Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bauhinia galpinii

"Bauhinia galpinii -- Red Orchid Bush", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Bauhinia galpinii is a species of shrub in the family Fabaceae. It is native to parts of eastern and southern Africa, where its popular names are "Pride of De Kaap" (de kaap mean "cape") and “kameelpoot” (kameelpoot, an Afrikaans word that means “camel’s foot”, referring to the shape of the leaves of this shrub). In other places, however, it is variously known as Red Bauhinia, Nasturtium Bauhinia, African Plume and Red Orchid Bush. 

The genus name is derived from the surname Bauhin, honouring Gaspard and Jean Bauhin, 16th century physicians and botanists. The species name commemorates E. E. Galpin, a South African botanist and banker. 

The flowers of B. galpinii are generally a handsome brick red, but some cultivars have pink or orange-red flowers. The plant is evergreen, with its main growing season in summer. It usually takes the form of a dense, sprawling shrub normally reaching a maximum size of 10 feet, but under some conditions, such as in undergrowth, it may grow as tall as 15 feet. 
Bauhinia galpinii Shrub in bloom

The flowers are attractive to birds and other “pollinators” and it’s entwined branches are popular as a nesting site for small birds. Sheep and goats can safely browse the leaves and twigs.  

Bauhinia galpinii is traditionally used medicinally by the Venda people of the Limpopo Province in southern Africa. The roots are boiled and the resulting stock is drunk to treat stomach worms or to improve male sexual performance! The concoction is also used to make a soft porridge for stomach pains. As well, the bark and leaves of this species are used for treating diarrhea and infertility. 

The species is widely cultivated in the warm zones of many parts of the world including Australia, the U. S. and Mexico. It has escaped cultivation and naturalized in some locations; however, it shows no significant tendency towards becoming invasive.

I found both the flowers and the leaves enjoyable to draw.  I especially liked the shape of the leaves of B. galpinii.  Also, of course, I enjoyed using the various red-orange colours in my palette -- you all know by now how much I enjoy the various shades of red-orange-yellow.  I came to know these colours so well back in the days when I could still work with oils and used so much Cadmium Red, Cadmium Scarlet and all the various Cadmium Yellows especially in paintings of the New Mexico desert and semi-desert (see example).
"Geronimo", oil on canvas by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 1967

Speaking of Cadmium, I find it interesting that something that can be so deadly when ingested can create such beauty when carefully placed on an artist's canvas.

Much of this information was taken from various Internet sources, mainly Wikipedia.


Ronàn with a close friend!

Ronàn obviously loves colour!  A boy after my own heart.

Braden at the Auto Show!



Suki in the chair by the front door -- she sometimes 
gets very concerned by noises from the hallway!
Yesterday morning, as I attempted to go about my usual activities, I realized that I was feeling quite dizzy.  Not wanting to risk having a fall, I decided the better choice between standing and sitting was sitting -- and so I sat down. 

In fact, once seated, I decided that the best thing I could do for myself was to remain sitting and, as I was sitting in my big recliner, I also decided that I should raise the foot rest, allowing to entire chair to recline.  No sooner had I reclined, covering my legs with a nearby throw as I did so, than I noticed Suki's head rising slowly over the arm of the wing-back chair on the other side of the end table.  It seemed to require about 30 seconds for her to fully awaken and take in the unusual situation, but, once she had done so, she was out of her chair in a flash and into mine.

With a contented sigh, Suki settled herself down on top of me. After a moment or two spent licking her paws, she went soundly to sleep.  How little it takes, I thought, to make a kitty-cat happy.

So, for the next couple of hours, Suki slept while I dozed.  I had Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" playing on the iPad, but, otherwise, all was peacefully quiet inside my home.  Even the outside was relatively quiet as the snow was falling quite heavily, muting all the usual Saturday street noises.

No telling how long Suki and I might have stayed this way, but, suddenly, there were loud noises coming from the hallway outside my front door.  I knew immediately that the young children from the apartment down the hall were running and playing on their way to the elevator (accompanied by their parents); however, Suki must have assumed that there was danger.  She went from peaceful slumber to cat-bushy alertness in an instant while emitting a wicked sounding growl.  Leaving my lap, she headed straight for the chair by the front door, moving quietly while looking for all the world like a miniature panther. 

As I sat up from my reclining position, I noticed that I no longer felt at all dizzy and so I decided that I should get up and get about my usual chores for the morning.  Suki, however, remained in the chair by the front door in order, I am sure, to make certain that no monsters were able to invade our territory.

