Sunday, 27 December 2015

Winter Trees

"Tree Waiting for Spring", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Any of you who have been followers of my blog over the past years know how special trees are to me.  Large trees have always made me feel safe -- especially when I could climb up in them until I was hidden by the leaves. As a child and teenager, I even carried on conversations with special trees when I was by myself.  I have watched young trees "dance" in the wind and felt as though they were trying to cheer me up, telling me that life would not always be so terrible.  When the breeze would cause the leaves on a tree to tickle my head and brush my face, I would feel as though maybe there was love in the world even though I did not find it in my own home.  What a psychiatrist would make of all of this, I do not know, but trees are my friends and, at this age, I really don't care who knows it.

I like the look at trees in every season and I even like dead trees. Trees in winter look very much like dead trees, but then, in spring, the miracle happens again -- suddenly the tree is full of glorious, green buds.

Of course, I realize that I have anthropomorphized trees -- giving them human characteristics that science would deny that they possess.  However, I have carried on conversations with trees on occasion -- not only speaking to them but "hearing" them speak to me. But then, I have always been accused of having a wild and crazy imagination!

I still recall with what joy I discovered the Ents in Tolkien's second volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  This author, with his incredible imagination, had given me a land where trees were always what I had imagined them to be: sentient creatures just like us!

I have tried over the years to portray this concept artistically, but I have never yet done so to my satisfaction.  The next two drawings are recent efforts to, once again, show others how trees appear to me.  I was inspired to try to do this by some photos I saw recently posted on Facebook by my cousin, Ron.  He is a truly marvelous photographer (I love his nature shots) and if you are interested take a look at his web site: 

"Woman-Tree Waiting for Spring", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

This drawing is exactly like the one shown at the beginning of today's posting except I have added a woman's face as part of the tree trunk.  Even though the tree is barren of leaves, it is still a living thing and keeps a watchful eye for high winds or chain saws!

"Woman and Child-Tree Asleep Until Spring", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

In this drawing, I decided to make the branches the "tree-woman's" hair.  She appears to be sleeping, but you know that like any woman holding her child, part of her is awake and watchful.  The child, on the other hand, sleeps peacefully.  In the child's hand is an acorn which represents the surge of new life that will come with spring.

I put some snow drifts in my drawing just to remind me of how much I am missing the snow!  If our winter continues this way, the trees will be showing their buds by the beginning of March!  Bah! Humbug! I like winter.  Where has it gone?



Suki's favourite Christmas 
Gift of Christmas, 2015

Suki looking very alert as she waits
for the dastardly dot of the laser
pointer to re-appear! 

Joycelyn won Suki's absolute affection this Christmas by giving her a new laser pointer in the shape of a little silver-coloured mouse!

I had gotten a laser pointer for her about five years ago from one of those booths you find on the perimeter of the Saturday Farmers' Market.  It only lasted about six months before the batteries gave out.  I looked into the prospect of replacing the batteries, but found that similar batteries cost three times as much as the laser pointer had originally cost to purchase. So, I had asked Joycelyn to be on the lookout for a replacement pointer whenever she was in one of those stores that feature cheap products from a particular Asian country not known for being overly concerned about quality control.  Finally, all these years later, she found one.

When we gave Suki her gift, she sniffed at it for a few seconds and then turned her attention elsewhere.  However, when Joycelyn unwrapped it, removed the tiny piece of plastic stuck down between the batteries and then pressed the little button on the top of the mouse's back -- everything suddenly changed.  

To Suki it must have seemed that there was a red bug in her house that needed catching and she was determined to be the one to catch it.  In her desire to capture this intruder, Suki was running and jumping in ways that were almost kitten-like -- ways which I am sure caused her to later suffer pain and discomfort in those arthritic joints of hers.

Whatever the price, Suki was determined to capture this red dot even though it seemed to miraculously escape each time she pounced on it.  You could see the look of disbelief every time Suki realized that the "bug" was not under her paws but, once again, just a few inches in front of her.

There is almost something cruel about "teasing" a cat with one of these pointers when you know that no matter how hard the cat tries, it will never be able to catch something that really isn't there. However, Suki, as well as other cats with whom I've lived, never seem to take it personally.  In fact, they always seem a bit sad when the red bug disappears until the next time their human feels like picking up the pointer and pressing down that button once again, making that red dot move and wiggle enticingly across the floor!

The only real problem I am aware of with this toy is the fact that I am unable to use it for any longer than about 30 seconds at a time. If I try to hold down the button on the pointer for any longer, I find that the pain in my thumb and/or finger joints becomes too great to endure.  So, Joycelyn is now going to have to give up some of the time she would normally have spent taking care of me in order to play "laser tag" with Suki.  Rather suspicious don't you think? Perhaps it was really a gift for Joycelyn instead of Suki after all!

As for my activities, I did have a few visitors this past week and will be having a few more in the week ahead.  These are friends whose names and birthdays appear in my annual art calendar and so I always try to arrange to meet as many in person as possible in order to keep from having to put their calendar(s) in the mail.  It's not that I'm cheap, it is just that the postal service has been known, on occasion, to bend, fold or mutilate my parcels during transit. Delivering the calendar(s) in person ensures that it will reach its destination in pristine condition. Plus, it is always nice to see my friends once again.

