Saturday, 28 April 2012

Delonix elata -- Poinciana elata

Delonix elata -- Poinciana elata, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

This rare tree is a close relative of the popular Delonix regia (Flame Tree).  It is endemic to India, growing to a height of 20 to 25 feet.  The flowers are white and very fragrant.  In India, the leaves are used as febrifuge (drug that reduces fever), anti-periodic (preventing the periodic recurrence of symptoms or of a disease such as malaria), anti-rheumatic and stimulant. It is of the family:  Caesalpinioideae/ Caesalpiniaceae and its most popular common names are: Mseele, White Poinciana, White Gul Mohur and Vaadhanaaraayanan. Delonix is from the Greek word “delos”, meaning evident and “onux”, a claw in allusion to the shape of the petals; the epithet “elata” means lofty or tall. 


Delonix elata -- Poinciana elata (colour inversion), drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

As usual, I couldn't resist playing with my fancy software.  I experimented with several of the types of colour manipulation that I often use, but decided that "colour inversion" was the only choice that gave me an image that really appealed to me.

Delonix elata -- Poinciana elata Tree in bloom.
In this photo, you can see what a big tree Delonix is at maturity.  It is probably an amazing experience to catch a whiff of these fragrant blossom when the tree is in full bloom!

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MORE on Saint John of God


Well, the saga continues!  I had a telephone call from my family doctor this week as she had gotten the actual report from the cardiac surgeon who performed the angiogram back on the 19th.  Here is what she told me:

She said the surgeon told her that the vessels of my heart were as “clear as a bell” -- surprisingly so for a woman of my age. He said he did not understand it, but could only assume that all those many tests I had gave a “false-positive” result every time and that seemed to him highly unlikely. In other words, he couldn’t explain what he saw.  I told my doctor that it was all those people praying for me as well as asking St. John of God to intercede on my behalf.  She said I was probably right and to just be thankful.  I am – very thankful as it definitely appears that I have been the recipient of a miracle. Thanks be to God.  And thanks be to all of you who prayed for me.  You, too, share in this wonderful blessing.

Meanwhile, Brother Finnian sent me a package from Ireland which contained some precious gifts.  These included an interesting looking book on the life of St. John of God.  As well, there were a number of holy cards and some booklets giving a brief look at the life of St. John of God.  Take a look...


Holy card from Hospitaller Order of St. John of God


Holy card (back) from Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God


Booklet on the life of St. John of God


Booklet (back) on the life of St. John of God

I have 10 extra holy cards and two extra booklets.  If any of you would like to have one, please send me an email with your address (sallie@ican.net) and I will send it to you.  No charge. 

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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki, barely awake, checks out some noise I
have made before going back into a deep sleep
Suki has been sleeping almost constantly since my dear friend, Brenda, left this past Wednesday.  Although she seems to be very fond of Brenda to the point of even sitting in her lap on occasion, allowing her to scratch her head, Suki was not totally relaxed about it all.  Her routine was broken and any of you who know cats, know how much they dislike having any changes in their lives.

While Brenda was here, Suki got less sleep as she had to constantly be checking things out including carefully sniffing everything that Brenda took out of her suitcase.  Frequently during the night she would be up, going back and forth between Brenda sleeping in the living room and Sallie sleeping in the bedroom. 

Today, for example, she has gone into her special place in the back of the bedroom closet and has been sleeping soundly now for some hours.  She did not even get up to ask for her usual noontime meal -- something she rarely ever misses. 

Of course, I have been sleeping a bit more than usual as well.  I wanted Brenda to have as good a visit as possible and to get some rest after the rigours of her recent move from a house into an apartment.  So, I may have pushed myself just a bit more than usual, but it was worth it.  We had such a good time and she seemed to relax and enjoy herself.  The gift of hospitality blesses both the giver and the receiver and I do feel truly blessed -- just a bit tired. 

By Monday, however, I expect to be feeling well rested and I plan to make my first trip back to the gym!  I will have to be careful not to try to exercise as though I had only missed a week or two -- I have not been to the gym to work out since December 14th, 2011 -- my birthday.  That was the day I had my last bad fall and began the long, slow process of recovery which included a stopover at the cardiac unit at St. Mike's!

I am thinking today of the verse attributed to St. Theresa of Avila:

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

And now I close with my constant prayer for all my readers as well as for myself:  "May the peace of God be with us all."

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

St. John of God Continued

Icon, "St. John of God carrying the Christ Child,"
by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Ever since last Thursday when I got the news about my heart, I have been reflecting on what could have actually happened.  I continue to come to the conclusion that we have experienced a miracle -- an undeserved gift from God.

I had already started working on this second icon of St. John of God but have spent many hours bringing it to completion over these past days -- even while my dear friend, Brenda, has been visiting.  Often I would awaken in the night thinking of the icon, of St. John of God and of my healthy heart and then just have to get up and spend some more time working on this icon.  I think I am satisfied with it now -- we'll see.

The original drawing that I worked from was one of St. John carrying an emaciated boy with a Spanish city in the background.  I was inspired at some point to consider that child to be The Child, Christ Jesus, under the appearance of a poor, sick Spanish boy.  Perhaps that is how St. John of God often felt as he went about gathering up the sick and downtrodden and bringing them to his "house of mercy", his "hospital".  What follows is a description from his  biographer of what he actually did.

