head broken off right at the neck.  And guess what?... I did it, not Suki.  I mean, Suki was close by when it happened, but she had absolutely nothing to do with the accident.

I had just closed the vertical blinds that go across my living room window.  One of the blinds was not straight so I leaned forward, across the statue to straighten it.  As I straightened myself up to turn and go, I suddenly found that I was off balance -- not an unusual problem for me these days.  Feeling as though I might fall, I quickly reached out towards the window to brace myself.  As I did so, my hand just brushed against the statue -- just enough of a glancing blow to knock the statue off balance.  As I watched, everything seemed to happen in slow motion.  I saw the statue hit the floor, the head break off and bounce once as I fruitlessly tried to reach out and stop it.  Suddenly time snapped back into place and I heard myself crying out "oh, no!".

Later, as I cleaned up the tiny shards of plaster, I investigated the head carefully.  It appears to me that it could be glued back into place with very little evidence that it was ever broken, but it would take someone who really knows how to work with plaster.  There is such a person living in my building.  I called her last night and left her a message so when she gets back home tonight, I will see what she thinks.  I am hoping and praying that it can be fixed.  I mean, I know it is just a thing and that in another 25 years it will turn to dust, but it is special to me and has given me a great deal of pleasure over these past years. 

Before I end this posting, I want to show you a lovely photo of an owl in winter.  There is something so special, almost mystical, about the silent way an owl will sit in a tree just before dusk.  Then, if you startle it, the owl will spread those enormous wings and fly slowly off into the darkening trees.
May the peace of the Lord be with us all as the Christmas Season comes to an end.  Tuesday we return to Ordinary Time.