By the way, if any of you would like a copy of the calendar (either desk or wall), please let me know.  I have a few left over (without birthdays) and would be glad to send you one.  I would only ask that you pay for shipping and handling.

Wishing you all the very best in 2016!

Suki and Sallie



"Icon -- The Holy Family, 2009", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 revised

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere. Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant. He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.      Luke 2:41-52

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Freesias and Christmas 2015

"Freesias -- Orange Cultivar", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Fresh-scented and colourful, Freesias are best known as “those sweet-smelling flower sprays included in wedding bouquets”. Freesias are native to South Africa, with the exception of two varieties, which are native to central Africa. They are named after the German physician, Dr. Friedrich Freese, (1785-1876), who first described them to the botanical world. 

Freesias were imported to Europe in the 1870s. Hybridization of Freesia began soon afterwards when it was discovered that Freesia alba could be crossed with Freesia leichtlinii. This led to a whole group of colourful cultivars including the orange one featured in today’s posting. Some of the wildest, most colourful cultivars are actually hybrids between freesia and gladioli.

In the language of flowers, Freesia are said to symbolize innocence and friendship. They are also the flower associated with people’s 7th wedding anniversary. 

The leaves on Freesia are sword shaped and light green and may be up to 1 foot in height. Freesia flower stalks are slender and about the same height. As many as 8 funnel-shaped Freesia flowers form a loose cluster at the top of each stalk. Where the flowers begin, the stem makes a sharp bend so that the Freesia flowers face upward. 

I tried drawing Freesia on two other occasions several years ago and I find now, as then, that I remain dissatisfied with the results. The reason, I believe, has to do with the fact that
"Freesia flowers are “zygomorphic” which means that they grow along one side of the stem, in a single plane. When you look at the flower stalk however, you'll see that the blooms are facing upwards. Freesias stems have the unusual habit of turning at right angles just below the bottom flower. This causes the upper portion of the stem to grow almost parallel with the ground and the flowers bloom along the top side of the stalk..."  
This "geometry" creates an illusion of lightness which I find myself unable to capture thus far in my drawings.  So... you know what that means... yes, you will eventually be seeing more attempts on my part to get it right!  

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sources.


Suki wearing her Christmas ribbon
(It started off as a bow, but it only took her
about 5 seconds to pull the bow apart --
then it took about 30 more seconds before
she had removed the ribbon entirely!)

In my opinion, Suki is still a bit undecided as to whether she has sulked long enough to let me know how displeased she is with me. Can a cat put a person in the dog house? Anyway, I got in her bad books because I took her to see the vet this past Friday.  

Suki has been complaining lately about pain in the area of her "tail bone" -- at the base of her spine.  I mean, cats don't really complain about pain -- they try to hide it -- but I could see how she was hesitating before she jumped and how awkward she was when she tried to bathe the area around her tail.  Whenever I pressed gently on the area, she would turn her head quickly and almost growl at me. So, I made an appointment with Dr. Jessica!

After a thorough exam, Dr. J. still wasn't really sure what was wrong even though she, too, could see that Suki was hyper-sensitive in that area.  As there were no signs of any serious illness, the doctor suggested we assume, for the time being, that the pain is related to the arthritis in her right hip and just treat her for arthritic pain. If the problem shows signs of getting worse quickly, then the doctor said she would do x-rays and blood work (all very expensive stuff).  So, I was sent home with a couple of different types of pain medication along with instructions on the best way to administer them daily to a possibly recalcitrant cat.

As soon as we returned home, I set the carrying case on the floor and unlatched the door. Suki quickly dashed out and headed straight for the bedroom closet. She stayed there all afternoon and did not re-appear until supper time.  After she ate, she disappeared again until time for her bedtime snack.  After that, rather than going and getting onto the foot of my bed as she usually does at this time each night, she once again disappeared into the closet.  It was obvious to me that she was not only trying to make certain that I couldn't take her back to the vet but that she was also making a statement about her attitude towards me for taking her there in the first place!

And so it went through yesterday and for the first couple of hours this morning; however, she now seems to almost be back to her normal self as she has just jumped into the chair next to me and settled down to take a nap.  I can only assume that this means I have finally been forgiven.  Hopefully, this pain condition will not worsen -- both for her sake and for mine -- as I can only imagine how I would be treated by Suki if we had to return to the vet any time soon!

Of course, the trip to the vet was quite painful for me as well.  I should never have tried to do it on my own. Next time, I will make certain to arrange to go on a day when Joycelyn is here so that she can look after the carrying case. Then, I will only have to be concerned about pushing my walker rather than trying to handle both the walker and the carrying case at the same time.