"As John of God's fame spread, many people came to the house, so many in fact that there was barely standing room because he used to go out searching for those who were turned away from other hospitals. He kindly persuaded them to go to his place.

Aware of their needs, he rented another much larger house and filled it with cripples and all sorts of sick people. If they were unable to walk, he carried them upon his back. He also carried the bedding so that they, and the itinerants going there, could sleep upon it. He was able to manage and keep this place in better order. he set up some beds for those who were in greater suffering.  Our Lord provided some nurses to help him serve them whilst he went out searching for alms, medicines and other means for curing the sick.

As John of God's charitable work increased, so too did the requirements and needs of the house.  Many important people both at Granada and beyond, began to take notice of it. They particularly noticed John's perseverance and his good management which kept on growing from good to better. They noticed that not only was he giving shelter to itinerants and the homeless. He also set beds apart for the sick to be nursed. He was given credit to buy necessities for the poor and alms began to flow in far more than before. These took the form of blankets, sheets, pillows, clothing and other items.

All manner of poor and needy folk came to him. There were widows, innocent orphans, the genteel poor, people with lawsuits, wounded soldiers and poor, out-of-work, farm labourers on account of the disastrous drought that year... "
 If any of you out there have any comments to make regarding my recent experience, please feel free to leave a comment on the blog or send me an email.

I continue to feel truly blessed by the prayers of all my friends and acquaintances, such as Brother Finnian in Ireland, and my Heavenly intercessors such as St. John of God.

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MONKEY BUSINESS

I continue to collect photo of various types of "monkeys" (including baboons and gorillas).  I have always found their behaviour fascinating as it is so easy to see ourselves painted in broad strokes in the various antics and squabbles of these primates.

Following are some recent and some older photos that I find both enjoyable and instructive.


Whoa!  Hold on there little one!

Monkey Mother and Child -- even the animal kingdom teaches us about mother love (not always, it's true, but frequently)


This has got to be a little boy gorilla on his mama's back!
<>
"I do hope that she will grow up to be as beautiful as her mama!"


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SUKI AND SALLIE

Well, this first part is not about Suki or Sallie, but about two of my former cats:  Mr. Ginger and miz k.d.

The reason for mentioning them is that Mr. Ginger, although deceased, was spotted by my friend, Brenda, one night on the weekend!


Mr. Ginger and miz k.d.  (both deceased)

I was just about to fall off to sleep when I heard Brenda call out, "Sallie, there is a big, orange cat in here!"

Amazed, I jumped up, wondering how on earth a cat could have possibly gotten into a locked apartment.  As I hobbled into the living room where Brenda was sleeping on the sofa, I was thinking to myself, "this is just not possible."

As I rounded the corner of the room divider, I saw Brenda sitting up looking very puzzled.  "Where is the cat?" I called out.  By this point, Brenda started shaking her head and smiling and apologizing all at the same time.  "I think I was having a very realistic dream," she said, sheepishly.

We both begin to laugh.  She then went on to describe what she had seen.  I said that it sounded just like Mr. Ginger, my orange tabby, now deceased.  We laughed and talked a bit more and then both returned to our respective beds.


"What's this cat doin' in my house?"

The next morning, I showed Brenda of photo of Mr. Ginger.  (see photo above)  "That's the cat," she said in amazement.  So, you see, we had a visit from dear, departed Mr. Ginger.  Now I am awaiting a visit from the "princess," miz k.d.  So long as Suki does not notice, I think I can look forward to further visits from my dearly departed kitties! 

As for me, I continue to do exceedingly well. 
 
Brenda and I have had a wonderful visit.  She will be leaving early tomorrow morning to return to Alabama.  I will certainly miss her very much.  I will now have to look forward to her next visit.  I told her that next time she will have to come when I am feeling well, not when I am at my worst.  Of course, I was only feeling bad for the first day and half that she was here.  Ever since the angiogram, I have been feeling great.
 
This takes me right back to where I began tonight -- to all of you:  my friends, acquaintances, St. John of God and all the angels and saints.  I am so full of the joy of God which is my strength!

May the peace and mercy of God be with us all.

Friday, 20 April 2012

New Ornithogalum dubium


Ornithogalum dubium, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Here is the information I presented in one of the two previous postings about Ornithogalum. Just in case you have forgotten the basic information about this plant... "Snake Flower -- Ornithogalum dubium of the family Hyacinthaceae is native to South Africa. Previously, the members of the genus Ornithogalum belonged to the family Liliaceae (true lilies) but is now considered to be members of the family Hyacinthaceae (Hyacinth). These plants are bulbous perennials and are considered to be poisonous."

Of course, I could not resist playing with the image and so below you see the same image on which I used the colour enhancement feature of my infamous software. I am not sure which one I prefer... the one above or the one below. Anyone want to give me their opinions?  


Ornithogalum dubium, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
using colour enhancement software 


Ornithogalum dubium, drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
 

Here is the original drawing of this plant. This particular drawing remains one of my favourite images. The new one used in this posting actually shows more of the interesting formation of the flower -- especially the "runic" characters in the centre -- but the better presentation and drama, I think, are found in this earlier drawing.












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St. John of God

I want to share with you a story of what can happen with a drawing when I put it out on the Internet -- you never know where things will end up! As you may have seen in the comments section of my previous posting, in which I highlighted St. John of God, I had an email within the same day of posting from someone to whom St. John of God means a great deal -- Brother Br Finnian Gallagher,OH, Provincial Secretary, Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God, Granada House, STILLORGAN Co Dublin,
I R E L A N D. 