As to why I was feeling dizzy in the first place, I think it was just my cervical vertebrae acting up as there seemed to be an unusual tightness at the top of my spine.  Later, after resting, both the tightness and the dizziness had gone.

Otherwise, I am doing much the same.  Had a good visit with my doctor on Wednesday.  She sent me for blood work, but, since I haven't had a phone call from the nurse yet, I am hopeful that I won't be getting any unhappy news about my potassium levels!  



"Icon -- Christ Remained in the Desert for 40 Days", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
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.”  
Mk. 1:12-15

Why does the Church observe 40 days of Lent?  It is a reminder of the 40 days that Christ spent in the desert.  In that barren and lonely place, He was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights, but did not give into temptation.  

I, on the other hand, weak and prideful, seek to try to do as He did. I always fail, of course, but year after year, I make the effort once again to be faithful.  It seems that I never get any better at resisting temptation, but the Church knows that this act of trying to submit my will to the Will of God is changing me -- changing me in ways
that will, one day, through the grace of God, bring me to the fullness of life.

As we begin this Lenten Season, may we all know the peace which comes from the acceptance of who and what we are while, at the same time, trusting in the strength and grace of God to enable us, eventually, to become "fully human, fully alive".


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Girl at Butterfly Conservatory

"Girl at Butterfly Conservatory with Sugar Water", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Inspiration for today's drawing came from a painting by Sophie Gengembre Anderson informally entitled "A Portrait of a Fairy". Being that I am not really interested in drawing fairies, I simply used Anderson's model for my drawing of a young girl. As well, rather than having her "crowned" with butterflies, I placed her in a Butterfly Conservatory with a bowl of sugar water in her hands which the girl hopes will attract any number of the freely-flying butterflies. 
"Detail from 'Girl at
Butterfly Conservatory' ",
drawing by Sarah "Sallie"
Thayer, 2015

You might be interested in taking a look at this painting as it is reasonably well known and has a most unusual formal title.  One author on the Internet (whose name I could not determine) wrote the following:

"Take the fair face of woman, and gently suspending, With butterflies, flowers, and jewels attending, Thus your fairy is made of most beautiful things."

These lines are supposedly from a poem by Charles Ede although no one has ever verified this and the entire poem is nowhere to be found on the web.

Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823-1903) was a French-born British artist who specialized in painting children and women in scenes from everyday life, typically in rural settings. She began her career as a lithographer and painter of portraits, collaborating with Walter Anderson (an English artist who was a painter, lithographer, and engraver) whom Sophie eventually married. 

Sophie Anderson was born in Paris, the daughter of Charles Antoine Gengembre, a French architect and artist, and his English wife. The family left France for the United States to escape the 1848 Revolution. After Sophie and Walter were married, they moved to London in 1854. They remained in England, except for a brief stay on the Isle of Capri, finally settling in Falmouth, Cornwall in 1894 where they lived and worked for the remainder of their lives. Walter died in January, 1903 and Sophie died 2 months later in March, 1903. 

A world-record price of more than £1 million was paid at Sotheby's in London in 2008 for Sophie Gengembre Anderson’s painting entitled: “No Walk Today”.

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



"If I'm awake, it must be time to eat!"
Well, it's been another quiet week with Suki.  Perhaps it has something to do with the very cold weather we continue to have.  Whatever the case may be, Suki continues to spend a great deal of time sleeping in my lap. 

Yet, no matter how deeply asleep she may appear to be, when the time on the clock reads 6 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. or 11 p.m (her feeding times), Suki opens her eyes, yawns and begins a staring campaign -- a stare which clearly says:  "it's time for me to be fed and if you don't get up and prepare my food -- as you know you should -- I shall sit here and stare at you until you feel so guilty that your guilt will force you to get up and feed me." (this guilt-trip thingy works, you know!).  On these four occasions, all it takes is the slightest movement from me to have Suki up, "talking" loudly and walking quickly towards the kitchen.  

Otherwise, the only way to get Suki to move (without painfully attempting to lift 13 lbs of dead weight from my lap) is for me to push the release lever on the recliner and, as the recliner comes into its upright position, allow her to be dumped, rather unceremo-niously, onto the floor! (When I am forced to do this, I get a look from Suki which, if translated into spoken English, would probably contain a number of those "bleep"-type words).  Otherwise, someone might easily mistake her for a small bear cub who has gone into hibernation for the winter after mistakenly thinking that my lap was a proper bear cave!