As you may recall my mentioning in last week's posting, "my boys" (and their parents) were scheduled to come for a visit this past Sunday.  They arrived right on time and the children dove into the gifts I had for them with great enthusiasm. We adults had hoped that the visit might last for two hours; however, we finally gave up just shy of 90 minutes!  I mean, what can you expect with a 3-year-old boy and a 14-month-old boy, both full of energy, each with his own agenda and in an apartment filled with colourful objets d'art within hands reach?  

Finally, we three adults looked at one another and agreed to just accept the fact that it was time for the parents to gather the boys into the car and head for home.  In spite of the brevity of our visit, it was still wonderful to see them all and to see how the boys have grown. Unfortunately, due to the chaos, we never got around to taking any photos!

On Monday, my birthday, I got lots of cards, phone calls and messages on Facebook.  It is always so lovely to be remembered by friends and family on my "special day". 

On Wednesday, a dear friend came for a visit and spent the entire morning with me. Although the visit left me exhausted, it was really wonderful to see her again (it had been over a year since we last met) and to catch up on all the news. As well, I had a good visit with my friend, Sharon, later in the week and we celebrated an early Christmas together. 

Now, except for Joycelyn's scheduled visits, everything should be very quiet for the remainder of the month.  

Finally, let me say:


to you all 

                                                    and Suki 



"Icon -- The Visitation", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 rev.

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Who am I that the mother of my Lord should honour me with a visit? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ Luke 1:39-44


"Our Lady and the Prince of Peace", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, rev. 2015

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn. In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to those who enjoy his favour.’
          Luke 2:1-14 

Whatever holiday you may celebrate this time of year -- even if it is just celebrating having some time off work -- I wish you, each and everyone, bunches of blessings.  

I pray:  In the days ahead, may our hearts be filled with such an ardent desire for peace that there will be at least a moment when this poor, old planet -- and all creatures who dwell on it -- will be at peace, one with another.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Bomarea caldasii -- Climbing Alstroemeria

"Bomarea caldasii -- Climbing Alstroemeria", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Bomarea caldasii, also known as Climbing Alstroemeria, is a rapidly spreading plant, growing up to 12 feet in height. Twining around any available support, it produces clusters of narrow, multi-coloured, orange tubular flowers. Native to the northern portion of South America, it is a member of the family Alstroemeriaceae

In many places, Bomarea caldasii is considered to be a pest as it smothers and kills supporting trees and prevents the growth of native seedlings and under-storey plants by blocking their light. As well, seedlings are capable of growing in the forest interior and will creep along the ground, strangling saplings and smothering low-growing species. 

Both the generic and specific names are taken from the surnames of well-known people: Bomarea in honour of Jacques Christophe Velmont de Bomare, 18th century French patron of science; caldasii in honour of Francisco José de Caldas, 19th century Columbian naturalist and explorer.

I am posting the drawing of Bomarea caldasii even though I am far from satisfied with the result.  The actual flowers not only have richer colours, but they give off a much fuller expression of the colour orange than I have achieved thus far in my drawing.  So, expect me to be presenting you with another version of Climbing Alstroemeria sometime in the near future!

"Bomarea ovallei -- Lion's Claw", 
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Back in August of this year, I posted a drawing of another member of the Bomarea genus: Bomarea ovallei, commonly known as Lion's Claw and native to the coastal area of northern Chile.  This drawing remains one of my favourites of 2015 and is featured in my 2016 calendar. 

Botanical and historical details taken from various Internet sources.


Suki waiting expectantly for me to move!
Suki, as is usual this time of day, is sleeping peacefully in my recliner.  She allowed me to recline in the chair for an hour and a half after I had my breakfast -- soothing my painful back after a restless night -- before beginning her daily campaign to get me out of the chair so that she could settle into her predictable four-and-half-hour morning siesta -- a nap which ends about 11:30 when she begins lobbying in her efforts to make certain that I realize that it is approaching the noon hour at which time she expects to be fed!

By the way, this is all happening on a Saturday morning instead of the usual Sunday as tomorrow is the BIG day when "my boys" will arrive for a visit -- accompanied by their parents, of course.  At ages 3 years and 13+ months, respectively, neither Braden nor Rònàn are quite old enough to drive themselves here although Braden, at 3, would probably like to try!

I plan to get some extra rest today so that I will be able to enjoy their visit for at least a couple of hours without too much discomfort.  It will be wonderful to see the whole family again as we celebrate an early Christmas as well as my birthday.  Hopefully, I will end up with some photos of the boys to share with you all in next week's posting.

This coming week will also be busy as not only do I have some medical appointments, but there are friends who want to drop by for quick birthday-related visits.  It will be lovely to see them but I must remember to pace myself and get plenty of rest in between visitors.

I will finish my column today and then post it early tomorrow morning before I begin to prepare myself to welcome my greatly anticipated visitors.



"St. John the Baptist -- Glorious Prophet and Forerunner",
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’ A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptize you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.  Luke 3:10-18

Whatever you may believe about St. John the Baptist or the Christ whose coming he predicted, one thing we can all "believe" in is the Good News he announced to his followers.  