Icon, St. John of God(1)
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
The first email I received read as follows:
Dear Sallie: Thanks for your painting and story of Saint John of God on your website today. I will be interested to know about you awareness of this little known saint and his significance for you. In Canada the Brothers are in Montreal and Quebec; in the USA in Los Angeles and in New Jersey. We will join with you in asking for John’s intercession on Thursday. Contrary to the opening sentence of your biography John was not a friar, he remained a lay man and as such is a model of sanctity for lay people. Of John’s five full time helpers at the time of his death two of them had been enemies; one had murdered the others brother. John brought about reconciliation between them and they devoted the remainder of their lives to assisting John. It was not until twenty years after his death that John’s followers petitioned Rome and were in 1572 approved as a Mendicant Order. I had forgotten that John’s relics on two occasions had to be hidden and protected. They rest today in the Basilica of Saint John of God in Granada. Renewed thanks for your work in promoting devotion to the Patron Saint of the Sick. These two websites may be of interest to you. www.ohsjd.org www.sjog.ie In Hospitality, Br Finnian.

Icon, St. John of God(2)
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
 The next email arrived later the next day and read:
Dear Sallie: For the first century or more the emblem of the Order was the distinctive staff or walking stick used by Saint John of God and his begging basket. I do not know what year the General Definitory chose to use the pomegranate. There is a pious story which tells of John encountering a child who revealed himself as the child Jesus holding in his hand a pomegranate and declaring “John of God, Granada will be thy cross” Its more likely that John’s nickname came from the people’s admiration of his mission, enunciated in his appeal for alms in the street “For the love of God, my brothers and sisters, do good for yourselves by doing good for others” thus calling him Juan de Dios. The pomegranate is the fruit which several times in the bible represents the virtue of love e g in the Song of Songs. Coupled with the motto “God is Love” this was introduced as the emblem of the Order. Above the cross which surmounted the crown of the pomegranate is the Dominican star. Pius V who first approved the Order was a Dominican. In recent times the logo was “modernized” as a stylized artistic representation of a pomegranate (some would say more like a grenade!) and regrettably lost the motto. It will come back!!!!! Curiously, the pomegranate (pomme de Granada) happens to also be the coat of arms of the old Moorish city of Granada. John had a great devotion to the passion of Christ and indeed had a particular ministry to rescue women from prostitution, so the crucifix in his hand might be an apt image. I think however that he might be more easily identified holding the staff or baculo ? in his hand like a Bishop or shepherd (tones of the Good Shepherd !, and John as you know worked as a shepherd) and his basket slung over his shoulder. Attached you will find a poor image of the basket and staff (head) as part of a collage showing Covelle Newcomb’s book depicting John as Brother Zero arising from his only signature Yo Fray Zero I Brother Zero / Nothing. Our next holy card may be your painting! I quite like the facial depiction you have given John. May I suggest using the full word Saint. The prayer card I’m sending you is of an icon type of art. Loco in Granada is on it’s way. And you will be in our prayers for the days ahead. Saint John of God pray for us. God bless, In Hospitality, Br Finnian.
 Within the next day or so, our correspondence reached this point:
Dear Sallie, Thank you for you fast turn-around of your work of art. I’m chuffed that you have taken on board the bits of information and suggestions I made and applied them to your painting. I really like the image you have developed and I note the script inclusions at the top and the improvement of his right hand. For what it’s worth I will be so pleased to show it off to people. You have done a great job of showing the staff. May I ask you to exchange the collection box for showing the following text across at the bottom of the picture “For the love of God, do good for yourselves my brothers and sisters, by doing good for others” If it’s too long it might help to omit “my brothers and sisters”. You will have good reason to remember this piece of art; on the vigil of your operation. You are in our prayers and we will be back in touch after the weekend. Saint John of God, pray for us. God bless. Finnian
So, now I wait to discover if the community would really like to use my image for a prayer card. I would feel so happy and pleased as above all else, I desire that my icons be used and shared. I will keep you informed as to what happens next!


______________________________________________________________________________ SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki Asleep
Suki is doing reasonably well considering that her "Aunt" Brenda has been here since Tuesday evening which has upset her routine. Thankfully, she seems to be very fond of her Aunt Brenda and has settled down considerably after spending a tiring Wednesday evening and Thursday sniffing carefully Brenda's suitcase and other belonging spread about the apartment. Today she is rather tired from all this activity and without even spending time in front of her icon "S", she headed straight for the closet after breakfast and has been there, asleep, ever since. God alone knows when she will get up!

As for me, I want to paste in the email that I sent last night to dear friends who had asked me to contact them as soon as possible after the procedure and let them know how I was doing. See what you think about the results...