As for me, I continue to manage as well as I can.  My joints are extremely painful as usual; however, I am fortunate in that I am not required to do very much -- other than feed the cat and warm up the food Joycelyn has left for me.  Thankfully, I am still able to prepare this blog posting by working on it a little bit each day all week long.

I have a medical appointment on Wednesday. This will be the first time I have been out of my place since Feb. 4th when I had to make a quick trip to the bank a short distance from my building. So, I will get to experience first hand these frigid temperatures I have been hearing about. Hopefully, I will be thawed out in time to prepare another blog posting before next Sunday!  



"Icon -- Christ Heals a Leper", by the  hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, He dismissed him at once. He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to Him from everywhere.    Mark 1:40-45
I have always been puzzled by the request of Christ that this person -- just miraculously healed of what was then the world's most dreaded disease -- "tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed..."

Of course, Christ wanted the individual to go to the priest and make the offering -- otherwise, the man would not be keeping the Law -- the healing would not really be complete. However, He, who knows human nature so well, could not really expect the man to keep silent after such an incredible event in his life, could He?  So, why did Christ ask for the impossible?  Was Christ just hoping the man would listen because He knew how success can often limit a person's ability to actually accomplish as much as would have been possible with notoriety?  Although I have puzzled over this for many years, I still have no satisfactory answer.  

Setting this puzzle aside, I can say that I have always been deeply moved by the "prayer" this leprous  man makes at the beginning of his encounter with Christ.  In fact, I have often made this prayer my own -- praying, pleading as I say:  
"Lord, if you wish you can make me clean."

I pray that we all may experience the peace and joy which would fill our hearts if we, too, were to hear Christ's response spoken to us:  "I do will it. Be made clean."


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Papaver orientale -- Oriental Poppy

"Papaver orientale -- Oriental Poppy", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Papaver orientale, the Oriental poppy, is a perennial flowering plant native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey and northern Iran. P. orientale naturally produces brilliant orange-scarlet flowers; however, since the late 19th century, selective breeding for gardens has created a range of colors from clean white with eggplant-black blotches to clear true pinks and salmon pinks to deep maroons and plum. In addition petals may be creased or fringed. The Family name for poppies is Papaveraceae

Papaver comes from the Latin and means “anesthetic” – referring, of course, to the plant’s well-known qualities for numbing pain – and is the genus name for all members of the poppy family including the well-known Papaver somniferum, native to Southeastern Europe and western Asia. (Also known as the opium poppy, the species is cultivated extensively in many countries, including Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Holland, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, India, Canada, and many Asian and Central and South American countries). 

Orientale is Latin for “from the East”.  As to the species name of Orientale, I have read articles where the authors have declared that this is a misnomer as the plant is native to southwestern Asia and not the Far East. However, I would disagree as the Latin “Orientale” simply means “from the East” – not “from the Orient”.

The various varieties of the poppy plant have been used medically throughout the ages. As we all know too well, those same properties have been misused throughout the ages. However, I, personally, owe a debt of gratitude to this ancient plant as it provides me with the morphine I need in order to keep moving each day including the ability to produce this blog posting each Sunday! 

As you probably know, almost all parts of Papaver contain some amount of narcotic alkaloids; however, the poppy seeds, and the oil that can be expressed from the seeds, have extremely low levels of such alkaloids because they develop after the capsule has lost its main opium-yielding potential. 

So the next time you have a piece of delicious poppy seed cake or a poppy seed muffin, not to worry – you won’t spend the rest of the day stoned unless you consume about 2 ½ to 3 lbs. of the seeds! True, eating a couple of poppy seed muffins can give you a false-positive on a drug test (remember the Seinfeld episode "The Shower Head", where the character, Elaine Benes, was not allowed to visit Kalahari Bushmen with J. Peterman after testing positive for opium from the consumption of poppy seed muffins?). So, if your company is planning on doing random drug testing any time soon, take my advice and stay away from those poppy seed bagels! 

Seriously, though, all members of the genus Papaver have provided mankind with much aid throughout the centuries -- mainly through the relief of all types of pain but also as effective sleep aids, muscle relaxants, aid for the control of severe diarrhoea and as a means of controlling various types of spasms (Restless Legs Syndrome, for example). 

As to the Oriental Poppy featured in today’s posting, I have only seen one photograph of this particular cultivar. I found the colours so striking and unforgettable that I finally decided to try and draw it.

Some portions of the above were taken from various Internet sources.


Ronàn is all ready for playtime!