What was he saying to "the people", the tax collectors and the soldiers?  He was telling them (and us) that real Peace -- whose coming we celebrate each year at this time -- can only be made present in the world:

  • by setting aside greed and sincerely sharing what we have with those around us who have less; 
  • by forcing aside that root of all evil -- the love of money -- so that we treat others fairly -- with justice and equity; 
  • by forsaking the lust for power over others and, instead, finding ways to gain consensus without the use of intimidation or fear.

And so I pray -- 
May I always be a channel of peace for the world by never forgetting the "Great Commandment":  to love God above all else and to love my neighbour as myself.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Protea cynaroides, the King

"King Protea (Protea cynaroides) times Four", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Protea cynaroides is a distinctive member of the genus, Protea, with its claim to having the largest flower head in the genus. Protea cynaroides is commonly known as Giant Protea as well as King Sugar Bush, or Honeypot. It is native to various parts of Southern Africa. The King Protea is the national flower of South Africa. 

P. cynaroides is a member of the huge family Proteaceae. The family comprises about 80 genera with approximately 1600 species. 

The "flowers" of Protea cynaroides are actually composite flower heads (termed an inflorescence) with a collection of flowers in the centre surrounded by large colourful bracts. The flowerheads vary in size, from about 120 mm to 300 mm in diameter. Large, vigorous plants produce six to ten flower heads in one season, although some exceptional plants can produce up to forty flower heads on one plant. The colour of the bracts of the Giant Protea vary from a creamy white to a deep crimson but the soft, pale pink bracts with a silvery sheen are the most prized. 

The name of the plant family Proteaceae as well as the genus Protea, to which P. cynaroides belongs, is derived from the name of the Greek god, Proteus, a deity that was able to change into many forms. This is an appropriate image, seeing as both the family and the genus are known for their astonishing variety and diversity of flowers and leaves. The species name, cynaroides, refers to the artichoke-like appearance of the flower-heads. Cynara, the family to which artichokes belong, comes from the Greek kynara which means "artichoke".

"King Protea (Protea cynaroides) --
Bud and Flower", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer,  2012

As many of you who are faithful readers of my blog may recall, I have featured Proteas previously. 

Back in 2012, I posted a drawing (see left) of Protea cynaroides or King Protea (also known as the King Sugar Bush) showing the flower heads in two stages:
(1) the bracts still completely closed; and,
(2) the bracts just opening to the point where, soon, the tiny flowers in the centre of the flower head will be revealed.    

"Cape Sugar Bush (Protea repens)",
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011 
In 2011, I posted a drawing of another Protea known as Protea repens or Cape Sugar Bush (see right).  These flowers, unlike those of the King Protea, normally have colourful red bracts -- instead of the white or pink of the King Protea. 

This drawing shows the flower heads in three different stages: 
(1) the bracts still completely closed; 
(2) the bracts beginning to open; and, 
(3) the bracts open so that the flowers at the centre are beginning to be revealed.

Protea repens was the National Flower of South Africa up to 1976 at which time Protea cynaroides was named as the national flower in its place.

Rather than just doing a typical drawing of the flower heads of the Giant Protea as I had done previously, I decided to try to create a design using both the flower heads as well as the leaves.  At this point, I feel somewhat pleased with the result, but this sense of satisfaction will most likely fade away soon enough and I will end up experimenting with some other pattern or design!  

Much of the above information regarding P. cynaroides was taken from Internet sources.


"Suki in Sepia"
It has now reached the point, my friends, where I am only allowed to spend the first hour and a half of my morning sitting in my comfortable recliner!

Usually, I sit myself down, bowl of cereal in hand, at 6 a.m. At which point, I turn on the TV and watch my favourite Canadian news channel for the first half hour and my second favourite Canadian all-news channel for the next half hour. Then during the following half hour I watch one of the U.S. news channels while switching back and forth between it and my favourite Canadian news channel (I apologize to my U.S. readers, but I can only watch so much U.S. news before I need a break -- especially if they run interviews with certain politicians presently trying to move up in the polls during this pre-pre-pre-primary time).

It is close to the ending of the 3rd half hour segment that I now can expect to hear a loud meow coming from somewhere below my reclining chair.  I know, without even looking, that Suki has now placed herself just beyond where my feet would be if the chair were in a sitting position. As the meowing continues, I sigh resignedly and lower the chair so that my feet are now on the floor and Suki is very visible.  At this exact moment, the meowing stops and the staring begins.  

After a few minutes of staring, I can see that Suki is tensing her body in order to make the required jump that will land her in my lap.  I know that if I want to be able to get up and continue with the activities of my day that I need to move now or else allow myself to be used as a seat cushion for the next several hours (remember, Suki does not take at all kindly to a seat cushion that wiggles, moves around or attempts to dislodge her!).

As soon as I begin to rise from the chair, Suki make a leap which takes her to the exact centre of the recliner's seat cushion -- probably the warmest spot of all.  Then, after she slowly turns a couple of times, she plops herself down and curls herself into a ball-like position.  Next, she either takes a moment to wash her paws or she just goes quickly to sleep.  