"Well, the most amazing thing has occurred… after all those tests I have had over the past weeks which indicated all sorts of damage to my heart: a silent heart attack, blocked artery, Holter Monitor and the most recent ECG showing a right bundle branch block, abnormal ECG result -- after all of this, when they went in and looked at my heart today, they found absolutely nothing, I repeat, nothing wrong with it – no blockages, no problems, nothing! There was also my own chest discomfort and other signs of heart problems plus this great lack of energy I have been experiencing. When I questioned the doctors about this afterward the procedure today, they all immediately said something along the lines of “well, you have to do a angiogram to find out what is really going on”. When I then asked, “well, what is the point of all these other tests?” they mumbled something about “well, these things happen” and ended the conversation! Now, either I had the most incompetent cardiologist in the whole world working on me today (and I know that is not the case) or else something very unusual has occurred – maybe even a miracle! At the moment, I am feeling better than I have felt in weeks. Since there is nothing wrong with me, I can go back to the gym whenever I want to and the very idea fills me with delight. I am excited about doing exercise again! That in and of itself is a miracle. I just want to thank you for your prayers. As well, I want to say a special thank you to St. John of God who, I feel, played a special part in the “healing” of my heart. My God’s richest blessings be poured out upon you."
 My thanks include all of you as well. I know that many of you were praying for me and I am so grateful for all those prayers which seem to have played a major part in my sudden and dramatic recovery. I am still feeling great today and with much more energy than I have had for some time now. I am just so grateful to God, all the saints who prayed for me, especially St. John of God and all my friends and acquaintances who prayed for me, sent positive thoughts my way and just plain wished me well. I feel that we have all been greatly blessed.

And now, may the peace of God be with each and every one of us. Amen.

Monday, 16 April 2012

St. John of God

Icon, St. John of God, by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
Patron of Hospitals, nurses, heart patients, firefighters and booksellers
[I am sure you can easily figure out why I wanted to present St. John of God today!]

John of God (Portuguese: São João de Deus, born João Cidade Duarte) (March 8, 1495 – March 8, 1550) was a Portuguese-born saint, who became one of Spain's leading religious figures.  John of God was born in Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal, into a once-prominent family that was impoverished but had great religious faith. His mother died when he was only a small child, and his father joined a monastic order. One version of his life tells us that he was so captivated by an itenerent priest who had been preaching at his parish that he left home at age 8 to follow him. This, some say, was the reason for his mother's early death. As well, his father now left alone, chose to enter a monastery where he lived in great holiness until his death. The saint never saw either of them again.


St. John of Avila
Spiritual director for St. John of God
Icon by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

As a young man, John worked as a shepherd for a farmer who was very pleased with his strength and diligent work. John had an offer to marry the farmer's daughter and become heir to the property; he refused because he wanted to pursue a spiritual life in the service of God. He moved to Spain, where he served as a soldier under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and fought a few battles. After many heroic exploits, he worked disseminating religious books, using the recent movable type printing press of Johannes Gutenberg to provide people with the Bible. He experienced a major religious conversion on St. Sebastian's day (January 20), while listening to a sermon by Saint John of Avila, who was later to become his spiritual mentor and would encourage him in his quest to improve the life of the poor. He then went temporarily into what appeared to be a state of madness and was subsequently thrown into an insane asylum, where he recovered after a visit from John of Ávila and realized that the poor and needy deserved better treatment than he had received. He decided to devote the rest of his life to caring for the sick and the poor. Settling in Granada, he expended all his energy in caring for the neediest people of the city. Slowly he drew to himself a dedicated circle of disciples who felt called to join him in this service. John organized his followers into the Order of Hospitallers, now better known as the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God, who care for the sick in countries around the world. One mark of honour to his labours is that this order has been officially entrusted with the medical and dental care of the pope. He died on March 8, 1550, his 55th birthday. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16, 1690, and later named the patron saint of hospitals, heart patients, nurses, firefighters, alcoholics, and booksellers. John's feast day is commemorated on March 8.


Knights of St. John of God
Investiture Ceremony
 The Order of Knights of Saint John of God was founded for the custody and defense of the Holy Grave and Sacred Relics of Saint John of God, founder of the Brothers Hospitallers. These relics are venerated in the Church of Saint John of God in Granada, Spain, built in 1757.

The saint's remains have been hidden twice since his death: the first time in 1808, due to fear of their profanation by the Napoleonic army, and the second time due to the attacks on the Catholic Church by the Socialist party during the Spanish Civil War. This was part of a campaign of the burning of a large number of churches in Granada and all over Spain, and the murder of hundreds of clergy and members of religious Orders.

"If we look forward to receiving God’s mercy, we can never fail to do good so long as we have the strength. For if we share with the poor, out of love for God, whatever he has given to us, we shall receive according to his promise a hundredfold in eternal happiness. What a fine profit, what a blessed reward! With outstretched arms he begs us to turn toward him, to weep for our sins, and to become the servants of love, first for ourselves, then for our neighbors. Just as water extinguishes a fire, so love wipes away sin."  St. John of God
St. John of God, please pray for us and I ask for your special intercession on my behalf on Thursday the 19th.  Amen.
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 A FRIEND
 
I have mentioned my friend, Rose Marie Nicolucci, previously when showing you a couple of her paintings.  She is what I call a "real artist" in that she has seriously studied and trained in the field of art plus she has artistic talent which she has developed over the years.  As well, she teaches the occasional course and gives the occasional workshop.  Her schedule can be found at  http://www.beaux-artsbrampton.com/
 
So, when she told me some weeks ago that she was going to have an exhibition at a local gallery, I said right away that I would be glad to take some space and time on my blog to let my readers know about it.  So, here is the announcement as well as a couple of my favourite works by Rose Marie.  I am sure you will agree that her exhibit will undoubtedly be well worth your time.  Plus, if you go on the "meet the artist" day, you will get to introduce yourself to a wonderful lady -- someone well worth knowing. 


