Sunday, 12 October 2014

"Kakabeak" Clianthus puniceus

"'Kakabeak' Clianthus puniceus", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Clianthus puniceus, most commonly known as Kakabeak, is a stunning shrub known for its dense clusters of brilliant red, claw-like flowers, which hang from arching branches in the New Zealand summer (September-December).  This evergreen shrub is native to New Zealand's North Island where, sadly, it is critically endangered with only about 200 plants still to be found in the wild. 

Clianthus puniceus seed pods
The names of this plant allude to the splendour of its brightly-coloured flowers with the genus name, Clianthus, being derived from two Greek words:  kleos, meaning glory, and anthos, meaning flower.  The species name, puniceus, is derived from the Latin and refers to the particular bright reddish colour of the flowers. 

Kaka bird of New Zealand
Its common name, Kakabeak (Kaka-Beak), comes from the perceived resemblance of the flowers to the beak of the Kaka -- a large species of parrot that used to be common in New Zealand forests. Other common names for Clianthus puniceus are "lobster claw" and "parrot’s-bill". 

Plants can grow up to 2-3 m. tall, producing long, trailing stems that form new plants when they come into contact with soil. In this way, one parent plant can cover a large area. It is an obvious member of the pea family, Leguminosae, evidenced by its long green leaves made up of smaller, opposing leaflets. The flowers, are succeeded by large, dangling "pea pods". 

No one is certain as to the primeval distribution of Kakabeak, of course. However, the Maori are thought to have transported it extensively around the land mass now known as New Zealand. It was used by the Maori to feed caged Tui birds. These beautiful, native birds, able to imitate even complex speech better than any parrot, were kept in captivity in order to help the Maori attract and capture other birds. The flowers and edible seedpods of the Kakabeak were also used by Maori for gifting and trading. Its seeds remain viable for a long time and could, therefore, be stored and easily transported. 

As this shrub is still commonly found in New Zealand plant centres, gardeners are often surprised to hear it is endangered. This very nutritious plant has no defences against browsing by deer, goats, pigs, hares, stock or introduced garden snails (many of which have now escaped into the wild).  As well, introduced plants, such as the Mexican daisy, gorse and Buddleja, also threaten the survival of Kakabeak as these hardy invaders seek out similar habitats.

I was, of course, immediately attracted to the brilliant colour of the Kakabeak flowers when I just happened across a photo of them on the Internet. Prompted by this photo to further searching, I found several more photos.  Fortunately, a few of these provided enough detail for me to use them as models for my drawing. 

Of course, the problem with photos is that they don't always provide me with the proper colour balance.  As I have continued my research on these "red" flowers, I have come to learn that the Latin, puniceus, actually refers to a colour which is described as "reddish-purple"!  The red I used in today's drawing, as you can see above, is certainly more reddish-orange instead of reddish purple. So, after even more searching, I have finally found a few photos which appear to show a red with more purple and less orange. 

Thus, I am already thinking of doing a new drawing of these beautiful flowers in which I will re-mix the red on my palette and see if I can come up with a colour a bit closer to that colour intended by the Latin term "puniceus" and meaning "reddish-purple".  Meanwhile, I do hope you enjoy these bright, reddish-orange flowers -- it is one of my favourite shades of red!



Suki considering her next activity!
I am uncertain as to what actually happened last night -- after all, I was asleep at the time -- but for some unfathomable reason, Suki allowed me to "sleep-in"!  

I was actually awakened this morning by sunlight shining in my window rather than by rattling Venetian blinds and plaintive meows from Suki. 

When I realized that the bright light bothering my eyes was not a lamp I had failed to turn off before going to bed, I quickly glanced at the clock which appeared to reveal that it was almost 8 a.m.  As that amazing information sank in, I could feel a sense of confusion followed by panic.  This led to the following thoughts -- tumbling across my mind, almost one on top of the other:
"Oh, no, what has happened to Suki?"  
"Have her joints finally given out on her?"
"Is she ill?"
"Please, God, she isn't dead!"

Fortunately, that same bright sunlight allowed me to quickly locate Suki lying in her favourite chair, looking at me with very alive but very accusatory eyes!  Maybe it was only my guilty feelings caused by the knowledge that it was almost two hours past Suki's breakfast time, but I am sure I could hear her thinking:
"How could  you do this to me?"
"What have I done to deserve such treatment?"
"Shame, shame."

In response, I quickly cried out my apologies to Suki as I began the arduous effort, now required, to get myself out of bed and into a standing position.  This necessitates making myself move, joint after joint, in spite of the pain. These movements are combined with all necessary precautions to keep myself from falling over as I struggle to reach a standing position, rarely making it on the first try.  