I, on the other hand, am now chair-less and faced with the need to do certain chores before I sit down again.  So, for the next few minutes I do a few task including straightening things up a bit in the kitchen until the pain level begins to rise noticeably.  At this point, I head for the second most comfortable chair in my home -- the ergonomic one that I have had my computer desk.

And so my life goes... everything else remaining much the same.  I have a couple of medical appointments scheduled this week.  As well, I will be busy getting ready for next Sunday -- that's the day that my boys will be visiting with their parents so that we can celebrate an early Christmas together.  I ordered a number of little gifts for the boys online and am really looking forward to watching them open their presents.  Braden is just the right age to still find Christmas to be "that most wonderful time of year." Rònàn, at 13+ months, is just the right age to get terribly excited by whatever excites his older brother.

Then there is also the matter of my birthday on the day after next Sunday so I imagine that the boys (with their parents' assistance) will have a birthday card for me as well.  I hope Braden doesn't ask my age.  The last time a child of 3 or 4 tried to guess my age, I was told that I was probably very old -- maybe 16 or something like that!  



"Icon -- St. John the Baptist -- A Voice Crying in the Wilderness",
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah: A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.  Luke 3:1-6

"... and the rough roads will be made smooth."  Whatever else may be implied by this statement, made both by Isaiah and St. John the Baptist, the cessation of discomfort would seem to be primary. As well, filling in valleys, leveling mountains and straightening roads would all seem to indicate ways of making life much easier for a people whose main mode of transportation was walking or riding donkeys. 

In other words, or so it seems to me, what is being promised here are ways to not only make transportation easier, but, more importantly, ways of decreasing discomfort of every kind.

Like so many promises made in Scripture, we are still waiting for their complete fulfillment.  This is what makes faith and hope two of the three parts of that essential trinity required in order for us to live as well-balanced followers of Christ.

And so I pray: 

As I continue to walk this journey of such great suffering, may I never forget these words -- "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three ..." (I Cor. 13:13)

May I always remember that these three, kept in balance, will bring me that peace which passes all understanding even when I am faced with the highest of mountains and the roughest of roads.


Sunday, 29 November 2015

More Gazanias

"Gazania -- Fiesta Red and Other Bits and Pieces -- Kaleidoscope"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Remember last week when I said that I was fascinated with the geometric designs of Clumping Gazanias and that I would probably be drawing more of them? Well, as you can see, I wasn't fooling! 

The first drawing I want to show you, "Gazania ... Kaleidoscope", (see above) is actually my attempt to create the view inside a kaleidoscope. Using another new flower drawing, "Ganazia 'Fiesta Red' " (see below), I combined it with various bits and pieces from last week's featured drawing of another Gazania. I was inspired to try this by coming across an artist's rendering of the inside of a kaleidoscope which included Gazania-type flowers.

(Sadly, since I do not find the results of my attempt at creating the view inside a kaleidoscope to be very satisfying, I will probably be posting additional attempts to get it right! I apologize in advance.)

Kaleidoscope image, public domain
To the right is a public domain image from an actual kaleidoscope. It reminds me of the many lovely images that I could create with the kaleidoscope I possessed during my childhood.  I would spend hours turning and turning it until my hands grew weary from the motion.  Now, of course, you can find programs online which create even more stunning patterns and combinations than those available to me with the old hand-held model. Anyway, enough about kaleidoscopes. Let me show you the flower drawing for this week.

"Gazania 'Fiesta Red' (Gazania rigens)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Here is the actual flower drawing that I did of another Gazania,  'Fiesta Red'. As I told you in last week's posting, Gazania is a genus of flowering plants in the Asteraceae (Daisy) family. The genus is native to South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola. Additionally, species are naturalized in Australia, New Zealand, and the western USA. Gazanias are grown for the brilliant colour of their flowers which appear in the late spring and early summer. Clumping Gazanias have a number of names including 'Aztec', 'Burgundy', 'Copper King', 'Fiesta Red', 'Goldrush' and 'Moonglow'.  

Even though I remain fascinated with the patterns found in the various Gazania flowers, I promise that next week's blog posting will not contain any new Gazanias -- not even the Gazania "mandala" on which I am currently working! 



I rarely show photos of my family members as I feel that they should be the ones to choose what to share on social media. However, one of their recent photos is so lovely that I felt I really wanted to share it with you all.

It shows my great-niece with her brother.  He is a child with special needs and he is greatly loved by the whole family -- especially his big sister.  I think the photo says it all.

My great-niece and great-nephew at a beach in Florida last summer.



Suki considering what her next move will be!
This past week, Suki spent more time in the bedroom closet than usual -- poor kitty.

On Monday, the day that Joycelyn does the big cleaning, it was the new vacuum that drove her there. This new vacuum does an absolutely wonderful job of picking up cat hair -- especially off the rugs; however, it also makes a very interesting noise when it is doing so! Suki does not like this noise and so she has concluded that it is probably safer to hide out in the bedroom closet while this particular "monster" is present. 