Poster advertising the showing from May 6 to 16, 2012
For more information go to http://www.lauriergallery.com/


Arbutus Tree by Rose Marie Nicolucci
One of my favourites

Sunflowers (not its proper name) by Rose Marie Nicolucci
I really do enjoy her sunflower paintings
 
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SUKI and SALLIE

Not too much time left tonight as I am getting very tired and need to go and rest, but I do want to tell you a little bit more about Suki and her "icon" letter S.

Her behaviour hasn't changed much since last posting; however, she has touched the big, black letter S a few more times.  Also, as you may recall, I asked for your response concerning this behaviour and I have received a couple of comments which I want to share with you.

"Something different to look,smell at. Something in the scent of it has attracted her! Enjoy !"

"Also if it is like a plastic material like vinyl records, this can sometimes give a static shock which an old cat i had used to quite enjoy and wait for us to turn on the tv just she could receive one. also i wonder if they see the same way as babies do, in black and white?"

And my favourite one:

"or maybe she wants a u,k,i to join it lol cats can be fussy!!"

One very interesting thing that is occurring because of Suki's behaviour is that every time I see her sitting quietly in front of the big letter, I am reminded to pray! So, I find myself saying a little prayer and sometimes more than just a little one as I pause to wait for her to finish whatever it is she is doing! Very strange, indeed.

As for me, I won't be writing again until after the procedure -- depending on how energetic I am feeling. Friday should actually be the next regular posting; however, I may not make it until later. If you want more details after Thursday and don't want to wait until the next posting, then you can always write me at sallie@ican.net and I will send you a quick reply.

May the peace of God be with us all.
St. John of God, pray for us -- especially all nurses and heart patients.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Erblichia odorata

Erblichia odorata or Flor de Fuego or Butterfly Tree, drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
Erblichia odorata; Family: Turneraceae.  Common names: Flor de Fuego and Butterfly Tree.  Origin: Central America.

Called "Flor de fuego" in El Salvador and "butterfly tree" in British Honduras. When in flower it is an outstanding tree, covered with brilliant flowers, and often towering high above the surrounding trees. It blooms usually in March and April. 

It said to be one of the most beautiful flowering trees in Central America. It has bunches of narrow leaves and large flowers 6-8" across that smell like apricots. There is a great color variation in the flower of this tree, ranging from yellow to deep orange, depending on the location in Central America where the tree is grown. It is found in wet forest to about 900 m. particularly in Mexico, Central America (except Nicaragua), and Panama.


Erblichia odorata or Flor de Fuego or Butterfly Tree, drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012, special effects using "colour balance" software

 Below is a still life drawing I did a short time after drawing Erblichia odorata.  I wanted to include a simple flower of some sort to accentuate the hardness of the ceramic pot, cup, etc. in the drawing and decided to use Erblichia odorata.  I did not want the colour to be as intense as in the original drawing and so I changed it to a paler shade which I think works better.  I have not done a still life for some time and I found that I enjoyed myself as the challenges of such a drawing are very different than those of an icon.


Still Life in White and Orange using Erblichia odorata flowers, drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012


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CATS AND DOGS -- FRIENDS

These "awww" photos have been circulating on the Internet lately so it is likely that you have already seen them; however, just in case you missed them, I wanted to share my favourites.

The one at the very end (black and white) is my absolute favourite as it shows an incredible amount of trust on the part of a mother cat for a dog.  If you have ever been around mother cats with very small kittens, you know that normally they are ultra protective of their babies.  Even if they allow you to handle them, the mother is often very agitated until the little one is returned to her.  Yet, in this photo, the mother looks totally at peace while this big dog appears to be carefully sniffing/washing her baby.  I love it.

So, if you haven't seen these previously, enjoy them.  If you have seen them, enjoy the idea that there are other people enjoying now!

The cat says "My big, ol' sweet buddy".  The dog says "This is so embarrassing -- I hope no one takes a photo of this!".
This is a Suki lookalike!  The doggie looks as though it is
experiencing pure bliss from this cat bath!
What a patient dog to listen to the silly secrets of a kitten as it explains how they are
going to sneak up on the humans!  Look at that tail just arched and ready for play.
Head to head at nap time -- they look like good friends who are very
comfortable with one another.
This puppy dog looks like she is holding her favourite stuffed toy as she prepares to take a nap.
Oh, well, miss kitty seems quite relaxed and content about the whole business!


This is real friendship -- a mother allowing her doggie friend to wash one of her babies!
I really like this photo.

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SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki at the icon of "S"
There has been a very interesting development at our house -- the appearance of the giant "S".  This has led to some very strange behaviour on the part of Suki.  Let me explain.

First of all, you should know that a friend from down the hall inherited this big acrylic letter.  Since none of her names begin with the letter "s" and both my name and nickname plus Suki's name all begin with "s", she figured it would be nice if she passed it along to me.

Well, I had plans to put it up on the wall as part of an arrangement of pictures already hanging.  So, while waiting for the energy to do the task, I left the big letter on the floor, leaning against the wall, just beside Suki's cat tower.

I noticed that Suki immediately went up to investigate -- the normal thing for a cat to do.  As I left the room, I said something to Suki along the lines of "don't worry, it is just a big piece of plastic."  After doing a few things in the kitchen, I came back into the bedroom.  Even though 15 minutes had passed, there sat Suki in the very position she had been when I left, still staring intently at the big letter.  She didn't touch it.  She didn't sniff it.  She just sat as you see her doing in the photo above and stared.  Even when I asked her what she was doing, she neither moved or acknowledged me in any way!