Sorry about the fuzzy photo, but I wanted to show you what 
Braden thinks about all this snow!  Now he can't even seen out of his window!!



Suki wondering why I am not
sitting in my chair as she feels
it is time for a nap in my lap!
For some unknown reason, this has been a fairly quiet week for both myself and Suki. The crazy cat has been reasonably well behaved and the snowy, cold weather has kept us both snugly indoors for the duration.

Suki has not provided me with any more opportunities to "sleep-in", but, then, neither has she tried to awaken me at an unreasonable time of the morning.  

She continues to insist on sleeping on top of my legs which in the afternoon and evening are stretched out fully in my big recliner and covered with a warm lap robe.  As most of you know, my big recliner is like a second bed for me.  Actually, on some of the really bad days, it is the only place where I seem to be able to arrange myself with the least amount of pain.  Fortunately, Suki tends to stay very still once she has gotten comfortable which means she usually doesn't add to my discomfort.

We both sit and look out the window occasionally.  I have been watching the snow accumulate and Suki has been watching for any signs of those dastardly pigeons that only rarely try to make a landing on my balcony.  

Speaking of pigeons, reminds me that I am, actually, very fortunate. Having had one cat or another all the many years I have lived in this apartment means that the pigeons seldom land on my balcony. I suppose that the sight of a cat chattering away at them (you know that funny sound cats make when they site their prey) must make them rather nervous.  So many of my neighbours have had terrible problems with pigeon mess on their balconies while mine has remained almost pigeon free.

So, Suki keeps the pigeons off the balcony and keeps me from having to purchase an alarm clock.  Are there any other services she provides?  Let's see, she helps to keep my head warm when I am sleeping by crawling onto my pillow; she makes me laugh when I am feeling blue; she's always ready to interact with me should I feel lonesome...  I guess I can say that she earns her keep!



"Icon -- Christ the Teacher and Healer", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.  Mk. 1:29-34

Today's Gospel is actually Mk. 1:29-39; however, I chose to only post the verses 29-34 as they relate directly to Christ healing -- and by those healings, I feel, He was actually teaching the people about God's love.

I've often wondered about the healings that Christ did during those three years he wandered around Palestine and its environs.  What an interesting and exciting thing it must have been to either witness such a healing or be healed yourself.  

Of course, even after experiencing such a healing, a person was not invulnerable and would eventually get sick with something else and die -- just as we all do. That's why I have always thought that those healings -- both by Christ and by the early Church -- were ways of teaching about the love and compassion of God.

I have heard people say that if God exists and really loves us, there wouldn't be sickness leading to death in the world.  But if we believe in a loving God, why are we so reluctant to die?  True, this life has many good things in it, but isn't it only an introduction to an eternal life free of the sickness, suffering, pain and death that we seem to fear so much?  Or do we really believe that to be true?

When things are dark and the pain of life seems almost unbearable, may I never forget those words:  "let not your heart be troubled... in my Father's house there are blessings beyond imagining... I would not have told you these things if they were not true..." (my paraphrase of John 14:1-2).

May that peace which comes from trusting that we are loved beyond imagining be with us all today and throughout the week ahead.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

More Waterhouse

"My Vision of a Waterhouse Study for Lady Clare", 
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

"Clare of Assisi", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014
After an absence of a few months, I have returned, once again, to the works of John William Waterhouse for inspiration.  This time I used one of his drawings -- a drawing done in preparation for the painting "Lady Clare" -- as my model.  His studies of his model led to the painting.  I, on the other hand, used his painting as a model some months ago  for a drawing I entitled:  "Clare of Assisi" (see to your right) and only now have I taken a look at one of the studies he did in preparation for that painting.  This drawing of his inspired me to do the drawing featured in today's posting.

As you may recall, Waterhouse (born 1849, died 1917) was an English artist whose works were labelled "pre-Raphaelite". Artists whose works fall under the description of "pre-Raphaelite" felt that art had lost its way with the work and style of Raphael. They particularly rejected any painting style which they felt was "lax or sloshy". Instead, they sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art (the art of the late middle ages and early Renaissance). 

Although Waterhouse is less well-known than other pre-Raphaelites (Dante Gabriel Rossetti (an early favourite of mine) and William Holman Hunt), I find that I keep returning to his paintings for inspiration and the use of his works as models for my own drawings. My works, of course, do not do his works justice, but my attempts to copy something of his style gives me great pleasure.  In fact, his painting and drawings are very useful in helping me use one of my most effect pain-distraction techniques -- art work.