Then, the building management decided that this would be the week for changing the filters in our heating and cooling systems. This meant that on Wednesday afternoon there was suddenly the sound of loud knocking on the front door.  Loud knocking always causes Suki to leap up from where she is resting and begin growling menacingly as she moves sideways towards the bedroom. As soon as I called out: "who is it?", Suki made a mad dash for the bedroom closet.  I could hear her scrambling over the boxes on the floor as she headed to the very back where her hide-away is located.

Then on Friday, there was a great deal of banging and clanging out in the hallway -- I think the workmen must have been doing something in the large electrical closet which is located directly across from my apartment.  I could see Suki was on edge but she did not make a mad dash for the bedroom until one the workers ending up accidentally bumping against my front door. Then, off she went!

The funny thing about Suki and the bedroom closet is that even if the vacuum noise stops completely or the noisy workman have left the area, she still stays in the closet for a long period of time.  I'm not sure if she stays there because she just falls asleep or if she remains hidden because she believes that even if the monster is not making noise, it may still be waiting for her. Perhaps "better safe than sorry" is her motto!

As for me, I ended up having to attend two medical appointments this past week.  The first one was on Wednesday and involved a test which had to be performed in the out-patient, surgery unit. Thankfully, it did not require sedation or anesthesia. The other appointment was just a follow-up.  Also, I had a good visit with my friend Sharon as well as phone calls from some of the special people in my life.

Otherwise, things remain much the same: not great, but still bearable. Thank goodness I have Suki around to keep things interesting!



"Icon -- Christ, the Son of Man", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 rev.

Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth, nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; people dying of fear as they await what menaces the world. For the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect; hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand. 
“Watch yourselves or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life and that day will be sprung on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come down on every living person on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:25-28,34-36

“Watch yourselves or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life...”  Christ mentions three things in this verse with which we should be concerned: debauchery, drunkenness and the cares of life. 

Debauchery means an excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures. Drunkenness is defined as being in a state in which one's faculties are impaired by an excess of alcoholic drink (or any other drug for that matter). The "cares of this life" refers to the human inclination to worry excessively about the problems we currently face while imagining even worse things happening in the future. So, what is Christ saying? I think He is saying that the excess of these things can control us so completely that we forget all about what is really important in life -- loving Him, our neighbour and ourselves.

If we are daily seeking to always act as lovingly as possible by not abusing others or ourselves then we don't have to worry about "that Day".  We remain ready for "that Day" whether it is the day of our death or the day the world ends.


May I move lovingly and peacefully through life and when I fail -- as I will, frequently -- may I quickly pick myself up from my self-pity and my foolish feelings of failure and return once again to seeking to live my life lovingly. And if there must be an excess of anything in my life may it be an excess of kindness.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Clumping Gazania (Gazania rigens)

"Clumping Gazania (Gazania rigens) -- Stylized?", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

To me, Clumping Gazanias look as though they were lovingly designed through the combined efforts of Euclid and Rene Descartes -- the masters of geometry. The designs are so carefully arranged that even when I draw an ordinary Gazania, it looks as though I have purposely made it look stylized!  

"Clumping Gazania (Gazania rigens) -- Spiral", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Then, when I take the image of this flower that looks stylized in spite of itself, both the blossom and its petals easily form other geometric-type shapes.  Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Gazania is a genus of flowering plants in the Asteraceae (Daisy) family. The genus is native to South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola. Additionally, species are naturalized in Australia, New Zealand, and the western USA. They are widely cultivated as ornamental garden plants as the gardeners among you are well aware. 

Gazanias are grown for the brilliant colour of their flowers which appear in the late spring and early summer. They prefer a sunny position and are tolerant of poor soils and little rainfall. Clumping Gazanias have a number of names including 'Aztec', 'Burgundy', 'Copper King', 'Fiesta Red', 'Goldrush' and 'Moonglow'. 

Gazanias were named for Theodorus of Gaza, a 15th-century Italian scholar and translator of the botanical treatises of Theophrastus. The species name of rigens comes from the Latin and means frozen, stiff or rigid.

I really enjoyed trying to draw this flower and still want to try to draw a few more variations including seeking to make other geometric or kaleidoscope-type patterns with the flowers and their petals.  I feel certain that you will be seeing more Gazanias in the near future!

Some of the above information was taken from Wikipedia


Suki in my chair -- unhappy at being awakened by me --
especially as she knows I am just about to move her,
once again, back to her own chair!
I must say that I had no idea that Suki could pursue something so aggressively...  I am talking about my recliner -- the one I told you about last week when I described how I was having to "fight" with Suki over whose chair it really is.

Well, I thought things were bad enough when I posted my blog this past Sunday; however, they have only gotten worse!

By Tuesday of this past week, things had reached the point where every time I got up from my recliner -- even for just a couple of minutes -- I was returning to find Suki curled up in the seat, pretending to be sound asleep.  So, in order to sit down in my recliner once again, I have had to pick up all 13 lbs. of Suki and transfer her from my chair to one of her chairs.  Recalling the state of the joints in my fingers, hands and arms, you will know that this would be a very painful task for me.