At first I thought that she might be watching the light from the TV flickering off the shiny black surface, but even with the TV turned off, she still sat there.  Eventually, she moved away and quietly got up in her "crow's nest" bed and went to sleep.  I was truly puzzled.

My puzzlement grew over the following days as I continued to find Suki sitting in the same position in front the the big letter, apparently doing nothing but staring.  By this time I was ready to hang the letter on the wall, but decided that I just didn't have the heart to take it away from Suki and so I hung it low on the wall just above the place where it had been sitting on the floor.  Suki seemed a bit concerned by the noise and activity of hanging the letter but just as soon as it was in place, she settled right down in front it the letter which was now slightly higher than it had been.  The new position of the letter seemed to make no difference as her behaviour remained unchanged.

Only once have I seen her touch the letter and she did so very gently.  I told her to be careful which was a waste of breath as she will do what she wants anyway.  However, she stopped touching the letter and has not done so again.  Eventually, I have started calling the big letter Suki's icon and prayer corner (they often have these in Orthodox homes) and it seems to fit.

If any of you cat people out there have seen something like this previously or have any ideas about what is happening here, I would really appreciate your input.  Suki has got to be the strangest cat I have ever known!

Meanwhile, I continue to do reasonably well as I await the arrival of my friend, Brenda, on the 18th and the angiogram (plus whatever else) on the 19th.  I am managing OK without too much discomfort and am hopeful that whatever happens on the 19th will leave me feeling better with much more energy.

My only setback was my attempt last Friday, Saturday and Sunday to take a new drug the cardiologist prescribed called Crestor.  It is one of those cholesterol lowering drugs.  Even though I have never had any problems with cholesterol, I understand that it is prescribed for atherosclerosis-type patients to help cut down on the plaque forming in the arteries.  Well, it turns out that I am allergic and I ended up breaking out in hives.  Oh, how I itched.  Fortunately, I had taken time to read the literature in the package and had seen there that if you get hives you should stop taking the medication as this obviously indicates an allergic reaction.  I gladly stopped taking the medication and by Sunday night I was pretty much OK again.  I think this is the first time I have ever had an allergic reaction to any type of medication.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and good thoughts sent my way.  It means more to me than I can put into words.

May the peace and joy of God be with us all during this blessed season of Easter.
 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Holy Week, 2012, Column 3

Icon, "The Road to Emmaus: Were not our hearts burning within us?"
drawn by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

On the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about 11 kilometres from Jerusalem ... Jesus came near and walked with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.  Jesus said to them "what are you discussing?"... They replied "... about Jesus of Nazareth ... who was handed over, condemned to death and crucified... We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel...."
Then Jesus said to them:  "Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared..."  Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures.  As they neared the village, they urged him strongly, "stay with us..."

When He was at the table with them, He took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; He, then, vanished from their sight." 

That same hour they got up and hurried back to Jerusalem where they told the disciples and followers what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how they had recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.
[Luke 24: 13-35 (condensed by me).  The alternate Gospel for Easter Sunday afternoon or evening Mass.]
"Jesus was now noticeably different – so much so that the disciples did not at first recognize him. Jesus had to perform specific familiar actions to show the disciples that he was indeed Jesus: he called Mary’s name, he supplied a huge catch of fish for the disciples in the boat, he broke bread with the two on their way to Emmaus and he forgave Peter three times on the shore. He appeared out of nowhere, seemed to be in more than one place at once and passed effortlessly through thick walls and locked doors.


"Although we do not fully understand all the implications of the Resurrection, this we do know: Easter celebrates the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, but not that alone.  We also celebrate the resurrection that has already begun in each one of us. Wherever fragile life is cared for, where tears are wiped away, where the lonely are visited, where forgiveness is extended, where a starving child is being fed, where honesty and integrity abide, where genuine peace is established, where an unjust situation is being made just – all of these are seeds of the Resurrection, seeds of new life. The Resurrection is not only a past event or future event. It is already in process here and now. This is Easter’s promise: that we, too, “will appear with Him in glory!”  This is Easter’s joy! What else can we say but Alleluia!"  
Sister Melannie Svoboda, S.N.D. (with a few additions by S. Thayer)

Blessed Eastertide to all of you whose ongoing interest in my
art, photographs and observations make this blog a continuing reality...
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer and Suki


Thursday, 5 April 2012

Holy Week, 2012, Column 2

Icon, "The Kiss of Judas", by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

Like countless others throughout the past 2000 years, I have wondered at the motivations of Judas.  What drove him to do what he did?  Was he always a thief or did he just become one as found himself with responsibility for the common purse?  How easy it is to move from small sins to bigger and bigger ones.  As we rationalize the small it becomes so much easier to justify the large. 

This is one of the reasons why I feel that the Sacrament of Confession is so incredibly important.  If you have any sincerity at all when you approach the Lord in this Sacrament, after having examined your conscience using the  Commandments, you have to admit that you not being honest with God or with yourself about what you are doing.  This will often enable you to seek the grace to stop whatever it is before it gets so big and bad that it destroys you.