The information on John William Waterhouse was taken, originally, from Wikipedia and most recently from my posting of April 27, 2014


Here is Ronàn once again with those very expressive hands of his!

Exactly what are you up to, Mom?

Braden, recently, upon discovering how much snow had fallen overnight!

Here is Braden, with his Dad, learning what the men of the family 
are supposed to do with all that snow!



"Hey, What's Happenin'?"
There are some moments when I really feel that Suki and I have crossed over into the "Twilight Zone"! This morning was one of those moments...

This past week, Suki has been a real nuisance when it comes to her efforts to get me to feed her breakfast. Monday through Saturday, I was awakened earlier than normal by any one of a number of strange noises that Suki uses in her efforts to get me up and into the kitchen so that she can be fed.  

As I have mentioned on frequent occasions, Suki usually begins her campaign to get me awake and out of bed a little after 5 a.m.  The first few times she wakes me up, I usually just go back to sleep. Eventually, however, I get tired of waking up, going back to sleep, waking up, going back to sleep, etc.  Normally, around 5:45, I give up and get up.

Yesterday morning, as I was stumbling about the kitchen preparing Suki's breakfast, I found myself imagining sitting Suki down and having a serious discussion with her.  I pictured myself explaining to her how overly demanding she can be on occasion and telling her how kind and thoughtful it would be of her if she could see her way clear to letting me have a bit of a sleep-in every so often.  I pictured this discussion so clearly that it almost felt like a memory of something I had done and not just a happy daydream!

Perhaps my imagination led me into the Twilight Zone (if any of you can recall the TV show by that name that ran for 5 seasons back in the early 60's, you will possibly remember that the show opened by telling the viewer that the door to the "zone" was opened by the imagination!).  Anyway, let me tell you what happened....

I awakened this morning to absolute silence.  Immediately, I glanced at the clock and saw to my amazement that it was 6 a.m. My first thought was:  "where is Suki?".  Just as I had started to think that perhaps she had taken ill during the night, I heard the rattle of the Venetian blinds which cover the balcony door.  Suki poked her head through the blinds and simply sat there staring at me.  As she looked at me, it was almost as though I heard her saying: "well, did you enjoy your little lie-in this morning?"  "Am I not a kind or thoughtful kitty?"

The strangeness of the moment was quickly broken, however, as Suki opened her mouth and gave a loud "meow" -- the kind of meow which lets me know that she is ready to be fed!  A few minutes later, as I prepared Suki's breakfast, I couldn't help but think about the strangeness of the events which had begun Saturday morning as I had gone through these same motions.  I had allowed myself to enter into a rather intense daydream about a kind and thoughtful Suki who would allow me to sleep late occasionally. Perhaps I had indeed wandered into the Twilight Zone!

Now, before any of you consider sending the police and ambulance my way, please allow me to assure you that I don't really think I have been anywhere else but in my own home. No doubt, Suki was distracted by something occurring on the balcony -- maybe some of those dastardly pigeons were fluttering about -- and it was this that kept her occupied. Thus occupied, she forgot about her usual routine for trying to get me awake and out of bed.  However, you must admit, it was a bit strange.... (here is where I cue the creepy music!).

Other than trips to the Twilight Zone, things are much the same for me. I continue to have more bad days than good ones, but I am grateful for any good days that do come along. 

I have no appointments scheduled during the coming week for which I am also grateful as I don't relish the thought of having to go out in this cold and messy weather. 



"Icon -- Christ the Healer", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 Revised

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? This is a new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.      Mark. 1:21-28

I have been to Capernaum and have stood in the ruins of this synagogue.  I remember standing there and recalling this very passage; trying to imagine what the scene must have been like as Christ commanded the "unclean spirit" to come out of the man.  I also wondered, as I have about so many of these characters we are introduced to in the Gospels, just what happened to the man afterwards.

What would I do if all my "unclean spirits" were suddenly cast out? Would I continue to live as though I were still in bondage or would I suddenly start to live as a free person.  Knowing myself as I do, I fear I would continue to live as though the bonds had never been broken.  Living in freedom is just a bit too scary for me -- or, as the old saying goes:  "better the devil you know..."

May I find the courage to live in freedom, remembering always that I have been set free.  The One, who alone can speak with absolute authority, has commanded that all that is unclean be cast out.

May we all know the peace that comes from living in freedom from those fears which bind our hearts and minds.  May we never forget that God is Love and that "There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear." (I John 4:18)