I am really not certain as to what I shall do in order to fix this problem.  I could simply push Suki off of my chair onto the floor each time I find her there, but then I know, from past experience, that she would just sit there, staring at me with those piercing cat eyes for the next 15 minutes or so -- making me feel very uncomfortable.  Or, I could get another recliner, but I really hate to have to spend $800 or so for a chair I don't really want just because my cat is fighting with me over who gets to sit in the recliner I already possess.

I have briefly considered various other options such as attaching a mild electrical charge to the seat of the recliner with an on/off switch.  This way I could turn on the current whenever I got out of my chair and then poor Suki would be unpleasantly surprised when she tried to take possession of the chair.  Of course, I immediately rejected the idea -- not only because it would be a cruel thing to do to poor Suki, but, knowing me, I would most likely forget I had turned the electricity on and, upon returning to the chair, would end up giving that rather unpleasant surprise to myself instead.

Briefly, I also considered putting a halter and leash on Suki so that I could take her with me whenever I got up from my recliner thus preventing her from taking possession of my chair. However, I recalled immediately how once, some years ago, I tried to see how Suki would respond to wearing a collar and leash.  The collar she appeared to be willing to tolerate, but the leash was another matter. As soon as it went on -- halter and all -- she simply plopped herself down on the floor and refused to budge.  The only way I could have moved her would have been to drag her along the floor -- another cruel thing which I would never do to poor Suki.

So, here I am, faced with another impasse without a sensible solution in hand.  What to do? What to do?  For the moment it seems the only thing I can do is move Suki back to her chair each time I return to my own chair.  If any of you faithful readers out there can think of any other solutions, please, please pass them along... my arthritis pain and I would be eternally grateful!

Otherwise, things remain much the same for me.  I do have a rather unpleasant medical test coming up this week -- it will be done in the out-patient, surgical unit at the hospital.  How I wish medicine had developed along the lines of that portrayed in the various Star Trek series. Those doctors just had to move a light bar of some kind over the body and all its secrets were revealed.  Oh, well, I guess I will just have to endure our currently more primitive methods for exploratory procedures.



"Icon -- Christ the King, Rev. 2015", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’  John 18:33-37

I have always been very impressed by one particular line in this passage: "...I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth..."

Could one of the greatest sins possibly be: "being a phony?" 

As I look back over my long lifetime, I can see now that I have spent most of it trying to hide from the truth of who and what I am. So much of the time I have tried to be what I believed I needed to be in order for others to love me, like me and include me in their "tribe". In other words, I was living a deception, a lie, not the truth.

It has taken me 75 years to reach the point where I am willing to risk exposing the truth about who and what I am even if it means having people dislike me or walk away from me in anger.  Each human being, like every created thing in the universe, is absolutely unique. So, it seems reasonable to me to believe that we each have a unique aspect of the Truth of express in our lives and we can only do the job properly by seeking to bear witness to our truth. Otherwise, we waste our lives trying to live someone else's truth and, in doing so, lose our opportunity to live a meaningful life.

I pray that I will never forget again that I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth. May I always bear witness by being that loving, kind, generous person God created me to be -- and may you also do the same.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Pachystachys / Justicia coccinea

"Pachystachys / Justicia coccinea -- Cardinal's Guard"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Pachystachys or Justicia -- that is the question.  This plant, with its thick spikes of brightly-coloured, red flowers, is found under one genus name or the other or both!

The confusion started back in 1775 when Jean Baptiste Christian Rocket-Aublet described this plant in the "Histoire de plantes de la Guinée française" (Volume 1, page 10), assigning it the Latin name of Justicia coccinea. However, Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck then reclassified this plant under its present name of Pachystachys coccinea in 1847, as published in the "Naturalis Prodromus systematis Regni Vegetabilis" of Alphonse de Candolle (Volume 11, page 319).

Pachystachys, is derived from the Greek for "thick spike" in reference to the flowering spikes of this plant.  Justicia, on the other hand, is named for James Justice, 18th century Scottish botanist and horticulturist.  Which makes Pachystachys, in my opinion, the more sensible option -- but, then, genus names often seem to have little to do with common sense! The species name of coccinea has remained unchanged and is derived from the Latin for scarlet, referring, of course, to the colour of the flowers.

Pachystachys coccinea, commonly known as Cardinal's Guard, has rich green leaves and it develops naturally into a many stemmed shrub. The thick spike consists of a cone of green leaves from which emerge numerous brilliantly-coloured flowers. This perennial, evergreen shrub, which can grow to a height of six feet, is native to French Guinea, Brazil and Peru. Pachystachys belongs to the family Acanthaceae (from the Greek, Aγκανθα, meaning thorn, spine, or spike). 

Cardinal's Guard is actually a rather messy-looking plant, but the flowers, in various shades of red and scarlet, caught my attention and, eventually, led me to the desire to do a drawing of this plant.