Is this what happened with Judas?   I am sure that the first time he used a little bit of the money from the common purse to purchase an extra bit of food just for himself, he was able to justify it, saying something like "oh, I have done extra work looking after the finances, I deserve a treat for myself".  I have said such things to myself during my lifetime when I have taken office supplies from work for use at home, for example.  Have you?  Even so, something inside still "niggles" at me -- something I have to push down again and again until it ceases to bother me so much and thus it becomes easier to sin again.

I have often heard priests compare the repentance of St. Peter to the despair of Judas Iscariot.  They always point out that St. Peter had the humility to admit that he was a sinner while Judas had too much pride to be humble.  So, St. Peter wept in sorrow and true repentance while Judas went out and hanged himself.

It would seem that Judas had committed the most unforgivable of sins and yet, the Church has never said that Judas is in Hell.  As a matter of fact, the Church has never ruled than anyone is in Hell other than Lucifer and the fallen angels.  God alone knows the heart of each and every person sufficiently to be able to judge and condemn.  God be praised for His great Mercy with which His Justice is tempered.

As I reflect on "the kiss" of Judas tonight, I think I would like to know what happened to him after death and I add this question to the list of those I plan to ask when I finally see our Lord face to face.  However, the truth of the matter is that once I see our Lord, all such earthly concerns will simply fade away in the light of His glorious face.

Of course, there is another aspect of the betrayal of Judas which was expressed so well in the Bob Dylan song when he sang the question, "did Judas Iscariot have God on his side?"  But this is a discussion for another day.  For now, I simply pray that none of us will ever ignore and rationalize our sinfulness until we, too, become willing to betray our Lord Jesus Christ as Judas did.

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SPRINGTIME BEAUTY


Spring Green -- there is no other shade quite like it

The Showers of springtime bring the flowers in May


Weeping Willows weep in the spring rains


Flocks of birds search for the newly sown seeds in the springtime

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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki the Victorious One!
(Sorry that I failed to straighten the photo!)
 Well, as everyone probably expected (except me), Suki won another battle.

Remember my description of the ongoing battle with Suki? I described my effort to keep her from sitting on the printer while she peers through the slits in the blinds, covertly watching the pigeons on the balcony above. Here are my exact words:
Every day now we have this power struggle going on. We have reached the point where as soon as Suki realizes that I have seen her sitting on the printer and am headed her way, she reluctantly moves on up onto the window ledge. Her philosophy is --what the "bossy lady" can't see won't hurt her--. The eventual outcome of this battle is already decided, of course. Sooner or later, after countless, futile efforts to get her to change her behaviour, I will give up and say "to heck with it -- it is just not worth all this effort". I am sure Suki already senses her victory!

Where the printer is now --
Much less convenient for me! 
 After battling with Suki over the period of several weeks, I finally made the decision to move the printer to a slightly less convenient location. Instead of having my printer right next to me on the desk, I now have a small chest in which I store various supplies. As it turns out, Suki, now able to sit and peer out the window in peace, is quite happy about this new arrangement as it provides her an even better position for watching the birds as it is just a bit higher, actually at the level of the window sill. I think she believes I made this re-arrangement out of the goodness of my heart, out of a desire to make life more enjoyable for her! How do cats manage to do this? Oh, well... at least there is one less stressor in my life.

Now for the update on my health.  I saw the cardiologist this morning although I had to wait almost two hours before she could see me.  I am sure people were praying for me as I managed to wait all that time without getting upset and impatient -- something that is not at all normal for me.  Anyway, it turned out that she had squeezed me in between other appointments so I was grateful that I had waited more or less patiently.

After reviewing the various findings with me which indicate Coronary Artery Disease, she said she wanted to go ahead and do an angiogram with possible angioplasty.  This is scheduled for the 19th of April -- two weeks from today! The surgeon won't really be able to know for certain what is needed until he has a good look at the arteries in my heart.  Only then will he be able to determine how bad the blockage is.  If the blockage is sufficiently bad, then he will go ahead with the angioplasty, installing a stent to keep the artery open.  If I require an angioplasty, then I will be staying in the hospital overnight. 

As most of you probably know, there is a bit of a risk to all of this but not that much of one.  However, I do intend to receive all the appropriate Sacraments prior to the procedure!  Since that is a priority for me, I have already contacted the parish and set things in motion for having a visit from one of the priests before the 19th.

As well, I have several new medications to take including nitroglycerin spray with detailed instructions about how many times I can use if for chest pain before I call 911.  This kind of talk is almost enough to give a person a heart attack!  I have already told Suki that she needs to be very obedient as I do not need any additional stresses in my life.  She yawned, turned over and went back to sleep.  Do you think she understands?

Now, I can spend the remainder of the day watching the various Holy Thursday events on EWTN and Salt & Light TV.  I am so very grateful for these modern means of bringing the Church into the homes of those of us who are housebound.  What a wonderful blessing.

I pray that you will all be deeply blessed by the liturgical events of the days ahead.  I will be posting a third special Easter column on Saturday evening.
May the peace of God be with us all.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Holy Week 2012, Column 1

NOTE:  This is not my regular column but an extra one.  I wanted to share a fascinating article I received recently on the Holy Fire and it is just too long to include in a regular posting.  So, here it is.  I will post my regular column on the 5th of April after I see the cardiologist.

Pink Easter Lilies, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011, revised 2012

First let me show you a revised version of my Pink Lilies.  Since I have heard so many people say that they don't like white lilies as the look and smell reminds them of funerals, I decided to use pink Easter lilies instead.  And, since pictures rarely have any odour, just pretend that these smell like freshly baked rhubarb and strawberry pie!  Yum!