Suki simply sat there and watched -- she knows better than to get in my way at such times as I occasionally have to let myself fall back into bed due to discomfort. I, then, start the process all over again. In the early days of my current problems, Suki would frequently come close to getting squashed on occasion because she wanted to do the "rubbing-purring-cat-thing" in hopes that this would enable her to get fed more quickly.  Now, she knows better than to take such dangerous risks.  Finally, I was up and mobile and on my shuffling way to the kitchen.  

Once I had Suki's food in front of her, she devoted herself to the eating of it with that absolute, "living-in-the-moment" attention that our fellow creatures possess.  Thus, I was finally able, for the first time since awakening, to reflect on all that had just happened and to begin the process of trying to figure out why.  As I said at the beginning of this column, I have no idea why I was allowed to sleep in (as the Canadians say), but I simply cannot believe that Suki decided to do me a favour this morning.  I mean, she is a sweet kitty-cat, but we all know how she is about her mealtimes! 

I can only assume that she tried all her usual methods for waking me up at the "proper" time, but, for some reason, these failed -- maybe I was more tired than I realized.  Perhaps -- and this is a big perhaps -- Suki simply decided this morning that she was tired to making such an effort to awaken me at 5:30 a.m. every day. Or, maybe her techniques just didn't seem to be working very well and she didn't feel like devising new ones.  So, growing tired of trying, she gave up, ate some of her "crunchies" (even though it is her least favourite food) and then simply went back to sleep to wait for me to finally get up on my own.  Knowing Suki as I do, this argument just doesn't sound very logical to me! What do you think?

So, here I am after having a bit more sleep than usual and, unfortunately, I do not feel any better for it.  In fact, I sense what could be the beginnings of a migraine -- migraine sufferers are cautioned to never sleep-in as that is a known migraine trigger. We, who are prone to migraines, are told over and over again to establish a sleep schedule and stick to it -- weekdays and weekends -- and we will, thereby, help ourselves to prevent migraines.  

I find it interesting that so many of the ailments from which I suffer are, in some way or another, related to sleep. Combined with this information is the awareness of just how dangerous sleep times were for me during those first 18 years of my life when I lived in my parents' house.  I wonder if the "mind doctors" will ever figure out how these things are connected and how to treat the medical issues which result.

Finally, Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to all my Canadian readers!



"Icon, Wedding at Cana", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”   Matthew 22:1-14

 I used the "Wedding at Cana" icon today simply because I do not have any other icon that relates to weddings.  As well, I thought that seeing Christ as He: 

  • lovingly set aside His own agenda by taking Himself and His small group of early followers to a village wedding; 
  • sat with His Mother, relatives and friends as they spoke of mundane things, and; 
  • performed His first public miracle in this out-of-the-way place;
might shed some light on today's parable from Matthew's Gospel -- a parable which I find to be extremely demanding.

Of course, I, personally, have always struggled with this passage from the 22nd Chapter of Matthew as I really do not like parties of any kind -- never have.  I enjoy meals and good conversation with a few close family and friends, but anything bigger causes me to normally find excuses for staying home by myself!  Perhaps this has to do with the need to be hyper-vigilant which I needed to acquire early in life.

I can see myself in this parable as one of those people who were invited by the King, but who made excuses about why they unable to attend. Although, if I really loved the King's Son, then I would probably have agreed to attend.  Throughout my life, I have said yes to invitations to large gatherings only out of love -- weddings, baptisms, birthday parties, etc. -- if I am there, you know it is simply because my love for those being honoured is great enough so that I am willing to set aside my own preferences and desires.

So, once again, we come back to love -- always love -- setting aside our likes and dislikes because love requires that we put the other first. When we do that, we don't just say "yes" halfheartedly -- rather, we do all that love requires, including putting on the proper garments for the occasion, participating joyfully and, in fact, laying down our lives -- our preferences -- for the other.  The teachings of Christ always come back to love.  And, so I pray...

May I continue to be willing to learn to love -- now when life seems so often to be almost unbearably difficult for me -- now when putting the other first so often seems almost impossible for me -- especially now.

May we all know the peace and joy that comes when we love enough to lay down our lives -- our own desires and preferences -- for the other.



Deb said...

Nice post, Sallie! Regarding Suki, I'm guessing she probably tried to wake you and gave up - it isn't like her to not want breakfast as early as possible.

Sallie Thayer said...

Yes, Deb, I vaguely recall being licked on the face by a rough cat tongue but, somehow, I incorporated that into a dream and so I did not awaken. What surprises me, though, is the fact that Suki must have given up which really is not like her at all! She must have been feeling a bit tired herself. Good to hear from you.