You may have noticed that I haven't been including any drawings of people these past weeks.  My normal arrangement was to alternate between a flower drawing one week and a person drawing the following.  However, lately my hands have been too painful to attempt to draw the details required in the human face and in the fingers of the hands.  If my hands improve, I will certainly return to drawing people pictures again.  Meanwhile, you will have to make do with flowers week after week!

Much of the above was taken from various sources including Wikipedia and Dave's Garden.


French flag at half-mast after events of Friday the 13th of November, 2015



"Suki Asleep in MY Chair", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015
As most of you know, Suki has claimed almost all of the chairs in our home as her "favourites". This means that whatever chair she has chosen in which to nap is hers for as long as she wants it.  If she is not napping in a particular chair then it is fine for me or anyone else to sit in it.  

On occasion, I have had to dump Suki out of a particular chair or push her off the sofa so that guests may have something reasonably comfortable on which to sit. In retaliation, she will often sit at the feet of whoever has been seated on "her" chair, staring at them as only Suki can. This type of intimidation can sometimes prove to be too much for either those who are timid of spirit or those who are really uncomfortable around cats.  There have even been occasions when the guest has moved to an uncomfortable, straight-backed chair and allowed Suki to return to "her" chair -- much to my dismay and embarrassment, I might add.  

[Just in case you are wondering, Joycelyn carefully cleans the seating areas of my sofa and all the chairs at least twice weekly so my guests are sitting on cushions that are relatively clear of cat hair!]

Anyway, back to my story...  Until recently, Suki seemed satisfied to claim all the chairs in the apartment as her "favourites" while leaving my big recliner alone.  Even when I wasn't using the recliner, she stayed away from it. However, a couple of weeks ago, I started to notice a bit of cat hair on my seat cushion after I had been absent from the living room for a while and so I decided to do a bit of detective work. 

I begin leaving small pieces of paper on the seat of my chair whenever I went into the computer room or went out for an appointment. Then, upon returning to the living room, I carefully checked the small sheet of paper to see if it contained cat hair and to determine if it was creased and wrinkled in such a way as to indicate that a cat might have been resting on top of it. Once I had the evidence in hand, I chose my moment and, sneaking back into the living room as quietly as possible, caught Suki sound asleep in MY chair!

Even though I fussed at her and uttered all sorts of imprecations, it was too late... Suki had already decided that my chair was now one of her "favourites".  Her decision has led, I'm afraid, to some rather unpleasant scenes.  I shamefully admit that I have been guilty of not only pushing Suki out of my chair while she appeared to be sleeping soundly, but I have also uttered numerous swear words that an nice lady such as myself should really not be using!

In spite of all this, however, Suki continues to leave wherever she is napping in order to quickly fling herself into my chair just as soon as I vacate it for any reason.  Then, when I return, I am forced to drag her off my chair while she tries to hang onto it with those powerful toenails of hers.  She does know how to wear a person down.

Some days I feel like giving in -- letting her stay in my chair while I try to get comfortably seated on the sofa or in one of the chairs she is, presently, not using.  If it weren't for my painful neck, I might let her win, but pushing back in that recliner provides me with the only seating position in which my neck feels just a bit of relief.  Maybe I should just buy a second recliner since Suki could only sleep in one at a time!  I am such a wuss.    

Otherwise, my life continues as usual.  Joycelyn came at her regular times and I had a nice visit with my friend, Sharon, on Friday morning.  A couple of friends telephoned as well -- including one who called, unfortunately, while I was in the middle of trying to deal with my bank's credit card department so I was unable to talk with her.  Hopefully, she will call again soon.

As for my bank's credit card people, I received a letter in the mail this past week addressed to an unknown name using my address. The letter was asking for additional confirmation the bank needed before issuing this person a credit card!  Worrying about the possibility of getting caught in the middle of a credit card scam, I telephoned the bank's fraud people and reported the situation.  They took down the particulars and then urged me to contact the credit monitoring companies they use.  I did so, finding one of the two most helpful while the other wanted to charge me a fee in order to put a warning in my record! 

I have an appointment this coming week with my family doctor for routine matters including prescription renewals and a flu shot. Speaking of flu shots, did you hear on the news about how the flu shot may help with the prevention of dementia and Type 2 diabetes in people over 50 years of age? Glad I have been getting it now for all these years.



"Icon -- The End of Days", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Jesus said, ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven. ‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’
Mk. 13:24-32

I have always been sadly amused at the predictions people have made in recent times about the "end of the world".  Here, in St. Mark's Gospel, we find Christ saying plainly and clearly "But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father."  

Sorrowfully, it seems so easy for us humans to believe that the whispered, secret knowledge we seem to "hear" during our "quiet time" comes from God and not from our own sinful desires. How do we come to believe so easily that we, alone, are to be given knowledge unknown to anyone except the Father from the beginning of time? No wonder con men are so very successful...

Sadly, not one of us is totally immune from the temptation to arrogance, pride, vanity and even hubris -- that sin which, we are told, is always punished so severely.

So I pray that I may always rejoice in my littleness and lack of importance except to Him who created me.  He, alone, gives me any value I may have. Without Him I am nothing. Oh, Lord, keep me always truly humble.