Now, here is your Easter miracle.  It is taken in its entirety from Monastery Icons.

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THE MIRACLE OF THE HOLY FIRE

Crowd surrounds the Holy Sepulchre, Easter Vigil, Jerusalem

Jerusalem's annual Paschal miracle:  Every year on Holy Saturday a miracle takes place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified and entombed, and rose from the dead. The miracle of the Holy Fire has taken place at the same time, in the same manner, in the same place every single year for centuries. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and so steadily over time. Beginning the afternoon of Holy Friday (Orthodox date) pilgrims wait in anticipation for the miracle, camped as close to the Holy Sepulchre as possible.

Beginning at around 11:00 in the morning the Christian Arabs chant traditional hymns in a loud voice. These chants date back to the Turkish occupation of Jerusalem in the 13th century, a period in which the Christians were not allowed to chant anywhere but in the churches. "We are the Christians, we have been Christians for centuries, and we shall be forever and ever. Amen!"- they chant at the top of their voices accompanied by the sound of drums. The drummers sit on the shoulders of others who dance vigorously around the Holy Ciborium. But at 1:00 pm the chants fade out, and then there is a tense silence, charged with the anticipation of the great demonstration of God's power for all to witness.

Shortly thereafter, a delegation from the local authorities elbows its way through the crowd. At the time of the Turkish occupation of Palestine they were Muslim Turks; today they are Israelis. Their function is to represent the Romans at the time of Jesus. The Gospels speak of the Romans that went to seal the tomb of Jesus, so that his disciples would not steal his body and claim he had risen. In the same way the Israeli authorities on this Holy Saturday come and seal the tomb with wax. Before they seal the door, they follow the custom of entering the tomb to check for any hidden source of fire which would make a fraud of the miracle.


Patriarch of Jerusalem exiting the tomb after receiving the Holy Fire

How the miracle occurs: The Orthodox Patriarch then enters the Holy Tomb alone. Listen to this account of Patriarch Diodorus, who was Patriarch from 1981 to 2000:

"I enter the tomb and kneel in holy fear in front of the place where Christ lay after His death and where He rose again from the dead. I find my way through the darkness towards the inner chamber in which I fall on my knees. I say certain prayers that have been handed down to us through the centuries and, having said them, I wait. Sometimes I may wait a few minutes, but normally the miracle happens immediately after I have said the prayers.

"From the core of the very stone on which Jesus lay an indefinable light pours forth. It usually has a blue tint, but the color may change and take many different hues. It cannot be described in human terms. The light rises out of the stone as mist may rise out of a lake — it almost looks as if the stone is covered by a moist cloud, but it is light. This light each year behaves differently. Sometimes it covers just the stone, while other times it gives light to the whole sepulchre, so that people who stand outside the tomb and look into it will see it filled with light. The light does not burn — I have never had my beard burnt in all the sixteen years I have been Patriarch in Jerusalem and have received the Holy Fire. The light is of a different consistency than normal fire that burns in an oil lamp.

"At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature, so that I am able to light my candles from it. When I thus have received the flame on my candles, I go out and give the fire first to the Armenian Patriarch and then to the Coptic. Hereafter I give the flame to all people present in the Church."
When the Patriarch comes out with the two candles lit and shining brightly in the darkness, a roar of jubilee resounds in the Church.

The miracle is not confined to what actually happens inside the little tomb, where the Patriarch prays. For the blue light is reported to appear and be active outside the tomb. Every year many believers claim that this miraculous light ignites candles, which they hold in their hands, of its own initiative. All in the church wait with candles in the hope that they may ignite spontaneously. Often unlit oil lamps catch light by themselves before the eyes of the pilgrims. The blue flame is seen to move in different places in the Church. A number of signed testimonies by pilgrims, whose candles lit spontaneously, attest to the validity of these ignitions. The person who experiences the miracle from close up by having the fire on the candle or seeing the blue light usually leaves Jerusalem changed.

How old is the wonder? The first written account of the Holy Fire dates from the fourth century, but authors write about events that occurred in the first century. So Saints John Damascene and Gregory of Nissa narrate how the Apostle Peter saw the Holy Light in the Holy Sepulchre after Christ's resurrection. "One can trace the miracle throughout the centuries in the many itineraries of the Holy Land," writes the Russian abbot Daniel, in his itinerary written in the years 1106-07.

Only the Greek Patriarch: The awesome honor of invoking the miracle of the Holy Fire is reserved for the Orthodox Patriarch – literally reserved by divine fiat. Several times over the centuries clergy from other churches or Muslim conquerors tried to exclude the Patriarch from the Holy Sepulchre on Holy Saturday. When this was attempted in 1579, as the Orthodox Patriarch Sophrony IV stood sorrowfully with his flock at the exit of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre near the left column, a divine light split this column vertically and the Holy Fire flashed out near the Orthodox Patriarch. A Muslim Muezzin, called Tounom, who saw the miraculous event from an adjacent mosque, immediately abandoned the Muslim religion and became an Orthodox Christian. The split column can be seen to this day.

Seeing is believing:  Numerous online videos of the Holy Fire are available on YouTube. One of the best is this 30 minute documentary:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-lBVLg7cqU
 "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible."

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May the peace of God be with us all.