Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Scarlet Pimpernel

"Anagallis arvensis -- Scarlet Pimpernel", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Detail from "Anagallis
arvensis -- Scarlet
Pimpernel", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 

Anagallis arvensis (also known as Scarlet pimpernel, poor man's barometer, poor man's or shepherd’s weather-glass and shepherd's clock) is a low-growing annual. It has traditionally been included in the family Primulaceae. 

The native range of A. arvensis is Europe, Western Asia and North Africa; however, the species has been distributed widely across the planet over the centuries either deliberately as an ornamental flower or accidentally. It is now naturalized almost worldwide. This common European plant is generally considered a weed and is an indicator of light soils. 

The name, Anagallis, is from the Greek, ana, 'again', and agallein, 'to delight in' and refers to the opening and closing of the flowers in response to the sunlight. Arvensis is a Latin adjective meaning “in (or of) the fields”. The origin of the well-known pimpernel name comes from pympernele (late Middle English) which was derived from Middle French, Old French and Vulgar Latin meaning "piper pepper" or "like peppercorns", perhaps referring to the seeds.  

A. arvensis or scarlet pimpernel has weak sprawling stems growing to about 20 in. long which bear bright green leaves in opposite pairs. The small salmon-pink, orange-red or blue flowers are produced from spring to autumn. These flowers are open only when the sun shines. The alternative names of shepherd’s sundial and shepherd’s weather-glass suggest that scarlet pimpernel is well-known for its ability to indicate both the weather and the time of day. The small, bright flowers open at around 8 a.m. each day, and close around 3 p.m. They also close during humid or damp weather. 

If consumed, A. arvensis can be toxic to livestock and humans. Toxicity level ranges from virtually non-toxic to fatally toxic and appears to correlate with summer rainfall levels. Although leaves contain various potentially toxic compounds, it is uncertain as to which substance is responsible for livestock poisonings that occur occasionally. If more palatable forage is available, livestock will always avoid eating this bitter-leaved plant. 

A. arvensis is found growing near crop fields, vineyards, orchards, pastures, landscaped areas, roadsides, streams, marshes, ocean beaches and other disturbed sites. It does bear fruit -- tiny, round capsules about 1/10 to 1/6 of an inch in diameter which are suspended from downward curved stalks. A lid at the top of each capsule opens and releases several seeds by which the plant reproduces.  These seeds -- which I mentioned above -- look similar to small peppercorns.

Some years ago, I did another drawing of A. arvensis, but I cannot find where it appeared in my postings -- if it appeared at all.  At any rate, the file of the original drawing somehow became corrupted over the years and can no longer be accessed so this new drawing is now my official drawing of Anagallis arvensis.

Book cover of the well-known
story of The Scarlet Pimpernel
A. arvensis is, perhaps, best known as being the emblem of the fictional hero, Sir Percy Blakeney, in the story of the Scarlet Pimpernel (see book cover at left). 

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) was written as a play and adventure novel by Baroness Emma Orczy. It was set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution. The title character, Sir Percy Blakeney, is a wealthy Englishman who appears to be overly concerned only with fashion and luxuries.  However, he can quickly transform himself into a formidable swordsman and a quick-thinking escape artist, assisting those fleeing the Reign of Terror to escape to safety in England.  He represents the original "hero with a secret identity" that was a precursor to subsequent literary creations such as Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro) and Bruce Wayne (Batman).

Much of the above information was taken from various Internet sources.



Interesting what it feels like when you have a cat snuggling
onto your pillow while you are trying to sleep!
A dear friend has been looking for a new type of pillow that would make it easier for her to get a decent night's rest.  I happened to find one on that I thought might be suitable and so I ordered it for her.  

Unfortunately, it turned out not to be satisfactory and so she returned the pillow to me in order that I might return it to Amazon. When I got the pillow back, however, I chose to take a closer look at it.  Upon doing so, I decided that it would make a good pillow for me and it is now resting upon my bed.  Sadly, though, I have thus far not been able to use it in peace!

What I did not take into account was the possibility that Suki might really like this new pillow as well.  In fact, the only way I have been able to use it thus far is by sharing it with her.  At about the same time all of this pillow commotion started, I came across the poster above that I had made some time ago.  It really gave me a laugh as it describes exactly the kind of pillow experience I have when I try to sleep on my new pillow:  "heat, vibrating massage and, occasionally, acupuncture"!  

I'm not sure what it is about this new pillow that appeals to Miss Suki so very much.  I wish I knew so that I could either change the pillow somehow or entice her with some other cushion or pillow with similar qualities.  Whatever it is, its appeal doesn't seem to be lessening in any way.  I mean, even now -- mid-morning on a Sunday -- Suki is curled up on my new pillow sleeping away.  

Oh well, I guess I will either have to learn to share it with her or give up the hope of using it at all.  I mean, really, I wouldn't mind sharing so much except she inevitably awakens periodically and decides to give herself a quick bath which always includes my face and hair!  As you have read in my blog on many an occasion, I find this experience so unpleasant that it not only wakes me up rather quickly but causes my temper to flare as well.  Suki ignores my shouting and usually proceeds to settle down and go right back to sleep while I am left wide awake, feeling frustrated and angry!

Other than this dilemma, I continue to feel pretty much as I usually do these days.  The only new problem to develop is increasing pain in my feet.  This condition creates a really rather peculiar sensation. I mean, my feet now have almost no normal feeling and, yet, I have pain in them.  I suppose this is nerve pain caused by the pressure on the nerves next to my spinal cord in the lumbar region. Whatever is going on, it provides me daily with new and interesting encounters with pain!

I have no appointments scheduled for this week (the last week of January already -- can you believe it!) so things should be fairly quiet for me with only Joycelyn coming to help me on her regular days.  I am always grateful now when I know my time can be spent quietly, enabling me to use my usual pain distraction techniques to their full advantage. 



"Fisherman casting his net into the Water", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014 rev.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.   Mark 1:14-20

Isn't this the most amazing story.  These four, hard-working fishermen -- apparently doing well in the family business -- suddenly left everything:  work, family, friends and income.  They simply dropped the nets they were mending and, without even telling their families farewell or packing any clothes, they simply followed the man that John the Baptizer had called "the Lamb of God" -- the man Peter's brother, Andrew, had proclaimed to be the Messiah.

This is one of those God-man encounters that simply leaves me speechless and wondering what on earth I am supposed to do with such a story.  I have heard the stories of people who did something similar when they were confronted by some well-known priest, religious or lay person of their day and time -- but they went on to become saints themselves!  What about us ordinary folk who have lives full of responsibilities from which we simply cannot walk away or who, like myself, are no longer able to walk much at all?

I have heard homilies preached on this Gospel which were all about how we are all called to total commitment no matter what our vocation or state in life. 

So I pray that we may all trust that we will be given the strength to accept, as these four fishermen did, whatever it may be that we are called to do with our lives -- and know that in such acceptance we will finally find true peace.


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