Sunday, 4 May 2014


"Billbergia nutans (Queen's-Tears)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Billbergia nutans (Queen's-Tears) is an epiphytic (a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant and gets its moisture and nutrients from the air) bromeliad native from Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Believe it or not, this plant can be an easy-to-maintain house plant as it can normally withstand periods of neglect. They have few roots, just enough to anchor them, and they get their moisture and nutrients from the air like the descriptor "epiphytic" suggests. They like humidity and a spray bottle can substitute for the occasional rain shower that would enable the plant to collect water when growing outdoors.

I enjoyed drawing this plant because of all the different, bright colours found in the flowers.  It actually puts me in mind of the candy stick packages I used to receive at Christmas when I was growing up.  There were peppermint sticks of course, but there were also lemon sticks, an unknown flavour the colour of which was pink and then there were green-striped, spearmint sticks as well!  Yum, they were pure sugar and melted in your mouth and I am sure they contributed to many of my youthful cavities!!

Another plus about Billbergia nutans is that it is not toxic to humans, cats or dogs.

The Bromeliads

Bromeliaceae is a family of flowering plants of around 3,170 species native mainly to the tropical Americas, with a few species found in the American subtropics and one in tropical west Africa. 

The family includes both epiphytes (a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant (such as a tree), and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air or rain instead of the structure to which it is fastened), such as Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides),
Tillandsia usneoides, Spanish Moss,
hanging from Cypress Tress in Florida

Ananas comosus, Pineapple
and terrestrial species, such as the pineapple (Ananas comosus). 

Many bromeliads are able to store water in a structure formed by their tightly-overlapping leaf bases.  The largest bromeliad is Puya raimondii, which reaches 3–4 metres tall in vegetative growth with a flower spike 9–10 metres tall, and the smallest is Spanish moss.
Puya raimondii

Bromeliads are plants that are adapted to a number of climates. Foliage takes different shapes, from needle-thin to broad and flat, symmetrical to irregular, spiky to soft. The foliage, which usually grows in a rosette, is widely patterned and coloured. Leaf colours range from maroon, through shades of green, to gold. Varieties may have leaves with red, yellow, white and cream variations. Others may be spotted with purple, red, or cream, while others have different colours on the tops and bottoms of the leaves. 

"Tillandsia cyanea, Pink Quill", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

Plants in the Bromeliaceae family are widely represented in their natural climates across the Americas. One species can be found in Africa. They can be found at altitudes from sea level to 4200 meters, from rain forests to deserts. Approximately half the species are epiphytes, some are lithophytes (plants that grow in or on rocks), and some are terrestrial. Accordingly, these plants can be found in the Andean highlands, from northern Chile to Colombia, in the Sechura Desert of coastal Peru, in the cloud forests of Central and South America, in southern United States from southern Virginia to Florida to Texas, and in far southern Arizona.



Suki looking very blue black and wondering
why I disturbed her if I wasn't going to feed her!
Well, the best laid plans often do go awry -- as Robbie Burns said so many years ago!  

As you know, after Suki developed arthritis in her hip joints, she had started using my laptop keyboard as a heating pad once I went to bed at night. After a discussion about this with my friend, Jessie, we came up with the idea of using a heating pad wrapped in a thick towel (the towel was to prevent Suki's claws from coming in contact with the heating pad wiring). The heating pad, encased in the towel, was then placed on the seat of her favourite chair. The expectation was that Suki would find this arrangement more to her liking and would, thus, no longer find my laptop keyboard so appealing, keeping her paws from playing havoc with the key pad. I was looking forward to no longer spending time every morning cleaning up all the strange messages left on my computer screen!

For the first couple of days after arranging this, Suki seemed to actually prefer to use the heating pad in her chair rather than the laptop keyboard.  Sadly, this seeming preference was only temporary!  By the middle of this past week, Suki decided that she actually preferred the laptop warmth to that of the heating pad! She even made it clear to me that she no longer wanted to use the towel-wrapped heating pad (she did this by pushing it onto the floor!).  Once again I found myself dreading what messages I might find waiting for me on my computer screen each morning.  I mean, when you see a message highlighted in red that reads: "Are you sure you wish to take this action?  Doing so will erase important system files and may cause your computer hard drive to malfunction.", you really start to worry!

So, I have decided to move the computer each night to a small desk that Suki is no longer able to jump on because of the arthritis. It's a nuisance, I know, but so far I can't think of any other solution for this problem.

You might ask why I don't just close the laptop up at night and the answer is that I have scheduled my external hard drive to do a complete backup of my entire hard drive during the night when I know I will not want to be using the computer.  I like this arrangement as it provides the backup I need without interfering with my computer activities during the day.

You also might wonder why I don't just close the door to the room where my little office space resides.  No one who has ever lived with a house cat would ask this question, but for those of you who do not understand, let me explain.  A closed door is an almost unbearable challenge for any cat -- especially a door that is usually kept open.  Such a door, when closed, must be dealt with using all kitty-cat techniques, including scratching, meowing, head-butting, etc.  I think you can imagine how difficult it might be to fall asleep and stay asleep with such noises occurring -- and occurring for a long period of time.  Cats do not admit defeat easily!

Otherwise, Suki is doing OK and we seem to be managing her pain. My pain, on the other hand, is still not being managed as well as I would like, but I am making progress in that area.

The pain clinic specialist has kindly now set a fairly high limit to the amount of pain medication I can take each day.  This leaves me free to take as much, or as little, of the medication as I seem to need each day in order to keep me from too much suffering.  

My goal each day is to take as little of the stuff as possible but I now recognize the need to try to keep the pain under enough control so that I can still find pleasure in such things as email correspondence, art work, short walks when the weather permits and even watching a bit of TV.  As any of you know who suffer from chronic pain problems, you must find a way to control the pain for at least some of the time or else the pain takes over your life until pain is all there is.

Otherwise, I continue to deal with all the other medical issues as best I can and there is really nothing new to report about them.

Using my new pain regimen, I have recently been able to do a bit of art work for a firm I have often done jobs for in the past.  As well, there are still the occasional orders for greeting cards coming in and I am now able to use my drawings to create cards and print them.



is the third Sunday after Easter, being so named from the first word of the Introit at Mass — "Jubilate Deo omnis terra" ("Shout with joy to God, all the earth", Psalm 66). In the liturgy for this and the two following Sundays, the Church continues her song of rejoicing in the Resurrection. Throughout the whole of Eastertide both the Divine Office and Mass are expressive of Easter joy, Alleluia being added to every antiphon, responsory, and versicle, and repeated several times in the Introits and other parts of the Mass. The Introit for this day is an invitation to universal joy.

"Our Lady, Tree of Life", icon by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

"Cry out with joy to the Lord all the earth, O sing to the glory of His name, O render Him glorious praise, say to God 'how tremendous Your deeds' " -- 1st verse, Psalm 66, International Commission on English in the Liturgy, 1976 translation, Divine Office.

"...they had recognized Him at the 
breaking of bread", icon by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

May the joy of the Lord always be our strength and may that peace which is beyond human understanding be with us all. Amen.

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